ave you ever asked yourself, Why is my Christian life a struggle? Growing spiritually is often an uphill climb.
The greatest struggle we all face is an inner battle—a conflict between our old sin nature and our new nature in Christ. This is why Paul said we need to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16a). If we walk (or live) in the Spirit, we will “not gratify the desires of [our] sinful nature” (v. 16b NIV). Paul goes on to describe this conflict:
“The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (v. 17 NIV).
The reason we often don’t live up to our potential is because we are pulled down by our sinful nature. We say yes to temptation when we should say no. We are mean to others when we should be kind. We hold a grudge when we should forgive.
What does it mean to walk in the Spirit? Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (NIV). To walk in the Spirit means to order our steps and to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. When He speaks, we obey. Where He leads, we follow.
- WALKING-NOT RUNNING
I like the picture the word walk gives us. Personally, I enjoy running—I like to move fast. But God moves at His own pace. Going for a walk with God means to enjoy a close relationship with Him. You can carry on a conversation with someone if you walk with them, but not if you run. You can walk with someone at the same pace, but everyone runs at their own pace.
The close relationship Enoch had with God is described in Genesis 5:24: “Enoch walked with God.” Abraham was called the “friend of God” (James 2:23 NKJV). Moses spoke with God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11 NKJV). Jesus told His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). So, walking in the Spirit means we practice His presence, carry on a conversation with Him throughout the day, and obey His directions as He orders our lives.
Walking in the Spirit means we are in agreement with Him for His will in our lives. Amos asked, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (3:3 NIV). We submit to God’s will for our lives. We don’t argue with God and resist His Spirit. That was the problem with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and why they did not recognize Him as the Messiah. They held on to their tradition instead of accepting the truth Jesus preached. Stephen later said of the religious leaders, “You always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51 NKJV).
- ENVISIONING-NOT DREAMING
The seven letters to seven churches in Revelation end with the challenge, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (3:22 NLT). Notice the phrase “is saying.” It is present tense, not past tense. When we walk in the Spirit, we are open to new directions and revelations from God; we are not stuck in the past. When Christians constantly talk about going back to the way things used to be, it makes me wonder if they are walking in the Spirit or living in tradition.
If our vision for the future looks anything like the past, it’s not really a vision but a dream! We dream of what’s behind us in our past, but we envision what is ahead of us in our future.
When we walk, we go forward . . . not backward. Walking takes us to new places. When we walk in the Spirit we have new ideas and take a new direction. Dreams are great, but when we stop dreaming, we’ve got to wake up and get on with a new day. We dream when we are asleep. We have visions when we are awake and alert.
- MOVING ON-NOT STAYING PUT
Walking in the Spirit is about moving on. As we walk, we get further away from our beginning point and closer to our destination. The Christian life is a process, a journey.
We all have had problems and failures, but we don’t have to stay at that place. We can walk in the Spirit and go on to victory over our sins and mistakes. Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the goal” (Phil. 3:13-14 NKJV).
When we start walking, God starts working. There is a story in the Old Testament of four lepers outside the city of Samaria (2 Kings 7:3-11). Lepers suffered great rejection in the ancient world. Their appearance in a public place brought great fear. They lived outside the city in a leper colony.
These four particular leprous men were sitting outside the gates of Samaria while it was being besieged by the Syrian army. The food supply had run out and the people were starving. All hope was lost. The Syrian forces were camping a few miles away awaiting the city’s surrender.
Finally, the four lepers decided to take action. They asked themselves, “Why stay here until we die?” (v. 3 NIV). At dusk, they got up and walked toward the Syrian encampment.
When they took action, God got involved in the equation. We forget that sometimes miracles are the combination of God working with us. When they started walking, God started working.
They took the risk of faith. As soon as they started walking, God multiplied the sound waves of their footsteps so that it sounded like a great army with horses on the march. The Syrians heard the sound and panicked. They said, “The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian
kings to attack us!” (v. 6 NIV). They fled the camp, leaving everything behind.
When the lepers arrived, they were stunned. They ate and drank, and then carried off some plunder and hid it. Realizing they were being selfish, they said, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. . . . Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace” (v. 9 NIV).
You don’t have to stay where you are; you can move on today in faith.
You don’t have to argue with God; instead, you can walk with Him and go the direction His Spirit leads you, discovering the blessings of obedience.
You never have to walk alone in this life—you can walk with God, even when it’s an uphill climb.