So, I have started back running. I don’t love it yet, but I know I need to be in better shape. As I run, I pray and quote Scripture to keep my mind off the fact that my legs are heavy and my lungs are burning.
I am also constantly on the lookout for snakes. In fact, I make my dogs run out ahead of me to sniff out anything that doesn’t belong.
How to Stay on Track
You see, there’s a section of the road that used to be lined on each side with trees, but the owner of the property had them all cut down a few years ago. I remember talking to one of the men who did the work and asking him how many snakes they had seen. He just looked at me and smiled.
I asked again and he replied that he had lost count but that they had killed several rattlesnakes. So each day as I get to that section of the road, I am always on my guard. My dogs, however, seem to have no fear. They run right out into that mess, sniffing away for something interesting.
Last week as I was running, I thought about how our Christian race is a lot like that road. When we choose to follow Jesus, we accept a narrow road.
“Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV 84).
The road is narrow because it requires that we give up our lives and die to self so that we can walk the path God has called us to. It’s a road of sacrifice, taking up a cross to follow Him. We have to choose daily to follow the Lord and His ways rather than our own desires.
The path He offers, however, is life, joy, and peace.
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
The problem is that we tend to be like my dogs, sniffing around at what looks more interesting out in the world. We are often tempted to stray from the path, into dangerous territory.
“In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them” (Proverbs 22:5).
So how can we guard our souls and stay far from the wrong path?
Stay in the Word
When I’m running and quoting Scripture, my mind stays focused on the path in front of me and anything God may want to say to me. But as soon as the dogs start nosing around in the overgrowth along the path, I start looking to see what they are doing.
Staying in God’s Word every day will keep our hearts focused on what God has called us to do, instead of being sidetracked by other things.
“Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors” (Psalm 27: 11).
“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).
God’s ways are always what is best for us, even if we can’t see it. We have to trust His heart for us and not be led astray by the world or the devil or our own flesh.
We have to remember God is keeping us from the snakes that may harm us. We need to view anything off His path as potentially dangerous. We need to be alert and on guard but keep our eyes on the road ahead.
Seek God’s Wisdom
What may look harmless to us may actually take us outside God’s will for us. We need to pray and seek God’s wisdom in every situation.
As I was running today, the dogs had grown bored and abandoned me. I heard a rustling in the brush, which made me pick up my pace! And trust me, my prayers went into overdrive.
Just last week, a snake skin was on my path, so I know the enemy lurks nearby.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
I know that I must stay on alert and pray without ceasing, seeking God’s wisdom in all that I do. God’s wisdom will guide us in all our decisions, if we seek Him. But the enemy is well aware of our weaknesses. He knows exactly how to get our attention off the right path.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run, you will not stumble” (Proverbs 4:11-12).
When we start relying on our power and abilities rather than trusting in the Lord, we are straying off His path for us. Knowing that we are weak, but He is strong will keep us focused on His grace and not our abilities.
Heed God’s Discipline
Lastly, we need to heed God’s discipline when we do stray. He will correct us and get us back on track if we are willing to accept His discipline with a humble heart.
One of my dogs has been bitten by a snake twice. For some reason, she still hasn’t learned her lesson. She noses around where she doesn’t belong.
When we stray off the path, God will allow us to suffer the consequences in order to draw us back to Him. We need to submit to Him and learn from our mistakes.
“Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die” (Proverbs 15:10).
Let’s don’t hate correction. Let’s be open to God’s discipline so that we can grow in our walk with the Lord.
It’s easy to stray from God. The road is narrow that leads to life and only a few find it. We have to be intentional to stay in the Word, seek God’s wisdom, and learn from His loving correction. Let’s be the few who take the right path that leads to joy, peace, and eternal life.
I think it’ll be worth it in the end. Because the right path always leads home.