Safety Second


“Once we have set ourselves to be pilgrims and strangers on the earth, which is what Christians are meant to be, it is incongruous for us to continue to insist upon the sort of security the world tries to guarantee. Our security lies not in protecting ourselves from suffering but in putting ourselves fully into the hands of God. The desire for physical and material security makes us sly and hard. No. We must be like little children. The child in its father’s arms is not worried. It lies quietly at rest because it trusts its father.” 

We sometimes disobey because we say it is impossible to do what God asks. Impossible? Perhaps what we mean is impossible to do that and keep our security, impossible to obey without tremendous cost or at least tremendous risk. Where, then, will we find safety? Is it likely that we will find it elsewhere than in the arms of the Father?”

The above quote comes from a book written by Elisabeth Elliot entitled “A Lamp Unto My Feet.” The quote itself is a devotional entitled “The Lust for Security.” Here is a timely reminder that the desire for safety must always be second in seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). Here is a needed reminder that security is an illusion apart from finding rest in God’s everlasting arms. Given the seeming lust for security and safety in recent years, during the COVID emergency, do we not need to hear her challenge? Is there not the possibility that, as God’s people, we hid behind lockdown mandates for far too long out of a lust for security and a craven obedience to our political masters? Did not the COVID emergency unmask a church that is risk-averse?

Safety second, the kingdom of God first, must always be the baseline of Christian missions and ministry. We cannot take up our cross and bear the yoke of Christ and desire safety at the same time (Matt. 16:24; 11:29). The cross is an instrument of death, the yoke an implement of toil. The cross suggests blood; the yoke suggests sweat. When we follow Christ, we are ready to die for Him, or we are ready to work sacrificially for Him. 

A rereading of early church history reinforces this idea of safety second. It chronicles the reality that we cannot live the Christian life, fulfill the Great Commission, and also be risk-averse. During the Jerusalem Council, Paul and Barnabas are described as men who risked their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:25-26). These were men like the Twelve, who did not count their lives dear in seeking to complete their gospel assignments (Acts 20:24; cp. Rev. 12:11). In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he acknowledges that Epaphroditus gambled with his own life to make up what was lacking in the Philippian church’s service to Paul (Phil. 2:30). The early church did not lust after security, but the glory of Christ among the nations. They understood something we have forgotten; safety does not lie in keeping oneself safe. No, safety is found in living at the center of God’s will, which is the safest place in the world.  

Safety first? No, safety second; the costly seeking of God’s kingdom first.