How to Stay on God's Paths
How to Stay on God's Paths
I remember reading, years ago, about an incident that occurred on the Italian Riviera. A young man was driving his sports car along a road near the sea. It was a beautiful and scenic route. But the road was not what it seemed.
All along the way were warning signs. Yet, to the young man, the road seemed perfectly good. Disaster awaited him. A landslide had recently created a precipice. No one should have been on that road. He continued at great speed. He ignored all the warning signs. He went straight over the cliff.
Sometimes we are not sure where a path will lead. At other times, we are well aware of where it leads but choose to follow it nevertheless.
Jesus said that there is a path that leads to life. There is also a path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14). Warning signs are not put up as a threat, but out of love. The signs on the Italian Riviera were erected to keep people safe. The words of Jesus, the New Testament and the Bible as a whole, are designed to keep us on the path that leads to life.
How do you make sure that you are on the right path? Once you are on that path, how do you stay on it?
Get on the ‘wonderful road’Psalm 107:1-9
‘Oh, thank God – he’s so good! His love never runs out’ (v.1, MSG). You cannot improve on God’s purpose for you. God is good. He loves you. He wants the very best for your life. He has a ‘wonderful road’ for your life.
He wants you to walk on his paths: ‘He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live’ (v.7, MSG). He doesn’t want you wandering for ‘years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, half starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion’ (v.4–5, MSG).
The good news is that, wherever you are, you can ‘cry out to the Lord’ (v.6a). When you do so, he pours ‘great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry’ get ‘plenty to eat’ (v.9, MSG).
This is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s many occasions of deliverance of his people. Four times the psalmist says, ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble’ (vv.6,13,19,28). Each time, God rescues them.
Furthermore, nothing that you have done in the past disqualifies you from being part of God’s people. The only qualification is that you should call out to God and be redeemed (v.2). Redemption means to be ‘set free by God’. Jesus came to make this redemption possible.
The ‘redeemed of the Lord’ are to ‘tell their story’ (v.2). Speak out and tell others your story of how the Lord has rescued you.
Lord, thank you so much for the many times in my life when I have cried out to you in my trouble and you have brought me out of my distress. Lead me, I pray, on a straight path.
Live on the path of love2 Corinthians 12:11-21
The apostle Paul was absolutely determined to do the right thing. He wanted to follow the right path (v.18).
He had been falsely accused. The ‘super-apostles’ (v.11) had tried to undermine him. As a result, he had been misunderstood and attacked by those who ought to have known better. Absurdly, he had been accused of not wanting to take money from the Corinthians because he didn’t love them (v.13).
Paul points out that the reason he didn’t take money from them was because he did not want to be a burden to them. He says, ‘What I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children’ (v.14b).
It was because of his love for them that he would have gladly spent everything for them and indeed expended himself as well (v.15). Always act in a way that is ‘aboveboard’ and ‘honest’ (v.18, MSG). Everything Paul did was for their benefit (v.19). He was not interested in their money or possessions. He was interested in their souls.
Just as Paul has done the right thing and stayed on the right course, he wants the Corinthians to do the same. He is afraid that some of them may be going off course: ‘Quarrels, jealousy, flaring tempers, taking sides, angry words, vicious rumours, swelled heads, and general bedlam’ (v.20, MSG).
He is afraid that when he comes to them he will find that crowd ‘that keeps sinning over and over in the same old ways, who refuse to turn away from the pigsty of evil, sexual disorder and indecency in which they wallow’ (v.21, MSG).
Turn away from these things to be sure that you are on the path that leads to life. The path that leads to life is a path of love – the kind of love that Paul has for the Corinthians.
Lord, help me always to act in love and out of concern for those to whom I am ministering. May I never seek my own personal gain. Rather, may my only motivation be love. Keep me, Lord, on your paths.
Ask God about his plans for youIsaiah 29:1-30:18
Sometimes we make our own independent plans or run straight to other people for help. We don’t ask God first. As Joyce Meyer says, ‘When you’ve got a problem: don’t go to the phone, go to the throne.’
The prophet Isaiah criticises God’s people for the way in which they made their plans. They failed to consult God (30:1–2). As a result, they had gone off in the wrong direction. They had gone off to Egypt without so much as asking God.
The trouble is, they didn’t really want to know God’s plans. Their worship is a mere formality (29:13): ‘These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it’ (v.13, MSG).
Jesus says these words were not written simply for the people of Isaiah’s day. He says to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules”’ (Matthew 15:7–9).
Because their hearts are not right with God, they go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord: ‘You pretend to have the inside track. You shut God out and work behind the scenes, plotting the future as if you knew everything... You treat the potter as a lump of clay. Does a book say to its author, “He didn’t write a word of me”? Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it, “She had nothing to do with this”?’ (Isaiah 29:15–16, MSG).
As a result, ‘You make plans, but not mine. You make deals, but not in my Spirit… Going off to Egypt without so much as asking me’ (30:1b–2a, MSG).
They are ‘unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right... leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel”’ (vv.9a–11).
They did not want the prophets to give them any warnings. They ignored the warning signs. In fact, they wanted to take the warning signs off the road and for the prophets to ‘leave this way, get off this path’ (v.11). They said, ‘We’ll rush off on horseback!’ (v.16, MSG).
Sometimes in my own life I have messed up by not consulting God and charging ahead with my own plans.
But this passage also contains hope that ‘those who got off track will get back on track’ (29:24, MSG). God says, ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me' (30:15, MSG).
God is actively looking to bless you: ‘The Lord longs to be gracious to you’ (v.18a) ‘and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favour, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!]’ (vv.18b–18c, AMP).
Lord, I want to know your plans. Help me to hear your voice. Help me to come to you in ‘repentance and rest’, to walk in your paths ‘in quietness and trust’ (v.15).
‘Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle… Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.’
Thousands of refugees are fleeing war-torn areas, desperate to find safety, often with tiny children and so many have lost lives. As they arrive in our country we need compassion and wisdom to know how best to help them integrate into our society and recover from their trauma and help them rebuild their lives.
Verse of the Day
‘… the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion’ (Isaiah 30:18a).
Joyce Meyer, @JoyceMeyer: https://twitter.com/joycemeyer/status/367322178749857792 [Last accessed: September 2015]
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.