The spare tire has an interesting history. Cars used to have a spare tire that was the same size as the other tires. At some point, automobile manufacturers decided that they would save space and money by including a spare tire that was smaller than the other tires. These are called “donuts.”
A donut will work in a pinch, but you still need to get your flat tire repaired or replaced. There are basically two limitations that come with a donut spare.
· Speed - You should not exceed 50 miles per hour while driving on a donut spare. You aren’t to treat it as if it is normal equipment. Go slow with it. It wasn’t designed for high speed applications.
· Distance – You should not drive more than 75 miles on a donut spare. The donut is not designed to take you across the country. It is designed to get you to a place where the original tire can be repaired or replaced.
Again, the donut is vital to a safe journey. It is everything you need to get you out of a jam. It is entirely sufficient for emergency use. But in the end, it is a ‘workaround’, if you will. You would not start out on a trip and outfit your vehicle with four donut spares. But you’d give anything to have one if you have a flat.
In the spiritual realm, God knows that we will have troubles on our Christian journey. We will sometimes need to refuel. We will overheat at times. And we will end up on the side of the road with a flat tire from time to time. So God has equipped us with ‘workarounds’. One such workaround is available in the event that we sin. Now some people think that you are going to sin every day. I don’t believe that is true anymore than I believe that you will get a flat tire every day. If you are getting a flat tire every day, there is likely something wrong with your tire manufacturer or the way you drive. If you are sinning every day, it isn’t an acceptable Christian life.
But God knows that we have the innate ability to stumble along the way. Sometimes we stumble unintentionally. Other times it is because we are reckless. And then there are times when we stumble because we don’t care and are okay with a different path that leads to constant falling. God knew that when a believer sins it can leave him or her discouraged and on the side of the road. The enemy will make you think that you have messed up too many times and there is no hope.
The apostle John wrote to the early Christians about this scenario. “I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) This is what I call a ‘spare tire verse’. It is good in an emergency, but you don’t want to have to use it all the time.
Notice John doesn’t say “When you sin…” He says, “If anyone sins…” In other words, most people can drive months… even years without a flat tire. But when they do eventually have that experience, they expect to be able to go to the trunk, install the spare, and get back on track. Let’s face it… no one wants to have to change a tire every day. Frankly, I would be fine with never having to use the donut. But we are extremely grateful the spare is there when we need it.
The same should be true with God’s mercy and forgiveness. I don’t want to have to ask God for forgiveness every day, just as I don’t want to ask my wife for forgiveness every day. If I am constantly breaking covenant with her, the relationship is doomed. But I am grateful that there is mercy when needed.
If along your journey you sin, whether by carelessness or by rebellion, do not be hopeless. The same Jesus who gave you new life will intercede for you with the Father. Don’t drive away from the scene at break-neck speed. And don’t try to travel for years on mercy. Receive renewal, be healed, and continue on your way.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]