Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pushups and Crunches, Risk and Reputation

In my typical workout, I will do some pushups and crunches among my other exercises. It seems like I dread the pushups more than any other exercise. I used to put them off until last.

Crunches, on the other hand, are not too bad. I feel like I could do varieties of crunches for an hour or more. Not that I actually have, of course.

Upon reflection, I have discovered why I prefer the ab exercise. When I do crunches and need a rest, I just lie on my back and catch my breath. I crank it back up when I'm ready. Even if I give out, mid-crunch, I just flop back. It's no big deal.

Pushups, however, require more effort. When you stop between reps, you are really in plank, an isometric exercise. When you are resting, you are not fully resting. And, if you give out while doing pushups, you fall flat on your face. That can hurt your pride as well as your nose.

A mid-stroke fail looks much worse in a pushup than a crunch. No wonder I prefer crunches. The pushup may provide more fitness payoff, but it provides far more humiliation when my muscles reach fatigue. No one wants to be seen falling flat on his face.

This same principle applies to risks and rewards. The riskier a plan, the greater the payoff may be. But, the riskier an endeavor, the worse it looks when one fails. This is also a principle of economics: the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward, and the greater the potential catastrophe.

When a risky ministry succeeds, the payoff for the kingdom is huge: changed lives, people trusting Jesus, a high profile picture of the power of God. And when a risky ministry fails, you fall flat on your face. It hurts. It's embarrassing. It's public.

The success of a low risk, crunch-type ministry doesn't pay off much. A few people are challenged. Some get a new perspective. Some people might even come to Christ. That's not bad. It's better than nothing. Then, when a low risk ministry fails, we just stop the ministry. No harm, no foul. We don't miss a beat. No one ever knows that we blew it, or it fell apart.

In ministry, it's easy to pick the crunch-type projects. Low risk, maybe some reward. But no embarrassment when it crashes. And so we see the low risk ministries prevail, and the kingdom of God looks like a controlled playground kingdom--very safe, not much action. Our reputations are kept intact.

But if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Why wouldn't we risk it all? Why wouldn't we go for it?

Risky ministry is dangerous. This is the kind of ministry God would have us embrace. These are the pushups of the spiritual world. They cost more, take longer, require more faith, and bring the kingdom with power.

I'm looking for some pushup, God-sized challenges. Just don't laugh at me when I fall on my face. And cheer for Jesus, if something goes right.

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