One time, I searched the Internet with this question, “What to do if lost?” According to Hike Safe, a hikers’ website, “Obviously the best thing you can do for yourself and the search team is to avoid getting lost… The best ‘rescue’ is the one that is never needed. Hiking safely is about being prepared for any situation. No hiker ever plans on getting lost…” Unfortunately, in hiking as well as in living, people do get lost. Now, in that website, I came across the Hiker Responsibility Code. It appears that to avoid getting lost, the first rule is, “You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared… With knowledge and gear. Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.” The key is being prepared for the hike... and for life. Our goal should be to get the most out of life, not to get lost in life. Let us pray…
Before we even take the first step towards the hiking trail, we have to plan our hike. We have to make sure we won’t become lost. So the first thing we need to do is to get a map and learn how to read that map. Then we need to get a compass and learn how to use it. With a map and a compass, we have a fighting chance of finding our way. We can’t go wrong when we go right, that is, when we plan right.
Of course, we can go high-tech. We can always get a GPS or Global Positioning Device. That is, if we can afford it. Most of us can’t. Your cell phone might have GPS but it would be useless without a signal. So, we better know how to be low-tech. Stick with the map and the compass. According to the Hike Safe website, “Take your map and compass with you. That way, if you become disoriented, you can stop, refer to your map and try to reorient yourself. Experienced hikers say that most people find their way after studying a map and the surrounding terrain for five minutes, so don’t panic if you can’t immediately figure out where you are.”
In this trail called life, the Bible is our compass and our map. Psalm 19:7-8 tell us, “The signposts of GOD are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of GOD are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of GOD are plain and easy on the eyes.” The Bible is God’s signposts, His life-map and His directions. In short, we can trust His Word to show us the way to life and through life. It is our map and compass that shows us how to have life and how to live it. That’s why we can’t go wrong when we go right.
Here’s how 2 Timothy 3:16-17 described the Bible. “All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” What does it mean “All Scripture is Godbreathed”? It simply means, “Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word” from Genesis to Revelation, all 66 books of the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament. It means that when we read the Bible, when we listen to the preaching of the Word, God speaks to us.
That doesn’t mean that we treat the Bible like a fortune cookie or a horoscope. You don’t cut open the Bible, close your eyes and choose a verse by randomly pointing at the pages. So, when you think you’re in love or you’re looking for someone to love, don’t look for verse that would give you a clue as to who it should be. What if your finger lands on the name “Nebuchadnezzar”? That’s not the way to use the Bible! The Bible gives us principles or guidelines on how to choose a mate but does not point out who that person would be. For example, Genesis 2:24 tell us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” That means that before we enter a relationship, we must be ready to stand on our own or “leave [our] father and mother”.
Let me show you how by going back to our hiking metaphor. What do we do if ever we lost both our map and our compass? If we are familiar with the map, we just need to know where we are. We look for landmarks like a hill or a river. We also look for “nature’s direction indicators.” If it’s still day time, we observe the shadow of a tree. That shadow would go from West to East. If it’s already night, we look for the Big Dipper or the North Star. Then, we can already chart our course.
It is the same with the Word of God. As we study the Bible, it teaches us how to think. It gives us indicators or guidelines. It gives us precepts and principles. Precepts are “Speed limit: 100 kilometers per hour.” Principles are “Drive carefully.” Precepts are like “You shall not murder.” That’s very specific. Principles are like “Love one another.” It gives the reason why we should not murder anyone. So, don’t just look for a verse. You may not see a verse that specifically talks about your situation. But there are principles that apply to your circumstances. For example, you may not find the word “cigarettes” in the Bible. There are no precepts in the Bible about smoking. But, there are principles in the Bible about taking good care of your body. 1 Corinthians 6:12 tell us, “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial.” So, tell me, is cigarette smoking beneficial? The label tells us, “Cigarette smoking is dangerous for your health.” So, why smoke? Since it is not beneficial, it is not permissible. Another example, there are no precepts in the Bible about video games. But, 1 Corinthians 6:12 tell us, “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” So, if it masters you or controls you, if it eats up your time from other productive activities, then it is not permissible.
So, for example, in choosing a career, the Bible does not tell us which to take. Instead, Ecclesiastes 10:10 tells us, “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.” This is one of the guidelines. “…skill will bring success.” The career that you would choose must fit the skill, the gifts and talents and the personality that God gave you. That’s the way God sharpened you. That’s how you would experience success in your career. A dull ax will take more effort than usual to cut a piece of log. So, also if you are not skilled do a certain task, that task would be harder. Of course, we are to work hard. I am not saying that we look for an easy job. A job will always be hard. But it will be harder when our skill don’t fit the job. We are to work smart, not just work hard.
Another guideline is found in Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” So, you before you make a decision about which career to take, it would be better to seek as much advice as possible. A career orientation would be a wise move. You can also talk to those who are already in the field you are considering. A counselor can also help you. Most of all, you can ask your parents. Take their advice. That’s how the Bible makes us ready for every good work. We can’t go wrong when we go right.
Let us read again 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It says here that the Bible “is useful for teaching”. That means that it shows us what is right. Also, the Bible “is useful for… rebuking”. To rebuke is to point out errors. That means it points out what is wrong. So, through the Bible we can distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Then, the Bible “is useful for… correcting”. To correct is to straighten us up. That means it shows us how to be right. It does not only tell us what is right but it also teaches us how to be right. And then the Bible “is useful for… training in righteousness”. That means it shows us how to remain right, how to finish what we have started. That’s why the New Living translation goes like this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.” That’s how practical the Word of God is. It shows us what is right and what is wrong, how to become right and how to remain right. We can’t go wrong when we go right.
Verse 17 tells us the reason why God gave the Bible is “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Underline the words “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God gave the Bible to change our lives, not to increase our knowledge. He gave it to us for transformation, not for information. He prepares us or makes us ready to do good works.
In hiking, we cannot ignore the map and compass and expect a successful journey. In fact, it is not just foolish. It is dangerous. It could cost you your life and the life of your companions. In life, we cannot ignore the Bible and expect to live a significant life. That is not wise. It is foolish and dangerous to ignore the Word of God. Proverbs 29:18 tell us, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” Many of you will be returning to China once you finished your studies here. You will be facing a greater challenge. It will also be a test if you really accepted the teachings of the Bible that we taught you during your stay here.
I pray you would not be like graduates of Christian schools here. Sadly, we heard that there are some graduates who ran wild upon graduating. They did almost everything that the school taught them not to do. And it is also happening with graduates of other Christian schools. It appears that they just complied with the requirements like read the Bible and memorize verses. But they haven’t really accepted it in their hearts. We pray that you will be different… that you would really obey the Word.
Even if you have a map and a compass, that is not the journey itself. You have to take the journey. So, even when you read the Bible, it is not enough. You have to obey. James 1:22 command us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” We always hear, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Now, you may be asking, “How come I know a lot about the Bible? I attend Bible studies and retreats but I don’t see much change in my life.” It is because we don’t read the entire thing. Let us read John 8:31-32. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” Look at what our Lord Jesus said, “If you hold on, if you obey, you are really my followers.” Now, note the conjunction “Then”. If you obey, you are really His followers. Then, as a result, because you obeyed, then and only then you will know the truth. Because you followed His teachings, then and only then you will understand the truth. Then and only then you will experience the truth setting you free.
Now, let’s go down to verse 36. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” We can only follow His teachings, we can only experience His truth that will set us free, if we put our faith in our Lord Jesus as our Savior. We cannot believe in the Word of God unless we believe in the God of the Word. I pray that you will really make sure you have a relationship with our Lord Jesus.
Yes, we can trust the Bible as our map and compass that shows us how to have life and how to live it. That’s why we can’t go wrong when we go right. “All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Today, I would like to challenge you to make a decision. Would you trust the Bible as your compass and as your map for your life?
Let us pray…
The Message. All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
Contemporary English Version.
New Living Translation.