Many moons ago, I was a part of and even led my high school band in Kentucky. We prepared almost all summer every year for our fall competitions and part of the preparation was learning to march. The first week of band camp was always spent teaching the very basic skill of staying in step with everyone else and learning how to operate as one moving formation on a football field. When competition time came, we were evaluated not just on the music we played, but how meticulously we placed every foot and heel on the field. Judges were very quick to point out when one person fell out of step or if there was too much space between two people in a formation. It was a grueling task to try and perfect each move, but when you watch the results, it’s truly amazing just how seamlessly everything could fit together…it was a work of art!
In Galatians 5:16-25, Paul is exhorting us to walk, be led by, and keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Like my example of marching in band and staying together with those beside you, we are supposed to be in a daily habit of listening to and following the Spirit’s guidance in our lives. A marching band can’t stay together without a strong and defined beat. That beat comes from the field commander who not only sets the beat, but keeps it throughout the song. As long as the whole group is watching and listening to the leader, everything stays together. The Holy Spirit is our internal metronome (an instrument used to keep time)…He is our field commander and without His guidance, we get way off in life.
I read a great book by Francis Chan called “Forgotten God” that has really been convicting and helping me see that I’m guilty of being out of step with the Spirit. Paraphrasing a section Francis basically says, “I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for our lives. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in the moment, than about what we need to do next year…that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have purposes for our lives or that He doesn’t care what we do with them. If we are to do as Paul suggests in the Galatians passage above, “keeping in step and walking with the Spirit” we must be careful not to excuse ourselves from faithful and sacrificial living now. When we dwell on the future, it tends to create safe zones, where we can sit around and have “spiritual” conversations about what God “might” have planned for our lives. Thinking, questioning, and talking can take the place of letting the Spirit affect our immediate actions in radical ways. Nowhere in scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. We have in a sense asked Him to join us on our life’s journey, to follow us wherever we lead instead of allowing Him to be the leader.”
I was really challenged by the idea that I need to focus more on what God is doing in this moment or this day to change me and make me more like Jesus, than worrying about trying to figure out what direction he wants my entire life to be heading in. Keeping in step with the Spirit is a moment-by-moment activity…and those moments accumulate into a lifetime of choices. I need to deal with the issues and tests that are being hurled at me now. That Galatians passage names a few of the heart ailments (Paul calls them the acts of the flesh) that most of us deal with on a daily basis in some form or another. He says if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify those desires to sin. So that means being so closely in step with the Spirit moment by moment that there isn’t room for sin to creep in unnoticed. He says when we walk by the Spirit the result will be good fruit. That would be, “love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.”
I have committed this list to memory and pray everyday that God will help me to develop these in increasing measure. Living this way is not natural or easy…that’s why we have to have the Holy Spirit helping us. These are not called the fruit of the Josh (or insert your name)…they are fruit of the Spirit. It’s God’s Spirit working thru and in us that produces this result. If we aren’t closely listening and being sensitive to His leading each moment, we are in danger of leading ourselves and missing God’s best for our lives. The challenging part of all of this isn’t reading or even really contemplating these things, but being willing to submit to them. Submitting to the radical overtaking of God’s Spirit will change us and may even cause us to go places, do things, and interact with people we aren’t comfortable with…it’s a terrifying thought sometimes. However, when we walk in our own wisdom and go our own way, contrary to His leading, it’s even more terrifying.
I want more than anything to be led by God’s Spirit and to walk so closely in step with Him that others see Jesus and not me. I know people that I would say are filled with and are continually led by the Spirit and the fruits in their lives are very evident and beautiful. I pray that you’ll consider and work thru this passage again and again too and try to grasp how wonderful it is to march to the beat of God’s spiritual drum…trusting and leaning on Him thru each moment of your life.
Grace be with you,