Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:6)
Along with John 3:16, these are probably two of the best-known verses of the Bible: we all want God to direct our paths- especially if it is along the Psalm 23 route of quiet waters, with the table that He has set before us somewhere along the way. When we visited the Great Wall I knew I would write something about it, as it is such an iconic monument, but I didn’t know what it was going to be. What I’ve got is a few thoughts on the paths that He directs us on.
The paths of righteousness
The verb translated as “direct” our paths is to maintain the straight and right, from the same route as the word used to describe Job, who was an upright and blameless man. This verse doesn’t just mean God will tell us what to do, and where to go; it means that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will lead us in His paths – the paths of righteousness. And not actually for our own benefit, but for His name’s sake, as Psalm 23 (v3) also tells us. The blessings and benefits do come our way of course, but it’s always when we seek His path and not our own…
Before walking along the path you have to reach it. And the way up is by cable car. We have to be lifted up to start the journey. Cue Eph 2:6 “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Or, if you want a more active version, Hab 3:19 “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon my high places.”
We can try and lift ourselves up of course, and indeed we can achieve a lot: in China and all over the world the testimony to mankind’s efforts to re-create the Tower of Babel is multiplied in taller and taller concrete towers, like these office blocks in Dubai.
Or, we can let God lift us up and build with His stones. God’s kingdom doesn’t go up towards Heaven; it comes down from it. What we build in the spirit is always in the higher place, and when the work is complete, the New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven.
The Unprofitable Servant
So what the Great Wall has left me with is a picture of discipleship. The paths that God will direct us in are the paths of righteousness. Righteousness is by faith (Romans 3:21), but living faith is evidenced by works (James 2: 14-24). To walk in the works that God has prepared for us (Eph 2:10) we obviously have to do what He asks us to do, just like the “unprofitable servant” of Luke 17:7-10; and it is this obedience to Jesus (not the words we sing on a Sunday) that is the evidence of our love for Him: “If you love me, you will do as I command.” (John 14:15). And we all know what He has commanded us to do. When we love Jesus, we love one another. Unless we do, there is no walk of faith.
It’s not about you
Faith can be a lot closer to home than the stories in the Bible or the books we read. In fact it needs to be, because without faith in our hearts that recognises that God has a plan that we cannot see but that we nonetheless desire to serve, we do not have the ability in ourselves to lay down our lives and die to self. It is Faith that says “I can’t see the point of this, and I don’t want to do it, but if it will bless somebody else that the Lord loves I won’t think about what it costs me, but I will rejoice in the blessing it is bringing to the other person and will trust that God is going to look after me as well.”
The word that Jesus brought to Nabeel Quereshi (author of “Seeking Allah, finding Jesus”) at his moment of revelation was: “This is not about you.“ It is faith that keeps these words alive in all our hearts, and when we can walk in their truth we are walking the narrow way.