My mother always enjoyed riding a bicycle. She has spoken often of biking in Holland, where I was born, and the challenges of cycling in the stiff winds blowing off the North Sea.
When I was a child, someone gave my mother a 50’s-era coaster bike–I think it was a Columbia–that was the bicycle version of a Harley-Davidson. It was a beast of a vehicle. I’m sure it weighed more than I did, and the white-walled balloon tires looked like life preservers salvaged from a shipwreck. But, man–could that thing coast!
And Mom loved coasting–something she couldn’t do a lot in Holland, which is one of the flattest countries on earth. I remember cycling with Mom and seeing the sheer joy on her face when we crested a big hill and started down the other side. She’d quickly gather speed as I tried to keep up with her on my J.C. Higgins with 20-inch wheels. I must have looked like my pet hamster when it ran midnight wind sprints on its squeaky wire treadmill. Not only Mom’s speed, but also her effortlessness and her blissful countenance stood in stark contrast to my frenzied peddling and the squint-eyed, pursed-lipped look of determination on my red face.
People can coast through life, breezing merrily along through a fantasy land of perceived effectiveness with a deluded sense of well-being and satisfaction. Churches and organizations can do the same thing. But if we stop long enough to glance into the mirror of Scripture, we may be shocked by the image staring back at us.
The other day I was reading about the Laodicean church in Revelation 3. As a church, it was coasting:
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev 3.17, ESV)
The text goes on to describe some of the other qualities and dangers of a coaster life: a need for immediate repentance and a lack of intimate communion with Christ.
As believers, we can fool ourselves into thinking that an untroubled life or a seemingly successful ministry is evidence of God’s approval. I cannot think of any New Testament text that supports that theory.
When we’re coasting, it’s because we going downhill.