Pathways help us to know where to walk. Whether it is the city park, the sidewalk in the yard, or even the sidewalks downtown, pathways are always there, helping to direct the way for those who use them. It’s easy to see which pathways, like the ones in the John James Audubon Park, are the most often used. These are the ones that are wide, well maintained, and are fairly easy to follow. There are other paths that offer an even better view of some of the park’s scenery. But because they have steep hills and are a bit loner, they are less maintained. They simply are not paths that are as popular as the others.
A popular path isn’t always what it seems
This morning I shared a Dr. James Dobson webcast on The Daily Walk Facebook page about cohabitation. Unfortunately, I am one of those who believed what I was told about the supposed benefits of cohabitation before marriage. Why? To be completely honest, during the mid 1980s and into the 1990s even the sitcoms and music I listened to promoted the message that there was nothing wrong with it. In fact, I even had good friends and family members that promoted it as a sort of trial marriage – to make sure you’re compatible before you make the commitment of marriage. I think of the teachings of Jesus: Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat (Matthew 7:13).
At that time in my life, with family members and friends who claimed to be Christians, I wasn’t given any advice or information to counterbalance what I was being taught about cohabitation and marriage. My mother even provided the advice to my sister and myself of if your marriage doesn’t work out, there’s nothing wrong with divorce. For two marriages and nearly thirteen years, I had a very unbiblical view of marriage. My idea of marriage was based on advice offered that was the opposite of what God had designed marriage to be. As I listened to both yesterday’s and today’s webcast it hit me how often we are led astray by advice that originates on the wide path.
Placing the Lord as the focal point of your life’s pathways
As I often share, I did not come to receive Jesus as my only Lord and Savior until I was 36 years old. I had to reach the point where I was ready to completely surrender to His will. It also meant I had to unlearn everything I had come to understand about life. David wrote, Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalms 16:11). Since I’ve given my life to the Lord there’s been a great transformation that’s happened. Intentionally I have tried to make everything in my life Christ-centered. The way I had previously chosen left me with a lot of regrets and uncertainty.
I wanted to put what Paul wrote into practice, And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). The rest of the passage quickly became the rallying cry needed to turn away from my old ways: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 4:25-29).
Learning a new way pathway takes time and commitment
There’s a verse in Psalms that I’d like to share: Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies (Psalms 27:11). As I have shared before, in 2006 I committed to study the Bible the way I was studying for my graduate coursework. I wanted to learn, genuinely learn, everything I could about my Lord and Saviour and my newfound faith. What I discovered is the Bible just is not some ancient and irrelevant book. It is a book that is extremely relevant in today’s world. Not only was I amazed at God’s plan for marriage but how misunderstood God’s plan is by the world. I was also amazed at the simplicity that the Lord had placed on ethics. It is never right to do wrong, no matter what outcome you are trying to create.
David also shared in Psalms how exactly he planned to learn about the pathways God had for him: Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalms 119:11). Anyone that has read David’s story as contained in the Bible knows he was far from a sinless and perfect man. He often made decisions that were far from perfect or being scriptural. But David did understand he was accountable to God for his actions and tried to make sure he honored God in all that he did. He also learned from his mistakes, asked forgiveness, and tried to be a better man each time he stood back up. For these reasons, I believe God called David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, (Acts 13:22b).
The broad pathways cause confusion, God’s plan is simpler
With the so-called ethical values of today’s society, we have created ethical dilemmas for many people. While the Bible teaches you are accountable for all you do, human society has adopted it really isn’t your fault mentality. The plain path David is asking the Lord to give him is one relatively free of confusion. It doesn’t have any gray areas that cause us to wonder about the best way to handle situations. The Lord has provided a life philosophy that is fairly cut-and-dried. If we come to something that causes us to act contrary to the word of God, then we simply don’t do it. We don’t take part in it. As a matter of Biblical principle, it is never acceptable to do wrong to do something good or right.
We hear often of people who had good intentions and later find out the results were far from what they desired. Many times, there were compromises made along the way to get things moving in the direction desired. Maybe it’s a small business, a personal relationship, or just about anything else in life. If compromise and going against biblical principles is what it takes to do something, then it is not of God. It will not build anything that will last or bring glory to the Lord. Yes, it really is that simple. There are no grey areas with the Lord!
Understanding the simplicity of God’s plan
I have often told my Sunday school class that our Lord is a common-sense God. If we go back and study history, there are actual reasons why the various Old Testament laws concerning diet were put into place. There were psychological reasons marriage was to be monogamous. There were also reasons why farmers were supposed to let fields go fallow every seven years and to not harvest the corners of their fields. God understands the tendency we have to make things overly complex. Whether it is a favorite recipe, a lawnmower engine, or even relationships, mankind has a tendency to do things in a way that aren’t simple nor understandable from a practical point of view.
God also understands we have a tendency to over-think things. I know this is one of my personality quirks. I’m always looking for the hidden reasons, the hidden meanings behind things. Once I accepted that God’s word was the final authority, and accepted it with a child-like faith as Jesus tells us to do, then I began to understand my relationship with my Lord and with my young daughter a lot better. It isn’t out of spite or meanness God tells us not to do certain things. It is out of love and a sincere desire not to see us hurt or to face the consequences for doing them. What parent wouldn’t want to spare their children from the agony of mistakes that could impact the rest of their life? Once you understand that, then you can understand why God’s pathway is the simplest one.