Summer in Minnesota is glorious! The landscape is emerald green, the waters of the lakes are shimmering blue, and the flowers burst with a panoply of colors. The temperature is perfect and Minnesotans come out of their winter cocoons to take full advantage of the outdoors. We have more fishermen and golfers per capita than practically any state in the union! We have to. Summer is too short and winter is too long. We have to take full advantage of every day.
One of the outdoor activities Elsie and I recently enjoyed was canoeing down the St. Croix River, about a two hour trip. For seniors like Elsie and me that’s a lot of paddling! We were pretty exhausted by the time we docked the canoe. In the course of canoeing I made mental note of three spiritual lessons (it’s what we pastors do, you know). Here they are:
1. If you stop paddling you don’t stay where you are.
We were on a river and were being swept slowly downstream. To stop paddling was to continue moving in the direction of the current. So, too, in the Christian life. We never stand still. We are always moving toward Christ or away from Him. Like a river, if we stop walking in the light we don’t stay in the light; we move in the direction of the darkness. The darkness is always trying to pull us away from the light and unless we paddle the darkness wins. John teaches us, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).
2. You must steer your canoe to stay on course.
As the canoeist in the rear of the canoe, it was my job to steer the canoe and keep it on course. If I failed to do my job we could crash into the shore. In the Christian life we must be equally as intentional. To fail to steer our spiritual life through daily time in prayer and the Word, through regular worship with the saints, through systematic tithing, through serving with our spiritual gifts is to fail to steer our spiritual life. It moves us perilously close to crashing into the world. Christians are to be in the world without being of the world. James puts it this way, “. . . friendship with the world is hostility toward God . . . one who is a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4-italics mine).
3. The stability of the canoe is paramount. Canoes can be easily tipped.
Canoes are long and narrow and thus pretty unstable. They can easily tip over and throw the canoeists overboard. This means that canoeists must sit and not stand. It is equally easy to tip over the Christian life. The influence of unbelievers, whether they be friends or university profs, can rock our spiritual life. Many a believing young person has been spiritually tipped over by an unbelieving friend. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us about “friends” like this, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’.”
What’s the bottom line lesson of canoeing? Christians must . . .
Keep on paddling in Jesus,