Prayer and Fasting – January
Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25:4-5, NLT)
The Path of God
Our Christmas nativity scenes often include the magi who patiently followed a star, recognizing that it would lead them to something profound and life-changing. What we sometimes forget is that this journey took a long time. The magi didn’t make it for the birth. But they did make it. They weren’t always sure of the path they were to take, but they trusted that if they followed the star, the path would become clear.
That’s the way it is for us as well. As we follow Jesus, the path may not always seem clear, but we have a star to follow – a map of sorts, given to us for our journey. That map is Scripture. The star wasn’t the destination for the wise men, but it did guide them to where they needed to go. In the same way, Scripture isn’t our destination, but it does map the path toward the purpose and future God has created for each one of us.
Some years ago, I preached in the chapel at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Before my arrival, the chaplain’s office sent three pages of instructions in anticipation of my visit. There was all kinds of information – the schedule for the day, a description of the chapel service, directions to my hotel and to the college, a walking map of the campus, and special points of interest. It was clear that they wanted to make sure that I got to Wheaton and that I stayed there once I arrived.
As considerate as the Wheaton staff were, their kindness was simply the politeness shown to any guest who may not know their way around unfamiliar territory. How much more do you think God loves us? God loves us so much that God was willing to become human and die – for each one of us. And God has given us a map – the Bible – multiple pages of instructions and information to make sure we “get there.”
Scripture isn’t the destination, however; and it may not always feel complete as we try to use it to move toward the destination God has created for us. In fact, we’re told that there were many things that Jesus did and many God-events that people saw and experienced that aren’t even written down. But we are also told that there is enough written down, the map is detailed enough, to be able to come to believe in Jesus Christ as God’s means of salvation and restoration (John 20). As we come to believe, as our faith is strengthened, we become more able to move God closer and closer to the center of our lives, trusting that God’s Word will provide the instructions we need to reach our destination.
One of my favorite series of movies is the now classic Indiana Jones trilogy. In the last one, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy must negotiate a set of life-threatening challenges in his quest to find the Holy Grail. He discovers a diary that contains mysterious clues to guide his quest and at each challenge, remembering those clues saves him from certain death. Finally, he finds himself on a small ledge on the side of a cliff. In front of him is a huge chasm; on the other side is the pathway he needs. Below him is a seemingly bottomless abyss. There appears to be no way forward. He begins to panic even as he continues to recite the last clue – the path of God…the path of God. There doesn’t seem to be any path.
“The path of God, only the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” As he says these words, Indy realizes that he must act on faith; he must leap, trusting that the clues that have guided him so far will continue to bear him along. He screws up all his courage and steps forward into the abyss. As he does, rather than falling into the chasm, he steps onto a stone bridge that miraculously appears beneath his outstretched foot, bearing the full force of his weight and carrying him safely to the other side.
Even in the best of circumstances, there will be times when the path God has laid before us seems unclear. As we begin year three of the COVID pandemic, this feels especially true. We may be uncertain about where God is leading us. We may feel insecure about our future and God’s purpose for us. Yet, even amid uncertainty we must remind ourselves that everything we need to know has been given to us in the context of God’s Word.
Just as the magi trusted that the star would lead them to something life-changing, we trust that the clues that have guided us thus far will continue to bear us toward God’s future. With that trust, we can step out in faith, confident that as we commit ourselves more and more to living out God’s Word, a path will appear that will lead us in the right direction.
God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “I know the plans I have for you…They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (29:11, NLT) As you pray and fast in this first month of 2022, I pray you will keep this passage in your mind, remembering that God uses God’s Word to reveal God’s path to you. And I pray as well, that you would be a light in the lives of others, enabling them to see God’s path as well.