I will never forget my first roller coaster ride. I don’t remember my age, just that I was fairly young. I remember my dad promising me that we were just going to ride a “kitty coaster” little did I know we were going to ride “The Wild Cat.” It wasn’t until we were at the top of the hill fixing to start our rapid descent that I realized something was terribly wrong. I let out a high pitched (little girl) scream as the coaster rapidly began its terrifying ride. I now love roller coasters, but that first experience.. could have been better.
Roller coasters are fun and exciting! They are full of twists and turns, up and downs, and even “spin arounds.” As fun as they might be I am afraid that many times our faith can be compared to this roller coaster ride.
We have our ups:
We have those times when we are on top of the spiritual world (so it seems.) We are on fire for Christ, we know what we believe, we know why we believe it, and we want to talk about it! Many who attend church camps in the summer talk about the “spiritual high” meaning that after a week of camp they feel like they are soaring spiritually. Most of us have experienced those “ups” in our spiritual walk.
We have our downs:
These are the days/times that we don’t even feel like getting ready for worship on Sunday morning. Sure, we know it’s the “right thing” to do, we just don’t “feel it.” We have those times that we overhear someone say something about the Bible, the church, Christians, salvation, and we fail to capitalize on the opportunity. Not because we don’t know what to say but because we are afraid to say it, or even worse, we don’t “have time” to say it.
I have recently been studying the book of Judges. It amazes me how many ups and downs God’s people have always had! We find that God’s people were in captivity because they left God’s will and turned to serving themselves or idols (sound familiar?) God raises up a Judge to lead them out of their bondage when they realize the error of their ways. God grants them peace for many years. Then they repeat this cycle. After the death of Joshua and his elders, God’s people turned away from God and fell into the hands of the enemy. God raises up a Judge Othniel who delivers God’s people, then they fall away again. God gives them another judge Ehud and Shamgard who delivers them, then they fall away. God raises up another Judge Deborah who directs them in the way they should go, then they fall away again. God raises up another Judge named Gideon who leads God’s people yet again under extreme odds, as he went to conquer the Midianites. There was no doubt as to who was responsible for the victory. It should have been so firmly implanted in their minds that they are nothing without God, and everything with Him. We read that Gideon dies in chapter 9 and God’s people begin to fall AGAIN in chapter 10.
If you are like me, as you study such passages part of your mind screams out, “How can you be so forgetful? How can you leave God again?” while another, parts softly reminds me, “Troy, you do the same thing.” How often are we guilty of deserting God, when all He has done, is provide and be faithful?
We see many examples of nations and individuals throughout the Old and New Testaments who seemingly hit extreme spiritual high’s only to crash to rock bottom and repeat the cycle. I would like to submit a few simple/practical steps for us to take to help keep us from crashing over and over again. This is nothing new (Straight from the Bible) but they are good healthy reminders.
Keys to having more spiritual ups than downs:
1. Study God’s Word: – This sounds so simple, and many who are reading this are just ready to skip to the next key because they have “heard this before” however, I must admit that even as a minister, I have struggled with this. Every single time that I feel disconnected with God, I can examine my life and see that my time with His Word is not what it should be. Set a time every day/night that is “Bible time” with no distractions. If you truly don’t “have time” during your normal routine, then wake up early or stay up late, make it a priority. Several Bible apps for smartphones and tablets now have audio as well. You can plug it in in your vehicle, listen to your headphones while laying in bed, while working out, going for a jog, just another way to make sure that God’s Word is part of your life. Acts 17:11
2. Prayer: Also another “no brainer” but it must be said. How could you foster a deep relationship with someone you never communicate with? You can’t. make it happen! 1 Thess 5:17,
3. Sing: Sing throughout your day, your week, your life. Do not allow singing to just be a Sunday and Wednesday thing. Sing at home with your family, sing by yourself in the car, listen to acapella in your office, in your home. Yes, I am referring to singing songs of praise, not “Baby” from Justin Bieber. Incorporate that aspect of worship in your daily living, and your life will become more joyful. Ephesians 5:19-20
4. Peer pressure: Wait, peer pressure is bad right? Not always. It depends on who your peers are. Surround yourself with the right peers and they will cause you to want to be better. We know that “Bad company corrupts good morals.” It is safe to assume that good company encourages them. Proverbs 27:17
5. Be positive: The statement, “I am positive, positive everything is going to go wrong!” Is not what we need. We need to be a joyous, positive people. It is so easy to get down in our thinking. We turn on the news we get depressed, we turn on the radio, we get discouraged. We listen to “christians” talk about their sinful lifestyle we are heart broken. We listen to worldly people publicly ridicule Christ, we get outraged. It is time we take control of our minds! Dwell on positive things, dwell on promises of God, Dwell on hope, love, eternal life, our savior, our family, and many other blessings. Don’t’ think you can control your thoughts and be a happier person? God says you can! Phil 4:8
6. Get to work: When I was in high school, I worked out with my football buddies all the time, and I was strong. (Not as strong as I thought I was) but strong nonetheless. A funny thing happened when I was no longer playing organized sports. I stopped working out as much, and I began to decline in strength. The same is true with our spiritual life. If we wish to maintain a strong relationship with the Lord, we must go to work, and stay at work! We cannot simply say to ourselves that we used to work in the kingdom, if we want a close bond with the Father, we must walk with Him daily. Luke 9:23, Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 6:1, James 2:18-20, Revelation 2:10.
As mentioned above, this is not meant to be anything new, just a reminder that I need every once in a while. I pray this will encourage you as you spend time with your families, spend time at work, school, travel, and play. I pray that you will experience more ups than you do downs spiritually speaking. Please note, that the highs and the lows, the relationship we have with the Father does not come by luck or lack thereof. It comes from our focus on Jesus, and our willingness to live for Him!