Wilderness Hiking: The Importance of the Narrow Path
Posted by October 22, 2014on
We are called to walk a narrow path. Staying on that path is essential for us to reach our ultimate goal, the Kingdom of God. What can help us stay on it?
This past summer I had the opportunity to go on a wilderness expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). It was an incredible experience to spend 25 days in the wilderness and experience some of God’s beautiful creation.
On one of the hiking days, our group started hiking along a narrow path through the woods. Based on the map, we expected the trail to eventually turn toward the mountain we were skirting and take us over a mountain pass to reach our campsite. As we began walking, my group got caught up in conversation and games and cruised through a clear meadow, following what appeared to be a trail.
Eventually, our instructor suggested that we stop and check our maps. When we consulted our maps, we realized that we had missed our trail turn when we cruised through the meadow—20 minutes back! Our instructor didn’t speak up immediately because he thought we needed to learn to watch the trail and be aware of where we were going. We needed to be responsible for the direction we were taking and make sure we were following the right path. These skills were important because in time we would eventually be embarking on our own expeditions without our instructors. We needed to be able to navigate on our own. In order to get back on the path, we had to hike back to the meadow and then continue on, facing one of the longest days of the entire trip.
Checking our map
This lesson can apply to our Christian walk of life. God gives us a narrow path that He expects us to stay on to reach the ultimate destination He is preparing us for—the Kingdom of God. Thankfully, He has provided us a map for direction and guidance—the Bible. But, when life gets busy, it can be easy to become distracted. When we neglect studying God’s Word, we can get lost spiritually.
Studying God’s Word on a regular basis and continuing in daily prayer helps us to stay on the narrow path. In the book of Proverbs we are told, “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray” (Proverbs 10:17). Had we refused to listen to our instructor’s advice, we would have gone much farther off track!
Listen to instruction
In the beginning of the expedition, our instructors led us and showed us how to use the maps, use a compass, set up a tent, etc. As time went on, they began to pass more responsibility on to us. We weren’t perfect at everything. We made mistakes quite often! But we learned from those mistakes and continually got better. Sometimes our instructors allowed us to make mistakes in order to learn lessons. If our instructors had simply corrected us again and again, we wouldn’t have learned the lesson! As previously noted, they allowed us to go off course for a little while and experience the consequences of our negligence. This ingrained the lesson in us, so we would be less likely to make the same mistake in the future when we were on our own.
Similarly, how we use our spiritual instruction will determine whether we stay on the narrow path to God’s Kingdom. We need to pay attention to the messages at services and learn from the experiences of our fellow brethren who have gone before us. Staying on the narrow path is not easy; in fact, it can be quite difficult! It is imperative that we heed the instruction given to us and trust in our ultimate Instructor, Jesus Christ.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ warned His followers to “enter by the narrow gate. … Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). God never promised that following His way of life would be easy. In fact, He said it would be difficult! Striving to keep to the narrow path is the only way to reach the Kingdom of God. We must remember to regularly “check our map” and seek instruction. Make the most of the time you have now to prepare for a life of keeping on the narrow path!
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