When I lived in Kenya, East Africa, I agreed to take two American guests into Masai territory early one Sunday morning. The Masai tribe, much photographed and studied, were nomadic and the last resisters of westernization in that part of the country.
Sangra, who spoke Masai, guided the three of us. We drove my Volkswagen Bug until the dirt road ended. “How far is it now?” asked Jim, one of the Americans.
“Not far. Perhaps one mile,” Sangra said. He pointed to the top of a high hill. “Just over there.” (The day before, he told me that he hadn’t been there before, but he could find it without any trouble. I had been with him on enough treks that I trusted him implicitly to get us there).
From Sangra’s answer, I knew it could be one mile or four miles. I also knew that “just over there” could easily mean over there, down the hill and up another. I wasn’t totally wrong. We went up three hills, each higher than the previous.
“Where’s the trail? Which way?” asked Jack, the other American, as we started our upward climb.
Despite the lack of any obvious trail, Sangra kept going forward and we followed behind him single file. The unmatted grass had grown perhaps two feet high at the place we started. Obviously, no one had been up that way for a long, long time.
“Are you sure he knows where he’s going?” Jack whispered to me more than once.
“Why would he lead us astray?” I said.
“You think maybe he’s lost?”
“I don’t think so. He knows the area.”
Our “perhaps one mile” kept us walking for more than two hours. My two friends, unused to such strenuous effort and still new to the tropics, were exhausted when we reached the clearing just before high noon. Nearly fifty Masai sat and waited for us. After a service that lasted well over two hours, we started back.
That incident illustrates what it means to follow Jesus, the “pioneer and perfector of our faith.” Scholars have translated it several ways, including author and finisher, but I like the concept of pioneer. When I call Jesus by that term, I think of him as the ground breaker, the one who goes ahead of us into the unknown. He blazes the trail for us.
Sangra wasn’t Jesus, but he certainly exemplified the pioneer quality. He never hesitated, never backtracked, and never looked around to get his bearings. He knew where he was going, understood we depended on him to lead us, and he got all three of us there.
The difference between my two friends and me is that I was used to Sangra. He had led me before. I trusted him, and I never had any doubts. Jim and Jack, however, know nothing about Africa, other than viewing Tarzan movies and reading a couple of glowing missionary reports. They had come to Africa about as ignorant as any visitors I’d ever seen. They fretted and complained of the heat. They wanted to stop every twenty minutes and rest.
Most of us are like Jack and Jim in our journey through life. We don’t know what’s ahead and could easily get lost. It’s important to trust the Pioneer and follow, despite our doubts.
So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. Hebrews 12:1-2 CEV
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