During the next six weeks leading up to Lent, I’ll be sharing excerpts from my new book, The Walk, here on the blog.
I wrote The Walk to be a simple guide for the Christian life written for ordinary people whose faith is sometimes messy. It is written for those who wish to follow Jesus, to experience more of God in their lives, and to grow to become the people God wants them to be. It’s based upon four decades of reading, study, practice, and striving to live the Christian life, by a person whose faith is sometimes still messy. In it we’ll consider five simple practices that Jesus’ followers have always pursued as they sought to walk with him. Jesus himself modeled these practices for us. These five are not an exhaustive list of spiritual disciplines. There are an infinite number of ways we might grow in our walk with God. But these five are foundational, and I would say, essential for most of us. If you make these practices a part of the daily rhythm of your life, you’ll find that they will play a key role in helping you grow in your faith and, in turn, that they will become an expression and fruit of your increasing faith.
In Matthew 4, Jesus walked along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. He came to Simon Peter and Andrew and gave them this simple invitation: “Come, follow me.” A few steps later he called James and John to do the same. Sometime later he saw a tax collector named Matthew and said to him, “Follow me.” These followers became known as disciples—ones who follow, learn from, and emulate their master. And “to follow” in Greek is akoloutheo, which means to accompany on a journey or to walk with someone down a road.
It is this idea of walking with Jesus that we will lean most heavily upon in The Walk. It is a simple way of thinking about our Christian life. We are followers Jesus. We are seeking to learn from him, to emulate him, to go where he wants us to go, to do what he wants us to do, and to walk on the journey of life with him.
Walking with God
The image of walking with God or God walking with us is found throughout the Bible as a metaphor for the life of faith. As the biblical story begins, God is described as walking in the garden of Eden, searching for his children as they hid from him. To be sure, this is an anthropomorphism—ascribing human attributes to God—yet the imagery is beautiful and compelling: God walks in our midst, searches for us, and beckons us to walk with him.
When my daughters were small, we would take walks together and they would hold my hand. I loved these walks. Now I’ve got a five-year-old granddaughter who likes to take my hand and walk with me. There is something about holding her little hand as we walk together that captures how I see my relationship with God.
I picture God loving me as I love my granddaughter, and reaching out his hand toward me, waiting for me to place my hand in his. There is safety and peace and joy in walking with my hand in his hand. This is what Thomas Dorsey wrote of in his much-loved gospel hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
Walking is often used in Scripture as a way of speaking about our life with God. God asked Abram and Sarai to load up their things and walk with God to the Promised Land. This one act of faith and obedience led to Abraham’s and Sarah’s greatest adventures and richest blessings. At age ninety-nine, God spoke to Abram once again saying, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me” (Genesis 17:1, emphasis added here and in the following examples).
Moses gave these instructions to Israel: “You must walk the precise path that the Lord your God indicates for you so that you will live, and so that things will go well for you” (Deuteronomy 5:33). Later, Moses noted, “The Lord will establish you as his own, a holy nation, just as he swore to you, if you keep the Lord your God’s commandments and walk in his ways” (Deuteronomy 28:9).
The psalmist cries out, “Teach me your way, Lord, so that I can walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11). Israel’s prophets called God’s people to “walk by the Lord’s light” (Isaiah 2:5). Micah famously called God’s people to “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
This image of walking with God is found throughout the New Testament too. The Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus calling his disciples to follow and to walk with him is a powerful metaphor for the Christian life. As we’ve seen, to be a Christian is to answer Jesus’ call to follow; in the words of an old hymn, it is to “walk with him and talk with him along life’s narrow way.” As we follow him we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7 NRSV) Paul tells the Romans that they can “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). He also commands the Corinthians to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NRSV) In the Bible’s closing book, Jesus tells the Church at Sardis that those who remain faithful “will walk with me clothed in white” (Revelation 3:4). And when the City of God finally comes on earth, when Paradise is restored, God once again walks on earth with his people, and the nations walk in the light of the Lamb of God (Revelation 21:22-24).
The Christian spiritual life is a life of walking with Christ in our everyday life.