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Your Spiritual Journey

Every person on the planet is constantly in motion. We are always moving. For example, scientists tell us that the earth’s continents are slowly drifting apart. They figure that North America moving at a rate of about 2 to 4 inches every year. And actually in 2011 when Japan had that large earthquake and tsunami – it moved Japan about 8 feet closer to our west coast. That’s amazing! That’s some serious motion.

And not only are our continents moving – the entire planet is in motion. You know how the sun comes up every morning and goes down every evening? That’s because the earth is spinning in an easterly direction at about 1000 miles per hour. Not only that, the earth screaming through space in an orbit around the sun at about 67,000 mph. That’s a lot of movement!

But the sun is moving too… Our entire solar system is rotating within our galaxy at a speed of about 500,000 mph. And if that still doesn’t blow your mind, our galaxy is not only rotating, but it is also moving away from other galaxies at a rate of about 1.2 million mph.

That means, even if you were to try and stand perfectly still within your own home, you would actual move approximately the distance between here and Cuba!

The fact is, from the day you are born to the day you die, you are always moving. You’re never standing still.

And that leads me into what I want to talk about today. Just like we are always physically moving, we are also always spiritually moving. From the day we are born to the day we die, we are on a spiritual journey. Everyone of us. It doesn’t matter if we are a Christian, or an atheist, or a muslim, or a hindu, or a whatever else. We’re all on a spiritual journey. The difference, of course, is where our journey leads us. (And we’re going to get into that a little bit later on.)

But all of us are on a spiritual journey. We’re either moving towards God or away from Him. There’s no standing still in this journey.

So where are you in your spiritual journey right now? What direction are you heading? Are you moving towards God? Or are you moving away from God? Because there’s no standing still. You’re always moving in one direction or another.

We’re all at different points in our spiritual journey. Some of us have just started out, others have been on this journey for a long time. Maybe some of us have gotten lost along the way and we’re not even sure where we are or where we’re going.

So I want to help you do three things. Now I might not be able to do this all today – but I at least want to start the process, I want to help you….

#1. Understand where you are.

You know when you go to the zoo or an amusement park or the mall and they have the big map with the big red star that says “YOU ARE HERE”. Well, that’s what I want to help you find – the YOU ARE HERE in your spiritual journey. It’s hard to know which way to go, unless you know where you’re starting from. That’s the first step – knowing where you are.

The second thing I want to help you do is to #2. Know where you are going. On any journey, its important to know where you’re trying to go. I have song on one of my old CDs called “First Class – Wrong Flight”.  It’s all about a guy who mistakenly gets on the wrong flight, but because the flight is pretty full, he gets bumped up to first class – so he just sits back and enjoys the pleasure of flying first class – regardless of the fact that he’s on the wrong flight! But the moral of the story is, you might travel in the lap of luxury and have just a wonderful journey – but if you’re on the wrong flight, in the end you’re going to wind up in place where you don’t really want to be. And that’s so true in our spiritual journey. I would hate for any of us to travel first class, but be on the wrong flight! So I really want to help you know where your going in your spiritual journey.

And finally, I want to help you #3. Take steps to get there. After you know where you are, and you know where you want to be, the next question is – how do I get there? How do I move closer to my end goal? What’s the next step in my spiritual journey? And my hope is that, along with the rest of your church family here, we can help you take those next steps. And that’s really the point of all this – taking those next steps – whatever they may be, so that we can move forward in our spiritual journey.

So to help guide us along in this process, I’ve got a little handout that I’d like you to take a look at. The boys are coming around right now to hand them out along with some pens. It’s a little chart called “Your Spiritual Journey”. And basically, there are seven descriptive terms of where you might be in your spiritual journey.

The seven terms are “Not interested, curiously seeking, searching assertively, faith commitment, experiencing new life, growing in community, and making disciples.” You might think of these categories as seven phases of your spiritual journey. (And do remember that this is only a guide – it’s not a hard and fast “this is how it is for everyone. It’s just a guide to get you thinking.)

So underneath each of those terms are a few statements that go along with it. For example, under “Not Interested” it says…

  • Aware, but not very interested.
  • “Ok for you, but it’s not for me.”
  • Negative view of Christianity.
  • Believe all religions are the same.
  • Have an indifferent attitude towards spiritual things.

If any of those phrases seem to fit you, then you might identify with that category (you might be in that phase of your spiritual journey) – that you are ‘Not interested’ in a relationship with God at this time. Does that make sense?

So what I want you to do right now, is to read through those descriptions on your own and just try to evaluate which statements may be true of you. Maybe underline the ones that you think might apply. The idea behind this is to help you see that big red star that says “You are here.” Hopefully this will give you an idea of where you are in your spiritual journey.

And as you go through these, you may not fit neatly under one category. In fact, most of us probably won’t. Probably most of you could identify with two or three categories, right? And that’s just fine, because, like I said, this is just a guide. Your spiritual journey is unique. You don’t fit neatly in a box. But I hope that gives you a quick idea of where you are in your spiritual journey and that maybe you can begin to get some ideas for what next steps you might need to take in order to keep moving forward.

Paul talks a lot about this idea of moving forward in our spiritual journey. He was never one to be complacent with where he was in his relationship with God. He always wanted to become more like Christ – to know God more intimately – to serve him more effectively. He was always striving to move forward.

One of the best examples of this is in Philippians 3:12. In this passage Paul writes…

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

Now think about this for a minute. If Paul was looking at this spiritual journey chart today, which category do you think he would fit in? Probably in the last phase, right? Making disciples?

Because, really, what do you think – Does this describe Paul?

  • Crave intimacy with God through spiritual disciplines.
  • Share their faith effectively.
  • Mentor others spiritually.
  • Give generously.
  • Serve their community.
  • Understand the centrality of the Gospel in their lives.

From what I know about Paul, I’d say that describes Paul pretty well. So does that mean his journey was over? He’s in that last column – does that mean that He had finally arrived? No. Even at this stage in the game for Paul – he was still striving to move forward in this journey with God. He had not yet arrived. He had further to go.

That’s the case for all of us too. Regardless of where we are in our spiritual journey, all of us have further to go. We can’t be content staying where we are. Because remember, you never really stand still in your spiritual journey – you are either moving towards God – or away from Him.

Our family spent the last few days out at Camp Silversides for family camp. It was actually pretty good – the kids got to go down the zip line, float around on paddle boards, learn some survival skills, and yesterday we got to go fishing for a little while. And it was interested, when we went fishing, a whole bunch of us loaded up onto a platoon boat and went a good distance out into the lake and then east down the shoreline. The boat driver turned off the engine and we fished for a while! Before too long, the boat driver fired up the engines again and was going to go east again. I thought he was just going to find us a better fishing spot, but that’s when I realized that we had drifted west pretty much back to where we had started from! I was completely oblivious to the fact that while it seemed like we were standing still, we was actually drifting back across the lake.

And that’s just what happens in our spiritual journey as well. If you are not actively moving forward, you can be sure that you’re actually drifting backwards You may not notice it for a while, but one day you look up, and realize just how far away you’ve drifted.

We gotta keep moving forward. And that’s what Paul focused on.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

You see it doesn’t matter so much about where we came from – what we’ve been through – how we’ve blown it in the past. What’s important is where we go from here. And Paul certainly knew about that. If anyone had a rocky start to their spiritual journey – Paul certainly did.

I mean, He was a murderer! He went around imprisoning and killing Christians. If we were to find Paul on the chart back then, man, we’d have to make a whole new category – maybe label it “vehemently opposed” or “dedicated to destroying Christianity”. If anyone began their journey far from God – it was Paul!

But Paul wasn’t so concerned with where he started – he was concerned with where he was going. He was determined to reach the end of his race and receive his heavenly prize!

And we get this same idea in Hebrews. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

I think most of us have experienced times where we feel stalled out in our spiritual journey. Like we’ve plateaued. Or we’ve backslid. Or we’ve just gotten completely confused and lost. Maybe the weights of life have slowed us down – maybe we’ve let sin tangle and trip us up. Maybe we even feel disqualified from the race.

But we’re not disqualified. We’re not out of it. Jesus has called us to follow him – and he knows that we’re going to stumble and fall. And He loves us anyway. He doesn’t give up on us. He is the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. In other words, it was his idea to invite us on this journey in the first place – and he is going to be with us through it all. All we need to do is to keep our eyes on Him.

After all, he is the champion. He is the one who has won the race. When He died on the cross and rose again three days later, he defeated sin and death. He took the punishment for all of your failings – all of your mistakes – all of your sin. And in exchange, He gave you the victory that He won!

So we don’t ever have to feel disqualified – because Jesus has already won the race for us! All that’s left for us to do is to finish the race – to run it with endurance and to finish strong!

And so I really want to encourage you this morning to keep moving forward. Keep pressing on. Keep running the race – taking just one step at a time.

As you look at that handout and you kind see where you are right now in your spiritual journey – what are the next steps that you need to take?

Maybe you’re somewhere on the left side and perhaps your next step is to start learning more about who this Jesus is? Maybe you need to ask someone some questions about the Bible or about God or a whole bunch of other things. I know there are all kinds of people here today – myself included, who would love to help you answer some of those questions. Maybe you want to start reading the Bible for yourself – maybe you want to join a Bible study – I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

Or maybe you find yourself more in the middle of that chart. Perhaps you’re starting to get a grasp of who God and what he’s done for you, and maybe you’re ready to commit your life to Him – but you just need to take that step. Maybe it’s time for you to make that public declaration that you’re going to follow Jesus by being baptized?

Or maybe you’ve done all that and you’re learning to live in obedience to God right now – but maybe there’s an area of your life that you struggle to give over to God. Maybe you’re reluctant to put God in control of your money or your relationships or your habits? Perhaps there’s a step you need to take to hand those things over to Him.

Or maybe you’re somewhere on the right side. Maybe at one, you were even way over on the far right side, but you kinda stopped moving forward and have drifted away since then.

And so maybe today you need to get back on track. Maybe you need need to deal with some sin that’s crept up in your life – maybe you need to get untangled from all that stuff. Maybe you need to make a new commitment to get to know and follow Jesus once again. Maybe you need to find someone who can run with you for the next leg of the race and help you stay on track.

But whatever you need to do – whatever next step you need to take in your spiritual journey – I’d sure encourage you to take that step today. Consider today a fresh start and once again start moving forward in our journey with God. Because we’re not there yet. We still have further to go. Like Paul, we need to press on to reach the end of the race and to receive our heavenly prize!

If we jump down a few verses in this chapter here in Hebrews 12 to verse 12 & 13 – the writer gives us a vivid call to action. He says…

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Hebrews 12:12-13

This is my prayer for all of us. As a church we want to help you to take a new grip with your tired hands, to strengthen your weak knees. And we want to help you mark out a straight path in your spiritual journey, so that you will not fall, but become strong.

That’s one of the reasons why I strongly encourage you to get involved in either our ladies group or this new men’s group that we’re starting up. We really want to come alongside you in your journey – to encourage you and pick you up when you fall and to just help you to run with endurance the race that is set before you.

And of course, while we’re going to do our best to help you along, it’s going to be God that will lead you. I think most of you are familiar with the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. The basic idea is that a man has a dream where His journey through life is represented by footprints in the sand. And there is two sets of footprints, because God is walking with Him in his journey.  But when the man looks back at the hardest times in his life, he sees only one set of footprints and He assumes that God left him during those times. Well, God assures him that he never left him – the single set of footprints was when God carried him.

Well, I found a comic on the internet that takes that a little further.

Now I don’t know how theologically correct that idea is – of God dragging us through life, but it sure seems like sometimes we need someone to drag us along. I think, actually, that’s the job of the church. We’re instructed in Hebrews chapter 10 to spur each other on to love and good deeds. In other words, to lovingly give each other a good swift kick in the pants when we need it.

So I hope that today’s message will start to do that a little bit for you. If you’re stalled out, or your lost and confused, or even if you’ve been going the wrong direction, I hope that together, we can drag you through the sand – get you back on track, to strengthen you, to encourage you, and to mark out a straight path for your feet.

I know that’s certainly something I need in my life. Perhaps you do too.

I want to close with a prayer from Psalms 25. I think this is pretty applicable to us today.

Psalm 25:4-5 says…

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.

5 Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalm 25:4-5

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