Texas Baptist Voices

Jeff Johnson: When we take divine risks, we advance God’s will

I recently counted 14 scars obtained from stitches during my childhood.

I remember super gluing my fingers together. I smashed more than one penny on a railroad track. I burned stuff with a magnifying glass. I know—not particularly constructive activities. But fun at the time. Especially as a kid. “Go ahead, Jeff,” my older brother encouraged. “Lick the battery! It will teach you about shock and electric currents.”

jeff johnson130Jeff JohnsonWhen I made Jesus the center of my life, I thought that was a risky investment. Why? One of the Scriptures the pastor used to lead me to Christ was the parable of the talents—a story of risk. What I sensed was risky turned out to be right. I asked myself this past week, “How are we as Texas Baptists taking risks?”

One way is how we as Texas Baptists take social justice seriously. For some, the words “social justice” are politicized fighting words. However, they’re grounded in the Bible. Jesus launches his ministry “to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Then, at the end of his ministry, Jesus denounces the Pharisees who neglect “justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).

This focus on social justice can be found in the Old Testament as well, such as when God commands us through the prophet Isaiah to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (1:17). These are dangerous words, but they’re trustworthy and true. The word of the Lord is a dangerous word.

But here’s another observation: Making a financial investment in ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas can be just as risky as working for social justice. It may not be as dramatic, but it’s every bit as dangerous. Making a financial investment in God’s future is another “talent”-type risk—and one worth taking.

texas baptist voices right120I really think if the servant who was unwilling to risk would have risked his talent and lost it, the master would have said: “Well done. At least you took a risk because you know me and how I like risk takers.”

The good news is that when we as Texas Baptists live dangerously with God, we don’t find ourselves diminished, depleted or destroyed. When we take God’s word seriously and make a risky response, we advance God’s will and grow closer to both the Lord and each other.

If you have not noticed, Texas Baptists are taking some risks these days. Take time to encourage and pray for our Texas Baptist leadership as we boldly embrace an exciting future.

I am so glad I am a Texas Baptist. I am saying you don’t have to burn stuff with a magnifying glass in order to get fired up or lick a battery to feel the current. Make no mistake, however. As we take risks, know that when all is said and done, we will have the scars to prove it.

Prayerfully, not as many as I amassed in my youth.

Jeff Johnson is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce.

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