We recently had a snowstorm that blanketed our area with 8 inches of snow. Nothing massive, but given that we only got 5 inches total the entire previous winter, 8 inches felt like a lot. About 20 minutes away at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, the storm dropped 12 inches. As you traveled further north into Pennsylvania, the totals increased. Some of my friends from church have cabins in the mountains, and they saw 3 feet of snow. Now that is a huge storm!
Even in 8 inches, though, unless you’re wearing good boots, if you have to walk in the snow, you probably don’t want to trod a new path. Instead, you try to find footprints others have made, and you follow their path, so as not to get snow in your socks and on your clothing! You try to match their steps, by walking in their footprints. Sometimes, though, their steps are too short, making it feel awkward to half-step your way along. Or their steps are too long, and you have to try to jump from one to the next, invariably missing and landing in the snow, as it shoves its icy way into your socks.
As we conclude this week studying Ecclesiastes 11:1-12:8, in which the Teacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, writes that we should honor God, there are so many passages we could look to if we want further description about what it means to honor God. I’d like us to look one that I find quite helpful: Galatians 5:16-26, as it talks about following God’s steps, about keeping up with him. Take a moment to read through this passage multiple times.
“16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
“19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
How about starting 2021 thinking deeply about this passage. I urge you to read it every day for a week. Notice the focus on the Spirit. As we honor God, we first remember that God lives in us. The Holy Spirit lives in us. That means the act of honoring God, as Paul describes it, involves us keeping in step with the Spirit. Match his steps. Learn his cadence, his march, and follow him. No, we’ll never be exactly what he is, but that’s that not the goal. The goal of honoring him is to strive for looking more and more like him.
So think about what it will look like for you to answer these questions: Who is this God we are to honor? What does he desire? What does his heart long for? Get to know him! Have your heart, your thoughts, your actions match his. Who can you talk to about this? What do you want to start connecting with about this?
Is there something in this passage that God is saying, “That action is a part of your life, and it doesn’t look like me?” Look at verses 16-21 and 26. Honoring God means striving to remove these negative actions from your life.
But that is not all. Honoring God is also about what we add to our lives, or what should be visible in our lives. Look at verses 22-25, a list that Paul calls the Fruit of the Spirit. Review the list slowly, one by one thinking about how much each of the Fruit of the Spirit is a part of your life. If you have to admit that one or more of the Fruits is missing or barely visible in your life, perhaps God is saying, “There’s a action that is not a part of your life, and to look more like me, I want you to work practice that.”
How can you practice that in 2021? Talk it over with a close friend, spouse, a group. Honoring God was never meant to be a solo effort. It probably won’t be easy; nothing good and worthwhile ever really is. Starting new habits and new ways of thinking are not going to be easy in any area of life, but the joy, the rewards, the hope, the abundant life that comes with making changes that are more and more in line with honoring God are worth the work. Furthermore, as you pursue more of the Fruit of the Spirit, you will be enhancing your relationship with our God! You will more and more in step with Holy Spirit, the gift he lovingly left for us when he ascended to heaven. What a beautiful gift. What a worthy thing to long for and to sacrifice for so you can grow closer to God as you become more like him.