The Path Less Travelled

Lately we have had some gorgeous weather. With this weather comes the opportunity to get outdoors; for some, this is a stroll down the park, or a visit to the beach. For my family, it is getting out into the countryside, getting off the beaten track to see what we can discover.
Don’t get me wrong, visiting the more populated places like Ben Nevis, or The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye is nice, but there is something about getting off the populated routes, finding beautiful hidden Lochs or valleys, reaching those lesser visited summits, carrying a tent on your back and pitching up in the middle of nowhere, or taking a picnic and spending a day by the river with no one else around.
The peace and beauty in these places really brings home to you Gods creation, and the Joy of seeing things most people don’t is very much worth the extra effort.
Over the last few days we have made a few of these trips. I have had plenty of time to reflect on Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
This is a well known verse by many, and most people recognise it to be talking of salvation, of how before we knew Jesus, we were all on the Broad way to death, but there is more to it than that.
Notice how Jesus describes the Narrow gate, Narrow is the gate and difficult the path which leads to life.
Difficult…
I like to think of this as the path less travelled.
Above this post is a photo I took on one of our walks. In this image there are two paths, one is clearly defined, easy to walk, flat and clearly well used, the other is off to the left, look closely and you can see it, it is darker, hard to see, overgrown,lumpy and worst of all, it goes uphill.
Walking that first path is easy, you can do it in shorts and sandals with no problem, the second requires a little more preparation and effort, as a minimum you would want good shoes, and a pair of trousers.
For some just looking at that path and thinking of the extra effort and preparation it would take is enough to keep them off of it. For others it may look scary and intimidate them, but if you knew that at the end of that path, was the only water source in 100 miles, you would not hesitate to prepare for and undertake that journey.
If you are going hiking and wild camping, you need to prepare a lot more than if you are going for a picnic. If you are going for a picnic, you need to prepare a lot more than if you are going for a stroll in the park. The amount of preparation needed isdirectly in relation to where you are planning to go, directly in relation to your journey and destination.
Why do we prepare?
It is because we plan to reach our goal. Whether it’s the park at the end of the street, the river three miles up the track, or the mountain top via an overnight camp by the glacial lake, we prepare for our journey so we can see it through, if we didn’t prepare we would give up, turn back or in some cases get badly hurt or die.
We prepare because we anticipate the destination, the Joy it will bring to us, because we desire to see that beautiful view, or relax by the river bend while we eat with our family; because we want the joy, peace, and happiness we will get from reaching the journeys end.
In the same way we should be preparing for the journey we are on now, we are travelling a difficult path, one filled with pitfalls and snares, one which is contrary to the world we live in today; but are we really prepared for this journey?
Preparation for this journey comes from the changes Jesus makes in each of us, as we spend more time in His word, in prayer, in fellowship, in submission and accountability to each other as believers, in contemplation of His words; then we grow and mature in understanding and perseverance, in love and patience, and much more besides.
So do we see the following traits increasingly in our lives?
Patience, Peace, Love, Joy, Kindness, Gentleness, Self Control.
The closer we get to Jesus, and the more we mature in understanding, the more we should be seeing these things in the individual moments of our daily lives.
Do we regularly recognise the undeserved gift we have in Jesus? Are we traumatised again and again by our Gods mercy for us?
Do we daily dwell on Jesus’ Life, His words, His example, His death, and of course, His resurrection?
Do we speak to God, not just in the morning or evening, or at meal times, but moment by moment, seeking guidance in the little things as well as the big?
Is God constantly on our minds?
If you answered NO to a number of the above, can I plead with you now, go to your pastor, seek out a good Christian friend, find a good Bible study group, be a seeker and dwell on Jesus.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Jesus waits for you….
If you answered yes to a number of the above, can I ask that you make yourself available, do as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ”
Be an Imitator of Jesus and Paul, follow their examples, make disciples, invest time into others, share Jesus, be willing to speak to those who seek, encourage those who are new to the faith, Bible study with fellow disciples and pray together.
Be in each others lives….
God Bless
Nick

Fixed Upon Jesus

We all have trials in our lives, and these trials come in many forms; the lack of a job, the lack of money, fear of others, fear of being judged, assorted illnesses, and many others besides.  When we finally get past one trial we are often quickly bombarded by another.

I don’t know about anyone else, but certainly, at times, I have felt like I am overwhelmed and drowning, it seems like the world around me is trying to keep me from peace, to keep me in turmoil.  I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at this, Satan certainly doesn’t want us focused on Jesus, does he?

When these trials come upon me I try to think about the apostles; they were men, and just like the rest of us, they failed, they made mistakes, they were controlled by fear and disbelief, and had to strive hard in times of difficulty.
Often, I ponder upon Matthew 14, particularly on Peter, on how he did what would be considered impossible today, walking on the water to meet with Jesus, on how he then floundered in fear, sinking into the very same waters that a moment ago he was walking on.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
– Matthew 14:28-30

I compare this to my own walk, in faith I go where Jesus commands me to go, I begin well, trusting fully in Him, walking on the water like it is solid ground; but inevitably something distracts me, moving my focus off Jesus and on to the world around me.  That is when fear, or stress, or worry, begins to set in; that is when I begin to flounder and flail and the solid ground beneath me suddenly becomes a great sea, seeking to swallow me whole.  I could easily give 100’s of examples of these times in my own life, but I know, that you know, exactly what I am talking about.

I have said above that when we finally get past one trial we are often quickly bombarded by another. But that is not entirely true is it?
During these trying times, we often forget about the times of peace and strength we experience in Jesus.  The times we feel invincible and that through Jesus we can do anything.  We forget that on the sea of Galilee Jesus calmed the storm; we often lack in faith. (Mark 4:35-40)

We forget that Jesus leads us by still waters, that He lies us down in green pastures, that His rod and staff are our comfort.  (The rod which keeps the enemy at bay, and the staff which is used to guide us away from danger) We forget that He, is our shepherd and protector, that He is our peace. (Psalm 23)

We forget our need for Him!

It too often seems that it is only when we are drowning that we remember this need and like Peter did, we call out to Him, “Lord, save me!” it is then that without fail we find He is right there, reaching out with an open hand, just as He was with Peter.

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
– Matthew 14:31
Immediately! Isn’t that incredible?  Jesus is immediately there, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Sometimes we may not understand our trials, but we should understand, that through them all Jesus is always by our side. Remember that He supplies our strength and peace, just as He did for Peter, helping him back to the boat.
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
– Matthew 14:32
As disciples we should be striving to keep our focus on Jesus; the reason we flounder, the reason we are drowning, is because we have taken our eyes off Him, we have wandered and forgotten our need for Him.  But it is only in failing, then in recognising we need Him, that we get the perseverance and discipline to keep holding on to Jesus.  It is in failing to hold on to Him and then returning to Him again and again that our faith is increased, as our faith increases, so does our love, joy and peace.
It is when we call out to Jesus that He restores us to the green pastures, brings us back to the still waters, brings back the peace in our lives, even though the trial may still be upon us, we find renewed love for Jesus, and extra strength, perseverance and peace to face it.

We should remember that if we have failed, or are failing, it does not mean we are not loved!  Jesus’ love for us does not depend on us, it is all dependent on Him; Jesus will never let us down and through our failures He shows us His perfection.  He increases our trust in Him so that the next time, we are stronger, we persevere longer, we trust more.

This is increased faith and increased faith equals increased peace in our lives.
This is Jesus taking us and leading us through the process of sanctification, growing and maturing and transforming us. Reminding us who He is.  When we have failed to keep our gaze on Jesus, then returned it back to Him, we remember and recognise who He is.
Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
– Matthew 14:33