Discipleship: Soaring, Running, and Walking

I just finished a book by John Ortberg in which he discusses Isaiah 40:31. Here’s a summary of what he says combined with my own thoughts.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.”

~Isaiah 40:31~

This is a beautiful picture of discipleship. There are three types of people in this verse: soarers, runners, and walkers. Most (if not all) of us will go through all three of these stages sooner or later in our relationship with the LORD as He teaches us and as we serve Him.

Sometimes we will be in a time of spiritual soaring. We are borne up on God’s power; we are soaring with the Spirit as we catch a gust of His Wind which takes us high almost effortlessly. This isn’t just a feeling of ecstasy that people often get from retreats, but it is the ease with which we find ourselves stepping out in faith, without fear, to serve God. It is then that we should be careful to be very grateful; we won’t always be soaring! We should also be careful to be obedient to all that the Spirit is asking us to do, praying that as we keep stepping out in faith that He will continue to bless us with soaring.

At other times, we may be able to run and not grow weary. Life isn’t effortless like soaring. We have to really work at it. But with persistence we are running the race. We may get frustrated, but we can also feel God’s pleasure at our obedience. Right now we need to keep running, relying on God’s strength for energy so that we might not grow weary.

And then there will be times when we won’t be soaring, and we can’t run — because of doubt or pain or fatigue or failure. In those times all we can do is walk and not faint. It isn’t crazy water-walking like what Peter did; it’s just plain, normal walking. All we can do is hang on, trust God, and just keep walking. Sometimes walking is the best we can offer God. But He understands all about that. Jesus walked (and fell) on the road to Calvary, bearing His cross. Sometimes that’s all we can do — bear our cross and put one foot in front of the other. We may fall, we may stumble, but, like Jesus, we just need to continue getting up again. Walking counts. We may not be soaring high above the pain or racing like the runners, but we should not compare ourselves to them. God often does some of His best work while we’re walking, persevering during suffering, pain, doubt, or failure.

So if you’re walking right now, know that there are runners and soarers in the body who would love to pray for you and bring you to the feet of the LORD. There are walkers who would love to walk (and fall) right alongside you. Know that Jesus is there — He’s with the soarers, the runners, and the walkers. I’m definitely walking right now. There are little spurts of running once in a while, but I am in a place of rocks and hills where all I can do is take a deep breath and keep going, one step at a time. I know that I just need to trust God, to hope in His truth, and to not stop walking. My prayer is that Abba might give me the strength to rejoice in Him and His goodness, despite the slow-going and falling. LORD, give me perseverance and grace to keep my eyes on Christ who has walked before me!

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