Isaiah 40:31 is a well known and much appreciated Bible verse. I love it. In fact, I think the entire chapter of Isaiah 40 should to be a mandatory reading at least once a month. It is a precious passage of scripture, and the last verse is a wonderful promise:
“Yet those who wait for (or hope in) the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
When we read these words, and let an image come to mind, it is probably an image of an eagle, soaring majestically above the earth. Or perhaps some might remember the movie “Chariots of Fire,” (By the way, much of Isaiah 40 was quoted by the Eric Liddell character in that movie) and have the image of someone running, head back, eyes toward the heavens, joy on their face, with no fatigue at all. I doubt anyone has the image of someone just walking along, one step at a time.
There is good reason for this. Simply putting one foot in front of the other is not very captivating; yet, soaring above the fray is, and running without a hint of fatigue is amazing. Just taking another step is boring at best, maybe even a little depressing. I thought for a long time God should have built to a crescendo in Isaiah 40:31. It would read far better to go from walking, to running, to mounting up with wings and soaring like an eagle. You would actually have to write the verse with an exclamation point, and read it with a building intensity and enthusiasm.
“You can walk… YOU CAN RUN!… YOU CAN SOAR!!!!”
As I have thought about it more deeply though, I have decided God got it right. Imagine that. I know He is gratified by my approval (please recognize the sarcasm). God does in fact build to a crescendo in Isaiah 40:31. He begins with the least impressive and least important, and builds toward what is truly amazing. Soaring like an eagle looks impressive and feels fantastic, but really, it doesn’t require much spiritual maturity to have a “mountain top” experience in which everything is "awesome."
We are caught up the mountain top experience, generally taken unaware, and we just enjoy the ride. When we run in an exhilarating fashion, it is not quite like the soaring experience of the mountaintop, but can still be pretty easy on us. Being able to zip along without any impediments is pretty nice. Health is good, bills are paid, kids are doing fine, and our main decision is whether or not it is time to tear down our barns and build bigger barns. We still have our feet on the ground, but it is a really smooth ride, and we are “happy, happy, happy.” It really isn’t all that impressive to simply go along, enjoying the good times.
Then there are those days in which we simply take another step. There is no rush of exhilaration, no one is cheering, or even noticing. We don’t feel particularly strong or significant. But we can keep going…..and we do. We can’t see the finish, it isn’t easy, we aren’t even certain we are headed in the right direction, but we don’t faint.
We don’t quit, we don’t stop, we don’t give up, we don’t give in,
we simply WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT.
This walk is impressive. It is not loud or showy, but it is strong. It is faithful because it is faith-filled. It doesn’t attract very much attention on earth, but it does in Heaven. It is a life that is fairly silent here, but it is the crescendo of faith to God.
Isaiah 40:31 does build from the least to the greatest. It moves from the blessed delight of times of “spiritual highs,” to the silent crescendo of the faith involved in a disciplined, faithful, daily walk with Jesus Christ. It goes beyond dependency on supernatural soaring or exhilarating times of ease.
It is a life of intimacy with God,
a life of commitment, a life of faith that transcends circumstances.
It may be a step at a times, but it is relentless. It never stops taking the next step. It is a silent crescendo, which speaks with constancy and with a volume that increases with every step. Taking the next step, in faith, is what changes the world.
Enjoy the soaring, be blessed by the running, but when it is just some dreary, tough, rainy Tuesday, take the next step. Forward march.