Over Father’s Day last year, we went camping along the shores of Lake Erie. While enjoying some of the first real “beach days” of the season, we were introduced to a new kind of surfing: Kite Surfing. The sport appeared to be akin to windsurfing, for the purpose of the fun was not to surf waves, but to simply be propelled over the water by the power of the wind. Instead of having a sail attached to their surf boards however, the adventurous surfers wore an elaborate harness connecting them to the largest kites we had ever seen.
When the kites reached the right height and were in the correct position for the wind to create enough pull, these surfers would step up on their surf boards and enjoy the ride of their lives. They were connected to the wind through their kites, and nothing could deter them in their quest. The wind was their guide to unforgettable adventure, and they moved right, left, north and south, wherever it propelled them. Sometimes they would even tip over into the water, but somehow the huge kites overhead always seemed to help them get back up on their boards.
What a life-floating over the challenging waters, totally at the will of the wind. In reflecting on these kites, I realize that our lives can also be lived this way. How? By depending upon the Holy Spirit, OUR wind! “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal 5:16 NIV); and “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14 NIV) When we live by the Spirit of God, with Him as our constant companion and guide, our lives become an out-of-this-world adventure.
But wait a minute. What does it mean to “live by the Spirit”?
I’m sorry to say that living a “religious” life is NOT the same thing at all. Being “religious” exalts oneself through religious activities in order to make it to Heaven, while living by the Spirit means depending solely on God’s Spirit for direction. The one who lives by the Spirit will gradually become changed into someone who reflects Jesus, someone who knows that an eternity in Heaven is available ONLY through Jesus’ sacrifice, and that there is NOTHING they can do to save themselves: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8 NIV)
I find that the encounter Jesus had with Mary and Martha is a good illustration of this. Both Mary and Martha claimed to be followers of Christ, but with a huge difference. Martha was busy trying to please Jesus by providing for Him to the best of her ability. She was “religiously” active, trying to impress God with her actions. This is why she became burdened when she noticed that her sister was not doing her part in serving Jesus. Notice that Martha openly rebukes JESUS for her sister’s actions: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40 NIV)
These kinds of “religious” activities lead nowhere. They don’t satisfy the inner longings of our heart. Instead, they make us become worried and upset by the circumstances confronting us, often leading us to rebuke the Lord Himself.
But look at Mary. She made the right choice: “(Mary) sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” (Luke 10:39 NIV) Mary didn’t worry about religious rituals. She had found Jesus and now she wanted to cling to Him, to hang onto every word He spoke. To Mary, having a relationship with God was of more importance than trying to please God, and Jesus rightly concluded: “Martha, Martha . . . You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)
Those who are Spirit-filled have made a choice to follow Jesus and put Him first in everything they do in their lives. They have their fair share of trials, but because Jesus is on their side, they don’t face these alone. Worry becomes a thing of the past as they simply enjoy the ride of their lives: “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7 NIV) Their creed is: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 NIV) When they act out Jesus’ love in their hearts, as they often do, they aren’t trying to impress God or other people. Why should they? God is their personal friend. What more do they need?
Friends, we have a choice to make. Should we continue to act like Martha, trying to impress God and our fellow human beings with our “religious” rituals, while the void in our heart remains, and worry and criticism become our norm? Or should we act like Mary and let ourselves be guided by God’s Holy Spirit, letting Him fill us with His presence and enjoying that personal relationship with our Maker?
What will your choice be?
Kite Surfing sure looks like fun!