#175 (03/04/05)
Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow Part IX

The Message

By: Robert H.Schuller

Special Guest

He just came back from Iraq. It was his 2nd trip there, and you were there for the holidays. Because regardless of how we feel about this war the reality is these are our neighbors, these are our friends and our family members and people that we see at the mall and at church. And they’re over there fighting for the cause of freedom and liberating the oppressed, much in the same way other countries did for us over 200 years ago.

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Rejoice, O Pure in Heart "
" We Build a New Tomorrow "

" Blessed are They "

RUSS LEE - "Sweetest Sound"
RUSS LEE – “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Measure Tomorrows Risks & Rewards Carefully

Fifty 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.

That 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!'"

Now 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.

The 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?

Life 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.

We 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

You 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.

Now 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.

So 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.

I 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?

When 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 your values.

(3) Can you live with failure if you take the risk?

Can 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 risk?

(4) Can you be insured against the risk?

Put 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 impact.

The 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.

One 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.

I 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 yours.

A 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 in.'

Is 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.

As 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 answer it."

Don't 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

Dare 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.

Prayer: 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. Amen.

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