Tim Challies Christian Blog and Commentary

Support Foster Kids with a Suitcase

Risk Is Right

The best life is a risky life. Really, I am convinced there is not much worth doing that doesn’t involve at least some measure of risk. A lifetime of always making the safest choice is an unrealistically boring and plodding life. We risk when we love, we risk when we live. To love any person is to risk—it is to risk your heart, to make yourself vulnerable to another. To love God is to risk—it is to risk your very life, to make yourself willing to do whatever it is that the Lord commands. Simply to live is to risk; we do not know what the next day, or even the next moment will bring. Yet we value our safety and so often run from risk, living our lives within the most comfortable boundaries.

John Piper wants us to know that Risk is Right—the title of his newest book, a short one that weighs in at all of 64 pages. If the ultimate aim of life is to honor and magnify Jesus Christ, then the meaningful life, the unwasted life, is a life in which it is right and good to risk everything for this ultimate goal. “I define risk very simply as an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. If you take a risk you can lose money, you can lose face, you can lose your health or even your life. And what’s worse, if you take a risk, you may endanger other people and not just yourself. Their lives may be at stake also.” Is it right, then, to take risks?

That all depends. It depends on whether losing life is the same as wasting it. Piper’s burden is to prove that all of life is a risk and that as Christians we are called to take big risks, good risks, that will result in the Savior being honored and glorified. “It is the will of God that we be uncertain about how life on this earth will turn out for us. And therefore it is the will of the Lord that we take risks for the cause of God.” We risk well when our motive is not heroism or lust for adventure or a desire to earn God’s favor, “but rather faith in the all-providing, all-ruling, all-satisfying Son of God, Jesus Christ.”

As Piper builds his case he looks at examples of biblical risk, searching out both the Old Testament and the New. He looks at Paul as the great risk taker of the early church, a man who risked his life time and again in order to advance the cause of Christ. He presents a strong case and a reasonable one. He proves biblically, as he means to, that it is better to lose your life through godly risk than to waste it.

This may all sound vaguely familiar which brings me to a critique, though perhaps this is a critique of publishing as much as this book. It is quite common in publishing to re-title books or to excerpt parts from successful books and to publish them as self-standing short books. This is the case with Risk Is Right—it is a chapter excerpted from Piper’s bestselling Don’t Waste Your Life. It now includes a foreword from David Platt and a few minor word changes, but it is, in essence, chapter 5 of DWYL.

Now listen, I appreciate Crossway, John Piper and Desiring God as much as anyone, but I am a little bit disappointed in them here. In all the marketing for the book and in all the descriptions, the Christian reader will be led to believe that this is a new work, not a repackaged one. The one endorsement at Amazon suggests that this is a new book: “While probably Piper’s smallest work, I would argue it’s content is the most critical.” At the end of the book there is even an ad for Don’t Waste Your Life, again suggesting that these are completely separated, though potentially related, works. 

The only way you would know this before you spend $6 or $8 is if you happen to have read Don’t Waste Your Life recently and recognize the title or if you are in the habit of reading the legalese in the first 2 or 3 pages of the book. If you already own Don’t Waste Your Life, you will now be paying for a short foreword from David Platt. I suspect there will be quite a few people who will be disappointed to find that they have paid again for a book they already own. This happens in publishing, but somehow I want to see Christian publishers and ministries protect the consumer even if they save them only $8.

However, none of that reflects on the quality of the book. Risk Is Right is a good little book, just as it was a powerfully challenging chapter in Don’t Waste Your Life. If you don’t already own DWYL, then do yourself a favor and buy it or Risk Is Right. It will both bless and challenge you.