~ By Jen Cook ~
What does it look like to walk with your God? And how would we go about doing that and doing that well? In this blog, we will also be learning about running the race that the Christian life is likened to, dealing with distractions along the way as we stay on-course, and having Victory to the end. None of us has yet “arrived” since we are still on the earth. And so, there is still much room to continue learning, at least I speak for myself. The Lord, over the years of the learning process of walking in-step with Him, has given to me many downloads and sent volumes of lessons my way. I was also blessed to have a spiritual mentor for almost 7 years before entering the field of missions and the Holy Spirit of God has been such an awesome Teacher and Guide for sure. Therefore, what I am about to share, is decades of biblical insight that has been spiritually applied again and again in different sets of circumstances, different situations and seasons of life and with different people presenting themselves on the path that I have been traversing with Jesus. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog prayerfully and for feeling free to comment below as to what has helped you in your “in-step” walk with your God. Blending my experiences into it from the almost last four decades of my faith walk coupled with my understanding of and from the Word of God as that has applied to life and personal situations, my prayer for you, for us all is, that we will experience encouragement, peace, clarity, greater understanding and greater application as we search the Scriptures and seek God and love Him for Who He really is and what He has in-store for each one of us.
So let’s begin with a little soul-searching. Do you at this moment in time have a strong faith in God? And do you know His Son Jesus intimately and personally to the point that you will or have already been compelled to surrender to Him and His will and plan for your life daily? Are you willing to whole-heartedly serve Him in whatever capacity He asks of you? (Deut. 6:5). Walking in-step with God then, starts with a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. He then brings all revelation and grace to us for the carrying out His will, as He develops in us the desire to obey from a heart of love (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 10:9; 1 John 1:9; Galatians 5:24-26). “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27). Maintaining Jesus as Front and Center in our lives, keeping Him our Focus, is THE best way to attune our hearts, so that we will be able to flow more accurately in-step with Him, leaving self and selfish ways behind. What’s important to Him, will be important to us. What He loves, we will love. And what He abhors, so will we. What breaks His heart, will break ours’ too. And just like fine-tuning an instrument, which brings pleasure to the human ear, so is an obedient life as it attunes it’s “ear” to hear the voice of it’s Creator in whatever manner He chooses to communicate. Obedience merely demonstrates it’s love and devotion to the One whom our soul loves. Believers can also be likened to clay on the potter’s wheel or as clay in the craftsman’s hands because we are being shaped and molded more into the image of Christ Himself with each yielded action. So how do we get to this place?
Surrender and obedience will keep us on a sure-footed path. It is usually not a wide and spacious journey with the end goal of Heaven, but one of a narrow context in many places, which brings the reminder for needed focus. Valleys as well as mountain tops and peaks enter into our horizon and He is the God of both. Joys and sufferings surface along the way as we all the while possess a Map, the intimation of the Word of God, which promises the best Guide that any of us could ever ask for, the Holy Spirit Himself. To listen then for His still small voice that compels us to obedience, and invites us to precision and consistency in our walk again and again, will definitely encourage God to come nearer and nearer to us with each passing day. Suffering, contriteness and humility especially, will draw Him closer like nothing else will. He promises to protect, heal, carry us as He uses it all to shape and mold us into the nature and character of Christ within each of His followers, the end result which is to bring us forth as pure as gold (I Peter 1:7).
It’s quite obvious that even after just a few short decades of living live, that it’s not an easy feat here. However, if we can learn to live in a manner that defers to Him and praises Him in spite of situations…in times of joy and great achievements, great happiness…as well as in times of great sadness, pain, doubts we will find His grace and His favor. Both usually accompany us on this journey and as we remain living close to Christ, we can trust that He is using it all to grow and mature us as we gain more of His favor and experience simultaneously, especially an increase of anointing. It’s never a waste, as He never wastes anything. Like the expensive perfume that was poured out and seemingly “wasted” according to Judas, Mary Magdalene unashamedly poured her love and tears AND perfume all over the feet of Jesus, preparing Him for His death and burial. Beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning. And a wonderful anointing!
We are called to also bear our own burdens which fulfills the law Christ as part of our walk with Him. We are truly blessed if we have a few great friends that are so willing to help us burden-bear when the weight is semi-crushing to just plain unbearable. God knows just who to send and at the right time. We will make it, grow and go to greater heights and depths with our Lord and with the assistance of His selection of those right people along our journey. Because of this, when others we meet are struggling, we can also turn around and offer them a hand up because of the very sufferings we experienced as we run our race: “So that you might live in a manner worthy of the Lord and be fully pleasing to Him as you bear fruit while doing all kinds of good things and growing in the full knowledge of God. You are being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, so that you might patiently endure everything with joy.” ~ Colossians 1:10-11
Dealing with the distractions along the way that would try to move us off-course as we labor toward achieving His goals and dreams for our lives (our heart’s desires) is a very real thing. Distractions arise frequently, if not daily, and could be used to attempt to sway us off-course. Maintaining focus becomes an important key to continually moving forward with meaning, in peace and toward Victory. Our lives according to the Word are to be guided by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Romans 1:17 contends that, “…in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” Staying on-course in the Bible is likened to running a race, and fighting the good fight of faith, as we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….” (Hebrews 12:1). There is a famous saying: “Practice makes perfect.” So it is in this kind of walk, being in-step with our Lord and Savior. When asked, He will multiply our efforts and cover our weaknesses with His Strength, as we throw off encumbrances including any and all shame for short-falling, false sense of responsibility, fretting, worrying, competing with those around us, control, fear, and more. He wants to free us, restore broken hearts and strengthen us because He is so very excited, so anticipatory, to one day soon have those of us that want Him and know Him, to be with Him in His House for all of eternity! The pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8).
How do we endure while stepping out this walk of faith AND finishing well “until the end”? This is a race that the Word of God prizes and will also award us a prize when finishing. So how do we run it well and maintain such a pace so that we can last? Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 exhorts us with this: “Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only the air. Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.” Ephesians 5:15-20 also gives us some helpful insight where as Acts 17:26-28 reminds us that, “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being….’” As we submit body, soul and spirit to Him regularly, He will teach us how to make the flesh of non importance, showing us how to put it under so that we can live more unencumbered as unto the Spirit.
Paul likely had periods of hard food fasting much of his time on earth, and with the climate and all of his hardships, he would have had to have great grace for that. Coupled with denying himself physically along with the beatings he endured, and the flesh nature would have automatically subdued. We know that he struggled with pride too. But as He walked in-step with His Lord and Savior, he was also changing from the inside out, becoming more and more humble over that period of recorded time during his epistles and much like Jesus in nature. We don’t need to subject ourselves to such severe beatings or hard fasting as he once had for God to accomplish His will and work deeply inside of us, though some are called to experience these things (martyrs). Typically, living life will bring plenty of opportunity for Him to do His work well inside of each of us, as we submit to the process. Pain will tend to encourage us to press hard into Jesus. And in pressing in, we get to know God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity so much better also. By learning His nature and how to hear His still small voice, He will show us every step of the way what God’s will for us is and how to live it whole-heartedly as an adventure and in victory because ours is a journey tailor-made for everyone of us and it is to be sought out. New habits will be formed and new victories will be had as we carry out less and less the desires of the flesh nature through the things we experience (Galatians 5:16). This perpetuates obedience (Hebrews 5:7-9) because when it is all said and done, typically the way out, is to go through (Romans 8:17-19). “…Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying,“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
It’s also about Peace and Pace too
In this last section before closing, let’s briefly explore allowing Christ to have more of our hearts to fill us more and more to capacity with the fullness of Jesus Christ. God has such a huge heart of Love. If we have a deficiency in this area, it could be because we have not asked Him for more. God can and will promote a surrendered heart and to those who have given all to Him in daily yielding, will find great grace and favor because learning to walk in-step with Christ starts with a fully-surrendered heart. He makes the internal changes giving us the capacity to love as He loves and to obey out of a heart of love that is usually always other-focused. With our gaze on the One whom our soul loves, with the love of the Word that He gives to us, we will find our lives transforming, and as we progress along this journey over the years, we somehow don’t seem to mind the painful pruning process that must take place in the lives of every Believer that cleanses us and that causes us to fruit-bear. The yield of abundance of spiritual fruits will bring glory to the Father. As the baskets of fruit increase in our lives while the pruning continues, our anointing and spiritual authority increases and further perpetuates the blessing cycle. He can then continue to fill us more and more with Himself into every nook, cranny and crevice of our being (John 15:1-8; Ephesians 1:17-18). It truly is a miracle that we should be changed from glory to glory with the Father through the Lord Who is Spirit (II Corinthians 3:18). “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right-hand of the Throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Pace is day by day and will help us to reach our goal, our Prize, Who is a person, Jesus Christ, the Lord. This pace is a journey that leads us straight into God’s heart over a life-time. We need ‘horizontal access’ with fellow Believers along with an upward, vertical mind-set on the Kingdom of Heaven itself for this guided trek, since Scripture is very clear about the importance of renewing our minds (Eph. 4:22-23; Phil. 4:8) Each individual journey is custom-made. But with so many distractions, it can be easy to forget that peace must be the umpire in our lives. And Jesus is our Prince of Peace, if we want Him to be that for us. “Stay hidden in the Secret Place, allow the Joy of the Lord to bubble up within you, let’s keep sin confessed and out of our lives, putting on the garment of praise, wearing the cloak of humility, walking in Love” (Ephesians 5:19-20). Living consistently in God’s rest encourages peace if we allow Him to teach us (Hebrews 4:10-11 NKJV). Hope needs to be kept alive as well, and Jesus Christ is many things to the Believer, including our Hope (Romans 5:5). Abiding in Christ, Who is our Vine and Strength, the One who gives us our identity as His sons and daughters, it is in Christ alone that we will remain standing now and in that day to see total victory over the war of spiritual darkness. Until then, it’s the battles He helps us to win, battle after battle, cresting the mountain tops, descending into the valley for service, climbing, ascending once again…repeating the process, all the while keeping our aim on our Prize. As we continue saturating ourselves in the Word, and declaring the Scriptures over our lives and the lives of our loved ones, effectiveness with the use of our battle armor hinges on a firm spiritual foundation in Him, which needs to be without cracks, as we hold our peace with our Prince of Peace, also our Strength, Shield, and Righteousness!
As we close, it may help to remember that the Kingdom of God is likened to an upside down Kingdom that’s right side up (J. Meyer). You lose to gain, then release to have, walk ‘blindly’ in order to see and deny yourself (die to selfish ways) in order to live. As God has His way with each of us, His character begins to take shape in the very depths of our being. And He will reward what we deal with and go through with Christ-likeness (James 1:12). Promoting us and increasing the anointing within us, comes in degrees as we allow Him to keep us moving ever onward. You know you are making good progress when He entrusts you more and more with His Word, His work and His people.
These are some of the ways of how to get into step and what staying in-step with Christ looks like. We must give Him our everything, make room for the Holy Spirit to do His job as our Helper, as we abide in Jesus through staying in the Word, declaring the Word, staying in fellowship with a Body of Believer’s, praising and worshiping the Father, applying and using the spiritual armor regularly, running the race daily while yielding and committing our plans and works to Him. And by faith, when we have done all else, standing in trust and in His Truth. God will see us through the many seasons to come in His wisdom and grace because of being true to His Word and His love for His people. He will cause us to be led through His Holy Spirit, the Best Guide that we will ever have on this earth. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. Once coming to accept Jesus as Lord, it will take an eternity to get to know Him fully. And it begins with the privilege of living wisely over the span of our earthly lives, daily yielded to the Spirit, in grace and in pace with Him. We will go into the depths (valleys) as well as up to the heights (mountain tops) through various spiritual seasons and natural seasons of our personal lives. It will be a paced race that will be well-spent and well-rewarded with our Prize, an eternity with Christ Himself. In that day we will be able to lay any and all crowns that we have been awarded down at His precious feet (II Tim. 4:8; James 1:2; I Peter 5:4; I Thes. 2:19; I Cor. 9:24, 25). And oh that will be glory, be glory for us!
We have all likely only scratched the surface with such a HUGE God that we serve. He has so much depth to Him, and so many facets of personality and nature, it’s hard to take it all in. Watch what results, though, from a life that does not strive in an exhausting way but one that “strives” to enter that rest as they yield, and learn to flow in His graces, dance in sync with Him all out of a heart of love and pure affection for Him. So like you, I am also learning how to run this awesome race. Let’s remember that self-condemnation over what would have been New Year’s resolutions, can be totally laid down at the Foot of the Cross and remain there throughout the 2019 year and beyond as we walk at a pace with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in a manner that is worthy of our purpose. There are many callings but we all have in common a single purpose for the Believer…to lift the name of Jesus high and to live unto the honor, praise and glory of our Great God and Majestic and soon-coming King!
References: NIV, ESV versions of the Bible, quotes from Crosswalk.com ministries; Anchor devotional Haven Ministries; Ryan LeStrange ministries; ‘Hinds Feet on High Places’ by Hannah Hurnard -An allegorical novel to the Christian walk; Bruce Wilkinson, ‘Secrets of The Vine.’ Photo credits: Unsplash.com
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