Faith on the Zip-line

In the scouts, a long, long time ago, we called them aerial runways. Consisting of a rope, or cable, strung between two trees; one end high, the other end low, with a pulley, harness belt, and a profound (sometimes misguided) trust in your own skill with knots. Whenever we constructed a new one, there was always that moment when someone had to take the first run. “I hope this holds!” we would shout with glee as we launched the test-pilot. Usually it did, but you could never be completely sure.

Some of us seem to think that the journey of Christian faith entails that kind of hope: a zip-line test-pilot’s “hope-this-all-works-out-well!” kind of hope. But that’s far from the case. Faith in a zip-line can be boiled down to three factors: Is the anchor secure? Is the landing zone safe? Is the rope or cable strong? If we ask these three questions for the Christian journey, we find that biblical hope isn’t anything like being able to tie a good “round turn and two half-hitches.”

In Hebrews 6:13-20, when the writer wants to explain for us the faith and hope that Abraham had when he trusted in God, he ties the anchor onto God’s promise-keeping. God promised to bless Abraham, and to multiply Abraham. And with these two promises in place (and knowing that God cannot lie) Abraham stepped out on his journey in complete assurance, didn’t even flinch, even though he was already a very old man, and as yet without children. The anchor is in God’s faithfulness, not in our ability.

As for the destination, how do we know it’s a safe landing? Well, Christ Himself has been “the forerunner,” journeying even into the most holy places of heaven (described as “beyond the veil” in Hebrews 6:19-20). Remember that Jesus told the disciples in the Upper Room that He would go personally and prepare a place for them (John 14:2-3). He is not leading us anywhere that He has not personally vetted, inspected, and made ready.

A little later in that same conversation in the Upper Room, Thomas expressed doubt about how to get from here to there. He was fine with the anchor; God keeps His promises. He was fine with the destination; Jesus was going to make everything ready. Thomas’s problem was the bit in between – the cable that connects the two. The way between the two is Christ, and Christ alone. No-one comes to the Father except by Christ. Jesus would soon give Thomas the opportunity to test and feel for himself that the cable was sure. The Hope of Heaven was guaranteed by the wounds in the risen Lord’s hands and side.

We may be more like Thomas than we care to admit, we may be more of the zip-line test-pilot type. But each of us can rest assured that our anchor is set in God’s promises, our landing zone has been especially prepared by Jesus the Lord of Heaven, and Christ is the tested, proven and guaranteed means of our deliverance between the two.

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Dr Terry Boyle serves as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. His ministry involves teaching a weekend radio programme, hosting the weekday Insight for Living broadcast, helping with issues that come in from listeners, and providing a personal and local approach to Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.

Terry was born in Windsor, England. He moved to the United States in 1981. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Terry served as senior pastor of Skillman Bible Church in Dallas until he and his family moved back to the UK in 2007, to take on the role of pastor for Insight for Living United Kingdom.

Terry and his wife Rose Ann have been married for twenty seven years, and they have three grown children: Hannah, Emily, and Terence.