A Bicycler’s Guide to Discipleship: Good Equipment
…so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:17
Ask any serious cycler and he will tell you that quality matters in bicycles – and if you are going on a long trip you had better have one that will hold up. In fact, every part of the bicycle is important, from each link of the chain, to the brakes, each gear, the lights, and especially the tires. You need to have a “bicycle kit” also – the little kit they sell to help changes flat tires – and you had better know how to use it because if you are a cycler you will have a flat tire from time to time. And the proper clothing – helmet, rain gear, gloves, etc.
In following Christ we also need the right equipment – the word of God that guides us, the community of believers that protects us, the disciplines of the Christian life that God uses to build strength and endurance into our spiritual life. Just like riding a bike, we are out in the elements of the world, out of the safety and protection of the home, out on the streets or in the parks or forests, where traffic dangers lurk, and the weather can be blisteringly hot or frigidly cold. As a Christ-follower we will be daily in situations where our equipment for spiritual growth is needed, and without it we are defenseless against temptation, discouragement, distraction, and outright failure.
The most important piece of equipment is the new nature that God places within us at our salvation. Before we trusted in Christ we were spiritually dead – “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), is the way the Bible puts it. But the moment we believed in Christ we received His Spirit into our lives as our constant companion (Ephesians 1.13-14) and we also received our new nature, “the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23). This work is God’s and we are to put on the new self every day, just like putting on our clothes. We need to mentally put on the Christ attitude – humble, dead to self and to the world, honest, open for God to work in us and speak to us, obedient, gracious, kind, strong, pure, hopeful.
The second most important piece of equipment is the word of God, and we need to go to it daily, reading, studying, learning, applying. The Bible makes us “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 2:5) and that means that it gives us enough information to trust Christ as our Savior, but also it teaches us how to live the Christian life, how to think and act like a saved person.
The psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105), meaning that it sheds light on the future as well as on the immediate present. A cycler traveling down a dark woody path at night understands the need for at least two lights on his bike – one to shine down at the ground so he can see the holes, rocks, and bumps, another to shine further down the path so he can see where he is going next. In our lives the same word of God does both of these things, but this does describe two ways we use the Bible, or two accomplishments of God in our lives He achieves through His word.
The first is the long run, the far off distance, eternity itself. God lets us know that He has plans for us for all eternity. Christ said that He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us that we may be with Him for eternity (John 14:1-4). He has expressed His desire to reveal His glory in and through us for all eternity:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7
We have a wonderful heritage that is ours through our faith in Christ that lasts for eternity. And this heritage also will endure for all of our earthly life, as we read in Proverbs, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter and brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18). That truth should encourage us for all of our lives, every day, every minute and in every circumstance.
The second is for the immediate need, a lamp to our feet, helping us to see the next step to take. Taking His word to heart daily helps prepare us to face the challenges of each day, the temptations, the decisions, the circumstances we face. Nothing happens in life outside of the concern of God for us His children. He cares about every relationship, every decision, our schooling, our job, our family, our neighborhood – everything! And we need His help to guide us through the many circumstances we face each day. God is a God of order, not of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33) and He will guide us in our day-to-day lives, bringing purpose, intention, balance, harmony, priority, and order.
Often the word of God is like the tool kit that helps fix the flat tires in our lives. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Something goes wrong in our life, we make a mistake, do something unholy, or are victims of another person’s wrong doing – how do we recover? How do we fix ourselves or the circumstance? By going to the word of God daily, we find that he gives us the information we need to correct our path and to continue going the right way.
Prayer is another piece of equipment, and prayer is simply the act of having a conversation with God – bringing to Him our praises and our thanks, as well as our confession of sins, and listening to Him speak to us as well. He assures us of His love for us in our prayers, and reveals the way His word is to be applied in our lives.
But we also need a community of fellow believers – the church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament describes believers like one large body, and each part is important and dependent on the others. In the New Testament we read about spiritual gifts that God gives to the church, to each believer in Christ, to strengthen all of the others.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God work all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Through the ministry of the body of Christ, the relationships we have with other Christians, we are strengthened in our faith.
As the Bible describes spiritual gifts it gives us general titles or names of different gifts, but not exact job descriptions. They all reflect the character and love of God and each one reveals some specific attribute of His. Some we can understand very easily, and some are still somewhat enshrouded in mystery, but the principle is very clear – God ministers to us through other believers and therefore we need one another. But consider these parallels:
Gifts of Teaching (wisdom and knowledge) – they are like the lights that show us the truth of God and the path we are to take
Mercy – they are like the tires that smooth out the bumps, and like the fenders that help us get through muddy patches and remain clean
Encouragement – they are like the links of the gear chain that keep us from falling apart under the strain
Discernment – they are like the brakes that help us stop when we are going the wrong way
Faith – they are like the pedals that make everything else move forward
Healing – they are like the tire repair kits, that enable us to fix the spiritual flats in our lives
Prophecy – they are like the inner voice that says to us when we are worn down and tired, Keep going!
Helps – they are like the lower gears that help us make it up steep hills
Giving – they are like the baggage racks and bags that enable us to do things for others as we go along
Leadership – they are like the handlebars that direct us in the way we should go and the helmets that protect us from harm
Tongues, interpretation, miracles – these are like the fresh air that blows across our bodies reminding us of the presence and love of God
If you remove a coal from a roaring fire, even if it is the hottest coal in the fire, and set it alone by itself, it will quickly cool and go out. We are much the same. We need one another. We need a loving, caring, Bible-believing fellowship of Christ followers to teach us, encourage us, challenge us, and comfort us.
When I bought my current bicycle, I went to a shop nearby and told them what I thought I wanted and how much I wanted to pay. I was fortunate to have come into a shop with an honest owner. At first thought I wanted a racer – somehow this got into my head because my brother-in-law who is younger than me just purchased one and really enjoyed his. The owner looked at me and my age and shook his head and said, No, you’re too old.
We looked for something that could go through the forest and the city and I selected what I thought was a good and fairly expensive bike – it seemed so to me! He asked how much I would use the bike and I told him, he said that I needed to move up in price if I wanted a bike that would last. The ones I was looking at would fall apart after a year or two of doing what I wanted to do.
I ended up paying twice as much as I wanted, but I had to respect a business owner who would rather lose a sale than to sell someone the wrong bike. (After I did the math I realized that I would pay for my bike within one year with the non-spent gas money.)
Good equipment is never cheap. Our salvation cost Christ His life! And it costs us our time, our energy, our priorities, and even our lives as well. Following Christ means giving up everything else for Him, but the result is the love, joy, and peace that only God can give.
1. Can you identify the four pieces of spiritual equipment mentioned above? What other pieces of spiritual equipment would you add to this list?
2. How has the Bible been a lamp to your feet, meeting an immediate need, and a light to your path, meeting a lifelong need?
3. How is prayer described above? How would you define prayer in your own words?
4. Are you currently involved in a local church? How many of these spiritual gifts has God used through others in your life? How do you think God is gifting you?
5. How important to you is this “equipment” God has given you to help you grow in the faith? How much are you willing to pay in terms of time, energy, effort, relationships, priorities, as well as money, are you willing to pay so that God may strengthen your faith?