Risk

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He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
~ Ecclesiastes 11:4

Until recently it was almost impossible to predict the weather. I guess it’s still an inexact science except in my county where the weather never seems to change. In ancient times everyone was at the mercy of unforeseen forces that could have a dramatic impact on your life and livelihood. This is the situation Solomon speaks about when he addresses sowing and reaping.

If a farmer was going to have enough food to eat he had to sow. Planting is an essential step in farming. At the end of the season you need to reap or harvest. This is equally essential. Both carried risk. If you planted on a windy day the seed may be blow away. If you cut down your field and then it rained on your piles, you could spoil the crop.

Solomon reminds us that life rarely offers an optimal time to engage a challenge. Depending on whom you ask, you likely weren’t ready to get married, have a child, buy a house, accept a job transfer, or start that business. However, you did anyway, you took the risk, and the vast majority of the time it all worked out. You also met some great advisors and problem solvers along the way.

There are always risks, seen and unseen. But there are also significant and often unappreciated risks associated with doing nothing. You could sit around worrying, but that’s decision avoidance. If you’re a farmer it works for a while… then you starve.

Words to Live By

 

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Ecclesiastes 10:4 says, “If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest”.

Fools expose themselves in how they respond to difficult superiors. The verse above clearly states that even if a great offense has occurred, the best course of action is to stay calm, and stay where you are. Don’t get upset, attempt to defend yourself, blame shift, or fight back.

This approach gives the ruler an opportunity to vent and move on. If you take the outburst too personally then you end up responding emotionally, and that only escalates the tension. Maybe Solomon had himself in mind. He probably lost his cool occasionally.

We can be very right, but very wrong in the way we prove it. As one man put it “There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments. They are never the same”. These are words to live by, and with a despotic ruler, quite literally.

Eye of the Storm

eye-of-the-typhoonMeteorologists tell us that cyclones have “eyes”. It’s when the middle of the storm opens up into a tunnel of calmness we know of as the “eye of the storm”. The most disturbing part of this phenomenon is that when you are in the eye, at the very center of the storm, things actually feel quite peaceful. If you’re from a place like California you may be inclined to go outside thinking the storm is over, just in time to get swept way by the other half of it. In reality, the Christian life is lived mostly in the eye of one storm or another. The calm we experience is usually short lived and suddenly disrupted by what looks like a new storm, but is actually just the next part of the same one we so often encounter. We become like the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee, safe in the boat with Jesus. He is there if we need him, but for now all is under control. We’ll all just quietly drift through life until we reach the other side. This is not the case however. Job says mans days are few and full of trouble (Job 14:1). Seasoned Christians will agree that storms are an ever-present reality. Some just have a larger eye than others. Let’s not mistake temporary peace for a permanent state of rest. That day will come after we die and are taken to be with the Lord. For now we all live in the tornado ally of trials and persecution, but praise God we aren’t alone, and will never be tested beyond what we can handle.

Ordained Ordeal

images-10Jesus initiated a trip across Lake Galilee that almost ended the lives of his closest followers. After a long day of teaching and individual instruction our Lord turns to his disciples and says, “Let us go across to the other side” (Mark 4:34). This seems like a pretty normal request. He was physically exhausted and a few hours sailing on the calm waters at night would afford him the rest he desperately needed. He departed from the crowds that he had been teaching and was taken into a larger boat “just as he was” (4:35), absolutely spent. However, as we know from the rest of the story, a quiet trip across the lake was not what the Father had in mind. This was going to be a test of faith. Great calamity was about to overtake them (My favorite sermon on the subject of God’s sovereignty and human calamity is by John Piper, available here if you have time to read it). This episode is different that divine discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11). This is a stress test that will expose weaknesses and wrong thinking. If nothing else it proves that chaos and destruction from our perspective never, ever indicates a lack of control from God’s perspective. Sometimes God ordains ordeals.

There’s not a plant or flower below

But makes Thy glories known;

And clouds arise and tempests blow,

By order from Thy throne.

Isaac Watts