“We are being progressively sanctified—to spiritual maturity—to bear the family likeness of His Son. Remember that Jesus Christ was perfect—and we are to strive for perfection.…Christians, day by day, week by week, and month by month, are told to walk in the Spirit.”*
This expression of “walking in the Spirit” can be confusing for some. When Billy Graham uses it, what does he mean? Why is “walking” the action that we hear so much in Christian circles?
Well, it is all about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, and I do mean daily.
In this everyday world, we are constantly bombarded by what I call “the quick-fix mentality.” Sign up for this meal plan and lose 13 pounds in a month. Start taking this pill and you will have energy that you have not had in years. You will experience a difference in a week. Buy this self-help book and it will instantly turn your life around. All the answers you need are right here.
In all these promises you see the need for speed. Also inherent in these promises is need for control.
But let’s examine why the word walk is used to describe Christian life. When walk is used anytime in the Bible or referenced by a Christian writer or ordinary believer, it means practical daily living. It is a reference to the journey we are all on and the fact of the matter is that it is a life-long journey. Literally it is intended to mean that we are attempting to move forward, to make forward progress. Of course it does not always work like that. We all suffer setbacks which make forward progress impossible. Temptations can throw us off track. Doubt is an ordinary human condition; just thinking thoughts like “this God stuff is too good to be true” can pop into a person’s mind. Tragedies can stop us dead in our tracks as we wonder why they are happening.
The promises of God do not include that we will be immune from temptation, doubt or tragedy, but He does promise He will be right there with us as we encounter these stumbling blocks. Actually He promises more than that: God promises that when we have conflict, turbulence, trouble, temptations, and testings, we will grow because of the hard times.
No one was beset with harder times than Abraham. Satan tested him through temptation, and people around him tested him through their jealousy, distrust and opposition. Even his own wife tested him with her constant worrying. Yet Abraham endured, refusing to question God’s truthfulness and power, refusing to doubt God’s faithfulness and love.
Abraham was not hasty, not a man who wanted a quick fix. He is the epitome of patience, quietly submitting to God’s will. He is also the epitome of the faithful follower of God who was richly rewarded.
The idea of Abraham “submitting” is related to the second idea I mentioned above. We love to have control don’t we? Submission seems to be the opposite of control. Yet to walk in the Spirit means we have to yield to God’s control, we need to follow His lead, we need Him to exert His influence over us. This is the opposite of us taking control which many of us struggle with. I don’t know about you, but almost all of the greatest mistakes I have ever made in this life were the result of me trying to push forward, exerting my own force, my own will, my own control. Many times in my life, I have been unwilling to wait; I have given in to anxiety, the pressure to produce, the desire for achievement. In Galatians 5, it clearly says that when the Spirit is in control, God produces Godly qualities within us, apart from the “strictures” of the law. If we can listen to the Holy Spirit, we can crucify the flesh with all its passions and desires; we can walk in the Spirit.
We can move forward…
“Striving for perfection” is not something that happens quickly; it is a lifetime of work. It is not easy. It takes us giving up control and letting the Spirit control us.
But the reward is great. The Spirit can give us new life in our new birth, a life of love and gladness. Worry can begin to fall off, and anxiety can diminish. Patience will emerge. One will be less concerned with self and more concerned for others. God will be pleased because faithfulness will be shown and trust will be our new theme of life. The list can literally go on and on.
Those who walk in the Spirit can truly be filled with the Spirit and if that begins to happen, life will be so much better…
But it takes time…
And it takes giving up control.
*from Billy Graham’s book The Holy Spirit