Every time I wake up early to pray, I am defying inertia. I am setting into motion an object which otherwise would have remained at rest to ask the Lord to move mountains against their will. Every time I carve out a moment during the day to pray, I am interrupting the trajectory of an object already in motion to rest in the Lord. When I fail to do this–and too often I do–I am simply giving in to inertia.
Resisting inertia never gets any easier. At some point, before I realized how relentless the laws of the universe can be, I convinced myself that if I established a good, disciplined habit of studying the word and praying every morning, it would eventually just become second nature. I have spent years of my life in disciplined study and prayer, years that increased my faith and helped me to grow my roots down deep into the soil of God’s truth. Once I was in motion, I did find it easier to stay in motion. But once I stopped, my momentum was lost. And so, I have to admit that I have also spent years drifting, checked occasionally by bursts of zealous Christian activity that kept me on track but did little to help me grow. I have experienced the laws of physics first hand: an object in motion will stay in motion, but an object at rest tend to remain at rest.
The apostle Paul did not have a word for the concept of inertia, he just knew he had to keep “straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13). He admits openly that he did not always do the good he wanted to do, but instead kept doing the evil he did not want to do! Paul attributed this to another law at work, a law “waging war against the law of (his) mind and making (him) a prisoner of the law of sin at work within (him)” (Romans 7:15-23). He found that there were forces at work in the world that were actively working against him whenever he set out to do the right thing. Paul recognized that he was made of flesh, and that flesh is subject to all the laws of the universe.
Rather than making me feel defeated, Paul’s words inspire me to resist the forces of inertia. I had been thinking maybe I was lazy, or tired, or bored… I had been thinking I was alone. Instead, I discover that I am resisting the very forces that hold every human being to the planet. Just being able to identify the forces I wrestle against helps renew my resolve. If I do not resist, I am drifting, giving in to the forces of inertia, gravity, and entropy… and I cannot say it any better than D.A. Carson already has: “People do not, will not, drift towards holiness.”