Saturday a group of men I’ve been riding with undertook the 50 trek from Galax to Pulaski on the New River Trail. It was a beautiful trip (pictures here), and my longest one by far. Previously, the longest ride I had taken on the trail was 20 miles. So after we crossed the 20 mile mark, each push of the pedal was a new personal best for me.

It was a tough ride. I learned the joys of downshifting. Normally I run in high gear nearly the entire time. But after 30 miles my legs were burning bad and I had to downshift to an easier gear. For those of you who don’t bike, the higher the gear, the more effort it takes to pedal. The lower the gear, the less effort it takes. To maintain the same speed though, you would have to pedal more often when in a lower gear.

As I was determinedly pedaling away on Saturday, God made the point to me that the Christian life is like this bike ride. Sometimes you want to have it in high gear and really be digging in. But when it’s easier to downshift into a lower gear. That doesn’t mean you slow down, it just means you pedal more often.

Take Bible reading/study for example. A lower gear would be smaller chunks of Bible reading, without in-depth study, but regularly and often. A higher gear could mean reading longer passages, detailed study of a passage, or memorization.

Prayer is another example. The lower gears include praying frequent short prayers. The higher gears are when you spend an extended time of prayer wrestling with God about something.

The thing is, there is an appropriate time and place for the use of both low and high gears, even for experienced riders. Even for mature Christians there are going to be seasons you go through that require some downshifting. And for new Christians especially, the higher gears are where you build your spiritual muscles, but the lower gears will still move you toward Christ.

I thought it was a great illustration, and I’ll be using it tonight as I teach Colossians 4:2-4 to the young adults at church.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2

You can read the text of my manuscript here.