Hopping in the Wheelbarrow

Here is a story recounted to me last week, which the story-teller attributed to Billy Graham. Christians all over the world, as well as business professionals and motivational speakers, have retold this story, so if it’s old to you, I apologize. It appears to be based on at least some facts from a 19th century tightrope stunt artist professionally known as the “The Great Blondin.” Either way, it’s a good story, and it illustrates something about all of us that we would be wise to pay attention to.

The Great Blondin – the man who invented the high wire act, announced to the world that he intended to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. More than five thousand people gathered to watch. Halfway across, Blondin suddenly stopped, steadied himself, back flipped into the air, landed squarely on the rope, and then continued safely to the other side. Blondin crossed the Falls again and again; blindfolded, carrying a stove, in chains, and on a bicycle. Just as he was about to begin yet another crossing, this time pushing a wheelbarrow, he turned to the crowd and shouted, “Who trusts that I can cross pushing this wheelbarrow?” Every hand in the crowd went up. Blondin pointed at one man:

“Do you trust that I can do it?” he asked.

“Yes, I trust you can.” said the man.

“Are you certain that you trust me?” said Blondin.

“Yes” said the man.

“Absolute trust? Absolutely certain?”

“Yes, absolute trust, with absolute certainty.”

“Thank you,” said Blondin, “please get into the wheelbarrow.”

There is a difference between saying you believe and actually believing. For instance, I say I believe that my beloved Tigers are going to pull off the big upset tonight. But am I putting money on the game? Granted, I’m not a sports better. But even if I were, this isn’t one I’m touching. I’m not really willing to hop in the wheelbarrow.

The Bible goes to lengths to be clear on this point. The book of James would be a good place to start when you want to learn about true belief, we’ll read from chapter 2.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?… 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

James’ point is not to argue whether we are saved by faith or by works. His point is that our belief, which saves us, is only true belief if it is confirmed by our actions, if it is confirmed by hopping in the wheelbarrow.

And all of us who proclaim belief in God have a hard time acting out our faith from time to time. Why is that?

Maybe I can’t speak for everyone, but I will speak for myself. I have a hard time hopping in certain wheelbarrows because I don’t really believe in God’s promises. When my belief needs to show itself in my financial life, through giving, being generous, being a good steward, it’s hard to jump in that wheelbarrow. I say I believe God, and what that really means is that I trust that what he commands for me is best…for me. But what I really believe is that hoarding my possessions will make me happy, not God. Spending my money on myself with every new gadget or car, not God will satisfy me, not God.

Maybe you don’t struggle with trusting God in terms of your finances. Maybe you believe selfishness will make you happy, and thus you act on that belief. Maybe instead it’s your belief that vengeance will fulfill you, or sex, or power, or success…the list goes on and on.

Two things have given me encouragement as I’ve struggled in this particular fight. First, Dave Cover has often reminded me that we’re all mixed bags of belief and unbelief. It doesn’t make it okay, but it does encourage me that I’ll have some fellow strugglers to help me along the way. And second is a plea found in Mark 9, from the father of a demon-posessed boy: “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'”

We act according to our beliefs…but sometimes we don’t believe what we wish we believed. May we be the type of people James speaks of, those who believe and act — so who’s up for a wheelbarrow ride?

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