By: Robert A. Schuller
Tomorrows Risks & Rewards Carefully
years ago this year I arrived in California with the assignment
to build a church. I didn't have an organization. I did
not know anyone nor did I have any members except my wife.
So what did I do that first year? I just walked the streets
of Garden Grove that led through all the new tracts of
homes, rang doorbells and asked the question: "Are
you an active member of a local church?" If they
were, I gave them my blessing. If they said, "no,"
I invited them to come and believe in us. We were going
to build a church that would make a difference in the
world. And I asked them to become a member of our new
church, to be a part of our family. I told them, "We
need your help." Then I came to a street where the
houses were so big they had two front doors. Did you ever
see a house with two front doors? The one door didn't
work. It was a fake. But it made a great impression on
me and both doors had great big, round brass handles in
the middle. These houses were so intimidating that I would
turn around because I didn't dare to ring those doorbells.
was fifty years ago íK and about twelve months ago
I was writing my newest book, Don't Throw Away Tomorrow, my wife was helping
me. While she organized some of the pages, I started writing
something on a piece of paper. The book was nearly finished,
but I thought, that what I had just written belongs in
the book. Since I couldn't find a place for it, I stuck
that writing in the back and called it an epilogue. I
haven't changed a word. It was, I believe, a gift of God.
I want to read it to you.
"I approach the mysterious tomorrow the same way
I approach an impressive house. I'm supposed to call at
that intimidating mansion? I walk up the steps. I see
the doorbell. I raise my arm. I stretch out my hand. I
point my index finger, aiming for the button. I'm afraid
to touch it. Who's on the other side, friend or foe? I
pray, 'Christ, help me.' And I feel a soft pressure on
my elbow and my trembling arm and quivering hand move
forward and the rigid extended finger hits the button.
I hear the doorbell ring. I did it! Now, the large door
moves. It opens and there stands my best friend, my future!
'Welcome! Step in! My name is Tomorrow. How glad I am
that you came! Do I ever have some happy surprises for
you?' And my tomorrow hugs me. I tremble with the joy
of happy expectations. 'Thank you, God. You didn't let
me throw away my tomorrow!'"
you know what the book is about. And one of the ways we
throw away tomorrow is our confusion or conflict when
balancing our risks and rewards and that is the chapter
I am talking about this morning.
older I get the more often I find myself being able to
use a word that I cut out of my vocabulary fifty years
ago íK the word is "impossible."
Yes, it is impossible
to succeed if you always play it safe. Achievement
is impossible without
taking risks. In every investment you can make mistakes.
You know what the broker says if you bought the stock
and it really went up, "You made a mistake, you should
have bought more." And if it was a bad stock deal,
"You made a mistake, you shouldn't have bought any."
Do you see what I mean?
is a matter of balance and at no point is that more significant
than in life's risks and rewards. Everything that's nice has its price. You cannot live without risk.
must understand that we deal with stress because there
are risks. We deal with insecurity because there are risks
involved. Relationships are all about how you and I handle
risks. How much to give? How much to share?
(1) See and size up life's risks
and I need to see and size up the risks in life
íK in everything íK whether it is in your career,
your financial investments, and your relationships, whether
it is in your faith, your prayer life or how you interpret
the scripture. See the risks that are involved.
They are always there, usually in the shadows. The
rewards have a way of trying to catch you for the right
decision. But often the rewards don't tell you what the
risks are and it is up to you. In the words of Jesus Christ:
"Be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves."
(Matthew 10:16) So you must see the risks. If you are
so caught up in the enthusiasm of the rewards that you
see, you have to ask, "Is there anything wrong with
this?" That is not negative thinking. That is being
smart. Then you look at the risks and recognize that they
are going to be there for you.
I must tell you that in this ministry we have been taking
risks for fifty years. What have I learned? How did I
dare to take the risks? Which ones would I not even face?
There were those risks I wouldn't even come close to because
they would bring temptations that would not be constructive
in my life. I learned years ago from my minister in our
country church in Iowa how to handle temptation and he
said, "Avoid it. Stay as far away from temptation
as possible. Don't go there. You can avoid a lot of risks,
just like you avoid temptations, just don't go there."
You don't need it. See that there are the non-negotiable
risks that we will never take. If it is going to risk
my marriage, I'd never do that. Or my children, I would
never do that. Or if the risk would damage, restrain or
hold back this ministry, I would never do that. There
are the non-negotiable risks that you have to and must
decide upon. And you know what they are because you pick
your own value system. And that is why this chapter follows
the chapters on values, rules and boundaries. You need
them to see the risks in all of life.
you don't take a risk if it might threaten your morality.
Or put you in a compromising position as far as ethics
or the law is concerned. No matter what the rewards are,
no reward is ever adequate if it might cost you your reputation
or cost you the trust of people! Wow.
tell the true story about Kathy Ireland in my book, Don't
Throw Away Tomorrow. She has been a guest on the Hour of Power. At the
age of eighteen, she became a super model and got a contract
in Paris. When she arrived she found in her suitcase a
Bible that her mother had packed for her. So she began
reading it. When she reported for work for her camera
shoot, the photographer said to her, "Okay, now take
your blouse off." She had never been asked to do
that. And impulsively she said, "I can't take my
blouse off." He said, "Oh yes you can. You've
got a contract. This is your work." She said, "I
won't take my blouse off." (That is what you call
an unexpected, non-negotiable risk.) Then the photographer
shoved her as he demanded, "You've got to take your
blouse off." So Kathy Ireland turned around and walked
out on her contract. She came back home and started her
own business, her own corporation and I heard on the news
last week that last year she broke the one billion dollar
mark in sales. That's a wow! Applaud her.
(2) Is the reward worth the risk?
you see the risk, then size it up by double checking the
reward that challenges you to take it. How important are
they really? Now the importance comes when you realize
how will this impact your morality? If it is going to
hurt your morality, your ethics, your reputation you can't
take those risks! They are out of bounds. You don't even
face them. Will it build your marriage, your friendship?
Will it build a reputation year after year after year?
All of life is a risk!
You have to weigh the risks and evaluate the rewards.
And probably you have to reprioritize your projects or
(3) Can you live with failure if you take the risk?
you live with the worst that could happen? You must ask,
"What is the worst that could happen?" Can you
survive without the reward that could come if you succeed
after facing the risk? I can't tell you that. You have
to answer those questions. But I've never made a decision
that was really risky unless I asked what is the worst
that could happen? I don't think it will kill me. I don't
think it will give me cancer. Is the reward worth the
(4) Can you be insured against the risk?
your seatbelt on. Buy a pair of shoes. Take out insurance.
Set up a corporation. What do we do in this country and
in this world to protect ourselves against the risk is
phenomenal. Every risk is an opportunity for somebody
to go into business to help shield you against its worst
scariest decision I ever made in my fifty years was one
year after we went on television. We were on one television
station in California when we were given the opportunity
to buy an hour in New York City. The station gave me only
an hour to make the decision, because they really didn't
want to sell it. But they were in legal trouble and they
needed to prove to the court that they were not prejudiced
against Christian programs. The television producers in
New York knew we wouldn't take it because the cost was
terribly expensive. But we took the risk, made the decision
to air Hour of Power and that scary decision was one of
the best decisions we ever made. Because people from other
countries in the UN and embassies were tuning into the
Christian message of the Hour of Power in New York! So
our positive Christian message was impacting the globe
through the ambassadors who returned to their own countries
and we began to get letters from all over the world. That
was God at work thirty-four years ago.
of the first risks I faced in this ministry was fifty
years ago on the night before I preached the first sermon
on March 27, 1955 in the Orange Drive-in Theater. I knew
only four people who I asked to come and they agreed,
and I knew there would be a few more people because I
imported a choir and told them to all come in separate
cars. So I knew I'd at least have an audience. But as
I was about to go to sleep I thought íK oh goodness!
What if it rains tomorrow? If you live in California and
have been here these past weeks, when it rains it comes
down in one downpour after another. What if it rains like
that tomorrow morning? I'm not prepared. My one and only
microphone is not waterproof. Church would have to be
cancelled. I'd be so embarrassed. People will be embarrassed
for me. So that Saturday night I prayed. I practiced two-way
prayer. I talked to God and I listened and I got a message
in my brain. The message that came was, "Schuller,
don't worry about it. The weather is not your department.
It's My department. I'll do what is best. Your department
is to get your sermon ready and give them a good one.
Even if it is raining they'll listen and they'll come
back!" So I was about to take the risk of the weather.
That was not my department.
have used that lesson from God a thousand times the past
fifty years. I've avoided so much anxiety, stress, fear
and worry because it is not my department. Think of it.
How much of your stress is finding you dealing with the
risk that is somebody else's responsibility? It is not
favorite story of mine is from the Iowa farm. An Iowa
farmer went to the bank and said, "I want to borrow
some money." And the banker asked, "What for,
John? What are you borrowing for? Are you 'fencing out'
or 'fencing in'?" John said, "I'm fencing out,"
which meant he was going to rent more land, enlarge his
acreage, plant more seed to harvest more crop in the fall.
That is "fencing out." "Fencing in"
is when you have trouble with your bills and you need
to pay them down. "I'm fencing out," he told
the banker. And the banker smiled and said, "Okay,
John, I'll loan you money. I'll loan you money if you're
'fencing out,' I won't loan you money if you're 'fencing
it a positive or negative move you're making? Ask yourself,
what are the positive results?
Ask for advice íK seek counsel. Where do you
start? Start with Almighty God. This comes down to prayer.
You can't live without it or you'll make too many mistakes
that are beyond correction. You'll make mistakes where
no mid-flight correction is possible. That's tough.
I was preparing this message I remembered a funny little
story about a Rabbi who was a motivational speaker. His
driver was taking him to his next speaking tour and he
asked, "Rabbi, are you giving them the same speech
again?" The Rabbi answered, "Well sure. I've
only one gig." The driver said, "You know I've
heard that so many times for many years now. I know it
so well I could give that speech myself." And the
Rabbi said, "Okay. Tonight I'll sit in the back row,
you give the speech. They've never seen my face; they'll
think you are the Rabbi." So the driver went on stage
and he did a perfect, flawless job. Then it came time
for questions and answers. Question: "Rabbi, I'm
a professor of Hebrew at the theological seminary and
I've always had problems with interpreting the original
text in Exodus, 4:31. Can you help me with that?"
(There's always a risk, you know.) The driver replied,
"That is such a simple question even my driver can
let the fear of taking risks cause you to throw away your
tomorrow. Don't ever let that happen. And do dare to face risks
because not to face the risk
is the biggest risk you can take.
Even indecision is a decision.
Not to face a risk may be the greatest risk of all
to try, dare to love, dare to make a commitment, dare
to take a risk. If you don't dare to take a risk, you'll
never really live. You'll throw away all of the tomorrows.
To laugh is to risk appearing to be a fool. To weep is
to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out for somebody
is a risk to get involved. To expose your feelings is
to risk showing your weaker self. To place your ideas,
your dreams before a crowd, is to risk rejection. To love
is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk
dying. To believe is to risk disappointment, but the alternative
is death. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be
taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
And the people who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing,
and leave nothing behind. They may avoid suffering and
sorrow, but they will not learn, feel, change, grow, love
and live. Chained by their attitudes, they are slaves,
they are not free, they have forfeited their freedom and
surrendered it to the fear of taking a chance.
Dear God, We can't live without faith. We are human beings
who, without faith, are not celebrating the great possibility
of risk. But we need faith, God. We do need you, O God.
We need the church, O God. We need the Bible, O God. And
Jesus Christ, we need You. You lead the way, we will follow.