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I took some time this week to head to Playland with the family. You might know that I love rollercoasters. Unfortunately, Playland doesn’t have any of those (I would consider the wooden coaster more of a torture device than an actual roller coaster), but that love extends to other amusement park rides. And the great thing that has happened recently is that Natalie has grown to a height that allows her to ride on just about every ride there. Not only that, she wants to! 

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In my opinion, the best ride at Playland is The Beast. It’s “Canada’s most extreme pendulum ride”, swinging you to heights of 125 feet at speeds of 90km/hr while spinning you around 360 degrees. That’s all from the official website. Facts. And Natalie rode it with me. Her immediate assessment? “They should take out the A and call it The Best!”

 

Here’s my confession, though. When I ride The Beast, I struggle with doubt. As much fun as it is, there’s just a little bit of anxiety that keeps me from maximum enjoyment. And the source of that doubt is the shoulder restraint. It’s one of those systems that clicks in without any visible means of retaining that restraint. What I mean is that there are no buckles, no belts, no metal pieces interlocking to keep this shoulder restraint under control. They just push the restraint into place and some mysterious, invisible-to-me force keeps it there. Of course, I realize that there is a mechanism in place. I realize that there’s some kind of technology that makes this secure. But I can’t see it. If I asked the employees who are running The Beast, my guess is they probably couldn’t tell me either. In the moment you take your seat, you simply need to trust. Again, that’s the case with every amusement park ride. However, something about those restraints on The Beast accentuates the challenge of trust for me.

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As I reflected on this (because this is what pastors do, they take every mundane experience and try to squeeze any possible sermon illustration material from it), I thought about faith in God. I take faith somewhat for granted. There’s never really been a time when I didn’t believe. I was taught faith from an early age. Trusting that there is a God, who I can’t see, who is eternal and almighty and present in my life, is something I don’t really question. There are these well known often quoted verses about faith from Hebrews 11:1-2: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” Assurance about what we do not see. On a day to day basis, I don’t struggle with this much. But I realize many people do. Even some Christians struggle to know if this is really real. For many people who don’t believe, this is one of the main hindrances: how can I believe what I don’t see?

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Two thoughts occur to me in this connection between faith in God and riding The Beast. One is that our faith can be strengthened through the testimony of others. When you see group after group safely riding on The Beast without incident, or when you ask people who have ridden it if their weight was held and they say yes, that will likely bolster your confidence. Similarly, one of the gifts of being part of a church is the wealth of testimonies of those who can say, “this held my weight. I trusted in God, and He did not fail me.” The Scriptures are full of testimonies of the same. Psalm 145:10-12 says, “all your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts.” The witness of God’s faithful people lead to a wider knowledge of God’s power and might.

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The other thought is a contrast. I can’t have a conversation with manufacturer of The Beast about how this all works. There’s no relationship there. However, through Christ, I do have a relationship with the maker of the universe! I can actually come to Him in prayer. In fact, through this relationship, I can actually ask Him to do in me what I can’t do on my own. I think about the man who approached Jesus and confessed, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) We are led to believe that this prayer was heard and answered. 

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May you put your full weight on your faith in Christ. He can bear it. It may be scary, because there are aspects of faith that may not make sense. You can’t see Him physically, face to face. But He has been faithful to His people through the ages, and He’ll be faithful to you if your trust is in Him, and He will even help you grow in that trust. And I promise you that the pay-off of doing this is far greater in the long run than riding The Beast.