1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
Today we are wrapping up our mini-series on what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about running a race in such a way so as to obtain the prize. We’ve already looked at running with perseverance, discipline, self-control, and humility. Our fifth and final focus is on running with caution.
Caution is primarily defined as “care taken to avoid danger or mistakes.” Synonyms include care, carefulness, wariness, awareness, alertness, vigilance, discretion, prudence, guardedness, mindfulness.
In order to grasp what running with caution (in the way God intended it) looks like, it might be helpful to look at a few of the consequences of NOT doing that, in order to jolt us and awaken us and get our attention!
Running without caution can result in recklessness. To be reckless invariably causes damage to self, others, one’s surroundings, one’s reputation, one’s future. It speaks of not caring about the consequences. Recklessness is actually a legal term, and in criminal law can be defined as “the state of mind where a person deliberately and unjustifiably pursues a course of action while consciously disregarding any risks flowing from such action.” It is a less serious offense than what is known as intentional wickedness, but it is more serious than carelessness or negligence. We may never have lived this kind of life, but we all know of some who have chosen this path. Parents throughout history have cautioned their children with stories of recklessness and its terrible consequences. A lot of cities these days post the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” It’s easy to think that someone exhibiting reckless behavior already knows what they’re doing. But you might be the one brave soul to speak up and change someone’s life and family tree forever. If you lived recklessly in the past and are reading this, it’s probably because someone reached out to you or challenged you in some way.
Proverbs 14:15-16 (ESV) – “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”
Jude 1:20-23 (NLT) – “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.”
Running with caution, when taken out of proportion to an extreme, can result in fear. We see this in the gospel of Mark, when Jesus and the disciples took a boat ride on a lake. It says that a fierce storm came up, high waves broke into the boat, the boat began to fill with water, and Jesus slept peacefully on a cushion at the back of the boat. The disciples erroneously thought that somehow Jesus hadn’t run with proper caution when they asked him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He saw right through the question, responding by calming the wind and waves and asking them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” God doesn’t desire us to live with fear. Running with caution is His way of inviting us to trust in Him, to roll that fear onto Him, and to rest in His constant love and faithfulness to us.
Running without caution can result in neglect, wrong focus, or controlling behavior. 1 Peter 5:2-4 (NIV) was written to the elders or overseers of the church. Whether we’re appointed as elders in our local churches or not, we as parents are hand selected by God to shepherd our precious children, too. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” If we’re beginning to feel like we “should” do the good things we know God has called us to, then we’re probably worn out and in need of some rest and refreshment. If we’re starting to dream about cutting corners or quick fixes or easy money, then we’re probably in need of some wisdom and accountability. If we’re finding ourselves trying to fix others or control situations, then we probably need to resign from being Savior of the world and let Jesus have His place back.
It can be very frustrating watching someone you care about proceeding to run without caution. God’s heart for each one of us is that we run with caution, not because He wants to keep us in a tightly confined space or because He wants us to be afraid of something. He doesn’t want us to neglect those under our care, focus on the wrong things, or try to control others or our circumstances (which we can’t do anyway). Rather, He wants us to run with caution because He loves us and wants us to live and live abundantly! He wants us to be filled with His love from the inside out, free to live and free to love in a way that brings Him praise, honor, and glory. He wants us to produce good fruit, fruit that remains. He wants us to be blessed, be a blessing to others, and be a blessing to our communities. He wants us to trust Him!
I want to close with a very positive application of what it looks like to run with caution. Yes, God wants us to run with caution when it comes to being careful, prudent, vigilant, mindful. But when it comes to giving ourselves away, we are to go for it with all that we are and have.
2 Corinthians 9:8-11 (The Message) – “God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, ‘He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.’ This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.”