If you are my age, you certainly remember when almost every vehicle had a “stick shift” – a manual transmission. Usually, the vehicle had three or four speeds forward and one for reverse. There was also a third pedal on the far left which is the clutch. In order to shift the transmission, you had to depress the clutch, put the vehicle in gear, then slowly release the clutch while adding pressure on the gas pedal to hopefully achieve a smooth release of the clutch as the vehicle began to move forward.
As you continue to accelerate, the engine got louder but you didn’t go any faster until you depressed the clutch again and shifted into the next gear. You would continue this process until you were in the highest gear, typically third or fourth, which would allow the vehicle to reach its maximum speed.
The trucks I drove over the years had a variety of transmissions. Typically, they would have either eight, ten or thirteen forward speeds. My favorite was the thirteen for a variety of reasons. The straight eight or ten speeds were fine, but you had fewer options of skipping gears when you were empty. The grain truck has what is called a “super ten” which simply specialized in making the driver (me) crazy at times, but that’s another story.
Why so many gears?
The truck must gather its speed in smaller increments due to its massive weight. Fully loaded it could take six gears just to get through an intersection! In each gear you are accessing the full power of the vehicle but not its full potential. In order to continue the journey, you have to continue to move to a higher gear, one shift at a time. When you enter the interstate, you continue to build your speed while progressing into the higher gears.
Eventually you reach the highest gear, or overdrive, as truckers call it, the “big hole.” This is now where you can continue to access all the power of the truck and also experience the full potential of the truck. Well, up to the posted speed limit at least – or maybe a little over. This is my happy place – a fully loaded tractor trailer, the hum of a large diesel engine, overdrive and an open highway ahead! I guess you had to be there.
This is so like our Christian journey. When we surrender our life to Jesus, He gives us the Holy Spirit to live in us. He comes to us with the fullness of His power. Paul tells us that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead comes to dwell in us at the moment of our salvation. (Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19,20)
Welcome to first gear! We have access to the fullness of the power of Christ from day one! We have all of Jesus but He most likely doesn’t yet have all of us. We generally have some growing to do as we realize more and more, through the Scriptures and time spent with Him, that we have much to learn about how we live in this new-found power. The key to our growth and accessing more of God’s power in our life is surrendering to His will and His word. The more we surrender to His will – giving up the ways of the world in order to be transformed by the renewing of our mind – the more we experience His power flowing into our life.
God has a purpose and plan for each one of us. He loves us too much though, to show us the end from the beginning. It’s not like His plan for us is awaiting our approval. If God had shown me 45 years ago the journey I would take and where I would be now, I would have been thoroughly convinced He had the wrong guy. I would have opted out.
Now, after all these years as a follower of Jesus, I look back over my life in amazement at all He has done. As a result of my life of trying to faithfully follow Jesus, my New Year’s resolution every year at this point is simply, “Stay close to Jesus – Do what He says.” If I am faithful to do this, I will always be exactly where He wants me. That is life in the Spirit. Constant communion and obedience to the best of my ability.
This is what overdrive looks like! This is life in the “big hole.”
That’s our goal, but even our new life isn’t all roses and air-horns. Just as when we’re driving, we need to be careful as many of us guys can easily get stuck along the way. There are so many obstacles and road-blocks out there that can keep us in sixth gear - when we have the potential for four or 6 more!
What gets in the way? What gets us stuck? The possibilities are many but some of the more common obstacles are:
Sin – Our sin has caused a separation and God will not hear. – Isaiah 59:2.
Busy – The opposite of “Be still and know that I am God.” “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” (seen on a small church in Waco TX).
Spiritual oppression – We are easily lost in what John Eldredge calls, “the fog of war.” We need to utilize the “weapons of our warfare.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Ephesians 6:12-18).
Pride – The root of most “stuckness.” – (James 4:6).
The good news is that the Apostle Paul tells us that we are not ignorant of the schemes of the enemy. We can and must learn how to wield our weapons and live fully in the victory Jesus won on the cross.
Growth is a progression and ultimately God wants us in the “big hole” – living our best life in the fullness of the Spirit. Day in and day out in continual communion with God – enjoying His fellowship and having the pleasure and satisfaction of knowing we are living in the fullness of His purpose and calling.
I love the prayer Paul prays for the church at Ephesus, and it is a prayer that is certainly appropriate for us today, so I leave you with this –
I pray you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19,20)
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