“Look, I can do it!”
The handlebars were still a little wobbly, and the bicycle threatened to go too far one way or the other, but the child rode on full of pride and confidence in the new skill they had achieved.
Most of us do not remember our first step or learning how to walk, but riding a bicycle might bring up some memories for us. After practicing with training wheels for a long time, dad, mom, grandma, or a friend decided it was time to take the wheels off. As exciting and terrifying as it sounded, the day came, and the wheels were replaced with loving hands on the seat or bar at the back of the bike.
For most, we had someone there alongside us holding on to the back of the bicycle seat while we uncertainly pushed the pedals up and down. Then when the timing was right and they saw our balance was going to last they let go and we took off. The world was ours. We learned how to ride with no hands, learned how to ride with someone on our handlebars, and all kinds of other tricks.
Learning to ride the bicycle means you put in the effort and time to learn how to ride.
It would be absurd to have mom or dad or your friend ride the bike for you and then proclaim you could ride the bike. Nor does riding with training wheels constitute you are a bike rider. There is no substitute. We have to ride the bike for ourselves.
As we consider how riding a bicycle requires practice and actual participation from the one learning to ride the bike, let us apply it to our spiritual growth.
Thousands upon thousands of devotionals, bible verse of the day, bible apps, one-minute sermons, and a multitude of other ways for a believer to be lifted up and encouraged bombard our phones, email, and computers every day. The human tendency is to pull one of those tools of encouragement up and then take on the day as if we have just spent time with the Lord. But that is not spiritual growth or a relationship with God any more than a child riding with training wheels can say they know how to ride a bike.
Why should we think that by reading someone else’s devotional or prayer or praise song we are entitled to believe we have done the work of reading God’s Word, spent time in prayer, or praise and worship of our Lord?
All of those things can be used as tools, but there is no substitute for personal time spent in God’s Word, prayer, and reflection. One cannot live off of someone else’s spiritual journey and relationship with God. Fellow believers and the church are here to help encourage us along the way, but, the reality is until we take the time and courage to walk with the Lord in His Word and prayer for ourselves, we leave the spiritual training wheels on preventing us from going the distance our Lord desires for us to travel.
Why is it essential for a believer to journey without the help of training wheels?
1. We stop growing in Christ-likeness
Henry Holloman in the book The Forgotten Blessing explains the slow regression a believer’s life begins to take when reading God’s Word for themselves ceases.
“First, when Christians diminish their intake and application of Scripture, they slow or stop their progress in sanctification and can even regress in spiritual living. Then the Father disciplines them to encourage them to pursue sanctification again (Hebrews 12:5-11, 14). God wants our entire spiritual journey to be marked by continued growth in Christ. And our rate of spiritual growth depends primarily on how rapidly we learn and obey the Word.”
2. God’s primary tool for our spiritual growth is His Word
You can not strengthen your relationship with your spouse by spending time with their parents. You have to spend time with your spouse. There is no substitute. While my in-laws can tell me stories and give me insights from my husband’s childhood, I still have to spend time with him if I am going to get to know him and learn to trust him. To restate Holloman’s point: “our rate of spiritual growth depends primarily on how rapidly we learn and obey the Word.”
3. Not all devotionals are biblical
How will you ever know if what you are reading is true if you have never spent time in the Truth of God’s Word? Those who know counterfeit money do not waste time studying the fake money, but the real thing. We should make sure the majority of our time is spent with God’s Word so that when we read other writings and encouragement, we can know if it matches biblically or not (Acts 17:11)
So how do you ride the spiritual bike without training wheels?
Start with this simple challenge: Riding Without Training Wheels—15 Days for 15 Minutes. It is a simple challenge to get you away from the training wheels offered by the religious world and into the Word of God.
1. Commit Five to Reading—Read God’s Word (the hard copy) 5 minutes every day.
Make a commitment to read God’s Word in hard copy (not on your phone or laptop) at least 5 minutes a day. Do not read any devotionals or other reading unless you have read on your own from God’s Word first.
2. Commit Five to Prayer—Pray for five minutes every day.
Take five minutes to pray over the verses you just read, the activities of the day, family, friends, etc. Don’t forget to use part of those 5 minutes for listening! God wants to speak to you too. 🙂
3. Commit Five to Responding—Respond to God’s Word and prayer time for five minutes every day.
Take five minutes and write down what you will do today in response to what you read and what God revealed in prayer time.
Riding with training wheels does not make you a bike rider any more than reading someone else’s devotional or encouragement replace your time in God’s Word and prayer. Take the challenge today. Push away from the curb, put your foot on the pedal, and move forward in your walk with the Lord.
Are you ready for the challenge?
Already spend 15 minutes with the Lord each day?
Leave a note on how your walk with the Lord has grown and what you do to protect that time with Him.