There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously heights. Then he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, "Tightrope walker, I don't believe you can do it, but I'm willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls." Now, Tightrope Walker wrote back, "Sir, although I've never been to America and seen the Falls, I'd love to come."
The word believe means "to live by". How often do we say that we believe Christ can do it, but refuse to get in the wheelbarrow? To live by faith is a concept beyond our natural instinct. Everything hinges on faith. To live life in the wheelbarrow is to be on the cutting edge with God. Faith is outrageous, it is amazing, it is exciting. Faith is to get in the wheelbarrow. A few truths about faith…
A. Faith comes above all else. Romans 4:13-14 answers the question, which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Which comes first, law or faith. I don’t know about the chicken and egg answer, but I do know that unquestionably faith comes above all else. This is among the greatest news you will hear in the Bible. Faith allows you to climb in the wheelbarrow. We talked about this last week -- to live by law will never get you into heaven. You can never be good enough, because we are sinners by nature. “law brings wrath” (Rom. 4:16). Good works follows faith… we respond to God by serving him, but our actions do not earn our salvation. The law also tells us right from wrong, “for where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:16).
B. Faith is not blind, but is based on God’s promises. When we are called to live by faith, not wishful thinking, not a luxurious life of our own imagination, living by faith doesn’t mean I will have a nice house and nice family and lots of money and good health. Faith is based on God’s promises; we know where God is taking us – not the details of what life will look like, but the character of our lives. Faith is based on God’s promises. Three times in Romans 4:13-17 I find the word “promise.” If you have the faith to climb in the wheelbarrow, the promise is that you will make it to the other side and live to tell the tale. If you live by faith in God and climb in his wheelbarrow, then you need to know the promises of God – to say that your faith grows means you understand with greater clarity God’s promises, you can see the other side of the rope and what God has in mind. God promises peace. God promises satisfaction. God promises joy. He does not promise health, he does not promise lots of money, he does not promise a certain status. He promises to be with you no matter what. He promises to carry your burdens. He promises to love you: nothing can separate you from the love of Christ…
To climb into the wheelbarrow is to know where the Lord is taking you! To believe his promises is to take that risk of getting in the wheelbarrow, with the certainty the Lord is able to fulfill his promises. The way may look treacherous, you may have no earthly confidence, you know that by yourself you could never walk that tightrope of life, but with God, he is able. Everything hinges on faith.
I’ve ridden in big rigs, and I sometimes imagine myself behind the wheel, no thanks, I’ll gladly depend on the experienced truck driver over my less than adequate skills. To trust in the Lord and climb in the wheelbarrow is a no brainer, so why do we hesitate? Know his promises.
C. The degree of your faith does not determine success or failure, you’re all the way in the wheelbarrow or you are not, whether you are afraid or not is of no consequence. Rom. 4:16 (READ) does not qualify the degree of your faith… UNDERLINE the word ALL. Guaranteed to ALL who are Abraham’s offspring; Abraham’s offspring is clearly those who believe in God by faith. There is no degree of faith. God knows. A little faith, a lot of faith, know a lot/little. How much you doubt /fear does not determine God’s provision for you. Climb in the wheelbarrow is an act of trust. It’s what or whom you put your faith that is most important, not the level of your faith. As Stuart Brisco says, “Some people with strong faith in weak ice never lived to tell the tale but died by faith. Others who had weak faith in thick ice were as safe as if they had stood on concrete.”
Sometimes we talk in terms of degrees of faith, and maybe that is useful on the human level when we talk in terms of discipleship and challenging people to experience more of God and live consistently. I think it’s great the way Phil Dufrene talks about strong Christians when he goes to the boats/ships… but what he really seems to mean by “strong” is people that spend more time in the wheelbarrow.
When I was in the hospital chaplaincy program in seminary, we were given names knowing very little about the people… the question I was taught to ask when you could work it in…. How is your faith? It’s a good question, as a beginning…the problem is that the question can be vague…but the vaguness is good as a beginning because it is an invitation for the person who is in the hospital to enter the spiritual world. The doctors and nurses can talk about all the health issues, but for me, to ask about faith is good. The question goes beyond the broken bone, the gunshot wound, the invasive cancer… If I ask you about your faith right now, you implicitly know I am asking how you are trusting God whatever your life situation. Everything hinges on faith. If I say to a Christian, “How it your faith?”, it gives the person the opportunity to reflect on Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and trust… for the seeker wondering about Christianity it opens the door for them to ask about the basic tenets of Christianity, or if there really is a God… however much the door is open that’s how far I’ll go in… How is your faith? Are you willing to climb in the wheelbarrow and let God wheel you across the tightrope. Do you know his promises? Or do you still have questions. Or are you putting your faith somewhere else?
Faith comes first, above your own efforts. Faith is not blind but rooted in God’s promises. Faith and fear are not mutually exclusive. Faith does not come in degrees, you either get in the wheelbarrow or you don’t. The biggest fool would be the person who says to the Tightrope Walker, let me ease into this, I’ll take one of the handles. The final truth about faith is perhaps the most important of all.
D. Faith is possible because it is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:17). Abraham believed in God. If you take the story of the tightrope walker literally, the problem is that the tightrope walker is a man and could fall. As a literal story, I would still refuse to get in the wheelbarrow because that’s a man. I remember a few years ago at the Lynden Fair, the bungie cord jump was the rage – I had faith that I would be safe and make it alive, but why would I want to do that. The tightrope walker would eventually fail. But faith in God, for the tightrope walker to symbolize the one true God, he will never fail. His promises are certain. He is God. The Lord Jesus Christ can always be trusted. Abraham believed in God! Abraham saw God. Abraham climbed in the wheelbarrow because God is the one that pushed it across the chasm on the tightrope, God brought a baby into his household in his old age, God later challenged Abraham to sacrifice his one and only Son! God always fulfills his promises.
Two amazing characertistics of God are highlighted:
“He gives life to the dead.” Literally this was true in Lazarus. Ultimately this was made true in Jesus Christ who died and rose again. But it also true to those who feel stuck, like the woman at the well who was at a dead-end in her life, and Jesus gave her life giving water, Jesus gives life to those who feel as though your life is a dead-end, those who are discouraged, those who are uncertain and hesitant, those who are searching for basic meaning and purpose of life, those who are discouraged and depressed, those who are disappointed with the turns and twists of your life, those who are in perpetual crisis, those who are grieving beyond normal grief over great loss, like the dry bones of Ezekiel, them bones can live – the Lord is able to give life to the dead, to give meaning and purpose, to turn your life around and bring joy and satisfaction, to raise the dead so that there is new life… “He gives life to the dead.” That’s the person of Jesus Christ, faith is in a person. Carl Crouse will fail you, but Jesus Christ won’t… He gives life to the dead, the greatest power on earth. God specializes in breathing life into deadness. And the second thing about the person of God:
“He calls things that are not as though they were.” By his creative word, he can recreate you, recreate your situation, always hope, always greater possibilities…you cannot fall so far that God cannot rescue you for those who are willing to climb in the wheelbarrow. Everything hinges on faith. To believe in God means that no more do you have to say I don’t deserve, or, I’m this or that or the other thing, nobody can or will love me, I’m no good, I fell too far. God will never give up on you. God “calls things that are not as though they were” by his creative power he will create you into something that wasn’t before. God will make you into a new person. God can set you free. “He calls things that are not as though they were.” To know that about God is transforming, you don’t climb into the wheelbarrow because somebody dares you, you climb in because of the person of Jesus Christ.
Faith in God is to have faith in a person. Faith is not a vague sense of believing as hard as you can, the object of faith his what matters… Abraham’s faith is not exemplary because of its strength or lack of it, but because its object was God. To live by faith is to know his promises and to know his power, “he gives life to the dead” and “He calls things that are not as though they were.”
I encourage you today to live your life by faith and be willing to climb in the wheelbarrow of Jesus Christ, as he takes you across the chasm of life on a tightrope. You can go across that rope by your own ability and surely fail, or you can climb in the wheelbarrow. Everything hinges on faith, for faith comes above all else. Faith is not blind, but based on God’s promises, know his promises, study them, talk about them. Faith is entirely dependent upon God, not your fear or even your doubts, but on God’s ability to push the wheelbarrow safely across the tightrope. To live by faith is to trust the person of Jesus Christ, the lifegiver, the one who has the power to create you new.
From this point on, when you see a wheelbarrow, consider your faith. Faith is not a good thought, a good theory, a lot of knowledge about God. Faith is climbing in. Amen.