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Riding the Wave

Look for ‘Grace Builders’ While Riding the Wave

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,” Mark 1:12

In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, everything is going right. Jesus celebrates perhaps the most exhilarating and confirming event of his entire ministry. John baptizes Jesus, carrying out his appointed role in the drama of salvation. The experience is so moving and powerful that the Holy Spirit seems to envelope Jesus’ whole being with a sense of love and acceptance. Jesus hears what we all long to hear in our own lives. He is loved; his actions have pleased; he is received without any hesitations or holdbacks.


But what happens to Jesus following this “mountaintop” experience? “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Once there, he is tempted by Satan in what were perhaps some of the most vulnerable moments of his life. Riding the crest of the wave can often lead to troubling times.


For most of us, then, wave-riding puts us into dangerous and tricky positions. Riding the crest of a wave can be the moment when we are most likely to be swept into depression, denial, and self-deception. The tempter bides his time and often waits until we are riding the highest to strike. In other words, “When the Lord builds the church, the Devil builds the chapel.” The tempter bides his time and often waits until we are riding the highest to strike.


So what do we do? How do we both deal with success and with the ensuing temptations and troubles it brings in its wake? Recall once again the words of Mark 1:12. The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness and into the hands of Satan following his baptism. In our own lives, we must recognize that our encounters with temptations, pettiness, critical people, and infuriating situations can be God’s way of sending us “grace builders.”


These grace builders operate as a life jacket during our wave riding. Always around us but unnoticed during the soaring moments at the crest. Grace builders do more to facilitate and fortify our rapid growth in grace than almost anything else imaginable.


Unlike the easy float to the wave crest, this type of growth is not always fun. But God gives us both enough cresting waves to keep us encouraged and enough “grace builders” to keep us humble and growing. We need to tend to our faith daily, hunger and thirst for God. By doing that we can avoid the self-righteousness, that gets us in so much trouble.


Reaching the crest of the wave and riding with the wind is a euphoric experience. Think of the poster of the “Peanuts” beagle, Snoopy, surfing at the tip of a perfectly curled wave, shouting his victory cry, “Cowabunga!” God gives us such moments for pure joy. God gives us such moments for unabashed rejoicing. Yet, they are only moments. What matters the most is the direction we are paddling today. It is how we follow-up those intense victories that determines our ability to grow spiritually for the long haul. Are we prepared to struggle our way up the next oncoming breaker?

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