Spiritual Practice

Doing Faith

Gerrit Scott Dawson

An acrobat stretched a cable over Niagara Falls. He climbed to the top of his rickety ladder, stood at one end of the tightrope, and asked, “Who believes I can walk across this rope?” The crowd cheered. One slip would send him crashing over the falls, but the crowd believed in his skills.

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The lithe little man scampered easily across the cable and then returned to great applause. He scurried down the ladder, grabbed a small bicycle, and climbed back up. “Who believes I can ride across the falls on this bicycle?” he asked. Again, the audience roared their belief in the acrobat. In a few minutes he had ridden across the falls.

“Who believes I can ride across the falls with a person in the bicycle’s basket? Cheers of faith in this man’s talent filled the air.

The acrobat let the crowd fall silent; then he asked, “Which of you will climb into the basket?”

No one said a word. Not one cheer, not one hand rose from the crowd. Belief in the man’s ability was one thing, but who would risk riding in the basket?

Finally the acrobat spoke: “You believe nothing. Not one of you has faith. All your cheers were empty praise.” He packed his equipment and left.

What kind of faith do you have? Is it empty praise, or is it faith that acts?


Jesus and the Paralytic

Jesus expected faith that takes risks. He wanted people to believe in him, to trust him. Real belief often involves action.

For instance, what does faith mean in the story of the paralyzed man and his friends (read Mark 2:1–12)? The men didn’t recite The Apostles’ Creed or say anything at all about their beliefs. They brought to Jesus a friend who couldn’t walk. They climbed onto the roof of the house and began to dig, scraping through the clay, pushing back the mat of branches, and creating 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 interrupting Jesus’ teaching in order to get their friend healed. They believed that Jesus was sent from God with healing power, and they put their faith into action.


Today’s Faith

Niagara Falls2 TSP 122582919I talk a lot about what I believe. But do I put my faith into action? If the story in Mark were set today, maybe it would be about you and a few others who decided to pick up a friend and take her to youth group. It might mean working ahead to make sure that the group will embrace her. Real faith that Christ Jesus still works through his body, the church, might mean working hard to bring your friend, who feels on the outside of God’s love and grace, into a circle of people who will love and care about her. By your actions as well as by your words, she may come to believe in Jesus.

So, as the tightrope walker might ask, what kind of faith do you have?



Write a definition of faith. Does it include action? Write about your faith; include what you are doing to express your faith in action. In what ways is God calling you to show your faith by what you do?

Gerrit Scott Dawson is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, North Carolina.

—from Devo’Zine (May/June 2003). Copyright ©2003 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

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