Blazing a Trail

One morning when we were out walking along a bush path near our home here in New Zealand, David suddenly stopped as he saw some familiar flowers. “These make great tea!” he said, “they help cool the body.”
They sounded great, considering it was a hot day! We took some home and dried them. It wasn’t the first time he had done that… when we were in his village in China, I cut my foot on some broken glass while swimming in the river. He quickly went to the bank of the river to look for a particular plant which helped stop bleeding quickly. He picked some and wrapped it around my foot, and it was very effective!

That day as we picked the tea flowers, I wondered… who discovered which plants were edible and which weren’t? What leaves made good tea, which were good for medicine, which were poisonous if you ate them?
I’m sure there must have been years of trial and error by people of all tribes around the world, and some horrible misfortunes! I sure am grateful for all those accumulated years of ancient knowledge, as well as the discoveries of modern medicine. I can’t imagine having to live without pain killers!

The bible is full of the stories of those who blazed a spiritual trail… Abraham, Moses, David, Joshua, Peter, Paul… there were so many things that went wrong, and so many things that went well. The wonderful thing is, we have all of their stories written down to learn lessons from! I always seemed to need a hard lesson to finally learn some things for myself, but I’ve had enough hard lessons now that I’m content to learn from others’ wisdom and mistakes, and just believe them when they say that it doesn’t go well!

But now we are facing so many new challenges in our world, so many new frontiers of change, that sometimes it makes it hard to forge our way ahead. How do we face things like globalisation, social media and technology use, genetic engineering, gender roles, a hectic pace of life, modern medical care, and rapid population growth? Can we just rely on the stories and truths of the past?

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight

Some things may change, but some never do. God is just that… He never changes. He has made Himself available to us as the medicine, the healer, the teacher, the provider, the guide, the path… but we must be tuned in and be willing to trust Him. Jesus told us “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6), but how has He revealed this “way” to us? How do we keep forging a path ahead through this unknown territory of the modern world?

Of course, there are many truths we can and must learn from the bible.
In the scriptures we find old medicine that still applies to our modern bodies, old ways that still apply to our new path.
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
God’s word is like a mirror that reads us, a book that comes alive when we read it. Through it we learn God’s character, the things He likes and doesn’t like, who we are, the things he wants us to know and where he wants our hearts, minds and loyalties to be. But it must be the Holy Spirit working through the Word and in our hearts to be effective.

Other believers are an essential part of our own life as believers too. God intended us for fellowship with each other, all parts of one body.
1 Corinthians 12: 12 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 […] we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. […] 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? […] The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.”
The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” […] 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. […] 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

We need other believers in our lives to encourage us along the path ahead, pray for us, teach us by word and example, and sometimes remind us if we are not living the right way. Oftentimes, those who have gone before us into certain territories can let us know of the dangers, or help us see things in our lives that we are blind to.

But sometimes, we can be doing all the right things like going to church and reading the bible, and still feel a bit lost, or miss the trail the God has for us. One thing that we often seem to forget is the most important source of all… God Himself. Spending time in God’s presence is something that Jesus did very frequently. His vital communion with His Father is something that we need just as much as He did.
In the gospel of John chapters 13-17, the last night that Jesus was with His disciples before he was to be crucified, Jesus comforted them as he told them that he would be leaving them. Up until then, they had relied on him in person being there to guide them, teach them, and show them by example how to be his disciples in the Kingdom of God.
But now he was leaving… and they were distressed. How would they face the world with all it’s challenges without him there? He promised an amazing thing to them that would help them blaze the trail ahead…
His presence in Spirit (John 14:16-18). He would still be with them by sending another helper, a comforter, a teacher, to come alongside them and be with them: the Holy Spirit. The disciples and new believers could do nothing without the Spirit guiding them, which is why Jesus asked them to wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Spirit came upon them (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4). This would give them power (John 14:12-14) to face the obstacles ahead, guidance all along the way, and peace (John 14:27) like a soothing balm that would protect them from distress and fear… medicine that wasn’t anything the world could give them. This way they would do the same works He did, and even greater! Imagine that!

God never asked us to blaze a trail on our own, with constant trial and error, always seeming to pick the wrong plants to eat! He has placed in us, around us, and before us, the things we need to blaze the trail he has called us to walk… mainly, Himself. He will help us discern which things are helpful, which things are good, and which are poisonous… but only if we are willing to trust Him, learn from our fellow believers, spend time in His presence, and take Him at His word.

“Saints of all ages have made it their business to be present to God, and out of this has sprung their truest vocation. They become, therefore, the ones who blaze spiritual trails for others. Every generation of Christians must courageously face dark wildernesses, peculiar to the time in which they live. […] The saints who make it their full intention, therefore, to practice the Presence (however they term this) become the courageous pathfinders, whether for the many or the few. And in doing this, no matter how much they suffer, they are to be accounted doubly blessed, for they have discovered what they were born to do.”

– Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence