Is it Worth the Risk?
Everyday we analyse whether certain courses of action are worth perusing or not. From big things to small things.
We’re thinking of making a financial investment so we consider the likely returns and also the risk. Is it going to be worth it?
We have a camping trip planned and we look at the weather. Is it going to be worth it or not?
For some, the weather’s irrelevant to the worth of camping of course. There could be a blizzard and they’d still say it’s worth it. Or there could be cool, sunny days and mild nights and yet you might say it’s still not worth it.
Should I buy the deluxe edition, or will the standard model do?
You train hard for a sporting event because come game day, it’ll be worth it.
Ahh, I’ve run out of sugar! Is it worth going to the shops just for that?
You eat at McDonalds and you ask yourself, was that really worth it?
It’s a sensible and wise question to ask. Is it worth it? What are the costs if I do it? What are the rewards? What will be the cost if I don’t do it?
We don’t always know of course. But it’s a good question to ask nonetheless.
And maybe we should be asking it more about other things that we do … like the number of hours we watch TV or when we do things to impress others.
What about when it comes to serving Jesus? Is it worth it?
Is it worth trusting him? Submitting to him? Loving him?
Is it worth trying faithfully to follow him? Doing things to promote his fame? Making sacrifices to serve his church?
How hard should you try until it stops being worth it? How many things need to go wrong before the sensible and wise thing to say is “it’s too risky”?
- What if by doing so it means your family wants nothing more to do with you? What if by doing so the people at your workplace or in your classroom ridicule you?
- What if doing so means not spending your money the way you use to, or giving up a bad habit, or prioritising your time differently?
- What if doing so means saying “no” to your children? Is it worth it?
- What if doing so means your life is threatened, your children’s lives are threatened? Is it worth it?
Is it worth siding with Jesus and living for him?
Because if you do there are going to be costs. Paul said in ch14, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
If there’s anybody who can say, “I’ve given it a fair go, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really not worth it – it’s just too hard,” then it’s Paul.
And who could argue with him?
After everything he’s been through, and now standing on a ship that’s literally sinking… But that’s not what he says.
In the middle of it all, he still talks about the God whom I serve.
How can he say that?
How can you say that?
V1, finally it was decided that we should sail for Italy.
You can feel the relief…
Goodbye Jerusalem. Goodbye Caesarea. Goodbye riots. Goodbye false accusations. Goodbye trumped up charges. Goodbye quasi courts. Goodbye troubles.
Hello free Mediterranean cruise.
Well, not exactly.
Paul was now put under arrest and under the guard to the imperial police. His name was Julius.
And Paul, along with Luke and others, were then put onboard a ship from Caesarea.
And they sailed to a number of different places with difficultly and slowly, such that by the time they got to Crete, it was already late in the month of October.
And if you remember at the end of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul asks Timothy to come to Rome and visit him … before winter, and can you please bring my books and a jumper.
Why before winter? The reason for the plea to come before winter was that by the middle of October, ships stopped sailing in the Mediterranean. During the months of November, December, and January, the waters were so treacherous that to sail then was to risk one’s life.
So they get to Crete, and it’s now in the middle of October and Paul says to them, v10, “We have to stop here and winter here, because if we go into the open sea at this time of year, this ship will never make it.”
But the mariners had cargo to deliver. There was money to be made. It’s a huge ship, carrying 276 people. And the Julie, together with the pilot and the owner, said, “Our ship is big enough, it’s strong enough. We’ll take the chance.”
They didn’t listen to Paul. And as they started out, v13, the winds seemed favourable, and blew gently.
But, v14, soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster (infamous so it would seem), struck down from the land … and the ship was caught, unable to face the wind.
Then they secured the lifeboat. They lowered the anchor. They jettisoned the cargo. After a few days they even tossed the important equipment overboard. They used all the tricks they knew in order to ensure their survival.
But things were not going well, so in v20, When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Do you think it’s worth it now Paul?
All of these professional sailors had done everything they knew in their vast experience to make their ship safe, but it all failed.
And so now they had given up hope. And then we read, after a long abstinence from food, Paul stood up and said:
V21, “Men, you should have listened to me.”
The biggest ‘I told you so’ in all of history.
Normally when we say that it’s end of conversation, “That’s it, I’m not giving you anymore advice.”
But Paul isn’t that immature. And so he says in v22, “Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.”
And everybody’s rejoicing. Except the owner of the ship.
Whoa, this sounds too good to be true. How do you know?
Paul explains to them how he knows that no-one on that voyage is going to die, “I know it for this reason, v23: an angel of the God to whom I belong…”
Do you hear that?
Not the God of heaven and earth, which he could’ve said. Not the God who rules over the seas – he could’ve said that. Not the God of providence who numbers every hair on every head. Could’ve said that.
But, no, he said, “I heard directly from the God to whom I belong. The God who owns me.”
This is so typical Paul. Throughout his epistles, he talks about the divine ownership, not only over the whole world where he says the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and all that dwell within, that from the standpoint of creation, God owns it all!
But then beyond that idea of creation, Paul speaks of redemption in a special sense of ownership, where he says to his hearers, to his people, you are not your own … you’ve been bought with a price. You belong to the Lord.
How does he start his letter to the Romans?
Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ (contra. servant). A servant is somebody who has wages, who can come and go as they please, and if they don’t like the job that they have that can turn in their resignation and go get a job somewhere else.
But not a slave, not a bondservant, as Paul describes himself in Rom 1.
I belong to the Lord.
That’s what it means to be Christian – to be the possession of Jesus Christ.
A lot of people think that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is such a nice upbeat sermon. Blessed are you who do this, and blessed are you who do that…
Until you get to the punch line, at the end, when he says:
Many will come to me and say Lord, Lord. Didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?
And Jesus said, I’m going to look at them, and say, excuse me, what’s your name? I don’t know who you are. Please leave.
We have this jargon among Christians where we say to each other, do you know the Lord? Do you know Jesus?
That’s not the question. Not do you know Jesus?
The question is, does Jesus know you?
Not, do you possess Christ. But does he possess you?
Do you belong to him?
That other metaphor that he uses so often in the New Testament is that of the shepherd and the sheep. Where Jesus is not a hired hand, who is contracted to watch over somebody else’s sheep, who somebody else owns.
But the good shepherd knows the sheep because they belong to him. They’re his sheep.
How did they get to be his possession?
All that the Father gives to me will come to me.
The sheep of Christ first belong to Father. Then the Father in his electing grace gives those sheep to his Son.
The only reason I can give, in heaven and earth, why I’m in the kingdom of God today, is not because of anything I’ve done, but because the Father gave me to the Son.
He gave to his Son an inheritance. He gave to his Son a possession. And that possession was his people.
We are his sheep. We belong to him.
And so Paul in passing said, “a message that I’m giving to you, I got from the angel of the God to whom I belong.”
And then what does he say?
And whom I serve.
It’s almost a redundancy isn’t it. How can you belong to Jesus and not serve him? How can you be God’s possession and not seek service in his name?
If you think the cost of serving Jesus is too high, maybe it’s because you’ve forgotten the cost it took for you to be his possession.
Therefore, no cost is too high.
No situation too risky that isn’t outweighed by the privilege of being a child of God.
It’s no coincidence Paul puts these truths together.
What Paul is describing in his own situation is not unique to Paul. It’s the situation of anyone who is genuinely converted and genuinely a Christian.
Is it worth the risk?
Firstly, if you know you’re God’s possession, sure it is.
Secondly, if you know…
Listen to what Paul says. This angel says, v24, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar.”
Not might, not may, but must.
See Matt 16:21, 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Acts 23:11, 11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
Look, I have to get to Rome and I know I’m going to get to Rome. By hook or by crook I’m going to get to Rome. You guys may not make it to Rome. But I’m going to get there because the Lord Jesus Christ told me – I have a mission to perform in Rome. Now I may have to swim the rest of the way… But I’m going to be there.
I don’t know what the means (God moves in a mysterious way…)
And so the angel says to Paul, “You must be brought before Caesar.”
The gospel will triumph.
Bill Shankly was the manager of the Liverpool Football Club in the 60s. And on one occasion, in an interview, Shankly said, ‘I have devoted all my life to football. Everything has been thrown overboard for it.’
And anyone who knew him knew that was the case.
Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.
When he died they scattered his ashes on the soccer field of Liverpool Football Club. All that was Bill Shankly was tied to that. He was passionate, he was zealous, he was unflinching, he was committed, he was unashamed.
Nobody who knew Shankly knew anything else other than that he had thrown everything overboard, to be what he became, one of the greatest ever football managers.
What do you think about that? A waste? Depends on what you think about football I suppose.
Liverpool was quite successful under Bill Shankly and so people are inclined to think, not a waste.
But what if they weren’t successful? What a waste!
The gospel will always be successful.
We mightn’t always see how. But at the end of the day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess…?
Because Jesus is the manager, and the captain, and the star player, he’s the one who’s doing it, he’s not just shouting from the sidelines hoping we’ll somehow win the game.
And more than that Jesus is sovereignly controlling every other player on the other team too, whether it’s sickness or sin or Satan or storms.
Really, it doesn’t seem like a fair competition does it. It’s not a competition. The cause of Christ will triumph.
What happens when God wins?
One of the things that happens is wonderful, unexpected mercy.
Listen to these words: “You must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all of those who sail with you.”
An angel comes to Paul and says, “Paul, it’s a terrible storm, you can’t see the sky, you can’t see the stars, you can’t see the land, you can’t see the sun. It’s awful. Nobody’s eaten for days. Everybody’s terrified. They’ve lost all hope.
“And I’m going to save you, but I’m going to let those pagans, who wouldn’t listen to you in the first place, perish. They can fall in the water and hope for a piece of debris to carry them to the shore. But they’re not going to make it.”
That’s not what the angel said. The angel said, “Paul, God has granted to you the lives of everybody on this ship.”
There is nobody on that ship who had any claim to being saved. There was nobody on that ship who earned escape from destruction.
The only reason any of those sailors, or soldiers, or prisoners, survived the storm was because God in his mercy granted them rescue for Paul’s sake.
There’s more to say on that that we might pick up next week, but for now let’s remember that the triumphant gospel message is not a “aha, I told you so, suffer in your watery grave.”
It’s a message of hope, when all hope is lost. It’s a message of mercy and grace, when the very opposite is deserved.
The only reason under heaven why any of us will be saved is for Christ’s sake. The Father looks at the Son and said, “For your sake, I’m going to give you an inheritance of people who will be called by your name.”
For Jesus’ sake we are saved.
It’s worth the risk, don’t you think?
God’s possession, God’s providence…
And then Paul says this, v25, “So take heart, men, for I have faith in (believe) God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
It is easy to believe in the existence of God. God makes his existence so clear that anyone who denies it is a liar.
In fact, in the United States there is now a National Atheist’s Day on their calendar. Every year there is now a day that celebrates atheism. The date is April 1st.
The Bible says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”
Anybody can believe that God exists. That’s easy. But on it’s own it doesn’t count for much.
What counts is not just believing in God, but believing God.
Believing what God says is the difficult thing in the Christian life.
Paul relays to the men this message that not one of you is going to perish, we’re all going to make it, and I believe that God will do exactly what he said he will do.
Christian, do you believe that, about your life, about your death, about your future?
God has never said that you won’t go through the valley of the shadow of death, but he has said that you’ll never go alone. He’ll go with you. And he does what he says he’s going to do.
Jesus said to his friends, “I will lose none of those the Father has given me.” And what he says he’s going to do he does. Not just part way. Not just half-hearted.
It’s not like at the end of the story the ship wrecks and only half the crew are saved and the other half perish and God says, “Oh well, close enough.”
No, it’s exactly as God has said. Not a hair on their head was harmed.
Is it worth trusting Jesus, and doing all it takes to be able to do that better? And it’s not easy to serve Jesus when there are so many other things competing for top spot in your heart.
Is it worth knowing and showing others about Jesus, that he’s the one who reigns not them?
Unlike a lot of the other times we ask this question (is it worth going camping this weekend) on this one we can know the answer and we can evaluate it with great certainty.
Nothing you do in Jesus’ name will ever be a waste.
Jesus reigns, you can’t muck up his plans, so go for it.
Trusting and serving Jesus, in the end, is the only thing worthwhile.