Who Told You Following Jesus Would Be Safe?
I am part of a unique band called No Longer Music, and last summer marked my tenth straight year of touring with them. In NLM, we use music and theater to present a clear Gospel message outside the church.
Over the years, I have been in many intense situations, and it hasn’t always been safe. I’ve had rocks thrown at me, fled from a riot in Lebanon, been followed by the secret police, and had our power cut just as we started to play. One time, a guy threw a cell phone at my head while I was preaching!
When I got married, my wife joined No Longer Music, and we faced some dangerous situations together. After one show, I had to lock her in our van. We had just finished preaching in a conservative Muslim town in Albania. Our stage was set up facing a mosque, and the local Imam (the person who leads prayers in a mosque) confronted us while we were talking to people after the show. He was angry that we were sharing our faith. He got in the face of one of our teammates and shouted, “Why have you come here? We are Albanians. We are Muslims. Why are you spreading these lies?”
We tried to calm him down, but he continued to shout. He gathered a large group of young men around him, and they began chanting “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is greater!). Two policemen nervously stood between the mob and us, urging us to leave. They warned us that if the crowd became violent, there would be nothing they could do. We packed down as quickly as we could, and prayed for God’s protection. Fortunately, they did not attack us, and we were able to drive away.
This incident shook me, and I remember feeling the weight of having brought my wife into such a dangerous situation. Trusting God with my life was one thing, but trusting Him with my wife’s required a new level of faith entirely.
I often hear it said, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” This idea sounds nice, but is it true? Experiences like the one I had in Albania seem incongruent with this version of God’s plan for me. It’s a cliche that, although most likely well-intended, can have the dangerous consequence of convincing us that if something is hard, or risky, or unsafe, then it must not be God’s will.
I don’t seek out dangerous situations, nor risky opportunities. I sincerely believe I have been obedient to the calling God has placed on my life, and this calling has not always been safe; in fact, it’s often been very dangerous.
If we examine scripture honestly, following Jesus is many things, but safe is not one of them. Jesus laid out the costs of serving Him in fairly plain terms. He said to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow him (Matthew 16:24). He didn’t promise that all of our physical needs would be met. He never promised financial security, and certainly never guaranteed a safe life. In fact, he tells us that we will have trouble in this life (John 16:33).
The world desperately needs to experience the love and power of God. Sadly, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2). I think this is in part because of the perception that our safety is more important to God than our obedience.
As a Christian artist, I feel a tremendous responsibility to use the platform God has given me to share the Gospel. But our world is becoming increasingly hostile to absolute truth and especially to Christianity. I believe in the days to come, being an artist that is bold for Jesus will not be safe. Even now, if I choose to proclaim Christ through my art, I will risk my reputation, my commercial success, and in some cases, possibly even my life.
So why should I risk my safety?
Jesus said in Luke 17:33: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Jesus never made safety a virtue because there is so much more to life than being safe! You and I were meant to make a difference; we were not made for self-preservation. Following God may cost us everything, but what greater reward than being used to rescue people from destruction?
After a decade of serving God in some dangerous places, I am convinced that being in the center of God’s will is not the safest place to be, but it is the best. If we trust God, He will use us, and we will experience so much more than safety - we will change the world!