When Rick and I began to make plans for our ride across Wisconsin, I stopped by a local bike shop to begin investigating optimum bike ‘set-ups’ (types of bikes, racks, bike bags, energy drink holders, etc.) and began assessing my physical/mental preparedness. The shop owner was kind and interested in our goal. During our conversation, he made one remark that stuck with me. After asking about my bike, a Giant Hybrid, and tire type and size, 700 x 40, he said, ‘One thing you’ll need to take into consideration–with that set up you’ll be pedaling the whole time’. This remark caught me somewhat off guard.
Shirley and I and some of our children and the church youth group had done portions of the Sparta/Elroy Bike Trail: a portion of the trail Rick and I would ride on our trip. Like many trails in Wisconsin, this trail follows the path of an abandoned Rail Road track bed. The inclines are usually little more than 3 % grade, but even at that I thought I’d find places to coast. The shop owner disagreed though and reminded me that the larger tires on my bike which were perfect for the crushed limestone trails were somewhat less desirable because of their ‘drag’ on the road. They would keep me safe from most trail debris, but they could not be inflated enough to reduce the effort it took to traverse the gravel trail bed. It didn’t take long, once we began our ride at Onalaska, for me to notice that the shop owner was correct is his appraisal. Others around me were coasting while I was pedaling. Indeed, as the shop owner had warned, I PEDALED THE WHOLE WAY.
Two weeks after we finished our ride, I began to consider putting smaller tires on my bike in order to deal with the ‘drag factor’. Just a week ago, I put on tires that were several sizes smaller around and which carried 40# per square inch more pressure in them than the ones that were originally on my bike. The bike shop worker where I got the tires said that I would notice a big difference. Wow, was he right. The lowered resistance due to the smaller profile of the tire and higher pressure that increased their efficiency combined to give me significant improvement on my bike rides. I still notice a daily improvement as I continue to bike.
The whole experience has taught me some valuable lessons that I’ll pass along to you in this article.
1. Increased pressure can be of significant advantages at times. Inflating my tires from the old 60 psi to the new 100 psi and stretching the tires/tubes to their limit means remarkable improvement in my bikes performance. In a similar way, though we do not always welcome its presence, spiritual pressure can often be of benefit to us as well. Our Gracious Father has factored pressure into our spiritual experience and has promised that that pressure can turn out to be of significant value to us. He said in Matthew 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…’! In this regard, pressure on earth brings priceless treasure in Heaven.
2. Increased effort needed to propel the old tire setup, provided the resistance needed to strengthen my legs so that under the new setup, my leg strength enabled me to bike at greater speeds with less effort. Becoming aware of this reality, I recalled the words of Luke 22:41-44, ‘And He (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’! Jesus’ strengthening under pressure enabled Him to respond to the spiritual events around Him with even more vigor. This will be true for us as well.
3. The increased effort in earlier rides has strengthened me and enabled me to achieve goals that before I could not even imagine were possible. The ‘old strength’ kept me from even being able to imagine what my biking experience might be, just like a weakened faith can keep us from even imagining what God can do. Once strengthened, we can believe God for what He says He can do in and through us. As emphasized in Ephesians 3:20-21, ‘Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen’.
Let’s resolve to be a people who after being strengthened by His power in times of strain, pursue Him more passionately during times of service.