Jesus Doesn’t Want Your Risk, He Wants Your Life


I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately. In my little circle of Reformed theology, taking risks for God is currently cool. It’s in. It’s what all the cool kids are doing. Piper and Platt and Chan are writing about crazy, don’t waste your life, radical love. And I really am grateful for these guys. I’m grateful that they are encouraging my generation to go hard after God. I’m grateful for the Harris brothers challenging young men and women to do hard things for God. If any of you guys happen to stumble onto this, please feel my gratefulness.

But I’m starting to think that we might be getting the principle right but getting the application wrong. Here’s what I mean: when I read the books on being risky and radical and crazy, I ?come away feeling like I need to do something really, really big for God. I need to take a risk by uprooting my family and being a missionary to India. I need to be crazy for Jesus by adopting four Vietnamese orphans. I need to be radical for Jesus by starting an inner city ministry to the homeless. If I’m not doing something big for God, I’m wasting my life. If I’m not going big for God, I might as well be sitting in front of a slot machine in Vegas, slowly throwing my life away.

Now don’t get me wrong, all those things I mentioned above are good. If God calls you to do those things, do them with all your might! But if I don’t do these things, am I wasting my life? Am I not being crazy radical enough? I don’t think so. Here’s why: being a Christian is fundamentally radical, risky, and crazy.

In Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To be a Christian, we must lose our life for the sake of Jesus. We must be willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. This at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus gets all of my life. Jesus gets all of me. Whatever he says goes. I am no longer my own. That’s crazy, radical, risky talk.?

What does this look like practically? What does it look like to be radical for Jesus every single day? Well, it actually looks pretty ordinary. At least in the world’s eyes. Being radical for Jesus means fighting against our sin aggressively, and being willing to do whatever it takes to cut sin out of our lives (Matt. 5:29). It means blessing those who hate you, and giving your possessions to your enemies (Matt. 5:39). It means being poor in spirit, meek, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:2-11).

The Bible’s description of the radical Christian life is not particularly sexy or glamorous. Being radical for Jesus means being subject to the authorities (Rom. 13:1). It means being patient in tribulation, constant in prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, and showing hospitality (Rom. 12:12-13). These aren’t particularly exciting things, but I think we need to realize that these are radical! The world does not operate this way. Those who don’t know God curse in the midst of tribulation, never pray, indulge their sins, curse their enemies, and despise righteousness. If we seek to obey the Bible, we will be radical. If we seek to follow Jesus, that will inevitably lead to crazy love.

I’m not opposed to doing big things for God. We need more people in the mission field and the orphanages. But for most of us, being radical for Jesus means being faithful to do the “ordinary” Christian things. The Christian life is inherently radical, inherently risky, and inherently crazy. Following Jesus means dying to myself every single day. That is radical. If I seek to obey God’s word, my life will look very different than the rest of the world.

If God calls you to go to the mission field, wonderful! Go hard. But if God calls you to the cubicle field, don’t feel guilty! Be radical right where you are. Fight against your sin. Serve your spouse. Give generously. Spend time with the outcasts. Share the gospel with your neighbors. Remember Jesus doesn’t just want your risk. He wants all of your life.


  • Patrick says:

    Amazing! Definitely something all need to understand!… I've felt this way myself and this is encouraging!

  • Elaine says:

    Just had a discussion with someone about the "big" thing he believed he was called to do; my advice was to start small and serve in the church, wherever he's needed…not impressive but the Lord has shown me that even making a pot of coffee or a pot of soup can be done for His glory.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen!

  • Tracy says:

    Good thoughts. Especially in light of the fact that I am reading through your "Greener Grass Conspiracy" book. As a wife of a pastor, a mom to 4 kiddos, and a heart for world missions, I can struggle with being content with this season of my life & capturing the mundane and ordinary for His glory & connecting it to mission.

    But you are right – simply living out the Christian life as a disciple of Jesus is radical. Dying to myself in mundane ways, like putting down a book like "Radical" in order to play with my super duper active 4 year old, is not something I want to do. Reading is my outlet. Playing Ninja Turtles is exhausting. Raising children is teaching me daily that loving others & living radically always requires me denying myself.

    "Radical", "Don't Waste Your Life", "Crazy Love" – these are all books I have read, loved, and wrestled through how to apply them as a wife and Mom in suburbia. There are many, many ways to do so. The question is, will I be content that these are the ways for me to live radically now. Here. At this moment, when I want to keep typing but my 11 year old needs help with History. Ha.

    Thanks Stephen, for these gentle, punchy reminders.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    I'm glad it was encouraging!!!

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    That is great advice Elaine! And if anyone makes food for the glory of God, it's you!!

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Good thoughts Tracy! And I'm glad you're wrestling through the application of these books. I'm currently reading "Sensing Jesus", which I think is a great counter to these books, and puts things into a helpful perspective.

  • Larry says:

    Amen, brother.

  • spdaly says:

    Great post, definitely something people need to think about in terms of how to follow Jesus and make an impact on the world around them. I wonder within all those books and the "big" things they propose we should do how much of there thoughts are not fleshed out. Even you here say,
    "be radical right where you are. Fight against your sin. Serve your spouse. Give generously. Spend time with the outcasts. Share the gospel with your neighbors. Remember Jesus doesn’t just want your risk. He wants all of your life." I think in theirwriting there is an undertone of that same message, you just have to do the work and think through and pull that out on your own because it isn't flat out said. Thanks for this though because it can be hard to process through the books and get this message.

  • rcjr says:

    Good word brother, thank you.

  • mrsdkmiller says:

    I have been waiting for this piece to be written for a long time! Thank you!

    Something that greatly disturbs me (as an older and therefore totally out of touch woman) is when I see younger women put themselves out there as leaders simply because they are stretching themselves to do the "big" things ….. when they've got pretty big things going on at home with husband, children, church family, etc. — too often neglected in the "God gave me the vision" urgency to get the "big" things done.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    You're welcome! I was simply trying to flesh out what it looks like to be radical in every day life.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:


  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    I'm glad that it was helpful for you!!!

  • Andy Thaxton says:

    Stephen, you have verbalized what has been lingering in the back of mind for months now. I appreciate you sharing this. It helped me and I am going to be sharing it with some other folks.

  • housewifetheologian says:


  • Lee Ann says:

    I totally understand that this could happen and someone could be too focused on “big” things to the neglect of their family but it’s also possible for a woman to do big things for God and still “look well to the ways of her household” as Proverbs 31 says. It also says in Proverbs 31, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” Which could look like a “big” thing.

  • Shari says:

    Even those of us who are missionaries need to remember this. Sometimes our work can be very "daily," when we just have to do the next thing. What is radical is that we continue to do it knowing that we are serving God each day.

  • creativehomeschooler says:

    It's true that a woman…OR a man…can be too focused on things outside the household to the neglect of their family. But I think we should be very careful not to judge when we don't know the entire story. We simply do not know what the day-to-day life of other moms is like. Also, it is very good and healthy for children to see their mother(and father) doing things for people outside the family. Sometimes the hyper-focus on the family can be to the detriment of children; it can cause them to have an attitude of selfishness and entitlement. They don't get any examples of being involved with people outside the family and they become very inward focused.

  • Denise says:

    The nature of our service is also dependent upon the seasons of life. For example, when my children were small, I had little energy to devote to Kingdom Building outside of my own family. Until I found great encouragement in 1 Sam 30:21-4, I felt guilty that I was contributing so little. That season has passed, enabling me to engage with renewed fervor.

  • gracedependent says:

    Having read Risk is Right by John Piper, I would totally agree with him that the Christian life is totally a life of risk. It may play out in your suburban neighborhood, inner city rescue mission, or climbing mountains to reach an unreached people group. Without knowing their motives, I think that the authors of "these type of books" are exhorting the Church to get off center and actually do something. We tend to reject risk and embrace what we think is safe – ironically we are deceived when we do so motivated for our own "kingdoms" rather than the Kingdom of Jesus. I like what the late Keith Green said, "If you aren't called to stay here, then you are called to go" (or something like that – not word for word quote). I think the Church is quite full of people who are enslaved in personal comfort and a "safe" western "christianity".

  • Sara says:

    Stephanie, wow have I seen this in my home lately! I have seen the joy of The Lord in Anna’s heart on Saturday when we were making hoagies and even cleaning the house afterwards. She was so blessed by what we did and she just kept talking about it. She might not fully understand that she is receiving that blessing from Fod for serving another, but what a blessing to me to see it written all over her face! She is thrilled we did the hoagies and she can’t wait until the yard sale, and I know even if she doesn’t understand it yet, it’s because she is finding joy in serving God in those unique ways. Sure we still vacuum and do school and buy groceries to eat, watch kids for a friend, those other everyday normal things, but what a blessing it’s been to us to take our eyes off our circumstances and finances and “worries for today” and focus that wasted energy on blessing The Lord and others, whatever God puts on our heart, through these fun projects! It has definitely been a change of heart for the whole family!!!

  • creativehomeschooler says:

    That's exactly what I was getting at. That's great about Anna. She did look like she was having a blast, and it's so neat because none of what we were doing was for her. Kids in our "middle class" culture have it pretty good, so it's difficult to find ways for them to see outside of themselves. I'm so glad that's happening for Anna!

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