Dreamers are risk-takers. You can't separate the two. Dreaming and taking risks comes as a package, at least if you want your dream to become a reality. I know that some people are naturally drawn to risk more than others – that's just a fact. But anyone can become a risk-taker just like anyone can become a dreamer. It's a learnable skill. It's a choice we make. In fact, it's a must. The dream-centered life involves risk. Dreaming is not simply hearing from God and successfully implementing what you heard. There will be unknown obstacles, gray areas, surprises both good and bad, letdowns, setbacks, comebacks, steep cliffs, calm seas, highs, lows, and everything in between.
That's the nature of risk, but through it all we will never feel more alive.
One of the huge benefits of becoming a risk-taker is that it drives fear out of our lives. Taking risks and experiencing consequences, both successful and unsuccessful, is the best way to defeat fear. You see, fear lurks around trying to immobilize you. The goal of fear is your inaction. Dreams die that way.
The only way to be dream centered, and really the only way to be fully human, is to regularly defeat fear by taking risks and accomplishing hard things. If we shrink from hard things, we become less human. But when we face a fearful situation and take action, we feel a surge of satisfaction. It may require something like having a difficult conversation with a boss, a spouse, a parent, or a friend. Wrestling addictive behavior and making the courageous decision to bring it into the light. Putting money or reputation or time at risk for a good cause. All these things cause us to feel alive because they banish fear and show faith in a dream.
Dreams and risk always involve feeling some fear. I've taught over the years that courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to take action in spite of fear. Mark Twain once said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear." In other words, we don't overcome the feeling of fear, but we banish the power it has in our lives.
Jesus asked a number of people to take the risk of following him. One rich young ruler said no and then disappeared completely from the Bible. Did he ever reflect on the day that carpenter rabbi challenged him to give it all away and follow him? What would life have been like if he'd said yes to Jesus? As best we can tell, this man's life went on as it had before. He enjoyed his riches, he grew older, his power faded, and he died.
But had he truly risked anything?
When we don't take fearful risks, we die a little on the inside. Do that enough and it becomes your life pattern. You begin to see yourself as someone who can't cope with challenges and who makes excuses for not risking anything. Instead of strength, resolve, and confidence, your life is characterized by shallowness and a low view of yourself. As life goes on, what-ifs become what-might-have-beens. Your existence may seem comfortable and normal in many ways. But by avoiding risk and fear, you actually avoid your dream and choose the low path of merely existing.
The apostle Paul lost his job, was isolated from friends, lived in a strange country, was arrested on trumped-up charges, was beaten and jailed, lived with the constant possibility of martyrdom, and had to put up with people trashing his reputation. Guess what he wrote to a group of friends? "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Wow. Paul embraced risk and reaped huge blessings, not least of which was an amazing absence of the power of fear in his life.
Can you imagine living without being controlled by fear? I imagine Paul waking up every day and saying, "Some good things are going to happen to me today and some bad things, but it doesn't matter because I am in God's care and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." That's the kind of person I want to be.
Luke Barnett appears on LIFE TODAY this Tuesday. This is an adaptation from The Dream Centered Life by Luke Barnett. Copyright ©2017 by Luke Barnett. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Used by permission.