Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know this trail very well. I don’t have any idea what is around the next corner, and the corners are many. It’s dangerous. It’s an adventure.

I’m hiking on someone else’s land. I’m a visitor on these trails, so I have no rights to go wherever I please and do whatever I want. The owner of this land is also my guide. He knows the trails. He knows what is around every corner. He knows every rock and root and drop off. He’s already conquered every climb and is victorious in every valley. Even the dangerous creatures in this land belong to him and must obey him.

As I travel along, I see  shortcuts on the trail. They appear to get me to my desired goal easier and faster. My guide looks straight ahead as he leads me along the main trail, and whispers, Trust me. Keep your eyes on the trail ahead of you, no matter how rough it may look. I’ll go with you on this journey. 

As i walk, I become aware of an enemy prowling around on this land. My guide warns me that it is the enemy who has blazed those shortcuts. But the shortcuts look so desirable. They look easier than this trail. They appear to be wide, paved paths leading directly to what I most desire. My guide whispers to me that there are thieves hiding along that shortcut who want to steal my heart. The enemy wants me to take the shortcut so he can kill what’s inside of me. That shortcut is intended to destroy my soul.

I look away from the shortcut and back to my guide, and he waves his hand to summon me to follow him. He lovingly looks me in the eye and whispers, My dear child, you may choose to take any shortcut you wish, but I will not walk with you there. I know you desire to get to that thing you want along this trail, but the shortcut will not get you there. Be patient and wait on me. Trust me. I know the desire of your heart. Follow me and take delight in being with me along this rough and treacherous trail. I promise: If you walk with me, I will not let your foot slip; I will never leave you alone, even when you don’t think you can make it. 

Despite the assurance of my guide, I look down some of the shortcuts and begin to wander down many of them. At first these shortcuts seem so smooth and easy and fun. Many around me cheer me on, enticing me to keep going. “You are strong on your own,” some shout. “Do what’s best for you,” others encourage. “Now you are on the path to freedom and happiness,” some declare.

As I continue, the shortcuts grow dark. I feel alone without my guide. What at first looked like paved pathways now lead into thorns and muddy mires. My feet feel trapped as shadows descend upon me. Then I remember the words of my guide.

As I turn around and take a step back toward the main path, I see my guide waiting for me, arms outstretched to help me back onto his path of life. The creator and owner of this land, the trail guide, also looks a lot like my Father.

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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2 Comments

  1. PastorMason

    July 3, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I'm loving this parable! Great illustration of the deceitfulness of temptation. The enemy successfully tempted the children of Israel with a "shortcut" and it ended up taking them 40 years to make a one month journey.

    Reply

  2. arector

    July 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

    We live in a society that says, "You must know the answers!" Not very realistic–especially in one's walk with the Lord. I'm beginning to realize we'll never know that answer to everything. As a result, we must just trust him as meander along life's trail. Your story makes me realize how much we really need to depend upon faith in God.

    Reply

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