I'm going to preach "Seven Godly Things I Learned Biking" today.
Pedal biking, or "cycling," is a lot of things to a lot of people of all ages. It's transportation, and exercise. It's cool fun. It's our occasional freedom from complicated machines. And a way to get back in touch with nature after so much other technology sort of makes us couch potato zombies.
It's also a way to get in touch with what ails us, and ride toward healing.
It's a hobby that can become a way of life. It's good clean fun, which leaves everyone really dirty.
Most of all, for me anyway, it's recreation.
"If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" says the word, and I always feel more creative, and more created after riding, and more ready for the next challenge.
Have you ever fallen in love with a bike? Every bike is lovable, even the roadside and campus disposables.
Can you remember your first bike? Mine was an orange five speed "banana" bike.
Can you remember your favorite bike?
I have a 1958 English 3-speed Ray Bicycle, a red "sports" version, the intermediate model sandwiched between the country "Roadster" and the fastest three speed, the "Club" model (sheldonbrown.com/english-3.html). I don't ride it much. It's more like a work of art, and mid twentieth century English working class transportation history, a piece of furniture, and clothesline.
My bike shop spotwelded the cracked steel seat and rebuilt the front hub and then a Southington re-upolsteror covered the seat real nice. So it's a total survivor. It weighs a lot, almost forty pounds, and has steel rims that no pothole could bend. It's all original too.
It's not great on hills, but it's good on the flats and the trail, a townie bike.
A British guy in a coat and tie on the New Haven Green saw this bike, and asked me what year it was. I didn't know, so he went right over to the rear hub and smeared off the grime and revealed "1958" etched into the rear Sturmey Archer 3- speed internal hub, made in Nottingham England.
This bike brought him back to his humble youth. Here God used this mere bike to break down all cultural and human barriers with a stranger.
The biggest challenge to biking these days is fear of cars, and with good reason, so many folks drive crazy, won't take their foot off the gas and share the road. So my advice is ride in such a way so as to always stay alive. Sometimes that means we must be very defensive. I have no shame in getting off the bike, and off the road if necessary, in certain totally unsafe stretches of road, say the south end of Rt 7 in Lenox Massachusetts or in Rutland VT, where your only safe and legal alternative is to brave the rutty sidewalks.
And other times we have to be totally offensive and get out into traffic and take the whole lane, and suffer insults and curses, rather than get bumped off the road.
Anyway, here's seven Godly things I learned from biking. Take it for what it's worth, one cyclist to another.
1. Never Lose Your Beginner's Enthusiasm.
1Peter2,2: "Like new born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Biking brings us back to when the training wheels first came off in our lives and we were hungry for new experiences, a time when we weren't too afraid of wipeouts.
A person on a bike never grows old and is always searching for more life.
Just like the first days of our salvation. I'll never forget my first taste of eternal life that came on the day I surrendered to God and agreed that "Jesus is Lord."
The first big ride I took, the ride that made me a road bike enthusiast, was shortly before I became a Christian, in my mid twenties. I was a total beginner. I had no clips, no helmit, no shoes, no kit or kaboodle, but I had a Univega. It was the longest one day I ride of my life and still is. I rode farther than I probably ever will that day because I didn't know any better. I knew nothing of the protocols, or the marks of achievmement, or the lingo and special equipment about biking.
I just got on the bike and got to a destination.
This is sort of what happens to folks who come to the Lord Jesus for the first time. We have a destination, heaven or Zion, or both, and a beautiful ending. And from the start we get filled with a beginner's enthusiasm. We want to tell everybody what Jesus has done for us. And then we just start going out and doing the gospel, as a beginner, not knowing any better, not knowing any of the lingo.
When I survey my cross or look at a steep hill, it's now not time to despair, because I still have a connection to my beginner's enthusiasm for both Jesus and the bike.
Once we get this bike and gospel enthusiasm in us no bible college or seminary or deacon's board or big hill can take it out of us. I remember the times I first started doing deliverance in earnest, at a County jail in Clovis New Mexico, not because I particularly knew what I was doing, but because I had a beginner's enthusiasm.
As the bike author Grant Petersen puts it in his 2012 book "Just Ride", when it comes to faith and biking the point is to "just ride."
So many Christians and bike afficionados get lost in the numbers and the posing, that we might lose our first taste of salvation, of real joy, that first taste when it's all just plain fun.
That's the number one Godly lesson from biking: we remember our beginner's enthusiasm, equal parts gratitude and Holy Ghost fire.
2. Biking Teaches Us To Stick To The Essentials of Life.
Before, during and after a bike ride there are three essentials.
Water- John7,37: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me as the scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from him."
Food-John6,55: "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."
Rest-Matthew11,28: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
Both biking and salvation teach us about the essential priorities in life, like we can't live forever, or ride forever, without water, food and rest.
I also have learned that energy drinks are fine in moderation, and Christians fads come and go, but if you guzzle them watch out they are often so sweet that they will turn your stomach.
Plain Water, real drink, goes down easier, especially with real food.
The word also says "don't muzzle an ox while threshing." That is, let him or her eat as much as he or she wants. This is pretty much true about biking. If you are on the bike all day, you can eat all day. Anything over 10 miles and dieting don't really mix. You would think we wouldn't need that much energy to keep biking, but we really do.
Experienced cyclists know to eat for energy, before, during and after the ride.
Biking is also about four other essentials- there's you, the bike, the road, and the weather. We can't improve the last two, so that means we're left pretty much with the bike and us.
You don't need to be real athletic to become a proficient cyclist- and even get really good at it- it just takes a certain say biblical committment.
As to improving our bikes, that's almost limitless and much easier than improving ourselves. But more important than a fancy or expensive bike is a bike that fits you, and one that you will use.
Beware of cheap bikes, they break down often, and will wear you out, and in one or two seasons cost you way more in repairs and aggravation than you saved on the price.
It's all about the essentials. We need real food and real drink, and rest, a dependable bike, a biblical level of committment, or we're not really a cyclist yet, or a Christian yet.
That's the second Godly thing I learned about biking.
3. Flats, Crosses And Hills Often Come In Bunches
There's no real easy way to fix a flat, pick up your cross, or overcome a hill. This is learned behavior, learned suffering, learned overcoming.
You ever see those "clean and jerk" weight lifters where they take the weight from the ground over their heads in one motion. It takes a lot of strength to do that. But more than that it takes a learned technique, a discipline, a willingness to suffer for a while just to keep steady.
Jesus said "pick up your cross and follow me." And like the Apostle Peter we might be really eager and say "oh Jesus I'll never deny you. I'll never stand in your way. I'll never betray you" and then within one night do so three times.
The risen Jesus restored Peter and taught him some things, like how to suffer for doing good, how to pick up his cross:
"But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ sufferred for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." 2Peter2,20-21.
Picking up our cross, like fixing flats, and overcoming hills, takes more than brute strength, or a beginner's enthusiasm, it takes a willingness to suffer, some technique, and some good preparation, over a considerable period of time. It took Jesus 30 years to start his ministry and pick up his cross, so no matter how long it takes us to change a flat or conquer a hill, we can learn to do it.
That's the third Godly thing I learned from biking. Flats, crosses and hills often come in bunches.
4. Fast Is Cool But The Grace Of The Downhill Is Sublime
Can you imagine how fast Martha was in trying to prepare dinner for Jesus? And there was Mary her sister sitting at Jesus' feet listening, choosing the better part, the downhill part.
Jesus was doing the teaching, and the infilling, all she had to do was sit and listen. Martha was going too fast to listen.
And how fast Martha was to meet him on the road after her brother had died and sort of complained "if you had been here my brother wouldn't have died." John11,20 And then there's Mary, waiting for Jesus to call for her, just coasting downhill, making Jesus cry with her devoted love and faith (John11,35).
Remember how fast Simon the Sorceror wanted to buy the Holy Ghost power, whereas the Apostles tarried in Jerusalem for it. The apostles were just as keen on receiving the Holy Ghost, but they were not in such a mad rush that they thought they could buy it.
In biking and faith we don't have to always be rushing and fussing because God gives us downhill moments of grace, moments when He's doing all the work, when all we have to do is point the bike down the hill, point the skis down the mountain.
When the first four apostles Andrew, Peter, John and James met Jesus and were called by him, they had a downhil grace moment. They dropped their labor right then and there. They dropped their nets and they fell into the down hill grace of following the Lord they just found.
There's great joy in downhill grace. Like when we first realize we have a savior and a Lord and we can run to him always, and get help and get answers.
Or think of Joseph when he forgave his jealous brothers who ganged up on him and sold him as a slave to a caravan of Ismaelite traders on their way to Egypt. At first they left him for dead in a ditch on the side of the road, but then thought better of it and instead sold him out (Genesis37,27). And, you know the story, Joseph, the slave rose up to leadership and prominance in Egypt, became Pharoah's right hand man. And then his brothers from Israel came to Egypt, hats in hand, begging to buy grain for there was famine in the land, a famine that would have wiped out the small clan of Israel. They don't recognize Joseph, but he recognizes them, and now the tables are turned.
And imagine how hard it would be for Joseph to forgive them. In the flesh it's hard to forgive. But the grace and righteousnss of God overwhelmed Joseph and He revealed that it was for good that he came to Egypt because now he had the power to keep his family, God's remnant alive: "And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." Genesis45,5
All his suffering, the false accusations of Potiphar's wife, losing his father and patrimony, and his favored son status, was all overcome when he let God overwhelm him with a downhill grace of forgiveness.
We must not resist such downhill moments of grace in our lives. They more than make up for the suffering of the hills and crosses. They refresh us and keep us going and re-arrange our lives toward gratitude no matter what.
5. Stay With Your Planned Route
As in life as in biking, there are many opportunities to improvise and adapt and MacGyver things, all of which are sometime totally necessary. But watch out, when it comes to salvation and biking it's best to stay on our planned route. If we are on a long bike trip and we get completely off track, it's no bueno. You only have so much energy, and a mistake might leave you sleeping with the wolves. So, it's best to keep to the planned route, and the Word of God.
John Bunyan in 1678 wrote a book called "Pilgrim's Progress" about all the blessings and pitfalls and twist and turns on the path from this world to the next. He began this book while in Bedfordshire county prison for violating the Conventicle Act that required all religious services to be held in the state Church of England.
But the cool thing was pilgrim Bunyan planned on keeping the path, keeping the word.
Joshua1,7 puts it this way. This book is about the journey into and take the promised land: "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."
Likewise Joshua23,8 which adds "But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God as you have until now."
For Christians Jesus is the path and Lord to whom we hold fast. Jesus is also the Word, and shortcuts might well lead us into the brambles. So hold fast to him, the way the truth and the life.
I was coming south into Great Barrington Massachusetts on Route 7 south, and between the Monument Valley Highshool and Middle Shcool, there was a green sign at the beginning of Monument Valley Road that said "Bike Route." So I figured it will be all marked, take me around town and get me back to Route 7 south no problem. So I followed it for about 10 miles and there were no signs at all, and and I got to a stop sign with Route 23 east and west and asked a motorist if what was now "Blue Lake" road would take me back to Route 7, but "he didn't know." And neither did I. So I went racing another four miles on this Blue Lake Road and spied an Appalachin trailhead. So I pulled off the road, looked at the map and realized I was about to add about fifty miles to my planned route.
Spontaneity is great and I'm all for it, but as back country ski rescuers know, you can get in a heap of trouble when you don't know where you are and where you're going.
God gave us a planned route in Jesus. The route is written in the bible. He is the way and the truth and the life. There's plenty of spontaneity and personality, and twists and turns on His path from this present world to the next.
So just like on the bike it's best to stick with the planned route.
6. Our Limits On The Bike And In Faith Are Most Often In Our Own Mind.
James1,6: "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."
I've ridden long and far, but I don't always expect to. Doubts on the bike can creep in. My last trip the Lord was after me to plan on going really far the first day. That way, I'd be able to get home by the third day. And I was doubting and trying to split the difference, and it wasn't til I got to the first potential stopping point on that first day that I agreed with Him, and said I'm going the whole way the Lord said to go. I would have split the diffrence and done less, but the motel I called, at the split the difference point, the line was busy, so I said I'm going the whole way, period.
Most of our limits in faith and on the bike are in our own minds. God isn't limited. John G. Lake the Great Apostle of Faith, would make fun of our North American attitude whereby every business had "ltd" after it, that is short for limited. And so many of our cars "ltd" editions too. And that's exactly the way we think. Mary and John Christian, ltd.
And we may not have the greatest bike either, but the real limits are not in our bikes but in our own minds.
Have you ever been in organization where they have their customs, idols, sacred cows and say "we can't do that here." Well you can do that here, and there. But our minds have been limited by our environments, by the human minds around us, and our own limited minds, rather than opened to what God says, and can do. He's unlimted.
"Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God can do for those who love Him." 1Corinthians2,9
We have a miracle based faith and miracle working God and he plans to bring us way beyond our limits, if we let him. On the bike and in faith too.
7. Never Turn Back And Keep An Eye On The Joy of The Finish
At Galatians4,8-10 Paul tells the leading Christians in Galatia, that are backsliding, that they must not return to their worldly religious mindset now that they have been saved by grace:
"But formerly when you did not know God, you were kept in slavery to things which are not really gods at all, 9 whereas now that you have come to recognize God- or rather be recognized by God- how can you now turn bak again to those powerless and bankrupt elements whose slaves you now want to be all over again? 10 You are keeping special days, and months, and seasons and years- I am beginning to be afraid that I may, after all, have wasted my efforts on you."
Nobody likes to think that their efforts on a bike or elsewhere have gone to waste.
About three years ago I finishing up a long day on the bike, and I had gone out too hard in the morning and I had overshot my stopping point in Williamstown Massachuseets by about 12 miles and I was "bonked," meaning I was off the bike, light headed, totally done for the day. I didn't have GPS and didn't know that about two miles up the hill there was a motel and I could have got there no problem.
So a nice lady took me back 12 miles into Williamstown, but that's 12 miles I would have to do again tommorrow. That's wasted effort!
Now in faith if we're stumbling and bumbling, and disoriented, just like when that happens on the bike, it's better to fall forward than backslide 12 miles. Luke 9,62: "Once the hand is laid to the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jesus never turned back, He "set his face like flint"(Luke 9,52, Isaiah50,7), that is hard, towards Jerusalem. As the song says "I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back."
The folks in Galatia wanted to turn back to the religious things they knew. They got pressed and they turned back. When we get pressed it's always best to keep going forward, no matter how slowly. Jesus never went backward.
No turning back on the bike and in faith gives way to the joy of finishing.
Sometimes in the middle of our life, or in the middle of our faith, and the middle of a long ride, the joy of the finish seems far far away. But it really isn't. Life is short and eternity is long, so we best take the measure of our days and plan how we want to finish our rides and our lives.
The Apostle Paul kept his joyous finish in mind. At Acts20,22ff Paul speaks how the Holy Ghost has taken him captive, captive so that he would finish his witness in Jerusalem where he thought his course would likely end (but didn't). Listen to the joy of abandoning onself to the service of God and the joy of finishing the course:
"But I make account of none of these [his expected persecutions], neither do I count I my life as precious to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministration that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify fully the gospel of the grace of God." v.24 Young's Lietral Translation.
In service to the Lord, and on the bike, sometimes suffering makes us forget our own selves, and thereby become our most human and effective, ready to taste the joy of finishing the ride.
Keep on Faithing And Riding
That's my message, seven Godly things I learned biking.
And by the way, find a good local bike shop, and treat them right, and perhaps a bible based church too.
Forget the saddle sores- just keep on faithing. Be like Joseph in Egypt- fix every flat, save all your brothers. And like Jesus in Getsemane, who did Joseph one better, keep going forward. Keep on riding, thankful for every pedal stroke that takes you one bit closer to our finish, before our Lord and maker Jesus, whose limitless mercy is offered to all.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...