Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Sprinting Toddler

Posted By: Graham Gardner
In recent weeks, I've been giving a bit of thought about what it looks like to really be 'in the Spirit'. I spent some time, found some verses, and asked around to get a full idea of how "Walking in the Spirit" is truly carried out. Being that my brain is wired the way that it is, I came up with the title above for this installment. An awkward picture, right? A tiny little baby just movin' their chubby legs as fast as they can to get to the finish line. This would strike most as odd, being that toddlers most likely wouldn't have a ton of experience getting places upright. Not exactly an awesomely descriptive and meaningful picture, but hey, I'm no Daniel. No metal and clay mixtures in this example.


In thinking about walking in the spirit, a few things came to mind. In Proverbs 19:2, it says "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." In a lot of ways, when I decided to follow Christ, that initial decision was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it's been to follow moment by moment, day by day. In looking upon what has taken place in my walk with the Lord so far, I see a lot of times where I have been hasty, and subsequently...missed the way. The battle here is that when I miss the way, I historically have struggled to accept grace, praise God for who He is, and keep on walking. In Galatians 5:26, Paul says "Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow(walk in, keep in step) with the Spirit." It's interesting that Paul says walk. Not run, not crawl, not sprint, not roll (ok, that'd just look funny)...but walk. I've had a number of conversations lately where in the midst of difficulty, the only advice I've been able to give is "Keep going. One foot..in front of the other..repeat."

I read this recently from Francis Chan: "That's why I find the concept of walking by the Spirit so helpful. There's nothing about the term walking that suggests speed, style, fluency, or consistency. You just have to put one foot in front of the other. If you stop walking, all you have to do is take another step to get going again. If you fall down, you can keep walking. You just have to get up and take another step. Like a young child learning to walk, walking by the Spirit is something that becomes more natural over time."

I find the times it's hardest for me to walk in the Spirit is when I've been leaving an area of my life out of submission to God, or when I draw away from community. It's almost as if I go "Hey, crawling requires a lot less energy...how about just a day or two of crawling?" If you've ever done this, you know it's way harder to get used to walking again if you've been taking the snail's pace approach. The good thing is, God doesn't forget His promises. Invariably, as we step out in faith to do things we've never done before..there will be opportunity for..well..refinement. I struggle to see the work God is doing when I'm really having to push through something. Paul says this in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Fear and trembling are a part of this. God is at work. He will fulfill His good purpose.

What I'm driving at is there is a time where we are just beginning to learn how to walk. If we were to try and jog, run, or sprint as an infant..we'd probably fall. If we're not super experienced in walking, it might be best to start hanging with someone who is. When we want to know how to run, it's a good idea to take notes from those who run well..and eventually join the race with them.

In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." He goes on to talk about how the Spirit and flesh are opposed to one another so that we don't do what we want. This strikes me as pretty wild. Our natural behavior is not to walk in the Spirit, which implies we have to make a decision. If you read on in Galatians, Paul goes on to specifically name the fruit that will come as a result of (the choice of) walking in the Spirit. So, it seems we have two choices. Give into our flesh..or..walk in the Spirit. As a result, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control become more and more a part of our lives.

Which of these do you wish you had more of? Which ones have you seen the Lord grow like crazy? What verses really push you through the times where the next step is the hardest yet?

I know I could use more patience and love to freely give in my walk. I think that in conjunction with aiming to see this chunk of Galatians 5 applied more in my life, I've often referenced this from Philippians 3:12-14 as a piece of encouragement.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. "

I pray that we'll see these things change in each others lives, and that we'll be able to build one another up when it comes to taking the next step. Here's to marching on.

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