Just the other night I had the great privilege of sharing the Gospel with a group of teens. When I was invited to do so, I was told that these are “at risk” teens; kids who have been in trouble and in many cases are headed for more. My reply was that I should fit in, because I had been one of them. Everything about it seemed like a perfect match; until I was almost there. That’s when a little voice in my head whispered; “Teens don’t like magic or magicians”.
To a degree that little voice was right. Teens can be a tough audience for any type of entertainer; especially if they equate being fooled with an adult making them look foolish. To be honest some magicians are guilty of doing just that. But, after many years, I consider myself a magical entertainer. Big difference! An entertainer is concerned first and foremost about their audience. When I began using “magic” to illustrate the Gospel, my audience became God. Before every program, I pray; “LORD let me do my best for You.”. That approach makes me aware that if my Audience of One is pleased with the way I conduct myself, others watching will be as well.
Anyhow, I pulled the car into a nearby parking lot. There I asked God to eliminate the negative thoughts; especially those about “at risk” teens. A new Voice spoke to me saying; “They’re not at risk – but worth the risk”. I knew this Voice and my heart was lifted. I also had a new theme for the evening; “Worth the risk”.
I got to the place, unloaded equipment and made my way in. I got some sidelong glances, a couple of “Hey! It’s the magic guy!” and a warm welcome from those who had invited me. Setting up, I estimated about forty teens in various states of dress (and undress) ranging from “gansta” to “goth” to “retro hippie”. I thought, “This should be interesting!”.
After I was introduced, I made a couple of comments which got laughs (always a good sign!). Then I started with a routine which involves restoring a torn up newspaper into a whole one. During this I talked about the torn up lives reflected in these “news” stories. This evolved into my saying; “You know, when I was asked to come tonight, I was told that many of you might be “at risk”. But God has laid it on my heart that you aren’t “at risk” you’re “worth the risk”. I went on to say “That’s why this place and these people are here. That’s why I’m here. What’s the risk? Well, I told you where I work and I’m about to lay my life open to you. You see, when I was a teen (about 100 years ago) I was “at risk”. Telling them about my Dad dying three days after my 14th birthday and my first day of high school; how I later went through a painful divorce, drugs and near suicide, got a couple of sympathetic “oohs”, a sob from a girl near the front and everyone’s attention. That was God at work. From then on, they had reason to listen to the “old guy”, who did know some of what they are going through. My conversations with these young people revealed open hearts and minds, seeking love and acceptance – something for which we all long. The beauty of being a part of God’s family, is that we aren’t cookie cutter personalities. Jesus’ disciples were a motley crew if ever there was one and they were hand picked!
I enjoyed sharing God’s Word and love with those kids. But, I learned a lot that night as well. One thing in particular; we’re all both “at risk” and “worth the risk” in God’s eyes.
God created us and then gave us free will. That put us in the “at risk” category, because we had a choice of following God’s will or going our own way. You know how that turned out! But, God felt that it was “worth the risk”, because without free will, we in our love and obedience to Him would be nothing less than puppets on a string. Imagine the hurt which He felt as a result of our disobedience! God never deserved that pain and rejection. We, on the other hand, deserve the full penalty of sin – death.
Yet, God in His love still saw His Creation as “worth the risk” and sent His Son Jesus to die in our place. Once again, the risk was our having the choice of accepting or rejecting God’s grace.
So, what about you? Are you still “at risk” of spending Eternity in Hell? If so, it is by choice – your own. God believed that you were worth creating, worth loving, worth dying for, worth providing the Truth of resurrection, worth providing countless people to carry the Message of grace throughout the years – in short, God believed and still believes that you are “worth the risk”! Jesus paid the price. Therefore there is no risk on your part. Make the Choice to follow Him – risk free!