“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” (Luke 16:10)
Let your mind wander back to the day you first learned how to ride a bike. You are nervous as you hop onto the seat of your shiny new Schwinn, but you trust the adult who stands at your side—and, of course, the training wheels which are in place as part of the purchase package. One day those wobbly wheels are finally removed, and you are confident that you are now prepared to ride a bike. With that adult figure running beside you holding onto the seat, they finally let go. You are either off and running or ready to face a few scrapes and bruises. Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for any kid, but the days when we first learned to rely on training wheels are fading as a part of the past. Enter the balance bike, sized so that a child can comfortably put both feet on the ground but high enough so that they can lift their feet and glide. Child experts say that it’s a more efficient way to learn the technique of bike balance, therefore providing the opportunity for riding more safely at a younger age. Who knew?
One might hope that teaching a child to ride a traditional bike might be a bonding experience that some parents might not want to miss. For the child, it is one of those occasions where they learn to appreciate the value of placing trust in another individual. Assured that even if he or she fell off the bike, that faithful adult would be there to pick them up and provide the necessary care. Perhaps that’s why Jesus identified so readily with children. Children are characteristically humble, trusting, and therefore teachable. They display an unpretentious faith, often referred to as “childlike faith.” Jesus promoted such genuine faith in God, and He used the innocence of a child to demonstrate His point. When He wanted to bless the children, Jesus said, “”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). While simple childlike faith is perhaps a good place to start, we must grow into a deeper faith hopefully leading us to a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. This only comes from an assured confidence that we know with certainty who is the object of our faith. For . . . “it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Mature faith is characterized by conviction, not by blind belief. We can sometimes be surprised by those who display this type of faith. “When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, ‘Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed…’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, ‘Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.’ And the young servant was healed that same hour” (Matthew 8:5-13).
In The Message translation of verse 12 (above), a profound statement is made: “Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.” Of course, Jesus was speaking of the religious elite who would have classified themselves as dutifully practicing their faith. Identifying oneself as a member of “the faithful” are can be a spiritually dangerous undertaking. It can easily create circumstances where individuals are included or excluded. Those who make these judgements can quickly become self-righteous, for they would personally be included. One must wonder how many persons grew up in the faith but somehow lack conviction. When we are tested by circumstances that to us seem out of control, God will acknowledge the faithful for He knows their heart (Proverbs 21:2). With just a little faith, great things can happen. Whenever you give your faith to Jesus, it’s like riding a bike . . . you never forget. All it takes is just a simple trust in Him.
REFLECTION: Can you think of examples where you have been surprised by individuals whom you thought were strong in their faith but did not demonstrate it in times of crisis? In what specific ways might you serve as a positive example by exercising a simple trust in God today? How can you help those who might be doubtful to understand that faith begins with small steps that become affirmed over one’s lifetime?