Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Part 14 of a series through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes

Text: 11:1-6


Several times in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher states that life is unpredictable. We never know when tragedy might strike. I was reminded of this fact last Sunday afternoon when my Dad phoned and told me that my Mom and sister had been in a car accident. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt. But judging from the picture of my sister’s badly damaged car, the outcome could have very easily been much worse.

Life is too short to always “play it safe.” In this passage, we find three rules for risk-taking.

1. Take risks boldly but wisely.

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth (vv. 1-2).

When the Preacher says, “Cast your bread upon the waters,” he is probably talking about sea trade. (However, others say that it refers to giving to the poor.) There were risks involved in sea trade: shipwrecks (shipwrecks in Halifax Harbour), piracy, dishonesty, etc.

It’s said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So the wise farmer would not put all his grain on one ship. Instead, he would put his grain on seven or eight ships (v. 2). He would diversify.

When people assess risk, they consider the potential loss, the probability of loss, and the potential benefit.

This week we will observe Remembrance Day, a day for remembering men and women who sacrificed their lives serving their country in battle. They knew the potential loss (their lives), but they were willing to take the risk because they valued the potential benefit (freedom for their nation).

We could think also of the risk of Queen Esther: “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:14), and the risks of Paul and Barnabas: “Men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). For Esther, Paul, and Barnabas, both the potential loss and the potential benefits were great. The potential loss was death. The potential benefit for Esther was the saving of her people. The potential benefit for Paul and Barnabas was the salvation of many people.

Risk-taking for Christ requires: (1) commitment ("Cast your bread upon the waters"), (2) faith ("for you will find it"), and (3) patience ("after many days").

Hudson Taylor once said, “Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith.”

What risk is God showing you that you should take? Be bold, but wise. Think of the potential benefits, not just the potential loss.

2. Take risks promptly.

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap (v. 4).

It’s often said that we are living in “uncertain times.” But aren’t we always living in uncertain times? Four times in six verses, the Preacher mentions uncertainty.

Uncertainty leads to inactivity (sins of omission). We are often like a farmer who never sows because he thinks it might be windy or never reaps because he thinks it might rain.

There will never be perfect conditions, but there will always be available excuses. Wayne Gretzky said, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Fools excuse; wise people repent.

3. Take risks expectantly.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good (v. 6).

Those who don’t try, never succeed. So take a wise, bold risk for Christ. Maybe you’ve taken a risk in the past and failed, and now you’re reluctant to try again. It’s often said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Diversify. William Carey said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”


Again, life is short. We don’t know how long we have in this life. So if God is showing you a risk He wants you to take, don’t procrastinate. Consider the following verses. “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17). “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

What can you invest?
  • Your time
  • Your talents
  • Your treasure
Accept the risks; reap the rewards.

We shouldn’t do good just to receive rewards, but God promises that He will reward our labor—some way, somehow.

Don’t hold back in fear; step out in faith.

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