May 12, 2019

Hebrews 5:7-14

Two weeks a group of mothers gathered in the parking lot with their children and teachers from our weekday preschool. The mothers brought their children and their bicycles all equipped with training wheels.

There were cones set up in the parking lot forming an obstacle course and the children were happily maneuvering their bikes and around the cones.  It was a good practice.

The experience helped the boys and girls build self-esteem and confidence.  It reminded me of one of the cherished videos I have of the day I taught my son Ryan how to ride his bike without any training wheels.I could tell he was both excited and anxious about taking them off. He wanted them off, but he was worried about the experience of trying to ride without them. Ryan was four years old.

You can see from the video that at age four that I didn’t pamper him. I don’t remember how many times he fell that morning, a dozen or more at least. But I knew if he didn’t give up, and if he listened to me, he’d be free of those training wheels and enjoying the freedom of riding his bicycle without them.

He was a determined boy. Those training wheels were good for him in the beginning, but they were holding him back, and keeping him from experience the maximum joy he could get from that bicycle.

Let’s paint a little different picture. Take those same mothers I saw out there in the parking week. Let’s say that all showed up eight years from now with their children and their children’s bicycles. Their bicycles bigger now, of course.

Let’s say you drove by and saw them riding around those cones.  Something just looked odd, and a little bit sad. There were those mother’s clapping and shouting encouragement to their twelve and thirteen-year-old children as they rode around on their bicycles with training wheels still on their bikes.

How embarrassing! How sad!

The writer of Hebrews noticed that the Christians he was working with should have been far more advanced in their faith than they were.

He scolded them: “By this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:7-14 ( NIV)

If our children grow up without opportunities to hear God’s truths taught in their homes or at church, how can they become trained in the teachings of righteousness?

We must be as diligent and concerned about their spiritual training as we are about their academic and athletic training.

For how will it work out for a teenager or an adult if he or she is the valedictorian but is still in training wheels with the teaching about righteousness?

Or how is it going to benefit a teenager if he or she is a great athlete or is even is good enough for a college scholarship but is still in training wheels in the teachings about righteousness?

This writer of Hebrews says, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (14)  Until we begin to feast on the solid food of the faith, we cannot know the complete joy of the Christian faith.

If we are on the solid food of the gospel, it means that we can distinguish good from evil and we are choosing the best way, which often isn’t the easy way.

There are far too many Christians who still have training wheels on their faith, five, ten, fifteen, and thirty years after their baptism.

If the faith of an adult is superficial, then that’s what we can expect our children’s to be. Where’s the joy that separates us from the world? Can you identify that joy in your life? Can others see it in you?

Training wheels are essential and useful for a child to ride a bike.   They are designed to help a child get joy in the beginning stages so he or she will not get frustrated and quit.  But there comes a time when training wheels hold the joy back.  They no longer help us but limit us.

Likewise, in our faith, if we never grow any more in-depth than just knowing how to pray a sinner’s prayer or see that we ought to attend church on an occasional basis, give a rare offering, say an occasional prayer, our roots can’t be very deep.  You will never benefit from your faith.

When I watch the video I made that day of Ryan learning to ride his bike without training wheels, the training wheels, I am amazed at the trust Ryan placed in me. Even after he fell, time and time again, Ryan rusted that I could teach him how to ride his bicycle.

I never said, “Ryan, this will be easy.” I never said, “Ryan, you are not going to fall any at all.” He trusted me because I took care of his other needs in life.

But there was another reason. When Ryan and his brother were old enough to wear a helmet, I began riding them in a child’s seat on the back of my bicycle.

Ryan knew that he could trust me because he had ridden with me.  He knew I could ride a bicycle. More than that, Ryan had experienced the joy of riding with me. Ryan wanted to experience that same joy. He believed I could teach him how to have that same joy.

Jesus came to teach us so that “his joy might be in us and we might have it to its fullest.” (John 15:11)Do you have that kind of joy?

Many people miss the joy and the blessings that God has reserved for us because they stay on the milk and never go for the steak and potatoes.

Think of the hours and hours of joy children would sacrifice if they never shed the training wheels from their bike.

Think of the joy people sacrifice if they never made a deep commitment to study and continue their education.

Think of the joy athletes sacrifice because they don’t put in the time to practice.

We place great emphasis on a person becoming a Christian. We sometimes refer to it as being saved or being born again. We want our children to accept Jesus and become baptized.

But why is it that we don’t get too concerned if they don’t move much beyond that? That’s like getting accepted to a prestigious college but then not worrying about becoming a good student.

Perhaps this morning you realize that you are a believer but you are still on the milk of the gospel, and you know you should be on the meat of the gospel.

Perhaps you realize it’s time to take off the training wheels and put more effort into your walk with the Lord.  I don’t promise that the walk will be easy, or that you will not fall along the way.  What I promise is that as you trust your Heavenly Father on this journey, you will discover more joy and more freedom than you ever have.

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