Guidance ”“ How is the Path Marked?
Â I often wonder if I am on the right road or path of life. Perhaps you also contemplate as I do on whether you are doing what God has purposed for your life. How do we know if our guidanceÂ is God directed or of our own desires? How do we recognize if we are on the marked path of God or if we have veered on another path? How do we know if we are following the correct guidance?
I like to hike and I am often faced with making sure that I am following the right trail marker or blaze to determine the correct guidance of the trail that will reachÂ my desired destination. IfÂ you are hiking are on the east coast and hiking, for example,Â the Appalachian Trail (AT)Â there areÂ different types of trail markers lining the trail that you need to be aware of to stay on the correct trail. The primary markers are single white-painted blazes found below the tree line, cairns (pile of rocks) found above the tree line, and double painted blazes. The main trail indicted by a single blaze of paint is usually found on a tree or post identified by the color white and is about two inches wide and 6 inches long. If you are hiking above the tree line you will find cairns (pile of rocks) to show the trail. You may encounter other trail markers as they enter on the AT such as blue or other colors that indicate other trails that you may find interesting. A double painted blaze, one single blaze with another painted above, means that there is an odd turn or switch back where the trail is changing and you need to be alert as your current situation is about to change. It is important to know the different trail guidance if you will be hiking on a trailÂ because if you are not aware of them you could be misled or follow the wrong guidance path and not reach your intended destination. What about the path of life? What guidance do we need to be aware of to reach our destination with God? This week’s focus verse is Psalm 25:4
Show me the right path, O’ Lord; point out the road for me to follow. (NLT)
Guidance ”“ Understanding the Different Symbols on the Path
Guidance on the path or trail of life is easily related to hiking on a real trail or path. Just as we would need guidance on the AT hiking trail we also need guidance when traveling the trail of life. We first need to ask for directions. If we are going to hikeÂ on the AT or any trail we don’t just pull our car over on the side of the road and take off. We must know where the path or trail goes. We need assurance that the trail end is worth our effort and we want some type of guidance so we will not waste our time getting off on side trails causing our final destination to be delayed or worse never reaching it. Isn’t that just the way it is with life too? We want assurance that the end of life, the final destination point is worth the effort. As Christians we know with confidence that the end of the trail is certainly worth the effort. Most people even non-Christians want to claimÂ heaven as their final destination.Â There is great evidence of heaven throughout the Bible and there have been many people of earth who claim they have been to heaven and back. So we set our course to end in heaven.
When we decide to hike a trail we want a map, markers, or blazes to assure us we are on the right trail. In life though there isn’t a map or blazes but we do have God’s word. As we read God’s word we can gain insight and wisdom to the direction that we should follow giving us guidance on the path of life. We are more in tune to the insight of God if we first make our lives’ ”God Centered” by focusing on the end of the trail instead of the path to get there. On a real life trail if we know where we want to be when the trail ends we can depend on the guidance provided by asking others who have made the maps or marked the trail.Â We must do the same in life as we begin our journey on this trail by first asking God for His help. Psalm 86:11;
Teach me your ways, O’ Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. (NLT)
We will find that if we are ”God Centered” weÂ focus on the kingdom and that by asking for God’s guidance He will bless us as it says in Matthew 5:8;
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. (NLT)
It all sounds very easy just follow the path and don’t veer off.Â But life’s pathÂ justÂ like the real trail is often full of otherÂ paths and trails. So what about those blue, yellow, and other color blazes that we find on the trail along the way? We learned earlier that on the AT that when we come across these other colored blazes it is telling us that other trails are entering into the AT and we should be alert to this. Often on the trail we come across these other trailsÂ that we see others on and think their trail looks easier, more fun, maybe more people are on that side trail, perhaps there is something interesting at the end of that trail that we don’t want to miss. Isn’t that just the way with life too? We see others on different paths and maybe our path is going uphill and theirs is going down. We don’t understand why they get to go down and we have to go up so sometimes we veer off of our trail and just follow along with the crowd. It is so important that before we decide to change our path that we consult with God going back to his word to study and understand the path He has laid before us for if we are seeking the kingdom of God first along with His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) we will have a better understanding of His guidance on the path He wishes us to follow.
So we have learned to stay on the primary trail God has placed us on unless directed otherwise but sometimes it isn’t just the different colored trails that come across our path sometimes, at least on the AT, we come across a double painted blaze, one single blaze with another painted above telling us to be alert for our circumstances ahead are soon to change. We do not often get this blaze warning in life but weÂ makeÂ preparation for it.Â Our preparation comes from much study of the Bible and prayer such as inÂ Psalm 5:8;
Lead me in the right path O’Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow. (NLT)
This preparation requires faith and trust that God will lead us through the double painted blazes of life to new circumstances and ways. The path and terrain can change from what we were on before sometimes drastically. We may feel like we are walking alone on that path but we are to remember that we are never alone and to keep moving forwardÂ with our mind focused on the end destination. This takes complete faith as 2 Corinthians 5:7 states;
For we walk by faith not by sight. (NLT)
This is difficult especially when we have a steep incline to go up or rocks to scale but just as we trust other’s guidance about the end of the earthly trail we surely can place our trust of the end of life’s path with the guidance that Christ laid before us.
Guidance ”“ What Should We do When We Do Not See the Path Blazes?
If we are hiking on the AT and are not in a wilderness area and do not see trail blazes for more than a quarter of a mile the Appalachian Trail Conservancy tells us that we should stop and retrace our steps until we find a blaze to make sure that we have not missed a turn. They also warn us that if our map tells us one route but the blazes tell another to follow the blazes. This is so very important in life too. If we are not in the wilderness because sometimes God does send us into the wilderness for his purpose thenÂ perhaps it is time to look at the path again to make sure we are following the correct guidance from God. Once we have made sure we are on the right path we must keep moving forward following the blazes and not the map directions of others that can lead us on a different trail.Â
If we have ensured that we are on the right path and still do not see a blaze perhaps we are in the wilderness this is the time to reflect on what God seems to be doing in our life as HeÂ often calls usÂ to a special purpose butÂ we have to sort that out through study and prayer continuing to move forward knowing and trusting that there will be a trail blaze up ahead it is just going to take some time to get there. If we are ”God Centered” weÂ know that the marked path is there andÂ others are available to help us along the way.
Â The AT Conservancy has volunteer trail workers who maintain the trails regularly helping relocate trail sections as a need arises around dangerous or undesirable areas. Our churches and or small groups helps us to maintain our path with guidance around things that are unpleasant by giving us support as we continue to press forward on our paths whether they are seemingly easy or difficult. It is so important that trails as large as the AT have these volunteers that they depend upon to do this to make things easier and safer forÂ all hikers along the way. It is just as important that we partner with churches or ministries to not only help provide support Â but also receive support to guide us all on easier routes or move to safer areas depending on each other as we are all pressing forward on the path to the sameÂ end destination.
Guidance ”“ Pressing and Stretching to the End of the Path
Â As we follow the path of life we must continue to look for the blazes along the way, be aware that there will be other colored paths that we could veer on, and that there is often double blazes that can suddenly change our path through new circumstances. While all of that may seem daunting we can also be assured if we ask for guidance through prayer, study the map by reading God’s word, and wait patiently in the wilderness for the next blaze we will reach our final destination in full confidence.
We have the support of others who are on the path with us, our hiking partners so to speak are the churches, and small groups, all who help support us by keeping us on the correct path, steering us away from dangerous areas, or helping us find our way again when we are lost.Â As we move forward we must keep our eye on the final destination the trail end. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are all on the same path and we will not reach our destination without moving forward. Philippians 3:13;
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (ESV)
Let us all remember to keep straining forward to what lies ahead knowing that the path goes up and down sometimes making it difficult and other times easy but the key to making it through it all is to stay focused on the final destination. We must learn the map but watch for God’s blazes and support eachÂ other on the path not forgetting however to enjoy the beauty of the trip along the way.
Have a great week as we press forward on our paths into a new month.
Love in Christ,