There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. – Tolkien
Centuries of peace have made hobbits fat and timid. The same holds true for most Christians. We forget that we are part of a cosmic battle, we live as though we are in a time of peace; yet Jesus is establishing his already-not yet Kingdom on this planet and we have important roles to play in that battle. What Christendom is missing is a sense of risk…
Risking what we hold dear for the sake of the Kingdom will awaken seeds of courage in our hearts.
In his most recent book Owen Strachan attempts to awaken that courage in our hearts by pointing us to “Gospel Risk.” Gospel Risk means “trading in small things that produce a shallow defeated life for the life shaped by the gospel, one devoted to God and his glory.” (66) In essence it means investing in God-honoring, kingdom expanding pursuits like evangelism, our spiritual walk, family life, church, and our public presence.
Strachan starts off by painting an all to real picture of what the typical Christian’s life is like… It is stressed, it lacks boldness, it stays in the neutral zone, seeks to keep expectations low, is afraid of change, and overall lacks real-kingdom building endeavors. Now don’t read this as being a rehash of David Platt’s radical – Strachan is an anti-Platt – I says that “ordinary life” (think the 2.5 Kids, a dog, and 2 cars) can be just as risky as the “radical” life. Just because you live a typical middle class American life doesn’t mean you can’t take risks for the sake of the kingdom.
Where do we get the power to take these sorts of risks?
- Strength comes from the goodness of God (216)
- Strength comes from the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection (216)
- Strength comes from the Holy Spirit who lives in you. (216)
Where do we take these risks? Strachan devotes one chapter to each of the following “risky” areas:
- Spiritual Disciplines
- Family Life
- Public Witness
- This book is timely – Working with college students I constantly see students “playing it safe,” which for a college student means being unambitious about their walk with Christ, their careers, and even their dating relationships. I see this especially in young guys; they seem to coast through life with no sense of direction. In fact I have a couple of college students in mind that I know should absolutely read this book.
- Grounded in our Identity in Christ – Reading a good amount of gospel-centered stuff I have noticed that many gospel centered authors tend to over-emphasize the fact that we are still broken, jacked up sinners but that isn’t the case with Strachan. Yes we are sinners, but even more fundamentally we are new creations. “We are reconciled to God. This is our fundamental identity.” (54) “You are not only a new creation. You are not only freed from sin. You’re a conqueror through Christ.” (56)
- Extremely Practical – Usually I shy away from overly practical books/sermons in favor of things that move the affections. But Strachan does a fantastic job of moving the affections and embolden us while also giving practical ways we can grow in our boldness.
- The Chapter on Public Witness – I have no real qualm with the general message of this book however the chapter on Public Witness is a bit shaky in my opinion. At times Strachan seems to align himself with the “moral majority” type of political engagement that most young evangelicals have disavowed. Although he doesn’t take it that far, he calls for Christians to act as a moral preservative in society by writing local papers, participating in campaigns, petitions, sponsoring Christian candidates, etc. (191) I’m glad he points out that Christianity is not a private religion, but its not a civic religion either. I can’t imagine Paul writing to his local tetrarch asking him to pass a law that designates food that is sacrificed to idols. I don’t imagine our brothers and sisters in China petitioning for changes in public policy either. His position doesn’t ruin the book for me though, I think we are too cowardly in our public witness, we need boldness, but the boldness we need looks a lot different than the boldness he is describing.
If you are tired of living like a fat timid hobbit and want to go on the adventure that you were created by God for, this book provides some great encouragement to do just that….