Missions can be risky business. Perhaps not so much in the West, yet. In many places in our world, you could be tossed in jail, beaten or killed for speaking about Jesus. (For current news on persecution fo Christians, go to Voice of the Martyrs.) This is not a new development. In our reading for today, Acts 5:17-42, we read of the apostles experiences as they taught and preached about Jesus. In verse 18, they were arrested and place in prison. God uses an angel to free them and tell them to continue to preach.
“keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
In fact, Paul’s whole life was one extraordinary risk after another. He said in Acts 20:23, “The Holy Spirit testifies in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” But he never knew in what form they would come, or when they would come, or by whom they would come.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11:24ff. Paul wrote this letter before the events of Acts 21 that we just read. So he had decided to risk his life in Jerusalem with the full knowledge of what it might be like. Look what he had endured—all of it as a result of taking risks for the cause of God:
Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.
What does this mean? It means that Paul never knew where the next blow would come from. Every day he risked his life for the cause of God. The roads weren’t safe. The rivers weren’t safe. His own people, the Jews, weren’t safe. The Gentiles weren’t safe. The cities weren’t safe. The wilderness wasn’t safe. The sea wasn’t safe. Even the brethren weren’t safe—some were false! Safety was a mirage. It didn’t exist for the apostle Paul.
He had two choices: run or risk. And he answered in Acts 20:24, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He never knew what the day would hold. But the cause of God beckoned. And he risked his life every day. And this was right.
It is right to risk for the cause of God.