Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keep In Step

In March, our evening life group was studying about guidance and God’s will. We came across a verse in Galatians that says we are to keep in step with the spirit.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
Now, I thought to myself, what in the world would that look like? To keep in step with the Spirit?

I looked straight ahead of me across the room and saw through the open door that our host had a treadmill. When I go to the gym to use the treadmill, the power is on, I set the speed and incline, and the tread begins to move. All I need to do, in order to gain the most benefit, is to keep in step with the pace of the treadmill. When I began, I started slowly and at an easy pace. With the right music in my ears and a few times under my runners, I could handle a much brisker pace. My body benefits physically from the process. I'm not really working hard, my legs and feet are simply doing what they have been designed to do, but the treadmill sets the pace. If I don't follow the pace, or take my focus off or lose my balance or try to change directions, I fall and get bruised.

When I keep in step with the Spirit, he turns on the power, sets the speed and the incline and tells me to come along. With the right music in my ears, I can handle a brisker pace, a higher incline. My spirit benefits from the process. I'm not really working hard, my heart is just doing what it was designed to do, following the pace of the spirit. If I don't follow, if I choose not to obey, not to forgive, not to apologize, or I take my focus off him or try to change speed, incline or direction, I lose my balance, fall and get bruised. And if I try to run at the pace the guy next to me is running, I will fail for sure. Sometimes others around me do things that trip me up and I end up with hurt feelings or sometimes deeper wounds, great exhaustion and, at times, complete despair.

Then Jesus says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The purpose of yoking a young ox with an experienced ox was to let the larger, stronger animal bear the load and the younger to simply walk alongside and learn the job. Jesus' yoke is easy: I, the younger, weaker, let the stronger, experienced take the load. My role is simply to walk alongside (to keep in step) and learn the job.

Poem: Step by Step

How does that work itself out practically?

2 Thessalonians 4:11 says “…make it your aim to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands.”

I like that verse because it’s to the point and it’s practical. It requires discipline to mind my own business. Discipline and routines bring peace and freedom. A lack of discipline in life keeps me from growing and being obedient.

The Apostle Paul said, “I therefore so run not as uncertainly, so fight I not as one that beats the air, but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

Allow me to share a quote from H.L. Sidney Lear that haunts me because I see too much of myself in it:
A slack, indolent temperament that is disposed to self-indulgence and delay will find a very practical and helpful discipline in strict punctuality, a fixed habit of rising to the minute when once a time is settled on, in being always ready for meals or the various daily matters in which our unpunctuality makes others uncomfortable. Persons have found their whole spiritual life helped and strengthened by steadfastly conquering a habit of dawdling or of reading newspapers and bits of books, when they ought to be settling about some duty.

Keeping in step with the spirit means I do my duty. I take care of my family, my home and myself. If I am employed, doing my duty means I give my best effort for my employer and my clients.

One of my duties is to train my child. I now truly believe that it is not possible to effectively discipline and train my child if I have not learned to properly discipline and train my self. I am learning that the more consistently I discipline myself, the more effective I am in other critical areas. I have also found that the more consistent I am, the more secure my child is. This may be basic logic to some, but it is a new discovery for this slow learner.

Not that I have attained this. I have a 13 year old and it is a real frustration at times. It can be like Samuel Beckett said: "I try, I fail. I try harder, I fail better."

My mother had 8 children and she knew more than anyone the meaning of this. She often quoted this poem, a prayer -

Poem: The Greatest Test

I have been trying to find whatever helps me to make right choices. I like technology, so I found websites that help in organizing my household duties. http://www.flylady.net/ helps me organize my home. It’s user friendly and encouraging. http://www.savingdinner.com/ helps me plan meals and purchase groceries. I have found websites that allow me to subscribe to online devotionals which allow me to renew my mind each day with the truth of God’s word.

Fifteen email devotional choices
Recommended: “Daily in Christ” and/or “Devotionals for Women”
Devotionals and Bible Study tools
Recommended highly: Elisabeth Elliot

I take care of my physical body. I exercise, I choose a healthy diet. The discipline here comes in the doing. I can’t wait until I feel disciplined or feel willing. This is simply choice. I have to choose each day to move, to exercise, to eat right. The discipline comes as I practice it every day and choose every moment to keep doing what is right. I actually become depressed when I don’t do what is right.
There is a very sobering verse from James chapter 4: "He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

So you ask, what’s the good that I should do? Elisabeth Elliot often says: “If you don’t know what to do, just do the next thing.” Whatever is in front of me: it might be the dishes or the laundry or making a pot of soup for a sick neighbour or perhaps preparing a talk for the women’s group. Each of you has to determine for yourself what this needs to be. Do you have anything you are neglecting? Just do the first step. One thing. Do the next thing and the second thing will be that much clearer.

Part of renewing my mind is to fill my thoughts with the truth about who I am in Christ. Dr. Neil Anderson has compiled a list, with scripture references that allows us to meditate on who we are because of Christ: The more I reaffirm who I am in Christ, the more my behaviour begins to reflect my true identity!

The nice thing about a treadmill – each of us walks the treadmill at our own pace. We also walk with the Spirit at our own pace – the pace laid out for us by the Spirit. We can look around and see all these others surrounding us who are walking in step with the Spirit in their lives. The wonderful beauty about this is that we are going at our own pace, but we are walking side by side.

As I keep in step with the spirit, I rebuke the fear of failure, the fear of hard work, sweat, sore muscles, the time it will take to reach the goal. In return, I receive the gifts of productivity, respect, freedom, health and peace.

Forgetting what is behind… I press on….Let us live up to what we have attained (in context: Philippians 3:12-21)

Keeping in step with the Spirit is not a destination, it is a daily exercise. It will never be over. There is no ending point here on earth. Living by the Spirit is done moment by moment, task by task. The next thing for me is that I choose to listen, follow, trust and obey.

Keep in step. Do the next thing!

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