I recently spent eight days out on the trail, hiking the length of the Olympic National Park. And it struck me anew how much backpacking is like the journey of faith as a believer in Jesus. Clearly, there are some rather significant differences between a recreational activity, like backpacking, and the life journey of a follower of Christ. Yet I believe that it can be a useful metaphor. This article will be drawing some lessons I have learned in backpacking that help me in my daily walk with Christ.
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In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul gives instructions about putting on the armor of God. Armor that will enable the wearer to stand firm as they engage in the spiritual warfare that we are a part of. God equips us with the proper equipment that we need for the journey.
When Paul described this armor, it is likely that he was a prisoner and had a close-up look at the armor the soldiers guarding him wore. I have little experience with armor. But I do have extensive experience with the equipment needed to successfully complete a long hike.
Having the Right Stuff
Having the right shelter, clothes, food, and something to carry it all in is important. The specifics will vary depending on the conditions and duration of the trip. But without them, the journey will be difficult, if not impossible.
When I started backpacking, I had to figure out, oftentimes the hard way, what equipment I needed and what worked best. But we do not have to do that in our Christian journey. God knows what we need, and he readily supplies it to us. All we need to do is pick it up and use it.
Know How To Use It
But it is not enough to just have the right equipment. You also need to know how to use it. Reading and watching others can help in this process. But the most important thing is to actually use your gear. Only then can you become proficient with it.
God has equipped us to live for him effectively. He provides us with all we need. We have his word, we can come to him in prayer, and we are gifted for specific areas of service. But we need to actually use them. Spend time in the word and in prayer. Exercise our spiritual gifts in serving within the body. The more we use them, the more proficient we will become.
Take Only What is Really Needed
When I first started backpacking, I was guilty of taking way too much stuff. Stuff that was unneeded and mostly unused. But things that I thought were important and might prove useful. The problem with that is that I have to carry it all. And it just adds weight to my pack. A weight that would make the journey along the trail more difficult and would limit how far I could go in a day. Over the years, I have learned to leave much of that behind. And hiking lighter has made the trips much more enjoyable as well as given me a greater range for a day’s travel.
Paul echo’s something similar in Philippians 3:7-8 when he says that much of what he had considered as positive in his life had been discarded for the sake of knowing Christ. What he valued in the past was often an obstacle to fully knowing Christ. We also need to be careful that in our walk with Christ, we are not carrying excess baggage. Baggage from our past, or present, that we value. But things that hinder a fully committed life in Christ. Let go of everything that distracts you from living a fully committed life in Christ.
Have a Plan – Eyes on the Prize
I am not a very detailed planner. But before going out on a trip, I always have in mind how long I will be out, where I am going, the weather conditions I might encounter, and how much food I need to take. And I generally have a goal in mind, what it is I want to accomplish on the trip. That goal may be to sit by a lake for a day or two. Or it may be more ambitious, like my last trip of 90 miles over eight days. Having a goal in mind is important in all of the other planning I do.
Having a goal in mind is important in my walk with Christ as well. In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul expresses that his goal is Christ-likeness. And that he is working toward that goal with all that he is, letting nothing hinder him from achieving it. Having a goal like that in mind can help us to determine if our daily activities help us to achieve the goal, or hinder it.
Stay on the Trail
In general, the Olympics are a very difficult place to hike. The terrain is extremely rugged. And the number of fallen trees and the heavy brush can make travel extremely slow and tedious. Fortunately, there are trails that have been cut through the downed trees and brush, and that minimize the challenges of the terrain. By staying on the trail, travel can be much easier and faster.
It can be very tempting sometimes to take a shortcut, especially when the trail seems to be taking a long way around. But that is almost always a bad idea. If the trail is taking a long way around, it is for a reason. And generally, that is to avoid cliffs, rivers, and other obstacles. It is possible that your shortcut might eventually come back out onto the trail. But it is more likely that you will have to abandon the attempt and try and retreat back to where you left the trail. The trail builders knew what they were doing when they laid out the trail. And they generally keep it maintained. So it is best to just stick with it.
As I walk with Christ, I can trust the Holy Spirit and God’s word to lead me on the right path. The path may curve a lot, take unexpected turns, climb over mountains, through valleys, and over rivers. But if I stay on the path, I will arrive safely at my destination, having accomplished the goals that have been given to me. Don’t take a shortcut. The path may seem hard, but it is the only way. Shortcuts will end in disaster.
Enjoy the Trip
And, finally, enjoy the trip. As I walk with God through his creation, I rejoice in the privilege of being able to enjoy it as I do. There are times when the trail is hard, the pack is heavy, and my legs are tired. But I can endure because I know the joy that awaits me along the way, at each night’s camp, and with the successful completion of the trip.
My walk with Christ is sometimes challenging. But I can rejoice because I know that he is with me. That he uses whatever comes my way to mold me into the person he wants me to be. So, by looking at what lies ahead, I can endure the difficulties of the trail.
Successfully Traveling the Path
As you travel the path with Jesus, take advantage of the way he equips you. Learn to effectively use what he has given you. Be willing to divest yourself of those things that do not help you along the way. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal. Stay on the path. No shortcuts. And enjoy the walk with Christ.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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