1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own sonshall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
I remember a lot of preacher stories from when I was a kid in church. I am referring to stories that were (I would later discover) repeated in churches all around the Bible belt because of their special evocative force and illustrative power. One of the great disillusionments of growing up in the Bible belt, by the way, is discovering how many of these stories you heard were not actually true! Even so, one of my favorites turned out to be true after all.
I probably heard a dozen times growing up the story of the tightrope walker who walked over Niagara Falls. He walked back and forth a number of times and did a number of tricks along the way. The people cheered wildly. Then he pushed a wheelbarrow back and forth across Niagara Falls. The people, again, cheered wildly! Then he asked, “Who here thinks that I could push a person in this wheelbarrow across the falls?” The crowd jubilantly expressed its faith in such an idea through loud cheering. But then he asked, “Wonderful! Now who would like to volunteer to ride in the wheelbarrow?” Then…dead silence. Complete silence!
The point of this wonderful story was clear: it is one thing to have faith and another to truly trust. Many believe in an idea but they stop short of staking their lives on that idea.
Again, it turns out this story was true! The man was Charles Blondin and his feats in walking over Niagara are simply amazing. Smithsonian.com reports that:
He crossed at night, a locomotive headlight affixed to either [end] of the cable. He crossed with his body in shackles. He crossed carrying a table and chair, stopping in the middle to try to sit down and prop up his legs. The chair tumbled into the water. Blondin nearly followed but regained his composure. He sat down on the cable and ate a piece of cake, washed down with champagne. In his most famous exploit, he carried a stove and utensils on his back, walked to the center of the cable, started a fire and cooked an omelet. When it was ready, he lowered the breakfast to passengers on deck of the Maid of the Mist…By the time he gave his final performance, in 1896, it was estimated that Blondin had crossed Niagara Falls 300 times and walked more than 10,000 miles on his rope. He died of complications from diabetes the following year. In nearly 73 years on this earth, he never had life insurance. No one, he’d always joked, would take the risk.
And there you have it! “No one would take the risk!”
Let us talk about faith and trust, about “taking the risk” in what you profess to believe.