OK, we’ve had a gentle start in The Topical Memory System, and next week we start with memorization (no reason you can’t work ahead, by the way!), starting with Series A, “Live the New Life.” This series of six lessons, with a break between #3 and #4, will lead us to memorizing twelve verses.
Before we start; however, let’s look at the introduction to the series, which will use the Navigators’ “Wheel” Illustration to organize these verses in a way that not only helps us memorize them, but provides an easy way to share them with others.
The chapter that introduces the series gives you a good explanation of the illustration. Essentially, it pictures our new life in Christ as a wheel, centered on the “hub” of Christ, held together by an outer “rim” of obedience, which is connected to Christ by four spokes. The vertical spokes are Prayer and the Word, while the horizontal spokes are Witnessing and Fellowship. Each component – the hub, rim, and four spokes – is represented by two verses.
I used to be a pretty avid bicyclist, and when I first learned this illustration almost twenty years ago, there was a high-dollar wheel called the “Spinergy RevX” on the market that was all the rage. Pictured below on “Super Mario” Cipollini’s bike.
These wheels were beautiful, deep aerodynamic carbon-fiber rims with four pairs of razor-thin carbon-fiber spokes that sliced the air. They were flashy, fast, strong, light… and not cheap.
Yet as expensive as they were, they were wildly successful. They sold themselves and flew off shelves.
And then Spinergy abruptly stopped making them.
It turned out that though they were extremely strong, they were easily damaged and cracks could develop in the spokes that could be small enough not to be seen easily, propagate over time, and then cause a sudden failure after which the rest of the wheel would fail catastrophically. And catastrophic would be the right word if you happened to be riding them at speed – say 20-30mph!
The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. The integrity of the “wheel” depends on all of its components, and rather than flashy, exciting, and lightweight, those components need to be robust, because the failure of one can cause catastrophic failure of the others.
Our spiritual life needs a strong “hub,” focused on Christ. If we drift from this focus, that weakness will find its way into the rest of our life. James warns us against being “double-minded” (Jas 1:8; 4:8), reminding us that it is impossible to serve two masters (Mt 5:24).
Christ-focused obedience is likewise essential to our spiritual life. Like the outer rim of the wheel, if it isn’t “true,” everything gets out of balance. Jesus tells us that obedience – itself a gift of God – is essential to discipleship (Mt 28:20).
Just like in a bicycle wheel, it is the spokes of our Christian life which connect the rim to the hub and keep the hub “in true.” If one or more spokes weaken, even a strong wheel will be pulled out of shape.
The vertical spokes of Prayer and Word are critical in your direct communication with God. Failing to spend time in devotion to these aspects risks transforming your faith into simple humanistic pursuits.
Both of these vertical spokes are important. If you spend hours a day in Scripture, but neglect the other spokes, you risk building an intellectual knowledge base rather than an effective faith practice. Likewise, if you’re in prayer but not in the Word, your spiritual life will lack effective Scriptural foundations.
The horizontal spokes are also critical. If you neglect Witness and Fellowship, your spiritual life will be individualistic and likely self-centered. Witness for some is the most neglected of all the spokes, yet how can we be obedient to our Lord if we deny his command to be fishers of men (Mt 4:19)? Likewise, we are created and called to be in fellowship with one another, and to reject gathering together in Christ-focused communion is to reject communion with God himself (Heb 10:24-25)!
No, for the wheel to keep spinning smoothly, all the spokes must work together, connecting the obedient Christian disciple to the hub of our faith, Jesus Christ. And so it is important that we regularly take time to inspect all of the components of our walk. And that itself brings us to the idea of discipleship.
One of the most treasured relationships a bicycling enthusiast or professional has is with his “wheelie.” A wheelie is a person gifted at maintaining bicycle wheels, finding minute discrepancies in the tension and “true” of the wheel to keep it strong, smooth, and straight, and discovering and repairing damage before those problems lead to breakdowns or worse out on the road. Like other craftsmen, the best wheelies are ones who not only do the work but pass on their skills and experiences.
We need “wheelies” in our spiritual lives as well, people who will help us examine our “wheel,” help us maintain the spokes, alert us to problems, and teach us these skills so that we can become a “wheelie” as well.
As you reflect on the wheel, where do you see strengths and weaknesses in your walk? Where do you need help? Where can you help others? Who is your wheelie? For whom can you be a wheelie?
Please join in with your thoughts and questions in the comments below!