How do you know when you’re on the right path?
Lots of scriptures tell us to follow God’s ways. But are we sure we’re walking in the Light?
When Luke set out to write his gospel to the “most excellent Theopolis,” he used his exacting skills as a physician to write an account of the days of Jesus’ life among the Apostles and the common, everyday people with whom He lived. Luke greatly relied upon Mark’s gospel for information, since he was a contemporary of Paul and never actually met Jesus in the flesh.
In his gospel, Luke credits John the baptizer’s father, Zechariah, with saying “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79).”
Zechariah was a priest, and he knew the scriptures. He knew that the Light of God was promised to Israel, as we read in the following:
(Num 24:17) A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.
(Is 9:2) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
(Is 60:2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
(Mal 4:2) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
The Jewish believers looked back to the law to see how they ought to behave. And that’s a good thing, because what God had said was good remained good, and what He declared evil stayed that way. Looking at the law was good for showing us our sin; but did it light our path?
Doing away with the law and the prophets was not Jesus’ purpose here on earth. (Matthew 5:17) Instead of destroying what God had so carefully and compassionately revealed to His people, His Son came to fulfill it in Himself.
So to what would they turn to know how to walk properly?
During Luke’s days (right before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD), the Jews were trying to figure out their new lives as believers in the Messiah. Grasping the concept that Jesus’ work was all-inclusive and did not require Gentiles to “convert” to Judaism was difficult for them and shows that they did not see this new faith as separate from Judaism.
They did not understand that Jesus came to deliver a relationship, not a religion.
Photo courtesy of Paul Gilmore on Unsplash
The Jews who recognized the Messiah were understandably confused. They knew that God had given them the Torah and they loved it. To know what to do meant that they knew the path that they should take by always relying on the law. So when the Apostles proclaimed freedom and they really didn’t know how to live it.
The relationship that Jesus brought was meant to shine light upon the path of all who believed. He modeled the perfect life, but never belittled those who could not live a perfect life with Him. He did it in their stead, showing them the perfect way to reflect His light to those around them, but never requiring or expecting perfection from them.
How do we know we’re walking in the Light?
We know the things that Jesus taught: love the Lord your God, love others, honor your parents, respect those in authority over you, give unconditionally… we know what He said.
But what about when you are struggling to find a new job or your marriage is breaking up, or you’re being attacked without cause by your coworkers? What about when you face serious illness or your children come home from school sobbing over the way a bully treated them? What about when you’re at a crossroads and don’t know which way to go?
What about the realities of life?
First things first. Remember that Jesus said that we would suffer tribulations. He said as He faced every trial and tribulation we would every face, He understood and had the answer.
“ I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”
Trials and tribulations do not mean you have wandered from the Light.
If you’re not feeling that “peace that passes understanding,” perhaps it is because you are trying too hard to understand it. To make it somehow fit the ragged emotions you struggle with.
Before we go a bit further, I want you to understand that I am NOT talking about blind faith. But there are times when we must simply acknowledge that God is greater and can stand at the beginning of our lives and see all the days He has ordained for us. His understanding is so deep and so wide that oftentimes our human minds cannot fathom what is happening.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Finley on Unsplash
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).”
Trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness brightens the darkness.
There are many reasons we may not be seeing the Light in our circumstances. We may be facing the wrong way. Perhaps we have our eyes closed. Maybe we’re simply not attuned to the truth about our situation. And sin can blind us to His Light, too.
Harboring sin in our lives is a sure-fire way to keep the Light out. Once we allow God to shine His Light into the darkest recesses of our minds and spirits, sin is revealed and His reconcilliation comes flooding in. We have the ability in Him to conquer sin in our lives, and when we confess it before God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
This by no means implies that we will understand all His ways in our lives.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”
What is that picture you see there on the left? It looks like it could be a crack in the earth, a place in the desert where we could easily lose our way in the shifting sands. But that’s not what it is. It’s simply a regular plastic disk magnified to where all we see are the scratches in it. It isn’t dangerous even though until we know what we are looking at, we may feel frightened.
It all comes down to the object of your faith.
Do you trust that God has you? Are you truly safe in His mighty hands? If so, then spending time with Him will shine His Light on your path so that you can see. Perhaps only one step. Perhaps not even that much. Maybe He’s calling you to step out in faith and let Him lead you into the Light.
The Jews back in the gospel of Luke were trusting in the Torah to guide them. But once the Son of God came, a relationship began that is superior to the laws they had never been able to keep.
The Mighty One of Israel is His name. The Bright Morning Star cannot help but shine. It is His character to do so. The very first thing that God did was create light. Genesis 1:3 reminds us that God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. He continues to shine His Light on His creation. In Exodus, while the plague of darkness covered Egypt for three days, the scripture tells us that “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings (Exodus 10:23).” Elihu in the book of Job proclaims “Look, He scatters His light upon it (Job 13:30).”
There is a scripture in Isaiah that tells us how to know if we are walking according to the direction of God.
“You will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21).”
If you are a child of God, He promises light for your path. Jesus declared that those who believe in Him would not walk in darkness, but in light (John 8:12). Job assures us that: “You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you; And light will shine on your ways (Job 22:28).”
So when you wonder where your true north is, when you don’t think that you can see your compass in the dark, remember that God promises that not only will you have light, but it will shine brighter and brighter.
Trust God. He is the Light of the World.
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day Proverbs 4:18).”