Previously in the path series, we have looked at:
- Paths Part 1 – Where is Your Path Going to? – The two possible different destinations of our life paths.
- Paths Part 2 – The Geography of God’s Paths – What God’s paths lead us through.
- Paths Part 3 – Knowing The Way & The Good Shepherd – Knowing the way and knowing the way back.
Today we’re going to look at our responsibility when it comes to paths.
We have responsibilities too
We have heard previously that God makes his paths straight and level. But when we’re on God’s paths we also have a part to play in making those paths straight.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:12-14
How do we do these things? We ask God for his strength and perseverance to get us through and we examine our path. Are we aware that things can hurt us as we walk on God’s path if we’re not paying attention? What obstacles or hazards are in our path that could make us lame? What are we going to do about them? Are we going to ignore them and hope the path levels out or are we going to acknowledge their existence and pray about them? If we know the enemy is attacking us with something are we going to leave those rocks in our path or are we going to ask God to remove them and to protect us? Are we going to ask others to pray for us? Are we going to forgive people who hurt us? That’s our role in making our paths straight.
Our responsibility to others
We also have responsibilities to other people, to help them move off the paths of destruction and to help them stay on God’s paths.
The good part is, if we’re on God’s path, if we’re walking closely with Jesus, whatever obstacles pop up we can see them. Because God’s paths are full of light (Proverbs 4:18, Psalm 119:105). But the enemy’s paths are full of darkness, and thus people on them often don’t realise the ploys of the enemy or the actions of sinful people that cause them to stumble.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. – Proverbs 4:19
It is good for us to understand what other people are walking through so that we can effectively pray for them. Rather than just praying for their sinful behaviours to change, or for them to be removed from our lives, we should pray for their eyes to be opened to the dark path they are on, for their protection from the enemy’s plans against them, for them to hear, choose and do God’s wisdom and for them to love others as God loves them. Until we understand that we’re on a spiritual battlefield we will not understand where bad paths, difficult geography or tricky obstacles are coming from.
Those of us who are on God’s path for us are not just in it for ourselves. We are guides for the people around us and also students of our fellow believers. None of us have got it all together, but none of us are without God’s insight that can help others.
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death. – Proverbs 12:26, 28
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. – Proverbs 10:17
Let’s imagine we’re walking along a path in the bush with friends, one behind the other. If there’s an overhanging branch that we have to push forward to get past it do we let it go once we’ve passed, whacking the person behind us in the face? Or do we hold it for them as they pass or until they can push it out of the way themselves? If there’s a tricky root or a slippery patch in the path that could cause someone to trip or fall, do we warn the people behind us or do we leave them to figure it out themselves? If someone is slower than everyone else do we leave them behind to find their own way, to feel alone, to risk getting lost? Or do we go at their pace, encouraging them, to make sure they get to the end destination too? Let’s take our bushwalking etiquette and apply it to our life’s walk.
Let’s also take our respect for people further. We encounter all sorts of people in our life’s journey. Some do very bad things. Some seem to do good things, some of the time, but they don’t know God. Some believe that God is real, but don’t have a living relationship with him through Jesus. If someone isn’t following God, they’re not on his path. If someone kills another person, the biggest ramification is not the punishment they might face, the feelings and problems they have to deal with or even the terrible, grievous loss they have caused to others. The biggest ramification is that the killer has flung the other person into the end destination of whatever path they were on at the time. That person’s path has ended, either in heaven or hell, and that person has no more choice of where they end up. That’s serious business.
We don’t know for certain what is going on inside another person in relation to God. If they weren’t on God’s path at time of death, the devil will have no mercy. Movies and games may make light of killing people, but in reality it’s a big deal. We should not make light of it. It is our job to look after each other, to love each other and to try to keep peace with one another. It isn’t our job to decide that someone should be sent to one end destination or the other ‘right now’. It is Jesus’ responsibility to judge the living and the dead.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: – 2 Timothy 4:1
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” – Romans 12:16-19
“You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” – Matthew 5:21-22
Well, that was a serious note, but it needs to be addressed in a discussion about life paths. God has fierce love for each and every one of us, whatever we’re walking through. And we have responsibilities, wherever God leads us.
I hope this series has given you a better understanding of the meaning of paths in God’s word and an awareness of what that means in your life.
Let’s remember that Jesus came to earth and also walked out God’s path for him. We can see all the good he did for the people he encountered and all the good he gave in his Word for everyone to learn from. He walked his path well and never strayed off it. But it also had plenty of hard moments and incredible suffering at the end. He stayed on God’s path to save us all. He didn’t turn off it because it was hard or painful. He kept walking closely with his Father the whole way.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:38-40
Here are some final scriptures to think on and store in your heart.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. – Psalm 84:5
So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. – Proverbs 2:20-22
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27
- What are some things you could put into practice to be more responsible on the path that God has you?
- Is there anything unacknowledged in your path that is putting you out of joint, and if so, what are you going to do about it?
- Who in your sphere of influence could you support as they walk on God’s path? What are some things you could do to support those around you to walk more closely with God?
- What about people you know who are walking on sinful paths? How can you pray for them?
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.