Galatians 5:25 reads: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” This is one of my favorite verses in the bible and one I remind myself of often. However, though the verse itself is brief, it is one of the most challenging for me in my walk with God. For those of us who have experienced the adventures of a long hike, we know how important it is to pace ourselves. I remember hiking in Yosemite one summer when I came upon a telling scene. A hiker had fainted due to lack of hydration and hit her head on a rock. There were several people there helping her including a nurse who happened to be on the trail that day. But what struck me the most were the comments I could hear her friends saying as they stood off to the side. “She should have slowed down.” “I told her to keep drinking water but she didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom.” “She wasn’t paying attention to her body.”
Applying this truth spiritually, I have to ask myself sometimes when I look at the Galatians 5:25 verse if I am paying attention to the Holy Spirit. Am I doing my best to keep in step with Him? Or am I blazing my own trail just trying to get to the next spiritual high-place? Though this verse is a good reminder to pay attention, we can also be left wondering how exactly are we supposed to “keep in step with the Spirit?” Fortunately, reading God’s Word is a good place to start. In psalm 119, the psalmist presents some interesting measures for keeping in step with the Spirit of God in our lives. They involve our thinking, our speaking and ultimately our doing.
First of all in verses 129-130 the psalmist states this truth: “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Hiking in the dark is not only difficult but not very smart unless you have a light. If you can’t see where you are going, how can you make sure your steps are careful? In the same way, the way we think often determines how we are walking in our spiritual walk with God. His Word gives us grace in that it helps us to know how to think. We can’t keep in step with the Spirit if we think we are worthless; if we think we have to earn God’s love; or if we think the challenges we face are too much. Thoughts like those are exhausting and keep us from going forward. They slow us down spiritually so that we lose sight of the destination God has planned for us. The grace of God in His Word allows us to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) The pace of God doesn’t keep us tired from thinking we are worthless, it energizes us with Isaiah 43:1 –“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” We don’t have to keep a pace that tries to earn God’s love for we know from Jeremiah 31:3 –“ I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” And we don’t have to give up when our spiritual path appears blocked by obstacles because we know from Isaiah 43:2 –“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Our thoughts are as important in our spiritual journey as water is to the hiker. We need to make sure that we are hydrated with God’s Word and not the lies of the enemy.
Hydrated by the truth of God, we can now keep in step with Him in the words that we say. Verse 131 of Psalm 119 states: “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.” If we longed to speak only the words that pleased God, we would have no trouble keeping in step with His Spirit. We wouldn’t run out of breath on our spiritual hike through life. The pace God sets in His Word regarding our speech can be felt in Ephesians 4:29 –“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Psalm 34:13 states: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” And Hebrews 13:15 picks up the pace with: “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His Name.” Finishing with Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth,” we realize that His pace involves praise, truth and blessing.
Finally, when we are properly hydrated by God’s truth and spiritually fit with praises for Him, we are more apt to keep His pace in all that we do on our individual spiritual hike. In psalm 119:133, the psalmist asks God to help him keep pace with His Spirit by saying: “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.” My heart longs to live by the Spirit but I often make mistakes and lose my focus. Similar to the lady I encountered on my hike, I forget to hydrate, move too quickly and sometimes I just plain don’t pay attention. Fortunately, there are always fellow believers to pick me up when I’ve spiritually “fainted” and help me open up God’s Word so that I remember to keep His pace instead of my own. His graceful pace that tells me: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) and “Now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good that you may do His will.”
I imagine when the disciples were walking with Jesus on their many adventures here on earth, they didn’t rush up ahead of him or wander off on another path. Yet how often do I do that with Him in my own life. I want God to walk with me instead of me walking with God. The thing I forget to remember, however, is that God is the only one who can set the pace of my life. His grace knows exactly how I need to walk and what I can handle. His grace provides everything I need for hydration, strength and endurance. After all, He is the one who created the hiker, created the path she is on, knows what lies ahead on that path and eagerly anticipates her reaching the destination He designed just for her. Since I live by the Spirit, God, in your grace, help me to keep in step with your Spirit.