In Galatians 5:25, the Apostle Paul writes that we are to “walk by the Spirit.” The New Living Translation states we are to “follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Commenting on the Greek word stoicheō, which our English bible’s translate as “walk,” J. I. Packer notes in Keep in Step with the Spirit that this “carries the thought of walking in line, holding to a rule, and thus proceeding under another’s direction and control.”
The journey of following Jesus is a life of walking in the Spirit. After all, this is how Jesus lived his life, “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power” (Luke 4:14). And the Holy Spirit has a sovereign will (1 Cor. 12:11), which means he gets to call the shots. In some Pentecostal/Charismatic circles you kind of get the impression that the Holy Spirit operates under the sovereign decision of popular preachers, but that is far from the case. As Jürgen Moltmann states:
The church has no monopoly of the Holy Spirit. Nor is the Spirit under its control. The precise opposite is the case: the Spirit binds the church to itself and has the church under its control.” (The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life, 93)
We, as members of the kingdom of God, are called to follow Jesus and walk in the Spirit. And this journey is full of risks and full of rewards.
The risk of walking in the Spirit.
Yesterday morning I announced to the church I have spent the last eleven years with that our family would be transitioning this summer. It was, without a doubt, the most difficult message I have ever shared. While my family and I are convinced that this is the direction that the Holy Spirit has called us to, the pain and grief of leaving a community we deeply love and a church that we love more than words could describe are very real.
It has been the most difficult decision we have ever made. We’ve put a lot of prayer and thought and discussion toward it, and have shed more tears than ever before.
There are many risks with this decision, but we’re firmly committed to what John Wimber once said, “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.” Yet acknowledging that there are risks doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of risks! In fact, sometimes I can’t stop thinking about all of the risks! Oh me of little faith…
Living a life of faith means that we all face risks. We risk financial ruin. We risk the loss of friends. We risk being hurt by others. We may even risk the loss of our lives as we take risks for the cause of Christ. But with every faith-inspired risk that we take for Jesus, kingdom economics determines that the reward is worth it!
The reward of walking in the Spirit.
Business analysts and economics advisors spend a lot of time on risk and reward ratios. They help investors and business owners understand whether taking certain risks will provide enough reward to make it worth it.
Faith-inspired risks that come from walking in the Spirit are always rewarded. Every. Single. Time. The reward might not seem “rewarding” at first, but we don’t always see the big picture either. After all, the economy of the kingdom takes into account the fact Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John:
… unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels– a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24 NLT)
Is it worth it to risk “dying” in the kingdom? Absolutely. The reward far outweighs the risk. Always.
Though there are many risks in this life, I’ve often been reminded that Scripture teaches us that in our weaknesses, God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). I think risks often reveal our weaknesses, so I’m clinging to the promise that God will never leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5) and that his grace truly is sufficient.
Easier said than done, right?
Throughout my brief thirty-seven years of existence, I have continually seen the Lord’s faithfulness. Even through the difficulties, challenges, troubles, trials, and problems of life, God has continually been faithful. God’s faithfulness is a stark contrast to our culture’s common thread of broken promises, as A. W. Pink wrote:
Unfaithfulness is one of the most outstanding sins of these evil days. In the business world, a man’s word is, with rare exceptions, no longer his bond. In the social world, marital infidelity abounds on every hand, the sacred bonds of wedlock are broken with as little regard as discarding an old garment. In the ecclesiastical realm, thousands who have solemnly covenanted to preach the truth have no scruples about attacking and denying it. Nor can reader or writer claim complete immunity from this fearful sin. How many ways have we been unfaithful to Christ, and to the light and privileges which God has entrusted to us! How refreshing, then, and how blessed, to lift our eyes above this scene of ruin, and behold One who is faithful, faithful in all things, at all times.” (The Nature of God, 59)
But even though God’s faithfulness is clearly taught in Scripture and, in my experience, the Lord has been faithful throughout my life, I still struggle with fully trusting that the rewards outweigh the risks. It’s a lot easier to say (or write) we trust the Lord than it often is to live it out.
But I think this has a lot to do with being intentional and responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work. So in this season of my life, as with every other season of my life, a common prayer for me is, “Come Holy Spirit.”
- What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done for Jesus?
- In your life, what “rewards” or “fruit” or “results” have come from taking risks?
- How can we become more tuned into what the Holy Spirit is doing and saying?