Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan

A number of years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try.

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA. I’ve been a small business owner – with success and failure. God led us to plant two churches and we took on two church revitalizations.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? 🙂

Granted, there are times to play it safe. The night at home may not be a good illustration, because I’d likely do it again. Protecting my wife and my home is part of my life’s ambition also.

But, it did trigger something internally in me about my overall life direction. I want to continue to be a risk-taker. A person who willingly walks by faith – throughout my life. I want to be like Abram who was willing to “go” and trust God even in his old age. I found myself asking if I would take another risk if I knew it was something God called me to do – even though life was very comfortable.

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right? Do I want you to jump out of a plane? No, and I’m not saying God told me to do that either.

But, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

Not long after this incident was when God called Cheryl and I to leave a very successful church plant, which had started in our living room, and go to a considerably smaller, established, historic church in need of revitalization. It didn’t make sense at the time, but following God’s will did. (And always does.)

This latest move for Cheryl and me has stretched me. I’ve been “out of my league” more than I’ve known what to do. I wake up some mornings wondering what I should do today. It doesn’t always feel “safe”.

Here’s my advice. If God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand –

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical. Again, I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane.

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears.

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Here are a few questions I’d challenge you to consider:

  • What is God calling you to do which stretches your “safe zone”?
  • Where is your faith being stretched these days?
  • What are you having to do, which to be successful, God will have to come through for you?
  • Is there any area of you life you know God wants you to move – something He wants you to do – but you’ve not yet been obedient? You’re still playing it “better safe than sorry”.

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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  • Randall Hall says:

    Ron–thanks for this post–I always enjoy your writing but this topic has been a real case of "heart burn" for me for the past several months. I've some thoughts I'd like to share with you at a later date but know that your "thinking" ministers to me!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Amen. I've been rattling it around more too even with the comments. Good comments. But playing it safe may be okay in life but not in our faith journey. Without faith it's impossible to please God (Heb 11:6) and faith is always an unknown. 

    • Chris says:

      Many years ago I heard a message at a PL conference about the 1,2, and 5 talents given. Focus was play it save or risky. We tend to play it safe and hide our talents in the ground. I live a risky life since I decided to follow Jesus 50 years ago

  • jimpemberton says:

    There are two categories of risk that I have learned exist. The first are risks that are necessary to accomplish something valuable. The second are risks that accomplish something not valuable. It's like counting the cost of the risk.

    To be sure, we each place varying values on anything, so these categories are hardly black and white. But it is a distinction that is important to be made. Let me give you an example:

    My wife and I have ministered regularly overseas. We have brought the kids and included them in the work that we have done. Our kids have spent entire summers in Venezuela and my oldest son has accompanied me to India. We have occasionally encountered the people who frown at putting our kids at risk in these endeavors. We have suffered through sickness, parasites, encounters with the military, death-defying transportation on mountain roads, close proximity to armed rebels, careful maneuvering going door-to-door as we skirted violent anti-Christians, long nights in a single room with a leaky roof. To be sure, we survived, are all healthy, and could easily have lost our lives even here in the States in the dangerous traffic we encounter every day. People are always dying on the roads here at home.

    It's that last part about traffic that is of interest. In Venezuela, there is no licensing required in order to drive. We haven't had to worry about it since there has always been someone to drive us around. We have had the opportunity to drive around town just for fun. I have opposed this as an unnecessary on the same basis for the necessary risk we take to come there in the first place. Traffic there is different than in the States. If we hit someone or are in some other kind of an accident, we could jeopardize the very ministry we have there. If driving become necessary for our ministry then we will do it. Otherwise, it's a risk that works against our purpose.

    For this reason I say we should count the cost of each risk.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Wise counsel as always.

    • Keith says:

      Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking as I read, then re-read the article.

      There is stupid risk and smart risk.

      Numerous times my wife and I have weighed a situation and the risks involved. Sometimes the risk simply isn't worth the potential payoff. Sometimes it definitely worth the payoff.

      A handful of times we have said "this is going to be either the smartest thing we have done, or the dumbest, let's find out".

      • ronedmondson says:

        Yes. Totally agree. But, I’d say this – if God says do it – whether it seems brilliant or totally ignorant – it’s a “risk” to take. Of course, ultimately, obedience is no risk at all. 

  • There are times for playing it safe, times to jump out of the plan. The key is knowing which is needed. Great post!!!

  • Kenny Bascom says:

    Love this Brother! This is exactly why my wife and I purchased Long boards! We are also selling our Home of 20 years to move full time into ministry helping small rural churches with Pastoral care and felt needs. You can follow us on “the Bascom Chronicles" . OH and you will love diving, I am going to do it this year as I have been hang gliding and its a wonderful experience! God Bless.

  • Yvonne Pickering says:

    Jump Ron! Best experience of my life!

  • @TimBaker3 says:

    It is like you are reading my mind. Not to go jump out of a perfectly good airplane, that is never a good idea for me. I have been feeling the desire to be more risky in things God is working out in my life. It is kind of funny that I make the decision last night, and have had 3 opportunities today to practice it.

  • @KariScare

    Until I read your post, I did not consider myself much of a risk-taker. We adopted a 9-year-old boy two years ago, and I now see how that was a huge risk. We couldn't imagine our family without him now, but boy was it hard, especially at first. I need to get away from thinking that only things like bugee jumping and skydiving are taking risks when there are other life events that take more time and more commitment and maybe are even bigger risks than those.

  • Jackie

    I have adopted 2 foster kids, sold everything, left a lucrative life to move a family of 6 to West Africa for 6 years. I am a risk taker but am careful about being sure it is in God's plan for me not my wild, bold whim. Currently training for a marathon. Much fear! enCOURAGE = only required when living risky. Be encouraged and be a good steward of your veranda furniture too.

  • Ron Lane

    Isn't it funny how we can play it safe in some areas of our lives but go for it in others. I personally can get on a dirt bike and twist the throttle without much thought about it or I will take my Jeep in the mud or over trails that maybe I shouldn't. Then there are times that I think after the fact that I wished I would have been that bold to talk Christ or Pray with someone, or just be there for them.

    Thanks for writting this and making me think more about being fearless in those situations.

  • Kari Scare

    I definitely tend to play it safe and not take risks. Who am I kidding? I almost always play it safe instead of taking risks. I'm missing out on life. I don't know how I'm going to change or what I will do differently, but this is definitely something God is pushing me toward. He wants me to live more by faith. This is scary!

  • TJ says:

    I am the total opposite of you. I heard Christine Caine talk about risk, though, and it's helped me embrace the idea of risk. My favorite quote during her talk was, "The purpose of life IS NOT to arrive at death safely." I need to learn to be more of a risk-taker.

    However, with that being said, I don't think I would be jumping out of a plane any time soon. =)

    • ronedmondson says:

      My wife is opposite of me too, but yet, she's usually quicker to walk by faith than I am when she knows God is calling us to do something.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Amen! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • joanneviola says:

    This was such an excellent post, expressing a great thought. It made me realize that when God calls us to something, it most likely will mean going beyond our ability to understand. He is pushing out where we cannot play it safe. He desires for us to live by faith & not by our understanding, not by our abilities. I guess that means that we are always living out the hard thing. But then….that hard thing is the most exciting thing to do as it is where our God displays Himself & our faith grows exponentially. Thank you so much for sharing this & causing me to reflect on this today. Blessings!
    PS – Enjoy the jump!!!

  • @Bryankr says:

    I was very shy as a child, never really took ny risks. The more I grow in Christ, the more I am willing to reach out, willing to risk. I don't see me as having anything now, I gave what I had to Him, so I don't have anything to lose! What risk!? Reach!! I like salvation.

  • Brian Jones says:

    That's never really been my style either. I think as leaders once we start playing it safe, then we miss a lot of opportunities God would have otherwise presented us with. Them, worst of all, those are are called to lead fail to experience those opportunities as well. Great reminder.

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