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Preaching - High-Risk Occupation?

So, if I asked you to name some high-risk occupations, what comes to mind? Construction workers, heavy-equipment operators, electrical power-line installers and repairers? Maybe firemen, or police and sheriffs' patrol officers? Truck drivers, NASCAR and INDY race car drivers? Roofers? Loggers? How about preachers and preaching — did they make your list? Preaching can be high-risk at times! Especially if the sermon goes "overtime." Some people like their sermons "short and sweet." A young preacher began his first located work and asked in a meeting, "About what should I preach?" He was told, "About heaven and about fifteen minutes." All joking aside, the Bible reveals that preaching sometimes places the preacher in a flash-point between what people want to hear on the one hand, and what God wants said on the other. The wicked, Baal-worshiping Queen Jezebel, wife of Israel's awful King Ahab, made it state policy to massacre the Lord's prophets because they opposed idolatry (1 Kings 18:4, 13). In 1 Kings 18:17-18 Ahab accuses the prophet Elijah of being 'he that troubleth Israel." Study reveals the only trouble Elijah caused was speaking out against the king's wicked ways. Ahab imprisoned a prophet named Micaiah in 1" Kings 22. Ahab freely acknowledged to King Jehoshaphat of Judah that Micaiah was indeed the Lord's prophet, but confessed, "but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." It didn't bother Ahab that he was evil — but it bothered him greatly that the preacher dared call him and his moral / spiritual beliefs and behavior "evil." Because of the powerful but wicked Ahab, preaching was high-risk for Micaiah. Another notable Old Testament spokesman for God who was at risk was Daniel. He was thrown into a lion's den for obeying God — is that high risk? Daniel's three Jewish friends took a great risk and dared defy King Nebuchadnezzar's vulgar decree to worship a statue. Their "reward" was being thrown into a super-heated oven (see Daniel 3). Perhaps most memorable of all was the weeping prophet Jeremiah. He was mocked and derided till his heart broke and he tried to quit preaching and speaking in the Lord's name. But he couldn't because, "His word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones" (Jeremiah 20:7-10). At one point the princes of Jerusalem cast him into a filthy dungeon where he sank down in the mire. So much for preaching being a low-risk or no-risk job.

The beat goes on in the New Testament. John the Baptist was beheaded for preaching the truth. It's risky for preachers when their preaching condemns a high government official's moral beliefs/behavior. Jesus warned His apostles in Matthew 10:16, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." How's that for a high- risk job? ACTS records that the apostles and early church found risk awaiting at every turn. Some were abused, others beaten, some jailed, and some brutally killed. Their crime? Being Christians and preaching the gospel. And Jesus? They fastened Him to a tree with metal spikes through His hands and feet, human spit on His face, His body bleeding and tortured. Should we be surprised that standing for the truth and speaking out against sin and falsehood, in all its forms and faces, in high places and low, is still a high-risk occupation? Only one thing exposes us to greater risk in the troubled times we live in today — fearing man's wrath more than we fear God's (see Matthew 10:28, 32-39). Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ