In high school, I was involved in a Christian group called Campus Life. Our director, Jim Green, used to tell the greatest stories. I remember one about the tight rope walker at Niagra Falls. This acrobat had somehow stretched a cable across the top of the raging waters. He climbed to the top of his rickety ladder, and stood on one end of the tight rope, holding his pole. “Who believes I can walk across this rope and return?” The crowd cheered. One slip would send him tumbling into the torrent, soon to crash hundreds of feet over the falls. But they believed in his skills.
So the lithe little man scampered easily across the thin cable over the falls, then returned to great applause. Quickly, he scurried down the ladder, grabbed a small bicylec with a basket on it, and climbed back up with the bike. “Who believes I can ride across the falls on this bicycle?” he asked.
Again, the audience roared their belief in the acrobat. He did not disappoint. In just a few minutes he had ridden from the U.S. side to the Canadian side of the falls on a rope on a bicycle! The people were in a frenzy of excitement.
“Now. Who believes I can ride across the falls on this bike with a person in the basket?”
Cheers of faith in this man’s talent filled the air. “You can do it! We believe you can do it!”
The acrobat didn’t say another word for a few moments. He let the crowd fall into silence. “Then which of you will climb into the basket?”
No one said a word. Not one hand went up.
He asked again, “If you believe in me, who will climb up and ride in the basket?”
Several awkward moments followed. The previously giddy crowd was dumbfounded. Belief in this man’s abilities was one thing when he was taking all the risk, but to actually ride in the basket?
Finally the acrobat spoke. “You believe nothing. Not one of you has faith. All your cheers were just empty praise.” He packed his equipment and left.
When he had finished telling us the story, our director asked us, “Now what kind of faith do you have? Is it just belief? Or is it belief that goes as far as doing something?”
Reading through the gospels, we see that Jesus expected this kind of faith as well. Of course he wanted people to believe in him, to trust him as the Messiah and come to know him as the Son of God. But real belief often has an action part.
For instance, Jesus noticed the faith of the men who brought a paralyzed friend to him (Mark 2: 1-12). But what does faith mean in this story? These men didn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed or say anything at all to Jesus about their beliefs. What they did was to bring a friend who couldn’t walk on his own to Jesus. When they arrived at the house, the crowd was so thick that they couldn’t get in. So they climbed up on the roof the house, and began to dig! They scrapped through the hard clay, pushed back the mat of branches, and created an opening between the beams. Then, they lowered their friend on his mat through the hole, right down in front of Jesus! Faith meant digging through somebody’s roof and interupting Jesus in his teaching in order to get their friend to the one who could heal him. Obviously they believed Jesus was someone special, sent from God with healing power—their beliefs were so strong that they went past words and into actions.
That always challenges me. I talk a lot about what I believe about Jesus. But do I show my faith by my actions? If this story were set today, maybe it would mean that you and some others decided to pick up a friend from school going through a hard time and take her to a youth group where you know she’ll be loved and cared for. It might mean calling her, and telling her you’re coming even if she doesn’t feel like it, and working ahead to make sure the group embraces her. Real faith that Christ Jesus still works through his body, the church, might mean working hard to make your friend who feels on the outside of God’s love and grace, feel brought in to a circle of people who will care. That’s the way she’ll come to believe in who Jesus is—by our actions as well as our words.
So, as the tight rope walker might ask, what kind of faith do you have?
Next Day Stretch
Write down a definition of faith. Does it include action? Write down some lines about faith that include what you are doing that shows you are truly “faithing.” Ponder where in your family, school or church life you might be called to show faith in Christ by what you do for someone else.