I did not ride my first roller coaster until I was 18 years old. I had managed to make it through most of my teenage years without having to face my fear of those big steel monsters. No one in my family rode roller coasters and neither did many of my friends in high school, so I was able to escape with little damage to my ego caused by the taunts of those who found the drops and twists and turns exhilarating.
That is, I was able to escape until I met my wife, Christie. You see, Christie loved roller coasters. So when we planned a trip to Six Flags with some friends after we had been dating for a few months, I knew I was in trouble. Before we even left, she was trying to convince me to ride with her. Now, being young and in love, I told her I would, but I secretly hoped that there would be something that would keep us from getting to ride. However, the day we went was sunny (no storms), the lines were short (I couldn’t stall), and all the roller coasters in the park were fully operational (no technical difficulties).
Eventually, I had to face the inevitable–ride the monsters or admit my fear to the woman I loved.
I was able to put off the inevitable for a little while. Every time Christie would bring up riding a roller coaster, I would suggest seeing a show or riding some other less threatening ride. However, resistance was futile. Eventually, I had to face the inevitable-ride the monsters or admit my fear to the woman I loved. I got on.
My first roller coaster was the Ninja. A 120-second ride that begins with a gut-wrenchingly slow climb to its 110-foot peak before dropping you 69 feet and hurling you through 4 inversions at a top speed of 65 miles per hour. It was awesome! We rode 5 times in a row. Now, these great steel monsters are not something to be feared, but something to be conquered-relishing in the exhilaration.
Life is a roller coaster ride. It is full of ups and downs; hills and valleys; twists and turns; and sometimes, it even turns you upside down-threatening to spill you out into a great void of nothingness. Like we would a roller coaster, we often face life with anxiety, timidity, and fear. When we find life in Jesus, he does not take us off of the roller coaster, but he rides it with us. He brings peace, joy, power, and contentment in the midst of all the twists and turns-the ups and downs.
Always be full of joy in the Lord.
Paul has a recipe for dealing with the roller coaster of life. In Philippians 4:4-7, he writes: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” With Jesus, the roller coaster ride of life becomes exciting and adventurous because we know that he is with us. How amazing!
I first heard the following reading from a young man making a presentation at a conference I attended. I was deeply moved by the passion and conviction of these words, so, when I returned home, I did an online search for the reading. The author is unknown but is believed to be a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. It was found in his study. I offer you this passionate witness of a person who was Jesus strong and living fearless and free.
“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made — I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low-living, sight-walking, smooth-knees, colorless-dreams, tamed-visions, worldly-talking, cheap-giving, and dwarfed-goals.”
“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.”
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.”
“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach ’til it’s all I know, and work ’til He stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me … my banner will be clear.”
My boys love water. It doesn’t matter how much they get to play in it, they are always ready for more. They are rarely ready to get out of the bathtub at the end of bath time.
On a summertime trip to our local amusement park, it was no different. We had spent a considerable amount of time in the water park floating down the lazy river, zipping down water slides, and playing on the kid’s water playground. Afterward, we dried off and headed to other parts of the park to enjoy some rides.
When we arrived at the kid’s ride area, there was a series of water fountains to play in. Do you know what my boys did? They begged to play in them as if they had been in the desert for days and hadn’t seen a drop of water. As they ran through those fountains, they giggled and laughed as if it was the only place in the world they wanted to be at that moment.
As my wife and I sat on the bench and watched them play, I thought of the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (vs. 1). “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (vs. 7). Here the Psalmist expresses a deep desire for God and the refreshment that comes from him. Like my boys at the water fountains, the Psalmist is seeking after God passionately.
We oftentimes equate the spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, fasting, and worship as those things that we ought to do. They are merely something to check off our to-do list. However, seeking after God should look more like my boys seeking after the next water fountain. We can’t wait to get there and we relish in the refreshment that we find.
Are you seeking after God with this kind of passion or are you treating it like a job to get done? When we seek God in this manner, we find life and joy and peace that only comes from God himself. Then we will be seeking God as Jesus did and we will grow Jesus strong.