Thursday, 31 December 2015

You need never walk alone

Enoch walked with God. Genesis 5:22 

It’s not a bad way to go down in history, is it? – he walked with God. Enoch was obviously a special person – the same words are repeated in verse 24.Could they, I wonder, be engraved on your tombstone?

The Bible has many ways of describing our relationship with God: loving him, trusting him, obeying him, fearing him. And they are all important.

But it is quite fond of this metaphor of walking with him. Much the same is said of Noah (Genesis 6:9) and Abraham. Micah the prophet tells us to “walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). And Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, though the NIV puts “live” instead of “walk”).

Think of “walking with God” as a parcel of ideas – what comes tumbling out if we unpack it?

First, companionship. To walk with someone suggests friendship, conversation; it is an act of sharing. I suspect some of the most precious moments in our relationships with other people have occurred while we have been walking.

Never let anything – sin, carelessness, laziness, distractions – jeopardise your minute-by-minute companionship with God.

Second, progress. People who are walking are moving, not static – Genesis doesn’t say Enoch “sat in an armchair” at God’s feet (though no doubt there is a place for that). The Christian life is a journey: “from the old unto the new, keep me travelling along with you”, as the song puts it.

Are any of us stagnating a bit? Have we decided we have reached the limit of our potential? Have we stopped exploring, growing, learning, developing? Think of each new day as an adventure in moving on with God.

Third, protection. There’s safety in numbers, the saying goes, and that was specially so in the ancient world. As Jesus’ story of the man who fell among robbers shows, the lone traveller is specially vulnerable. (This, of course, is one reason why Jesus draws his people into churches, communities – the Bible knows nothing of the solitary Christian.)

Well, if we walk with God how can we be anything but safe? Of course, that doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen to God’s people. They do. But in the ultimate sense we have perfect security in the hands of our loving heavenly Father.

Fourth, effort. Even a pleasant stroll involves an element of exertion. And if you decide on a ten-mile hill walk, well, you’re going to know you’ve done it. In the Christian life the way is sometimes relatively easy – good health, a positive work situation, a happy family life: the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the ground is level.

But at other times the going is tough – sickness, disappointments, set-backs, even heartbreaks: dark clouds, ferocious winds and soaking rain. That’s when we need to cling especially tightly to God’s hand. Let no-one imagine that the Christian life is always a doddle!

Fifth, a destination. Of course, we may sometimes choose to stroll around somewhere just for the sake of it – something I must admit I quite like to do if I am in a place, especially abroad, where I have never been before.

But generally we walk in order to get somewhere. That’s why it’s all the more satisfying when, after quite a tough time, we can take it easy and put our feet up.

Well, I don’t want to give the impression that in heaven we are just going to lounge around. But the fact is that we are promised “rest” when our earthly toil is done (the letter to the Hebrews especially speaks about this, in chapters 3 and 4). Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

This world in which we presently live is not all there is. There is something above and beyond us which is infinitely, unimaginably greater. And that’s where we’re headed.
And so, especially as we stand on the brink of a new year, the message is clear – keep walking!

Dear Father in heaven, please help me to walk with you minute by minute and day by day, until that day comes when my walk is done and I enter my heavenly rest. Amen.

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