Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lessons from the Appalachian Trail

This past weekend, I was able to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) with a few friends (and fellow members of the church).  We started at McAfee Knob and ended 13.5 miles later at Andy Layne Trailhead. We had perfect weather, and it was a great time I won’t forget. While trekking through God’s creation, I couldn’t help but ponder these spiritual lessons.

I.  Nature confirms the creator

Standing atop McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, I felt closer to God. If you’ve never been to these places, I highly recommend going. The breathtaking views and peaceful tranquility at these peaks create a reverent atmosphere. Among the other hikers resting there, some were meditating, some were praying, and some were looking out in silence. I believe that all humans have an innate sense of wanting to worship a higher power. I believe this sense is strongest when we find ourselves among God’s magnificent creation.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:7-10

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

II. Life is full of ups and downs

The section of hike that we did was full of ups and downs. There were quick downhill stretches with switchback turns followed by brutally long inclines and level ridge walks. The same is true with the roller coaster of life. Happy times are quickly followed by sad times, then happy times again.  Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of the ups and downs in life – a time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to rejoice; a time to live, a time to die. The question is how we handle these ups and downs.

Christ himself experienced every emotion while living on this earth.  He experienced times of joy, times of sadness, times of anger, and times of compassion.  Thankfully, he overcame his greatest and most terrible obstacle – his crucifixion and subsequent death.   Facing an agonizing death and being separated from the Father while he bore the sins of all of humanity, Christ refused to back down. Keeping this example in mind, how will you handle the valleys of life?

III. We all have to choose a path

On the AT, there are “white blazes” that keep hikers on the right path. These are white marks intermittently painted on the trees. Occasionally, there are double blazes that instruct the hiker to make a turn. There were several times during our hike that we encountered these double blazes, and in one instance it wasn’t very obvious which way we should turn. To the left, there was a trail that looked nice and wide, but to the right, the path was narrow and looked less inviting. Upon further inspection down each path, the wide and inviting way had no blazes, but the narrow way did.  Which bible passage does this remind you of?

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13

When we came to the crossroad, the wide path to the left looked the most appealing because it looked easy. However, we chose the narrow path to the right because it was marked with the blazes. We knew it would eventually lead to the end of our hike. We had no idea where the wide path to the left might lead, possibly to our being lost in the woods.

Life gives us the opportunity to choose a path. Will you choose the wide gate and broad way to destruction, or will you choose the narrow and difficult path to life? The vast majority will choose an easy life of sin. Will you be one of Christ’s elite who walks the difficult path of Christianity to eternal life?

Choosing the narrow path to life doesn’t simply mean believing in Jesus and calling yourself a “Christian.”  You have to believe in Christ (John 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess your belief in Him before others (Romans 10:10), be added to the church through baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38,47), associate and worship with a local congregation of the one and true church (Hebrews 10:25), teach others (Mark 16:15), and live faithfully unto death (Revelation 2:10). 

Hiking the AT was an awesome experience. You should definitely do it if you get the chance. It just might give you the motivation to seek God and His plan of eternal salvation.