Faith Friday: Paths Part 1 – Where is Your Path Going to?

Have you noticed how much the Bible talks about paths? I like paths. Well, certain paths. Wild paths. Seeing a path leading through the woods is one of my favourite views in the world. Paths through meadows, winding up hills, leading through a beautiful garden or meandering along a stream are also nice.

Concrete paths aren’t so exciting. We can miss a lot of the meaning and significance of “paths” in the Bible because we live in different times. In our country at least, we have so many tarseal, concrete or gravel roads that take us to where we need to go. We have fast cars, trucks, buses or bikes that whizz by on these ‘paths’ and take us quickly to our destination. Or there are trains that take us fast along slightly different paths. We are in our little vehicle bubble and miss much of the small detail of our journeys. Think about the difference between walking a path on foot and driving on a road by car.

In Bible times, most of the time, people had to walk to wherever they were going. Their paths were made of dirt. These paths took people to their destination more slowly, whether it be to someone else’s residence, outside the city gates, across the plains or through the mountains. Some paths were wide and well-worn, some were narrow and many were certainly more dangerous to think about compared to the roads we travel here, bad driving notwithstanding.

Choosing whether to stay on a path or turn onto a side path was a much bigger consideration back then. If we make a wrong turn in our car, we can usually fix it without anything drastic happening. We don’t lose hours of travel. We don’t run out of food or water. We don’t end up scaling an awkward, rocky, mountain pass. We don’t get attacked by a band of thieves.

We should think about these things as we read about paths in the Bible. They can help us understand the significance that God places on the word ‘path’ when he illustrates his Word with it – the significance of choosing what path to walk on and the experience of walking on it.

God knows where all paths lead

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.Psalm 139:3

God can see where our paths are going. No path is a mystery to God. He doesn’t wonder what’s around the bend. He even knows where the side paths, the crooked paths, are going. Sometimes we have some idea of where our path is going next and sometimes we just have no idea.

Parts of life can feel like we’re in a corn maze. At times we might be unsure which turn to take or even scared to make a move because we don’t want to turn the wrong way and get to a dead end. But you know what? God has a bird’s eye view of the maze. He knows all the possibilities. Our life’s journey is not a puzzle to him. And God isn’t even worried by dead ends. We shouldn’t be worried by dead ends. Dead ends are just closed doors. Sometimes God allows us to get to a dead end so that we know which way to go next. So that we turn to him and rely on him instead of our own thinking. Dead ends teach us to trust God more. Dead ends are not the real problem.

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.Proverbs 4:14‭-‬15

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6

All paths lead to either God or the devil. The further along a path we go, the closer we will get to either one of them, depending on which path we have chosen. The world would have us believe that we are in charge of our own destiny, that we can choose a path that will lead to our best self. A path where the finish line is a life that has been lived in glorious self-fulfilment. We can cut a hole through a dead end or barge through a closed door if we want to! You might have seen photos of people doing fun things with the caption, ‘Living my best life’. That’s a nice snapshot. But is it your best life if you’re walking it without Jesus? The trouble is, the finish line of any path is not in this life, it’s in the next life. And there are only two options for where you end up when you cross the finish line. The snapshot of the end of someone’s path of self-proclaimed ‘best life’ might not look so fun.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.1 John 2:15‭-‬17

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?Matthew 16:25‭-‬26

God’s paths are straight and level

God makes his paths for us straight and level. Not straight as in without bends, for we cannot always see what’s around the corner, but straight as in leading directly to where God wants us to go.

This looks like a God path to me. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I know the path is clearly going to where it is intended to go.

The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous.Isaiah 26:7‭

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6

‘Acknowledge’ is an interesting, multi-faceted word that is an important precursor to God making our paths straight. I like multi-faceted things. If you haven’t noticed, my life is very multi-faceted. Dictionary.com defines acknowledge as:

  1. “to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of”,
  2. “to show or express recognition or realization of”,
  3. “to recognize the authority, validity, or claims of”,
  4. “to show or express appreciation or gratitude for”,
  5. “to indicate or make known the receipt of”, or
  6. “to take notice of or reply to”.

Now let’s apply these definitions to Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge him [God], and he will make straight your paths.”

  1. Admit God is real or true, recognise the existence, truth or fact of God,
  2. Show or express recognition or realisation of God,
  3. Recognise the authority, validity, or claims of God,
  4. Show or express appreciation or gratitude for God,
  5. Indicate or make known the receipt of what God has given you, and
  6. Take notice of or reply to God.

Suddenly, acknowledging God doesn’t sound so simple. It isn’t something we can just brush over or only do on Sundays. Acknowledging God is a multi-faceted set of actions. And we are called to acknowledge God in all our ways. If you’re wondering why God doesn’t seem to be making your path straight, are you doing your best to acknowledge him every step of the way?

As humans, it’s easy for us to go back to our default of acknowledging ourselves: acting in our own authority, appreciating our own efforts or skills, expressing gratitude for ourselves and taking more notice of our own feelings and thoughts than God’s presence. Acknowledging God in all our ways means actively, purposefully working on our relationship with him through Jesus. And that is what righteousness is about.

God has a name for the path that he wants you to walk on: Righteousness.

In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.Proverbs 12:28

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.Proverbs 4:18

Do you know what full day is? The final destination of God’s path. Heaven. God’s house. Experiencing the fullness of joy, peace and wonder that emanates from the bright, bright glory of God.

Beware the crooked and desolate paths

While we’re trying to stay on God’s straight, level paths, we have to watch out for the crooked, desolate paths. The real dark side has got nothing on Star Wars.

discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.Proverbs 2:11‭-‬15

Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.Isaiah 59:7‭-‬8

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent… my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.Proverbs 1:10‭, ‬15‭-‬18

I don’t think you want to turn onto that desolate path. That’s boiling hot thermal water.

The enemy consistently tries to get us to turn onto one of his paths. Furthermore, he uses people on his paths who he has deceived to try and get us to turn onto those paths too. Sinners on the devil’s paths really don’t know where those paths are headed. They may have fun or get power trips along the way, in-between loneliness or purposelessness, but hell is not where the party is. As much as I hate to think or talk about hell because it gives me the shivers, it’s a reality. People may think they’re going to high-five the devil as they walk through his door at the end of their life only to find that he slaps chains upon them and pushes them off to the torture chamber. I do not wish that upon anybody. I would rather everyone find God’s path for them and be saved by his grace. Don’t be deceived by anyone. Sinful paths lead somewhere too dark to imagine.

Well, at least dead ends might not sound so scary now, right?

If we’re on God’s path for us we don’t need to be scared of the enemy. And if we’ve strayed onto one of the enemy’s paths we can change that. Not by trying to fix it ourselves, but by coming back to God’s path. It’s our choice. No one can make us stay on the wrong path.

Do you keep walking on a path if you know it leads to destruction, even if it looks interesting?

And if we’re on God’s path but frustrated because we can’t see what’s ahead? That’s what hope is about. If you’re heading towards God, keep calm and carry on. God knows what’s ahead. And you know where the path ends up.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.Romans 8:24‭-‬25

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.Psalm 25:4‭-‬5

Questions
  • How do you feel about the life path that you are on right now?
  • What can you do if you hit a dead end?
  • Which aspects of acknowledging God could you improve on in daily life?
  • Do you have any tendencies towards acknowledging yourself over God that are causing or could cause you to stray off his path for you?
  • Which scripture can be an encouragement or a wake-up call for you this week?

All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.


One thought on “Faith Friday: Paths Part 1 – Where is Your Path Going to?

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s