Let’s talk about travelators. You may be asking ‘what on earth is a travelator’? A travelator is the horrendous hybrid of an escalator and a moving sidewalk. It is a moving sidewalk (like at the airport) except on a ramp to get up or down a level. We first encountered this monster at the Nakkumatt store. We were going to the lower level from the second floor. As I stepped on the travelator it suddenly threw me forward toward a pretty steep descent with no way to catch myself. Thank God, Jon caught me before I fell. We chuckled over it and I shuffled my feet toward the bottom. As we stepped off I suddenly felt my feet shift again and was falling, AGAIN. Jon caught me and we laughed pretty hard, especially when a distinguished Ugandan man gave me a shocked look as he stepped off the travelator. Now besides showing my clumsiness, what does this story have to do with anything?
As I studied this morning, God reminded me that life is a travelator not a sidewalk. I find within myself the temptation to feel like I have arrived. I will read my Bible every day, pray consistently, encourage someone in a hard way and I will feel the temptation to pat myself on the back and say to myself, ‘well done, you.’ Then I decide that I could use a day to sleep in instead of doing devotions, I mean, haven’t I earned that? And I will pray… some. And I find myself deciding to just ignore the needs around me because I already have done so much counseling in the Word this week.
Now I used to have the terrible habit of doing as I ought for about a week, and then falling into these complacent habits for months on end. Do you find that same struggle within yourself? I think we all do at one time or another. Well if you do, remember this, life is a travelator. You can’t do as you ought for a bit and take a break and assume you will stay where you were. We are on a constantly moving, shifting platform that is flowing speedily away from God’s heart. There is no standing still in the Christian life. Either we are drawing near to God, or we are backsliding. That’s it, those are the two options. Why? Because our heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and the old man wars against the spirit (Romans 7). It is because our flesh longs to flee from God and indulge itself rather than be sanctified.
So what does God say about complacency on our travelator? Proverbs 1:32 says, “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Is this because the readers of Hebrews couldn’t understand or grasp hard truths? No! It is because they were not diligent in learning the Word! In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul describes the Christian life as a race where “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I should myself become disqualified (vs. 27)”. But Paul couldn’t backslide right? He’s Paul! Wrong! We are all capable of backsliding. It often isn’t a willful disobedience at first, but a complacency about how we ought to be living. Romans 12 says to be transformed, Colossians 1 tells us to continue in the faith and not to be moved away, Peter warns us in 2 Peter 3 to be steadfast and not be led away. We are either running toward Jesus with our eyes fixed on Him or we are drifting away.
So we must be diligent! We must be feeding ourselves DAILY in His Word, talking to Him through prayer, and seeking to encourage one another. Just like I needed Jon to keep me from falling on my face, we need one another. Be in a church family where people ask the hard questions. Keep an eye on your brothers and sisters and encourage one another to run as we should. Don’t believe the whispers that say ‘I’ll get up early to study tomorrow; I’ll pray later; I deserve a break,’ they are LIES. If we aren’t careful we will find that the travelator has taken us back to the place we don’t want to be.
But the great news is that in James 4:8-10 we are told, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” We must stop treating our slackness as a joke, and be serious in seeking after God. He promises to draw near, He doesn’t move. All we need is to turn from our complacency and seek Him, then we find He was waiting in the same place the whole time. If we humble ourselves, He will lift us up. He doesn’t leave us to earn our way back to Him, we couldn’t. He gives us the strength to seek Him and draw near to Him. He welcomes us with open arms to come boldly as His beloved children. But if we allow ourselves to be caught in the drift of complacency we will soon find we are where we did not want to be. So remember, life is a travelator, and we must be diligent to pursue our relationship with God. Or we will fall on our face.