There are many things we can learn about our spiritual lives as we daily live our lives. These lessons can help us understand what is important and how to live wisely. Last weekend I was out tramping on Mount Pirongia. As part of my study this year I have to find a specific native shrub that unfortunately only grows at high altitudes. This reminds me a lot of our Christian walk – in a spiritual sense we also are seeking a rare plant –Jesus is described as the Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley a very rare and beautiful flower in the desert (SS2:1).
The thing is I can’t sit at home and find it – I have to get out there. I have to have the faith that it is where others have said it is and to start looking for it myself. Similarly the Bible says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews12:1 , Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnessess), eyewitness accounts of the majesty and God says that he will be found by those that seek Him, especially when they seek him with their whole heart! (Matt 6:33 But seek first His Kingdom). This is our journey – to know Him, to be like Him and to be with him forever. Amen!
Other thoughts I had as I walked along were how grateful I was for the path that someone before me had made. Imagine if I had to make my own path through the bush. No signs on the way, no steps to help in the difficult areas. In a spiritual sense, we need each other – people have gone before us showing the way - the church is a like a light shining on a hill (Matt5:14 You are the light of the world...), the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, it says in Psalm 119:105. All through the ages there have been people, martyrs who have stood for righteousness, not denying the faith, showing us how to live in the darkness.
As I walked steadily up the track I was glad I had dressed appropriately, I had good strong shoes on my feet, a pack with drink and food, comfortable clothes, a hat. I was prepared for the journey. Do we go out in the morning without our spiritual clothes? Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the armor of God – spiritual armor, know your enemy-protect yourself. How foolish to go out in the bush in jandels, shorts and t-shirts. How foolish to go out in the world without the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteous, the belt of truth, feet fitted with the gospel, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit.
Finally after one hour I reached the top of the first hill –I looked back and saw how far I had come. The views were amazing. Sometimes in our spiritual journey we need to take time out, look back to see the faithfulness of God, look out to see His marvelous works and worship and thank and praise Him.
But I couldn’t stay there, I found my rare plants but I wanted to continue on the journey, so I struck out again for the summit. The path became narrower, I had to climb up steep banks, and once again someone had been before me and placed a secure chain that I could pull myself up with. Finally I reached a place where my heart faltered. I saw a glimpse of the path ahead and nearly gave up because it looked impossible – too hard for me.
Have you reached a point like that in your spiritual journey? It all seems beyond you? The Bible talks about this point as being a good place to be because we can learn a lot about our motivations. Are our lives like the seed that fell in shallow soil – the plant sprung up but it had no root and when the sun came out, it died (Matt 13:5) we like the when we see what is in our hearts. Will we give up or will we go on, drawing on all the resources of God and experiencing His presence with us. Praise God for the tough times that we will prove thast our lives are like the good soil and we will bear much fruit! Romans 5:3,…but we rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character, hope. James 1:3, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance
After walking for another 2 hours, I had to re-assess my situation. It was about 12.30pm and I had just eaten my sandwich and it started to rain and I began to feel afraid. I felt very vulnerable and isolated and a long way from home. It would take me at least three hours to walk back to my car. Was it wise to keep going at this stage or should I turn back. I had achieved my goal for the day and perhaps I was now being stubborn and walking into danger. You seen not all fear is bad, it’s true fear can stop us doing things we have to do, but it can also stop us getting into trouble as well. It’s not the fear that is the problem it’s the voice we listen to. So I assessed my situation and I knew I needed to turn back and make my way down the mountain again.
Sometimes in life we may be on a wrong track, don’t be afraid to turn back. The summit will be there another day. I gained a lot of experience and knowledge through that journey.
King Solomon also had experience and knowledge that he has shared with us from his life and the gift of wisdom that God gave him. Let us listen to what he has to say about what is important.
The passage starts out with a strong warning about listening to the words he is saying (vs 20-22) an exhortation to follow the good advice he is giving. But in vs 23 he gives the most important advice of all and that is...’ above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’. Guard your heart or some would translate this word soul, guard it, for it is where life comes from. In other words make sure you live a righteous life. No-one will drink from a polluted stream – so with the heart – no one listens to a polluted life.
How can we do this? – Solomon goes on to out-line four ways (vs 24-27)
Firstly, watch your speech. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far away from your lips. But not just what we say, what we put into our minds, what we look at, the decisions we make and our devotions – who or what we are devoted to. Eventually if we make friends with the world we will begin to sound like them and our hearts will become polluted.
The other day I was next to some guys who were talking amongst themselves and I was sort of eavesdropping. I was shocked with the way they spoke even though they knew I could hear what they were saying they did not refrain from bad language. It’s amazing how some words can become ‘normal’ after a while and be part of everyday speech but we Christians should not use the language of our culture or our hearts will become polluted. Love is not rude (1Cor 13:5)
Secondly, don’t be too curious, vs25, Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
The Spirit of God spoke to me the other day about this and I was convicted. At work we have a corridor around the building with doors into people’s offices. Normally I would walk down the corridor and peer into each office. As I was reading these verses, I was reminded of this habit and I felt I was not to do this anymore. Keep my gaze fixed ahead. And it’s the same with each other’s lives – do we ask all sorts of questions out of curiosity and expose the person’s life. Why do we do that when we don’t really care
Thirdly, make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. This speaks to me of decision making. Do I make decisions impulsively without regard for the consequences and end up in all kinds of trouble?
Fourthly, do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Where do we spend most of our time.What do we look forward to the most. What are the gods we adore that distract us from our devotion to God?
Finally what are some things we can do to help ‘guard our hearts’