Does it seem like everyone’s in a hurry these days?
The pace of life seems to be picking up – like a group of distance runners frantically trying to keep up with the leader of the pack because they can’t afford to fall too far behind.
But the pace is unsustainable – and so the experienced runners let the panicky runners follow the irresponsible rabbit ahead of them, knowing they will pass them in the end.
Which group are you in? The panicky and reactive group of runners following the unsustainable pace to defeat, or the experienced and wise runners following the sustainable pace to victory?
But how do we know what pace is best for us?
The answer is not how, but who – by following the lead of the Holy Spirit, who is running the race beside us.
God’s Word coaches us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Following Jesus is more than following where he goes – it’s also following at the pace he wants us to get there.
And that pace is different for all of us, depending on the many factors of our abilities, opportunities and life situation.
So, the Holy Spirit is our personal trainer, running beside us at a pace that is sustainable for us, personally, and that will lead us to victory.
Pretty cool, huh?
That’s why I try to remind myself: “Don’t run ahead of the Spirit, and don’t lag behind him. Keep in step with the Spirit.”
The problem with running ahead of the Spirit
We tend to tackle problems in our own strength and in our own wisdom – which invariably leads to failure.
It’s also annoyingly inefficient.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written half a sermon, only to realize that God was leading me in a different direction, and I needed to scrap it and start over. I do much better when I first pray about the needs of the congregation and listen for God’s voice to lead me.
In carpentry, they say: “measure twice, cut once”. In other words, “one should always double check one’s measurements before cutting materials to minimize the chance of mistakes thus wasting materials, time and money.” (Urban Dictionary)
The same can be said of keeping in step with the Spirit: “check twice, step once”. That way you know you’re headed in the right direction and don’t have to back track.
The problem with lagging behind the Spirit
Notice that in both of these passages, God is moving – and we are to move with him:
“…keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25b)
“…run with perseverance the race marked out for us,2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2)
God calls us to move with him. Don’t be stubborn, stuck or stationary.
“Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.” (Psalm 32:9)
The benefits of keeping in step with the Spirit
Keeping in step with the Spirit keeps you in “the blessable zone”.
In other words, God is able to bless you because you are obeying him and staying connected to him: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
So, you are in a position to bear the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).”
And you’re in a position to receive the Spirit’s blessing on your initiatives: “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonian 1:11-12).”
Keeping in step with the Spirit unleashes his power to “bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (vs. 11 above).
In other words, supernatural power is unleashed when you’re in “the blessable zone” – when you’re “remaining” in Christ and “keeping in step with the Spirit”.
And that’s what glorifies Jesus in us (vs. 12) – when people see supernatural power working through us that is obviously not from ourselves.
What are some practical ways to “keep in step with the Spirit”?
1) Prioritize your Bible reading and prayer time with God each day
2) Ask the Lord which way to go and then listen for his reply
3) Seek advice to allow God’s Spirit to confirm, clarify or redirect you
4) Have the faith and courage to follow his lead – not running ahead and not lagging behind.
Life is moving faster than it’s ever moved before. It can be disorienting and alarming.
But don’t be like the panicky and reactive group of runners following the irresponsible rabbit ahead of them. (Remember the Aesop’s fable of the turtle and the hare? The hare doesn’t win in the end.)
That pace is unsustainable and will lead to self-reliance, unblessed efforts, and burn out.
Instead… take a deep breath, locate the Spirit beside you, and stay on his hip. Trust him to set the direction and the pace for you. We’ve never been this way before, but He has.
Let’s not run ahead of the Spirit, or lag behind him.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).