Monday, July 11, 2005

Discipleship is like Riding a Bike—You Can’t “Get It” Until You Get on it.

You can understand why someone who’s never experienced a bike would be skeptical about riding one. “It looks flimsy and can’t even stand up by itself,” he thinks. “Why should I give up the stability of my own two feet and get on it. I’d probably fall and hurt myself if I try that thing. Besides, it’s going to take some serious effort to make it move.”

But those fears are dispelled if he actually tries it. After the first wobbly feet he develops enough momentum to gain some stability, it gets easier to peddle, and he realizes that he’s moving faster and easier than he could on his feet. There may be a few spills at first, but if he gets past those he sees that this thing works after all.

We see the same dynamic in believers who are hesitant to move beyond just accepting Jesus’ forgiveness into a life of real discipleship. It doesn’t look like it’ll work. Instead, they think it would be safer to stick with the way they've been living; there are fewer risks and a fully surrendered life looks hard.

But like the novice cyclist just described, a newly committed disciple comes to see that God’s ways work better than his own. If he gets past the initial wobbles, he realizes that, like momentum on a bicycle, the Holy Spirit will keep him upright, moving ahead faster, and with less effort, than he could have managed through his old ways. He will take a few falls, but the experience will ultimately dispel his fears if he sticks with it.

Scripture validates that pattern, perhaps most clearly in Luke chapter ten. Jesus sent some disciples out with instructions to do ministry in total reliance on God, instructions that must have seemed impractical from a human perspective. Luke 10:1-12. But they followed Jesus’ instructions, and, true to form, God came through. When they related their experiences, Luke 10:17, Jesus’ response well summarized the dynamic: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.” Luke 10:21 (New Jerusalem Bible).

What Jesus was driving at is that disciples must act with childlike faith, even if God’s instructions seem foolish according to human “wisdom.” Again it's like riding a bike; little kids are more eager to try it than adults. In short, we’ll never fully experience God’s wonderful power if we don’t step out in faith and try His ways.

(Images dealing with cycling themes were posted July 11, 15, 20, and August 3, 2005.
Images about trusting God amidst the unexpected/difficult/incomprehensible were posted November 7, and 15, 2004, and April 25, July 11b, and August 9, 2005.)

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