Cycling and Sanctification in the Christian Life

Image by Beautiful Christian Life

Image by Beautiful Christian Life

I started cycling about five years ago as a hobby. It has proved to be fun, challenging, and great exercise. The more I have ridden through all kinds of weather and landscapes with friends, the more I have seen connections between cycling and sanctification. In fact, in his book Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God, Rankin Wilbourne makes an analogy between the Christian life and a bicycle when he writes,

The front tire is grace. Grace always leads. The back tire is demand. Demand always follows grace (Exod. 20:1-3). But both are needed for the Christian life to move forward. To extend the analogy, belief and repentance are like pedals for this bicycle. You must keep pressing on both. Yes, occasionally the road will head downhill and you can coast, but if you ignore either tire or attempt to push only one of your pedals, you’ll get in a ditch. Attend to both tires, and keep pedaling. [1]

Here are four analogies between cycling and sanctification I have learned over the years:

1. Fellowship is an integral aspect of the Christian life.

I live in a place that is full of hills. This makes climbing a daily discipline in regard to cycling. Climbing can be severely more difficult on my own. Last year, I finally tackled a route in San Diego called The Great Western Loop. While the mileage is not bad (approx. 39 miles), it is the 4,000-plus feet of climbing that challenges riders. I did this ride on my own and had to fight quitting many times because the loneliness can get into my head.

Once a week, though, I ride with a good friend of mine to where he works. I turn around and ride back home on my own, and each way there is a good-sized climb, followed by a fun downhill. Riding with him to work uphill is a joy because of our conversation, often causing me to forget about the pain in my legs or how difficult the route is. Riding back home is often long and difficult on my own. I get caught in my own head. This is a reminder to me how necessary the people of God are in the Christian life. I can say with boldness that I would not be a Christian still if it weren’t for the loving care of others in my life. 

2. The community of believers helps us from being overly introspective.

Having fellow believers remind me that the gospel is good news that is outside of me is a faithful remedy to being overly introspective. Being joined together with a community of believers who have their eyes fixed on Christ, we can move in unity towards the finish line while carrying one another when we are weak. Even last week on a long ride along the coast, my tire went flat. I had all the replacement things I needed, but my thumb and wrist were injured, preventing me from getting the tire back on. My buddy was able to repair the tire, and we began our ride back home. Without his help I would have been paying for a costly Uber thirty-plus miles back home. We need each other in cycling, and we desperately need one another in the Christian life. Galatians 6:1-2 says,

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

3. God faithfully walks with us through present trials to bring about a deep joy in us.

Sometimes we can forget that things that are easy for us now were once difficult. Currently, a buddy of mine and I are both teaching our kids how to ride their bikes. My oldest daughter told me she was ready to try riding without the training wheels, so we went outside and took them off together. As I looked at wonder and excitement filling her eyes, fear and hesitancy came rushing into my mind. What caught me off guard during the next thirty minutes, though, was how I almost failed to understand that it takes some work and trust to learn. I was speaking to her as someone who has been riding a bike for over thirty years. I reassured her that soon her hair will be blowing in the wind as she rides with joy.

Likewise, how often are we so unsettled when God takes us into a place or season of which we are unsure? He is the loving Father who knows all things, holds our seat, and walks us steadily through the trial to bring about a deep joy in us. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says,

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

4. Our physical senses can spur us to meditate on God’s past faithfulness when it seems as if God is absent.

As I was riding my bike early in the morning recently, the brisk air and the smell of car exhaust transported me back to a time seventeen years ago when I was serving in the Army on the border of North and South Korea. As I rode up this steep incline, my mind was taken back to that time with its memories of friends, food, sights, and sounds.

In Psalm 40, we read about David waiting on the Lord. And in the midst of this waiting, he remembers back to God’s past faithfulness when he writes,

You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! (Psalm 40:5)

Oftentimes in the Christian life we can get to a place where it seems as if God is absent. However, it is often our senses that can remind us of the faithfulness of God in the past. For example, as I recently baptized a man in our church, it was impossible to get into the water and not remember my own baptism. Meditating on his past faithfulness in this life is meant to spur on present trust.

Cycling has been a great joy to me for many reasons. The one thing that triumphs over them all is the wonder of riding with a friend in God’s beautiful creation that bears witness to his glory. His fingerprint is in the hills, the downhills, the turns, the sunsets, and the conversation while I hope for many more years and miles to come.

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Wes Van Fleet is editor-at-large for Beautiful Christian Life.


Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb! (Teleios Academy) by Wes Van Fleet

[1] Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ (David C. Cook, 2016), 221.

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