A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, Sunday, April 16, 2023.
For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.
My lovely bride and I were returning home from a wonderful vacation about three weeks ago, and during the return, we both were sensing that there was going to be an issue making a connection from our Charlotte flight to Akron-Canton Airport. The weather in Savannah was very warm, and it developed into thunderstorms that delayed a number of flights. As we were approaching Charlotte, I had the sinking feeling that we were both going to have to run once we touched down at the airport to make our connecting flight to Akron-Canton. So, for the first time in many years, we were going to have to make a break for it with luggage in hand, and we had a window of about 15 minutes to go from Concourse B to Concourse E. The estimated walk time between those concourses is about 15 minutes, but we could not risk walking knowing that our next flight was boarding right then.
So, my bride and I took off. All I can say is that I was running and breathing hard at the same time while carrying the heavier piece of luggage. Lynn was behind me by about 20 yards, and she was a trooper. I kept watching the overhead signs. 15 minutes away. 10 minutes away. 7 minutes away. I almost knocked over someone who was oblivious to what was going on (we weren’t the only people running for a flight). Finally, as we approached Concourse E and could see our gate, I told Lynn that we can walk the rest of the way. The plane was in the middle of boarding, and we had made it. If we had walked, I don’t think we would have made it. We’re thankful for the limited about of walking and conditioning that we both do. The next day, we felt the harsh after-effects, but we made it home.
Interestingly, there are Bible passages that speak of how we are to walk, run or follow a path. This message is more than just moving around physically. We must inject faith in God. It’s a very important aspect of how we, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to live. It’s not the physical aspect, but the spiritual aspect of living and moving with Jesus.
First, let’s look at how we are to walk in the Spirit with God:
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 ESV
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Psalm 119:105 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Galatians 5:16 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
There are many other verses that refer to walking in the Spirit, but now let’s look at running in the Spirit. Running is often compared to distance running, and there are mental factors with running that come into play. Not just a short distance like my wife and I running through an airport, but a much longer test of endurance:
Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
2 Timothy 4:7 ESV
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Our personal goal should be to echo Paul’s words here one day in the future.
So, we see examples of movement in the faith, whether we are walking or running, and there is a path involved. Walking along a path, for our purposes, means that we are sensitive to following God’s direction as we go. Walking is a deliberate action to get from one place to another, and walking in faith is moving and growing in one’s personal relationship with Jesus. Running is all about going through the appropriate training and discipline as we learn more about Jesus and to stand and resist the devil as we go. It brings to mind the importance of living in God’s IMAGE. IMAGE is the acronym we have used in the past to present this concept:
I – Investigating God’s Word (not just reading it but really digging into it)
M – Meditating on His Word (using the appropriate prayer time during your daily readings)
A – Acting on His Word (by walking in faith as you follow your path)
G – Growing in His Word (by moving along in the power of the Holy Spirit as it teaches you)
E – Enduring in the strength of His Word (because the race we run is long and sometimes quite difficult)1
Here’s a question for some of us to consider…
Why do we have tendencies to be lazy in our faith? (That took an ugly turn, didn’t it?)
Are we walking in faith and not by sight?
Are we running in the faith in service for Jesus?
Are we on any kind of path at all? If we’re not, we’re on the sidelines.
In all three of these instances, we are not effective in our service for Jesus.
Now, my desire is to present an argument that many of us have become entirely too complacent in our present state. Yes, we love Jesus and Jesus loves us, but if we are being completely honest about our state of being, we would see how we are falling short of what Jesus expects for His people. Whether you like it or not, it’s laziness.
To avoid offending my entire audience, let’s define “laziness.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as a noun meaning, “The quality of not being willing to work or use any effort.”2 This is also referred to in Scripture as “idleness.”
At our very worst, in our most fleshly behavior, our idleness deteriorates into becoming gossips and busybodies, as noted in 1 Timothy 5:13. Believers are called to do much better than this:
James 1:22-25 NLT
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 ESV
11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Hebrews 13:16 ESV
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
It’s not a stretch to conclude here that everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ should be doing SOMETHING for good within the body of Christ.
This takes us to what we will deem to be our reasonable service for Jesus.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Whether we are walking in faith or running with endurance, we are to give everything we have to Jesus…and don’t hold anything back. For those of us who tend to overthink in a number of areas, we need to just stop thinking and start trusting more in Jesus. The more we overthink this, the less likely we will be God’s living sacrifice.
Let’s discuss this further.
1. Present yourself before Jesus and others. Make yourself known as a servant of Jesus.
Exodus 3:4 NIV
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look (at the burning bush), God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
1 Samuel 3:4 NIV
Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
Isaiah 6:8 NIV
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Please consider that Aaron, in Leviticus Chapter 9, went through an ordination process as God’s appointed priest, and it was followed by the Lord consecrating him to become the High Priest of the people of Israel. The Hebrew word for consecration literally means “to fill the hand.” This means that we come to God with empty hands as we say, “Here I am, Lord.” If we are open to His call, He will do the filling with what He has for us to do. This is consecration.3
I trust you can see where I’m going with this. When the Lord calls you, how quick are you to say, “Here I am!”? When the Lord calls you (and He can do this audibly or through your reading and studying of Scripture), what’s your response? Perhaps He’s been calling you for a while.
“Not right now!”?
Well, that might explain the idleness that I was just talking about. If your attitude about serving Jesus is not right…if there are more important things to do on your personal agenda…then you will never be His living sacrifice. Your ways will always take precedence over His ways, but be careful. Your way of thinking isn’t better.
Isaiah 55:6, 8-9 NIV
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
You will need to let Jesus know you are ready for service. You need to acknowledge His call. It is only then that He will move you to the next phase of action.
2. Allow the Spirit to move you from idleness into faithful service.
It begins with faith of the unknown. We’re still learning about Jesus, true enough, but if you have never done something before, or if you are trying something new, you don’t know what to expect from it. Here’s something else that we tend to do when we try something. We overthink it. Overthinking can make this new thing to do a fearful experience.
Just relax a little and have faith.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
The enemy wants to paralyze you in fearfulness. What are you afraid of? Failure? Hey, come and check me out…the king of failure! Every successful person has had to deal with trying something and failing. Failure is a way of helping you learn to not make the same mistakes. The ultimate failure is in not trying something.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 4:10 NLT
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
Listen to and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you go. You will absolutely love what He says as you move along in faith.
From the last part of the passage in Romans 12:2…
3. Practice makes you perfect (in Christ).
The more that you trust in Jesus, the better you will be as you conform to the Spirit and live for Him. You’re coming out of a place of idleness into a place where you become more comfortable (discerning) in His will and living with better obedience.
Remember, everyone, this is your spiritual worship for Jesus! It won’t always be easy, and at times it can be stressful, but this whole thing about living for Jesus is an important way for us to grow and mature.
James 1:2-4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
You will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, because Jesus will always be with you through the tough times as well as the good ones.
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Your reasonable service is more than just doing SOMETHING for Jesus.
Your reasonable service is to do EVERYTHING with Jesus in mind.
We are to walk in faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Run in the faith in service for Jesus (Isaiah 40:31).
We are to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to move in the right direction (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We are here to serve Him. He created you and me for this moment in time to be in His service within the body of Christ and in today’s world.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Please don’t delay any more in this. It’s God’s will that you live as His child right now.
It’s time to walk in faith. Time to run for the prize.
It’s your reasonable service for Him.
Copyright © 2023 Melvin Gaines
1 Gaines, M. (2015, April 25). Characteristics of your image. LinkedIn. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/characteristics-your-image-melvin-gaines/?trk=mp-reader-card
2 Laziness. LAZINESS | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/laziness
3 McGee, J. (1988). Comments on Leviticus 9. Thru the Bible. Retrieved April 12, 2023. Thomas Nelson Publishers.