I enjoy roller coasters in moderation. I say moderation because, at my age, I have about 4 good rides before my body gets irritated.
The best roller coasters offer some type of ‘wow’ moment. ‘Wow’ moments make us feel alive, make for a great stories and keep us coming back for more, but real life is lived in the here and now which often doesn’t include ‘wow’. Roller coasters have moments of anxious anticipation, short-lived calm at the top with a great view and then gravitational chaos that eventually wreck your equilibrium. As I was reflecting on the highs and lows of 2019, I heard the Father say, “I am moving you from the roller coaster of happiness to the locomotive of joy.”
“I am moving you from the roller coaster of happiness to the Locomotive of Joy.”
The Locomotive of Joy
As a boy I loved trains and there are very few machines on earth more powerful than a locomotive. For reference sake, a pickup truck weighs about 6,000 pounds and can have up to 400 horsepower. That’s a lot of strength for an automobile, but locomotives range between 4,000 horsepower and almost 20,000 horsepower! But, even more awe inspiring than the horsepower, is that the biggest locomotives weigh over 1,000,000 pounds (very few houses weigh more than 400,000 lbs). Ok, enough train geek .. . . you get the point.
I felt like the Lord said the Locomotive of Joy runs on the rails of Truth and Grace (John 1:17). Unlike the unpredictable rails of a roller coaster that just go in circles, the rails under a locomotive are consistent, can support unfathomable amounts of weight and actually transfer people and goods to new locations instead of endless circles.
The Rails of Truth and Grace
Jesus said he was the Truth (John 14:6) and Hebrews 13 says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. What is the truth? The truth is we are loved by the Father, rescued, redeemed and indwelled by a constant Savior and filled and empowered by His Spirit. The truth is we are secure in Christ no matter what our physical experience or surroundings. Truth is our anchor and one of the rails of security underneath us and without is we are at the mercy of the gravitational pulls of culture, experiences, people’s opinions and emotions and our selves. If your mode of operation and well being has been based on the mercy of the happiness coaster, it will take time and patience to shift to the locomotive of joy. This is where Grace enters the picture.
We all know the phrase “amazing grace”, but we rarely stop to contemplate just how amazing grace really is. Grace manifests itself in many ways. Ephesians 2 says we are saved by grace through faith as a gift of God. Grace is the unmerited goodwill and favor of God toward us but it is also is His power and strength at work in us to do what we could not do in our own strength. Grace covers us in our weakness and sin, but it removes our excuses for justifying them or staying there. It is gentle and patient but not passive or permissive. Titus 2 says, not only did the grace of God appear and bring salvation but then it acts as a personal trainer that patiently teaches us to overcome sin, destructive desires and roller coaster security.
Grace isn’t passive or permissive. It is gentle, patient and stronger than we know. We can all give reasons, but the grace of God removes our excuses because, if we don’t give up, grace will get us there!
Every year poses its own set of challenges, but 2019 was a roller coaster of experiences like few others in the past. As a pastor, I don’t know if I can recount a year that had as many ups and downs for those I am called to serve. Granted, I wasn’t always the one on the tip of the spear, but, by the grace and truth of God, I don’t believe I have felt more secure in the Father’s protection and safety than ever before. Romans 15:13 has been one of my favorite verses for the past couple years, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I pray 2020 finds you more and more on the Locomotive of Joy as you trust in Him and move to new places of strength and consistency on the rails of Truth and Grace. . .. . . with an occasional coaster ride for fun of it.
Break it down with coffee and a friend or small group:
- Would you describe 2019 more as a roller coaster or locomotive ride? Why?
- What would you say are the things that bring you the most happiness, peace and joy. . .. or when do you experience those things the most?
- What are the things that really throw you for a loop? What are the things that knock the wind out of you emotionally, bring a strong dose of discouragement or push you toward depression?
- How did you find yourself dealing with those in 2019 or this past season?
- Look at Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What happens before we are filled with joy?
- Galatians 5 says joy is a fruit of something. If we are not experiencing the consistency of the Locomotive of Joy, what does it say about our roots? What are ways we can tend the garden of our hearts to live in joy instead of the mercy of emotional experience?
- Prayer time. . . “Jesus, you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Holy Spirit I ask that you would reveal the places I have my security on shifting sand and, by the power and patience of your grace, teach me to ride securely in you truth. Teach me what it means to rejoice, feel happiness and pain and still possess joy in every circumstance. Teach me what it means to live from the truth that You are my joy, in Jesus name and power we pray, amen.”