Ten essential items
If you are crazy enough to enter a trail run, you will know that a fully equipped hydration pack is an absolute essential. Being a novice, I was shocked to read the list of compulsory equipment I have to put in my hydration pack before merrily setting off to “Run-the-Berg” in October. The kit list includes a waterproof jacket, space blanket, whistle, fully charged cellphone, beanie, thermal vest, fleece, compass, sunscreen and first aid kit! That’s ten essential items, excluding the 1.5 litres of water we’re somehow supposed to squeeze in our nifty hydration packs strapped to our backs! I was suspecting overkill until I glanced at a picture of the mountains I will traverse, described as “notoriously unpredictable and unforgiving for the ill-prepared.” It was patently obvious that I was a member of the ‘ill-prepared’ club as I read on about the hazardous terrain and weather conditions of the trail I’d signed up for. It slowly dawned on me that my overpriced hydration pack and its contents was no joke! I would be a fool to wing it on my own without knowledge and preparation. Romantic visions of myself clad in simple shorts, T-shirt, and a pair of Bata takkies, free as a mountain goat under sunny African skies, were embarrassingly inappropriate for the realities of this particular adventure! They were nothing but naive illusions. At best, they would leave me disgruntled and defeated. At worst, my fantasies would lead me to abandon the race altogether, or steer me to a sticky end.
It is the same with the God Walk.
Counting the cost
When Jesus calls us to be his disciples, he tells us to count the cost (Matt 16:24-26) and prepare for a long journey ahead. He doesn’t paint a rosy picture when he calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. The God Walk is not a journey of super spiritual meditation, signs and wonders. Nor is it a direct route to health, wealth, inner peace and self actualisation as the world understands it. Jesus calls Himself the way to the Father (John 14:6), but doesn’t entice us with a comfortable, straight, smooth path. Instead, He candidly tells us that the world will hate and persecute us because of his name (John 15:18-25) and that we will face the same troubles he faced along the road. Jesus is unequivocal: “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” He pulls no punches as he describes himself as the narrow way– not the mainstream, trendy, attractive path that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).
We dare not forget that Jesus led the way up a steep hill called Golgotha, with a cross strapped to his back. It wasn’t exactly a nifty hydration pack.
It doesn’t always happen the day of our conversion, but sometime thereafter if we are walking as a Christian, we suddenly realise we are aliens in enemy territory, opposed, ridiculed and pressured to conform even by those we call our friends. We find we are in the world, but not of it (John 17:16) and the sting of that realisation surprises or hurts us. The Apostle Paul doesn’t sugarcoat the way of discipleship but calls us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, active participants in a lifetime transformation programme through the renewal of our minds, capturing one thought at a time. (Rom 12:1-2) Paul describes keeping the faith as “fighting the fight” and “running the race” to receive the reward the righteous Judge has for us when He returns as King. (2 Tim 4:7-8)
This is no fun run!
From Genesis to Revelation, we are warned that the Enemy will try to deceive us and make us doubt and deny who we are and who God is. We may even believe the lie that we walk alone. Satan will entice us to do things our own way or to give up entirely on the God Walk before the finish because he is the ultimate liar, thief and murderer of our souls. (John 8:44)
But Jesus promises that the reward is well worth the cost of giving up everything to follow him. He makes it clear that the only way you and I will save our life, is by losing it for Him. (Mark 8:34-38) The other side of the coin is death. The cost of rejecting Jesus’ call is that we will forfeit everything of value and remain alienated from God, ourselves and those around us. The Bible is unequivocal. God’s way leads to life. Every other way ultimately leads to alienation, loss and death. God’s way leads to peace and joy. God’s way is in fact a person: the God-man Jesus Christ. “The Word became a human and lived among us” (John 1:14). I am utterly convinced that the reward of walking with Jesus is infinitely greater than the cost of being his disciple. I am also convinced that it is the truth, even if we live in a post truth generation.
Jesus’ way may be hard, but it is truly blessed. He is the way to human flourishing on earth and eternal life spent with the God who made us in his own image.
The Bible has a lot to say about the preparation, route and destination of those who walk with God, as well as the prize Christians can look forward to beyond the finish line.
Ten essential truths for every Christian
There are no short cuts to the God Walk. It is not a sprint but more like an ultra-marathon or a mega-hike that lasts a lifetime. But God has graciously given us a “hydration pack” fully equipped with truths to get us through every section of the route. Without this pack of doctrines, we will quickly become thirsty and hungry, tired, injured, bewildered, disoriented and discouraged.
People often think of doctrines as boring theories that theologians think up to get us off the scent of true spirituality. Our generation is more concerned with experience and spectacular events. It values personal feelings and preferences above truth. But Biblical doctrines are living descriptions of God’s amazing dealings with human beings like us. Doctrines give us wisdom about true spirituality and the totality of human experience, including our bodies, minds and souls. Biblical doctrines give us God’s perspective on our place in the universe, which is far more accurate than subjective naval gazing. Moreover, doctrines have significant practical use for our lives, apart from giving us insight into God’s character and our human nature. The Apostles thought sound doctrine was vital and urged Christians in every age to teach what agrees with sound doctrine, to be trained in good doctrine (Titus 2:1) and to read Scripture carefully, keeping a close watch on our teaching, so that we do not forget what it means to be a Christian or lead others astray, or be deceived by false Shepherds (1 Tim 4:16). Teaching, training and reading is the essence of The God Walk devotion.
Doctrines of the faith are much like items in a hydration pack. They are essential for flourishing and survival along the trail of real life.
In the upcoming weeks of devotions, we will be unpacking our Christian hydration pack, looking at Biblical texts that show us what it means to be a Christian. I have chosen ten items for our hydration pack. Of course none of these texts on their own tell the whole picture of what it means to be a Christian, but are just samples of the vast storehouse of God’s truth and promises that God has given us in his word. This is what it means to “hold fast to the word of life” until the day of Christ (Phil 2:15-16).
There are of course many more doctrines of faith than the ten I’ve chosen. But, if you are new to the Scriptures, hopefully these appetisers will whet your appetite to dig deeper into the Bible for yourself. As Paul put it to the Greeks of his day: God, who made the universe, gives life and breath to each of us only for a short time on this earth. He created you and me to know and be known by Him– “to seek Him and perhaps feel your way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:24-28)
I pray that these ten truths will become the rudder of your mind, the anchor of your soul and the furnace of your heart as we run side by side the race God has set out for us. I pray that we will be fuelled with faith, hope and love that comes from walking with God.
Ten essential items for every believer’s hydration pack.
Here is our “kit list” for the next few weeks on The God Walk:
1. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “BLESSED” BY GOD… (AND WHY IT’S THE ONLY PRIVILEGE WORTH HAVING )
2. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “CHOSEN”BY GOD… (AND WHY WE CAN TRUST HIM)
3. WHAT “GOSPEL” REALLY MEANS…(AND HOW IT IS THE POWER OF GOD TO SAVE)
4.HOW A CHRISTIAN IS “BORN AGAIN…”(AND WHY SELF IMPROVEMENT IS FUTILE)
5. WHAT IT MEANS TO “BELIEVE” AND “REPENT…”(AND WHY YOU MUST STEP ACROSS THE LINE)
6. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN “ADOPTED” CHILD OF GOD…(AND HOW YOU CAN SAY NO TO FEAR)
7. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “SANCTIFIED”…(AND WHY HOLINESS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH)
8. WHAT IT MEANS TO “PERSEVERE” IN THE FAITH…(AND WHY WILLPOWER WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH)
9. WHAT “DEATH” MEANS TO A CHRISTIAN …(AND WHY YOU DON’T NEED TO FEAR IT)
10. WHAT “GLORY” MEANS TO A CHRISTIAN…(AND HOW TO LIVE WITH THE END IN MIND)