Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: Winning By Walking
Karl Wallenda, the great tightrope walker, fell to his death in 1978 from a seventy-five-foot high wire in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here’s what his wife, Helen, said about the fall:
All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.
He was virtually destined to fall.
As Christians we are commanded to walk in the Spirit. We are not commanded not to fall. Those who pursue not falling end up like Wallenda. Those who think about falling and failure never really walk. Galatians 5 teaches us how to walk and not fall. Today, with God’s help, we will walk with God.
The apostle Paul gives us these fighting words: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" Galatians (5:16). The opening word of this verse, But, is a response word. It’s a response to having healthy relationships and not hurting people.
Here is the verse before it: “But if you bite and devour one another; take heed you be not consumed one of another.” What Saint Paul is saying is that “if you continue to criticize and come against each other over minor issues, you’re acting like wild beasts trying to destroy one another!” (verse 15). Paul is saying, Do you want to not fall into criticism and hurting one another?
He didn’t say “bind the devil” or be free from a critical spirit or even “just stop it.” He said that we can win if we walk.
Just like Wallenda. Walk!
Walk in the Spirit.
A father and son arrived in a small western town looking for an uncle whom they had never seen. Suddenly, the father, pointing across the square to a man who was walking away from them, exclaimed, “There goes my uncle!”
“How do you know when you have not seen him before?” his son asked.
“Son, I know him because he walks exactly like my father.”
If we walk in the Spirit, the world should know us by our walk.
The apostle Paul said walking is a weapon. It’s how we fight. When we walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
What is the flesh?
That is our old sinful nature that is always popping up. In fact, we find a whole list of those fleshly desires in verses 19-21:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: Adultery, fornication, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
To try to fight each one of them would take a lifetime, and even at that, winning seems impossible. So Paul says, “Here’s how you fight. If you walk by the Spirit, you will not fulfill those fleshly desires.”
This is important: he did not say they won’t come and attack you. People think that once you become a Christian, you won’t have evil thoughts any more. Paul says, that’s not true, you will get the desire, but you don’t have to fulfill the crazy thought. Because walking in the Spirit is now your focus.
It’s not a run or a jog but a walk. Even a child can walk. But for the Christian, that walk is valuable. Why?
A Christian can commit any sin a non-Christian can commit but he can’t commit it without a fight. Because when we walk in the Spirit, God is helping us to keep moving forward. We need the Holy Spirit to walk.
- Every time you choose to go to church, you are walking in the Spirit.
- Every time you choose your family over yourself, you are walking in the Spirit.
- Every time you choose to spend time in the Bible, you are walking in the Spirit.
- Every time you choose to be kind, to be generous, you are walking in the Spirit.
- Walking is your weapon. Walking is how you win. Just keep moving forward.
The best story about winning with walking is the children of Israel. When they left Egypt after four hundred years of slavery, they came to the Red Sea. The Egyptians decided they wanted them back. They wanted the old relationship with them, just as our desires of the flesh want us back. So they hunted them down. The children of Israel had the Egyptians behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. What did God tell them to do? He did not tell them to fight the Egyptians, to fight the past, to fight the old enemy.
God told them to walk . . . walk in unchartered territory. He wanted them to walk through the Red Sea. God split the sea in half and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground. When they got to the other side, the Egyptians tried to follow them, and God closed the water on top of them. They beat the Egyptians by just walking forward.
Your past will try to come after you, but you can outwalk it every time when you walk in the Spirit.
The story is told about a little boy who was flying a kite. It was a windy day, and the kite kept going higher and higher. Finally it got so high that it was out of sight. A man passed by and saw the little boy holding onto the string. The man could not see the kite, and he asked the boy, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?” The boy replied, “Because I can feel it.” Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we should be able to sense His work in our lives changing us and helping us to walk each day.