The water of the lake was smooth as glass. The sun was shining, but there were just enough clouds to give us shade. I was in the water, laying into my life jacket, my feet propped up on the top of a wake surf board, my hands gripping the handle attached to a rope leading to the top of the ski boat. The engine roared to life, the rope tightened, and I felt myself drug across the surface of the water. Instinctively, as I felt the rope pulling me to my feet, I bent my arms to help pull myself up. As I did so, I lost my balance and plunged beneath the water. I reappeared on the surface, retrieved the surf board, and waited patiently for the boat to come back around. When it did, the driver reminded me to keep my arms straight. I said I would do better, laid back into my life jacket, propped my feet on top of the board, and gripped the handle attached to the rope, ready to try again.
The younger pastors in this conference try to get together about once a month for fellowship and support, and this month we spent a few hours out on a lake, attempting to wake surf and ski. The biggest problem each of us had was this impulse to bend our arms to help pull ourselves up out of the water. Every time we did it, however, it sent us under the water instead. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this is just how it is in our spiritual walk. The writer of Hebrews tells us to look "unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). This idea that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith may be the simplest yet most difficult belief we have. It's engrained in us that we need to do something to be saved; bend our arms and help pull ourselves up out of the water. But Jesus is telling us, reminding us, to keep our arms straight. As long as we lean back into His love, He will lift us to our feet.