“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” (Philippians 3:12-14).
Pushing our paddle surfboards off the wet sand, my husband turned to me, “Which way do you want to go, right or left?”
Studying the ripples on the water in the early morning light I eased onto my board and let the current carry me for a moment before answering decisively, “Let’s go right. That way we’ll be paddling into the breeze and against the current. It will make the trip back easier when we’re tired.”
It was hard work as we bent our knees, dug in our paddles and slowly made our way through the harbor. Every muscle in my body was flexed, poised to keep me firmly balanced standing on the board and skimming through the water. I had no desire to take a spill and get wet in the early morning chill.
As we rounded the tip of Balboa Island for the return trip, we reaped the benefit of our choice to do the hard part first. We slipped along with the current, feeling like we had the strength of superheroes. With each stroke of the paddle we made significant progress and could look up and enjoy the sights and sounds all around us in the Newport Harbor.
Skidding onto the cool, wet sand as we returned, I thought about how often our walks of faith mirror what I’d just experienced out on the water. Sometimes making choices to lead a godly life feels like a fight to swim against the current of the world around us. Spending time with people who don’t value the things of God can make following Him with our daily life choices a challenge. When we feel like we have to go it alone, it can be a lot like I felt paddling against the current and into a head wind. It’s a grueling effort, but the Bible tells us it’s worth it:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
When we persevere, we grow in numerous ways. There is probably no faster means for growth than clinging to God in the midst of adversity: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
When we choose to “go with the flow” and let the current sweep us along with the actions and attitudes in popular culture, we’ll find our spiritual disciplines slipping and our infrequent times with God becoming stale and dry. It is impossible to remain solidly planted in one place spiritually; we will either be swept with the current of the world around or make an effort to paddle against it.
Conversely, there may also be times in life when following God seems easy and fun. We feel His strength flowing through us as each dip of the paddle into the water propels us forward at an amazing rate. I liken this to times when we are connected consistently with other Christians and are studying God’s word, worshiping and serving together. We feel energized and excited as we watch God work among us and are motivated to want more of Him in our lives.
Summer is a season when most organized Bible Studies take a break. As people scatter for travel or other activities, they tend to put their time in God’s word on the back burner. It’s still a priority, but not something they tend to with the same diligence. While rest and rejuvenation are part of God’s desire for our lives, taking a “vacation” from Him or His Word is not. Many people experience serious spiritual “slippage” in the summer as they focus their attention elsewhere and leave God out of the mix. Let me encourage you not to be one of those people.
Summer can be a great time to explore a concept that you’ve been wanting to know more about, to read that book that’s been gathering dust on your shelf or to review the study you didn’t have time to savor during the fast pace of the year. Below are a few ideas to keep you engaged and to help you paddle against the current so that you can continue to build your “spiritual muscles” and experience the rich and full life God has for you, no matter what season it is.
-Pick your favorite Bible Study from the past year and reread it chapter by chapter throughout the summer. Write down a list of things you want to remember that you learned from it to help you solidify them and apply them to your life.
-Choose a Christian book to read this summer. Invite a friend to read it with you. You can even set up a reading schedule to discuss it over coffee or lunch on the weeks you’re both in town. Here are few suggestions to get you started:
One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp
Seven by Jen Hatmaker
A Confident Heart by Renee Swope
A Different Kind of Wild by Debbie Alsdorf
Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst
The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg
Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rhinehart
The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
Fresh Brewed Life by Nicole Johnson
-Sign up for a Bible Study being offered at church
-Invite a few friends, neighbors or members of your Bible Study to do a workbook and DVD Bible Study together at one of your homes. If you live near CPC, there are a number that can be checked out from the church library. If you don’t, look for studies available at lifeway.com or Christianbook.com
-Sign up to receive a daily devotional at Proverbs 31 Ministries www.provberbs31.org (Lysa Ter Keurst started this ministry)
-Choose a book of the Bible to read through this summer. Write down questions you have as you read and take the time to do word studies and read commentaries that will help you understand it better. You can also pick up helpful study guides for specific books of the Bible at the CPC bookstore or other Christian bookstores.
The options are only limited by your imagination. So, pray and ask God to show you what His plans are for you this summer. Then, dip you paddle in the water and point yourself against the current- you won’t be disappointed.
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).