Risks & Rewards Carefully
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
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
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
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
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
(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.
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
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.
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."
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
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.