My aunt and uncle recently had a cabin built on their property, and David and I had the chance to see it for the first time when we were in Ohio this past weekend. Although the cabin isn’t far from the main house, getting to it proved to be an exceptional challenge in the bitter winter weather. Snow covered the icy ground, and heavy wind threatened to knock us off our feet. All four of us managed to keep our footing, but it required patience and attentiveness. Between the ice, snow, and wind, the conditions were so bad that I honestly had to think about every single step I took.
Walking to and from the cabin on Saturday reminded me of Ephesians 5:15-16 which says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” In his letters, Paul regularly used the word “walk” to denote the patterns of behavior that make up a person’s way of life. By using the imagery of walking, he indicated that an individual’s overall direction and ultimate destination are determined one step at a time.
In Ephesians specifically, he admonished his readers to choose their steps with caution because of the condition of the world around them. Providing helpful commentary on these verses, the ESV Study Bible says, “Wisdom is especially needed in an evil age where the pathway of holiness is not always immediately clear until one reflects upon God’s Word and discerns his holy will.”
As the commentary suggests, evil was not limited to the time of Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus. We, too, find ourselves living in a time period in which “the pathway of holiness” can be tricky to discern. So how do we “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” given the condition of the world around us (Colossians 1:10)? A few suggestions come to mind for the person who truly desires to find and follow “the pathway of holiness”.
Study your Bible. It’s impossible to accurately evaluate our surroundings and order our steps if we are ignorant of God’s Word. We can’t pattern our behavior after His will if we don’t have the slightest idea of what His will actually is. That’s why, immediately following Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul included the exhortation to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Knowing His Word is a prerequisite to obeying it.
Know your surroundings. Having taken the time to study Scripture, we can then assess what we see in light of what God says. What does our culture value, and how does it compare with the value system of the kingdom of heaven? What does our culture permit that God’s Word forbids? What does our culture ignore that God’s Word commands? These questions are just the beginning, but answering them requires that we know God’s Word and open our eyes to our world.
Adjust your pace. Different conditions require different levels of attentiveness, as my experience on Saturday suggests. While the pace at which I walked on Saturday was wise, it would have been ridiculous – perhaps even foolish – in different circumstances. For example, imagine shuffling along slowly, eyes fixed on the ground, on a sunny spring day. There’s no need for that! Conversely, it would have been extremely unwise to attempt to jog through the snow to reach the cabin. When we know God’s Word and are aware of our surroundings, we are equipped by His Spirit to walk accordingly. Sometimes the path is clear, and we can move ahead steadily; at other times each step requires a little more intentionality. Following God isn’t easy, and we’re all bound to stumble. When we do, God’s grace is just as sufficient for us then as it is on the days we seem to be walking with ease.
As God’s followers, we’re called to walk by the Spirit, to walk in love, to walk in wisdom, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, and to walk in Christ (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:2,15; Colossians 1:10, 2:6). As we follow Him one step at a time, we do so with great confidence, believing His guarantee that we’ll never walk alone (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 43:2).