Speed vs. Acceleration

I’ve been thinking recently about the way people live their lives, and I’d like to frame it in the context of the laws of motion. I want to start by reviewing several terms and definitions.

1. First up is Newton’s first law of motion: “Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force.” This just means that things keep moving unless something stops them or slows them down.

2. Of course, we don’t get to observe this here on earth because of something called gravity, which slows things down. But if it weren’t for gravity, basketballs would sail through space forever. (That’s a little simplistic, but humor me.)

3. The third term is velocity, which is  the distance travelled per unit time. It means how fast you go.

4. The fourth term is acceleration, which is a rate of increase of velocity. It means going faster and faster.

Here’s the deal. When we look at other people, it’s easy for us to judge them based on their speed. This applies in many different ways, but I’d like to focus on spirituality and personal growth. It’s easy to look at someone and say, “Wow, that person has a close walk with God and has some great wisdom.” Meanwhile, we compare them with someone else who is young in the faith. When we do this, we are only measuring their speed–how fast they are going at the moment.

There’s something much more important that I look for in people. It’s acceleration. For the most part, I don’t care where you are in life. You can be young or old, any level of maturity, but those things only define where you are presently. They don’t define where you’re going to be tomorrow, or the day after. You see, someone young in the faith may be moving slowly, but if he has acceleration, it means that tomorrow he’ll be going a little faster. If he keeps on picking up speed, he’ll eventually catch up, then pass, with many believers who have set their spiritual journeys on “cruise”.

Here’s the thing. Many of us shrink back because we think that going at a faster speed will require more energy. However, according to the laws of physics, that’s not true.  Our energy is divided between two parts:

  1. Gravity — resisting the pull that wants to slow us down.
  2. Acceleration — increasing speed

Remember, gravity is what keeps you from effortlessly going where you going. Apart from gravity, you would need no additional effort to keep moving. However, if you quit exerting effort, you starting slowing down. That’s gravity. Maybe that’s why the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….”

Apart from gravity, the energy you exert is used for acceleration, allowing you to pick up speed.

What does this mean practically? It means:

  • The book that you finished last week isn’t enough.
  • The lesson you learned last week isn’t enough.
  • The time you spent with God last week isn’t enough.
  • The truth that you learned last week isn’t enough.
  • The life you touched last week isn’t enough.
  • Your walk with God last week isn’t enough.

The  problem isn’t what you did. The problem is that it all happened last week, and you’re already in this week! You can’t even maintain where you are without effort, but if you want to accelerate, you have to:

  1. pick up another book
  2. spend another hour with God
  3. touch another person’s life
  4. do what you’ve always been doing…all over again.

Sometimes it’s easy to question what we’re  doing. Why not throw in the towel? Why keep doing the same thing over and over again? But here’s the truth–the energy you exert is not about the speed you’re going. It’s about acceleration–going a little faster than the  day before. Over time, these incremental speed-ups are going to add up.

So, speed or acceleration–which way are you going to spend your life?

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