Did you know: the African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet? Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. It’s been said that faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see. That might be living faith. Dead faith might be falling prey to the question of, ‘what if?’ In other words, would or could the Impala know what would happen if he leapt to the other side of the zoo enclosure? Would I be worth the perceived risk to his life? To further illustrate dead faith, it is that kind of faith which would lead a man to take a bottle of medicine from his medicine cabinet. Looking at the instructions on it, he says, “I’m sure they’re correct. I have all confidence in the source of the medicine. I know who wrote these directions. I believe everything about it. I know this will relieve my headache, if I just take it.” But he takes the medicine bottle and puts it back on the shelf. He doesn’t lose his headache. It continues on. Yet he can say I believe that medicine. I believe all about that medicine. But still he won’t take it. His answer to the question of ‘what if I don’t take it’, might not have been compelling enough to take the medicine. That’s dead faith.
Jesus however, gives us an even more human and compelling picture of ‘living’ faith when describing the faith of children in the gospels (Matthew 18; Luke 9) in the wake of adult doubt and pride. As another pastor notes, the essence of childlike faith, “…sets you free to risk, to say well, what if. Even to the point of coming off as cocky in your faith.” Christians are not testing God or trying to prove His power or love towards them. We take bold steps because His power and love have already been documented in holy writ and are proven.
Though fallible, Peter had what if faith. What if you sink into the water when you try to walk on it? Well, what if? Jesus is there. Peter’s faith wasn’t that he could walk on water. It was that Jesus could catch him if he fell. And so he became one of two men in history to walk on water. The other was God in the flesh. Not bad company.
Paul had what if faith. What if you’re beaten and tortured for your faith? Well, what if? ‘I consider that my present sufferings aren’t worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me.’ What if they kill you? Well, what if? To die is gain. What if they let you live and put you in prison? Well, what if? To live is Christ. ‘I’ll convert the guards.’ See why he turned the world upside down? Childlike, living faith.
There is always going to be a what if standing in the way of your dream or your desire to radically obey God. Resolve yourself to respond with what if questions of your own. What if you’re wrong and you’re not supposed to take that risk for Christ? Well, what if? I think God would rather we count reasonable costs and take sincere risks for Him and be wrong than sit safely in the comfort of our own complacency. What if you fail? Well, what if? As others have said before, we’re much more afraid of succeeding at something that really doesn’t matter. What if you ruin your life? Well, what if you waste it?
Well, what if?