My boys have been fond of camping since they were in grade school, and they still manage to go on at least a couple of outings every fall and spring. In fact, Jason just got home from a backpacking trip two weeks ago.
I’m not a big camper anymore, but when I was in college I did manage to go on a mountain adventure every now and then. I remember it being pretty fun to hike the Appalachian Trail and enjoy being up close and personal with nature. I’m pretty sure that most of my skills are completely rusted over now, but I do remember enough to know that back before GPS and a host of other electronic gadgets, serious hikers had to be keenly aware of the trail ‘blazes’ to keep their bearings.
To outdoorsmen, a “blaze” is a mark generally cut into or painted on a tree which is used to identify a trail. The symbols are usually of uniform size or color and are placed at regular intervals to help explorers be sure they are going in the right direction, and more importantly, that they are still on the correct path. And when the batteries fail in their GPS, these markers still serve hikers well. With a simple map in one hand and a compass in the other, backpackers can still reference these markings to help them know two things:
What their current location is and where they need to go next.
Believers need to always know those two things as well.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~ Psalm 119: 105
You know, it’d be great to have a few well-defined marks cut into a nearby tree to consult when God wants us to make a course change, but rarely are His directions that concrete. But at the same time, we aren’t just left to wander along life’s path and hope we’ll end up getting to where we need to be either.
God has given us His written Word to function in a similar manner as those “blazes.” This black & white reference tool gives us an objective standard to help us take a regular assessment of where we are along the path of righteousness and what we need to do to stay there. It’s essential to train yourself to recognize those spiritual trail markers because the cost of missing an important turn and going off the path can be high. Even a short jaunt away from the designated trail can delay God’s purposes for your life for months or years. Sometimes markers are the clearly written “do’s and don’ts”; Other times they come in the form of the more subtle principles that are not as plainly stated. But with a little practice, you can learn to spot them and heed their guidance.
Remember that (as Psalm 119:105 says) the Bible isn’t usually a spotlight that illuminates the entire horizon. Instead, it’s a lamp that gives us just enough light to take the next step on the journey. That’s why we need to be prayerfully reading and absorbing God’s truth so that we can know Him better and be alert for His key blazes that signal crucial course changes.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. ~ Isaiah 42: 16