Please imagine yourself walking on a tightrope high abover the ground. It could be a rope stretched across a deep chasm, or across the Niagara Falls and ther are many variables involved. That rope could be swinging and swaying in the wind or it may have a slippery surface because of mist, ice or rain. I sure would not like to try that.
Many people have a fear of heights, so you would have to overcome that to even consider taking one step and I think that would surely be a leap of faith.
I flew in a Tiger Moth airplane at the tender age of 17. The instructor sat in the back seat and the student (me) was up front. They were fully aerobatic, so I did loops, stall turns, spins, inverted flying and practiced emergency procedures if the engine failed. Our heads were outside the cockpit and when flying upside down, we were hanging on our seat-belts, looking straight down vertically and I loved every minute of it. I still like flying, but in a more sedate way now.
It is a different matter if I am standing on the roof or a high-rise building, or when standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon looking down. Vertigo sets in then. You could identify with that I guess, so imagine what that tightrope walker must overcome.
Proverbs 4:25-27 says May the path of your foot be balanced and all your ways be sure. Do not swerve right or left; remove your foot from evil
That tightrope walker sure would be listening to such advice, placing one foot very carefully ahead of the other with knees slightly bent and in deep concentration moving ever so slowly and carefully forward. Every step would be carefully placed, requiring incredible calm, effort and focus—especially focus.
This is because the body tends to naturally follows the path of our eyes, which is detrimental if we’re focused on the wrong thing. A tightrope walker's gaze is fixed straight ahead on the objective and in this instance, the objective is that little pinpoint image of the distant end of the rope.
It can be so small, it may not even be possible to see the knot at the end that holds teh walker aloft.
If that knot slips because someone did not tie it right or the object to which the rope is fixed is not stable it is possible to fall and be killed. Therefore, it stands to reason that to achieve the objective, both this person—and those who believe that he or she can do it—and provide back up, stay focused and know what they are doing. I am a member of a volunteer sea rescue squadron and extensive training is regularly conducted. Discipline is also involved and that is something many Christians do not like. People’s lives are at stake, so we need to know what we are doing.
This lets me bring it into the believer’s life. People often think that walking on a tightrope suggests something negative or uncertain, but in God, the reverse is true. You may already know that we must be anchored in God, but the question we must answer is how this is to be done. When we act, speak and follow God’s path, we are carrying out His will for our lives, but the idea of staying on God’s course, path and purpose for us is sometimes difficult to see, let alone understand and follow. It can occasionally feel of course as if we are walking a tightrope and that we just can’t do it; our efforts are tainted; our steps seem to falter and our knees feel as if they are going to buckle.
Sometimes we need to take a step of faith
Sometimes it does mean that we need to take a leap of faith, but such a leap of faith is not acting impetuously, foolishly or irresponsibly. Rather, it is doing so in a very real and practical way, but only under the specific directions God gives us. David told us -
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Psalm 37:23
The Hebrew language describes those steps as literal steps or marching and assures us that God is there and always with us to ensure we do not falter or stumble. Therefore, even if we seem to be walking on that tightrope, God can make it seem to be as wide and solid as a freeway so that our feet will not slip. We are assured of this also in 2 Samuel 22, especially verse 37 that states-
You make a wide path for me to walk on so that my feet do not slip.
I recommend that you read all of that chapter. That was David’s song of deliverance when he was in real trouble and at that time, he too was walking on a tightrope. It opens with good, Godly counsel. It is basically not to worry about how wicked people seem to get ahead in life whilst the righteous are not. God assures us that it will cycle around and if you do not let things get to you, He will make sure that you come out the other side smelling sweet as roses. It’s hard to keep your cool when people abuse and misuse you. It is hard to maintain the right attitude when someone cheats you, a romance fails, or someone else gets that job you wanted when you know you can do better (really?). If we look at all those failures and disappointments and at other people who seem to be “getting away with it”, we are taking our focus off the Lord and placing them on the problem. Another aspect is the struggling and striving in self efforts that we can fall into.
Proverbs 16:9 says-
A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps.
David also said that our steps are ordered by the Lord, but what does it mean for them to be ordered? There are many Hebrew meanings for that word, but they can be summed up in this: God makes sure that they are established, prepared, made ready, fixed, certain and right.
Such provision is always available, but we must ensure that we are correctly positioned to receive it.
MY SON, forget not my law or teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of a life [worth living] and tranquility [inward and outward and continuing through old age till death], these shall they add to you.
Again, there is reference to God directing our footsteps. This guidance and direction is not merely reading the bible and engaging in religious activities. Anyone can read a bible but never receive those promises. The key is learning how to know, recognize and acknowledge God, not intellectually, but placing our trust in Him as we live it out practically. It is knowing how to lean on Him and being absolutely sold out or confident in Him with all our heart and mind—and then doing it.
This covers the spirit and the soul areas of our lives and it means that we do not rely on our own natural comprehension. The natural mind wants to see it first before we believe, but sometimes we have to believe first and then see it come to reality.
Jesus often asked folk if they believed, even if they were not sure.
Take Matthew chapter fourteen as an illustration. Here Jesus was walking on the water and assured them that it was He when they became afraid. Peter asked Him something like, “Is that you, Jesus? If it really is you, then tell me to come to you.” That is a legitimate question I am sure we could all ask from time to time. He was not sure and in the middle of a storm on the water like that, I would probably also be afraid. It’s scary in a boat in the middle of the night when in rough weather. It can be black out there. Sometimes it seems that the smaller the boat, the bigger the waves seem.
Jesus spoke only one word, “Come”.
It was a specific word and Peter acted on that. To be truly successful and reach our objective, we must follow God’s prompts—His specific word to us and the leading of the Holy Spirit. His word to you may be different to His word to me.
From the account, only Peter had enough going for him to ask that question, but they all saw Jesus and they were all afraid. On the basis of that word from the Lord, Peter did something that in the natural was impossible and made no sense whatsoever. Sometimes, exercising one’s faith makes no sense at all, but this is how God operates. Peter started walking. He was actually doing it! Sometimes for God’s promise to work, we have to do it, or take the first step to get it started.
Matthew said that Peter Saw the wind boisterous. Now how can someone see wind in the middle of the night?
You cannot see wind. You can see what the wind does to water, but you cannot see something that is invisible!
You may retort that Peter saw the waves and so he did, but there is something else involved. This was a spiritual thing. There are a few lessons for us in this event.
One is that all the disciples were in that boat, but only one got out of it.
If you stay in the boat, all you will see are the other disciples, but if you get out of it, you are looking at Jesus.
The next is that Peter took his leap of faith and actually started to do it—one step at a time. He did not immediately reach the Lord on the first step. It takes a series of steps to reach our destination. The only problem was that he took his eyes off Jesus in the process and directed his attention to his surroundings. Once his gaze left the objective, he had taken control over his own steps and reverted back into the natural. Of course he was going to sink. We all will if we rely only on our own abilities and talents and not depend on the Lord’s direction and guidance—and follow them.
A tightrope walker never looks down. If that happens, the focus is redirected, the attention span may falter and falling may happen. A good tightrope walker concentrates and focuses on reaching the landing platform at the other end and this is what we must do if we are going to win.
You are still you. You still have to live out your life, be it a wife and mother, a student, a carpenter or whatever, but now God is walking with you. What really excites me is that we have others who can join us on our journey and they should assist us on the way. In line with the theme of this story, they can help us maintain our balance, take us by the hand and do what they can as we all walk along our journey. Loners are usually losers.
You may have seen pictures of tightrope walkers who seem to be looking down and think that this contradicts what I said about focusing the vision on the objective. This is not negating my earlier comments at all. That look more at their feet on the rope,the rope itself and the distant end, not down below them.
May I suggest that this indicates how we are to assess our footsteps; to ensure that we are placing our feet in the right position in the right way in measured steps and not just doing any old thing, hoping it will turn out well.
A good tightrope walker practices! He or she may start off by laying a piece of rope on the ground, learn how to walk and practice extensively, before trying to achieve some great feat like crossing Niagara Falls. This tells me that we must practice our walk with God to perfect ourselves.
A good tightrope walker has support. Someone had to stretch the rope being traversed from one end of the rope to the other. You only see the man in our banner picture, but others were involved. There was a team effort and this is indicative of how we should function in the church.
Paul taught on this saying that everyone of us has gifts and talents that may differ from each other.
We see this in Romans chapter twelve, first Corinthians chapters twelve to fourteen and in Ephesians chapter four.
In the first three chapters of First Corinthians, Paul shows that we are all to be co-workers with God, complementing (not competing) with each other, pooling our differing abilities that God gave us, so that the purposes of God will be achieved. He said that one man could prepare the soil, someone follows and plants a seed, someone else does the fertilizing, another waters whilst someone else reaps the harvest...but God gives the increase. That’s teamwork, but, unfortunately, it rarely happens.
Jesus had been given a vision or a task and went about it, but He also needed help so He trained groups of followers and sent them out on assignments.
The church should learn to do likewise, because more often than not, it is not really doing that.
People who have not been called by God, equipped by God and ordained by God are trying to do things that they just cannot do. God-given gifts and talents, callings, ministry gifts, helpers are more often than not being ignored. As a result, the church body as a whole suffers and non-Christians see it. In a negative sense, they are walking a tightrope without the Holy Ghost support that locks the ends of the rope onto secure foundations.
Many people get hurt in life and become introverted. They withdraw from the very support that God has provided in a genuine Church, because someone else failed them, betrayed them, or simply just did not know better! They quit going to church because they do not trust anyone any longer. They may have had a failed relationship and do not trust another person romantically, and get bitter and resentful. Not all people are like the one we once knew and thought we loved, but a man can become so warped that he hates women or women become man haters. The focus is in the wrong direction and, as it is with that tightrope walker, a fall is a likely outcome.
Our walk with God is a personal one. You must run the race set before you. I cannot do it for you. Neither can you do it for me. In a manner of speaking therefore, we are all alone out there on the rope—but we are not alone. Even if that rope is jumping around like a bucking bronco, God can make it seem as if you are standing on solid rock, because He is with us.
The Lord said that He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
I’d like to show you something now about fulfilling our assignments. If He bids you to go somewhere or do a certain thing, He intends for it to happen. What we need to do is to follow instructions and obey! Sometimes it can get a little bumpy out there when we fulfill that assignment. He made no guarantee that we would be received well. In fact if we are truly sent by the Lord and that is the qualifier...He has to send us...we will often be rejected. His answer to that is to brush the dust off our feet as a witness and what may surprise you is that opposition like that usually comes from religious folk!
He had sent His disciples on an assignment that was at Bethsaida on the other side of the ocean.
It could just as easily have been the chasm beneath the tightrope.
According to Mark 6:48, He had no intention of stopping and was walking right past them but He was not abandoning them. He had sent His word, telling them that they would meet each other on the distant shore. He too had an assignment and from His perspective, it was a done deal. We have to learn that. When Peter called out as he did, Jesus stopped!
Here is your assurance that He intends for you to reach the other side—provided that He has sent you. There are what I call “went ones” and “sent ones”. Please learn to tell the difference. Went ones don’t have it! Sent ones do. Went ones depend on their own resources or use others whilst sent ones have access to His. Went ones do not like the sent ones because they know inside that they do not have it and are jealous, or do not want to be shown up for what they are.
We have entered into the era when God is sorting sheep from sheep, not sheep from goats.
He stops for His sheep and stopped for Peter. In fact He was so close that He reached out His hand, not his arm. If you are on a tightrope on His assignment, He is there! If it gets a bit wobbly and you seem to be losing your balance, He is there.
If it is safe and secure, He is there. He never changes.
Sometimes we must take appropriate steps ourselves, like checking the word of God for ourselves; getting input by the leading of the Holy Spirit and doing what He says.
According to Romans 8:14 we are God’s sons if we are being led.
It makes me wonder where we stand if we do not allow ourselves to be so led. That’s something to ponder over. Isaiah 30:19-21 says something very interesting-
...For the people shall dwell in Tsiyon at Yerushalayim, you shall weep no more. He shall show much favour to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He shall answer you. Though יהוה gave you bread of adversity and water of affliction, your Teacher shall no longer be hidden. But your eyes shall see your Teacher, and your ears hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the Way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right, or whenever you turn to the left.
What had happened here is that God’s people had started to place more trust and confidence in the world system (Egypt), not treating God’s word properly and did not want to hear words of truth from the prophets. These things are slowly invading the church of today.
God did however say that if His people repented and started calling out to Him, the ones who taught truth (not the popular things that pleased itchy ears) that had been hidden, He would be seen again. Perhaps this is the ministry of John the Baptist and modern day prophets like him, calling God’s people, not the heathen to repentance as a prelude to the coming of Jesus.
God’s people would then hear that voice, whilst they are treading on the tightrope, whilst they are going about their respective assignments, whilst they are rowing in the boat with Peter. The key is focus.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
The focus is not on the local church, the worship, the prayer meetings, the men’s fellowship and women’s meetings, the midweek meetings, tea and coffee after service or those “up front”. They might be good and acceptable and achieve certain things, but not really focusing on the person of Jesus who never changes and is always there. Men can and do fail us. Programs come and go and can change like the weather or the current fad and fashion.
In a rapidly changing world, we need the stability that God alone can offer. We need each other as well. We need those around us who trust us and whom we can trust. We need the people who lead us to be qualified to do so. We need to return to the basics. We need to have a workable, practical and realistic goal that the Holy Spirit gave us. The image at the bottom of page four depicts how we can and should all be inter-dependent on each other. When someone in the Body of Christ is suffering, we all suffer. When someone is hurting we should all pour in the oil and wine of compassion, rather than criticizing and ostracize them. Many churches shoot their wounded, but we should bind up the wounds and get them back on the road to recovery.
Every one of us out on the tightrope of life or ministry really needs each other. We can help each other to be balanced, help point out the end of the rope, help pull the other up when they look like faltering, encourage each other and even if we are not in the limelight so to speak, be there to help those who are. We are all surrounded by that cloud of witnesses.
In conclusion, I will leave you with this thought about finding your way-
Here is what Adonai says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘Which one is the good way?’