Our church gave away an old organ not too long ago. It had been collecting dust in the corner of the sanctuary, only to come to life after church when my granddaughter and grandson would turn it on and play it while they were waiting on me to close up the church.
I knew they enjoyed this time with the old organ, but I didn’t realize how much until we gave it away. We figured somebody could fix it and make it sound like an organ again, instead of a barking seal.
The following Sunday, Phen, my two year old grandson, came to church and made his way to the front pew, where they sit every Sunday—right next to the empty space where the organ used to be. One glance at the empty space, and he had a meltdown that resulted in his father having to remove him from the service.
Hopefully, my grandson won’t suffer any long-term damage over the missing organ, because there was something grand and holy about the way he played it that I will never recreate by buying him a keyboard at Emiron Music. A modern keyboard with all of the accouterments will never give him the High-Church feel.
It got me to thinking about empty spaces and our reactions to them. Death is the ultimate empty space. It shocks us, the way it shocked my grandson. But what about taking a risk? Is a risk our attempt at filling an empty space in our soul? Is ambition an empty space? What about a longing we feel inside?
We must be careful with the empty places inside of us that cry to be filled. Francis Peabody once wrote, “A person’s life is a space which refuses to be empty. If it is not tenanted by good, then evil knocks and enters it. There is no such thing as an unoccupied life.”
In Luke 12:24, Jesus tells the story of a demon that left his house, in search of something better, only to experience—much like the prodigal son—a larger world with dry places and no rest. For what a demon longs for is an empty place outside the soul of man. He finds nothing in the far country. So the demon returns to his old house, only to find it clean, swept and in good order. Unable to occupy the clean house, he goes out and recruits seven hired guns and makes the house worse than it was in the beginning.
The demon never thought he’d find a clean house when he returned. But one of the many morals of the story is the fact that the demon had to share the house with seven new demons, meaning his little trip into the far country cost him dearly. For even the demon was seven times worse off, along with the house. So a dirty house with one demon may be better than one with eight demons.
I know. It sounds ridiculous. But look at it through the eyes of the demon—if you dare. For him taking a risk and leaving his original house meant he could never return to the way things were before he risked. His risk to leave took away his return to the same old house. So taking a risk could mess up something you have, leaving you with something worse? This is at the heart of every risk.
When Confederate soldiers went off to war, they never thought they’d return to a demolished house and no livestock. The war dealt them a blow seven times the devastation. Would they have gone to war if they’d known the outcome? Probably not. This is why Jesus said we should count the cost before we go off to war. We might lose. So are you willing to give up what you have for the worst case scenario? That’s why some people never risk. They believe the odds are too great. And for this demon, this proved to be the case.
So how do we risk with complete assurance that we will get the outcome we long for? How do we fill the empty space of longing and ambition with proven success? Ask the prodigal son this question, and he might reply, “Don’t squander your ambition with reckless living.”
In other words, have a plan that includes what you will do if the worst case scenario takes place. Be a doomsday prepper. Prepare for the worst. And this seems to be what the demon had in place when he went for seven other demons so he could take back his house. This was his worst case scenario.
Every risk will have pros and cons. Do the pros outweigh the cons? If you can answer with strong pros, then by all means, take the risk. You only live once, then the judgment. So live! Just don’t squander your risk on high hopes. Be concrete. Be diligent. And pray. Pray hard. Pray unceasingly, as the Apostle Paul did. Then maybe success will be yours, then again, it might not. This is why we call it a risk.
But we also serve the God of the impossible. We can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). And Abraham left his country without knowing what he was looking for, and the Book of Hebrews calls it having “great faith.” So there will always be the wildcard of faith. You had better make sure you hear the voice of God on this one. See. It can be so confusing. This is why no one can tell you with complete confidence to never risk. Everything we hold dear to faith seems to be a risk.