When my grandchildren come to visit, one of our favorite activities is going to visit one of the many gorgeous nature parks near my home. We live in coastal North Carolina, which has a wide variety of natural habitats to explore that also include a few species of venomous snakes and alligators.
When we walk along the trails I have two rules: don’t run ahead and don’t lag behind. If one of my grandchildren were to run ahead of me on the trail, the child may unintentionally cross the path of a venomous snake sunning itself on the gravel path. If they lag behind, they might get lost on the trail. For their safety, I require them to keep in step with me. I can keep an eye on them and protect them from harm while enjoying their company and teaching them about God’s creation in the beautiful outdoors.
God has the same requirement for us. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
God wants us to enjoy an abundant Christian life, but in order to accomplish that, we must “keep in step with the Spirit.” If we try to run ahead of God’s plans for our lives, we might find ourselves in an unexpected and tragic situation. If we lag behind and lose sight of Him, we become lost and have to play catch-up. God wants us to walk in step with Him so we can enjoy the safety of His presence, develop a closer relationship with Him and grow in understanding so we can help others walk in step with Him as well.
How do we keep in step with the Spirit? First, we don’t run ahead or make plans without God beside us. James 4:13–15 talks to us about making plans: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. … Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
We have no idea what our lives will bring us, which is why we need to spend time reading God’s Word and praying so He can direct our steps. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Before we make any plans or decisions about our lives, we need to spend time in prayer asking God which direction He has planned for us.
How many times have you made plans only to see them fall through? Running ahead of what God has planned for us only creates chaos and disorder in our lives.
The Ohio State University marching band is renowned for creating intricate routines and amazing displays at halftime shows on football fields with their band members. Each member has to be in perfect step, in perfect time, or the performance falls apart. Can you imagine the confusion that would be caused by one member stepping ahead of the plan? It would disrupt the perfection of the show. When we try to run ahead of what God has planned for us, we disrupt His perfect design for our lives.
We might think God’s plan is taking too much time to accomplish, which is our reason for running ahead, but keeping in step with Him will assure us we are in the right place. Our society places a high value on obtaining everything now. God’s plan often requires us to slow down and wait. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25 ESV).
Waiting for the Lord, slowing down and letting Him guide your steps is a guarantee you will be in the right place, at the right time and for the right reasons.
The second part of keeping in step with the Spirit involves not lagging behind God. When we don’t spend time in His Word each day, when we don’t communicate with Him in prayer or when we allow ourselves to become distracted by people or activities along our path, we lag behind God. Then we find ourselves in a precarious situation, and we run to catch up with Him so we can throw our problems at His feet. Or, worse, we stop where we are and don’t move because we aren’t sure of the path we should follow. We become lost on our journey because we have lost sight of our guide.
We read stories in the news about children and adults who have become lost in the woods. Most of the time it is because they left the path and wandered off by themselves. They become distracted by a bird, an animal or maybe a flower. Many times, they are close to the path but end up meandering in the forest getting more and more lost.
Perhaps you read the story of two men who got lost in Louisiana. They became lost in a swampy forest and walked for almost three days before being rescued. When they were located, they were dehydrated and hallucinating. Just 200 yards from where they were found was an old hunting trail. Even more incredible was the fact they were less than a mile away from a housing development. They were so close but yet so far from help.
Proverbs 4:25–26 are wonderful verses about keeping in step with the Spirit so we don’t lag behind: “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”
Focusing on the path ahead of us and keeping in step with our guide will prevent us from becoming distracted and wandering away. It is easy to find ourselves becoming preoccupied with the events and people in our lives. Financial worries and family problems can quickly overwhelm us. There is no worse feeling, though, than losing your way when you could have been safe all along by keeping in step with God.
As we learn to walk in step with the Spirit and to live our lives in close communion with God, we will discover not only safety in His presence but peace and contentment as well. When we know God is walking beside us and has our best interests in His heart, it will give us confidence and assurance in our lives. We will learn wonderful lessons at His side and enjoy the blessings of living a life in harmony with Him. We will be tempted to run ahead when it seems His plan is slow, and we will lag behind when we are distracted by the world around us. However, when we realize we aren’t keeping in step with Him and quickly return to His side we will once again discover the security that only a close relationship with Him can provide.
Lynne Stamm is a writer whose published works include books, Sunday school curriculum and articles in a variety of publications. She has degrees in elementary education and Christian education.
- How might a person run ahead of (or lag behind) God’s plans for his or her life?
- What can you do to try to avoid wandering off God’s path?