Walking in Faith
Last summer, I found myself stuck on the side of a mountain. While at a conference in Manitou Springs, Colorado, a friend and I made the decision to try out the Manitou Incline, a mile long staircase up the side of a mountain with as much as a 68% grade. It was grueling. There were several points where we found ourselves on our hands and knees crawling in an attempt to make it up this trail, but somehow we made it to the top. And that is where our troubles began.
The trail is incredibly steep in several places and the trip down would have been a little more dangerous than we would have liked. Luckily, there is a secondary trail at the top of the Incline that leads down a different face of the mountain just for that very purpose: to discourage people from attempting to walk down. My friend and I gratefully took the trail and began our descent after catching our breath. This trail, the Barr Trail, consisted almost entirely of long stretches of very gentle switchbacks which were alright, at first, but quickly became frustrating and monotonous as it sacrificed any sort of efficiency in getting back down the mountain for comfort. That is when we began to see people in front of us cut across from one switchback to the next, bypassing the long winding trail. These shortcut-trails seemed pretty defined so we felt confident as we followed suit, and it worked pretty well—that is until we stopped running into the main trail.
Assuming the trail had to be just behind the next tree, we continued on downward. It was right about then that we realized we had followed a water run off, not a shortcut. That point became increasingly evident as the path became so steep we had to make our way down in short burst, using trees to brace ourselves from falling any further. We really knew we were in trouble when—after a short burst of falling—I used a boulder to stop my descent only to find that right on the other side of that boulder was a sheer cliff face. What came after the realization of how close we had just come to our death was as follows: first, panic; then, relief after realizing we were still alive and the boulder we were standing on was sturdy; after that, came the reaction to take pictures, which we did; but then, we finally began to brainstorm how to get out of the mess we had just gotten ourselves into.
The ground being covered in a thick layer of pine needles and the incline being so steep, we knew going back up was out of the question. We obviously couldn’t continue down the way we had as there was a cliff blocking our way. So we made the decision to very carefully climb and slide our way downward and to the left back towards the staircase itself which was currently out of sight. After more than an hour, a lot of sweat, and a few close calls, we emerged back onto the staircase about half way down the mountain, and still managed to make it back in time for dinner that night.
That trip down the mountain taught me three important things: 1) I have incredibly bad luck when it comes to large landforms, 2) always stay on the trail planned out for you unless you are 100% certain where you are going, and 3) never cut corners. Two of those lessons apply to this idea of constructing something that will stand the test on judgment day. We discussed the importance of not cutting corners last time, so this last portion deals with working according to the plan God has set out for us.
A lot of times, we don’t really feel like we have a clear set of plans. God rarely gives us a step-by-step to do list for working out His good and perfect will, but He does give us ways to find where He wants us to work next. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105 ESV) I think almost all of us have that verse memorized, but we often let the truth of it escape us. God’s word, the Bible, is a lamp that lights the path before us. Without it, we find ourselves in total darkness, having no clue what is directly ahead of us. It provides us with the wisdom to know where to place our next step so we do not fall into a pit or lose the trail.
The thing we need to realize, though, is that a lamp only lights the trail a few feet in front of us. It is not a military grade spotlight that lights the trail from here to Timbuktu. It only provides light for the next step, and after we take that step, it lights the next one. That is where faith comes in. We need to trust the one who laid out the plan in the first place. Yes, He may have given us a grand vision that serves as our ultimate end, but we need specific directions along the way to make it through. The Taj Mahal wasn’t built by some guy who just looked at the picture on the front of the Ikea box. It was built with a painstaking dedication to each step and to each detail. That is how we should approach building whatever God calls us to build.
We need to sift through God’s word, looking for things that apply to our current situation, whether it be family life, work, or love, and then let God light our next step through that. God will often give us broad, grand visions of what He desires for us—such as to be a better friend, spouse, child, or worker—but it is in His word and by His Spirit that we will find the specific application for that vision—like: “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17 ESV) or “therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)
That is where we find the God’s specific leading in our lives, and why it is so incredibly vital that we get into the word whenever possible. That is where God speaks to us, where we can be directed by Him in our confusion, and comforted by Him in our brokenness. When Jesus left, He promised to not leave us as orphans without guidance but instead told us “but very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 NIV) Now, we have the Advocate, the Comforter, and the Assurance of our Salvation living in us and through us. He guides our decisions even when we do not see it, and it is by His power that we will complete the good work God prepared for us. (Ephesians 2:10) That is what we were born-again to do, and it is by the grace of God that we will do it.
With the guidance and knowledge found in Christ alone,
“Therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:7 BSB