Hunting big game on public land can be pretty tough. I’ve always opted to hunt Elk without guides in the mountains of Idaho or Wyoming. This can be some rough country. The scale of the land is hard to describe. Huge is an understatement. I do hunt with friends that are local to the area, but they are not guides. The difference lies in the preparation. Anyone can own a wall tent or “know” where to go. Understand…I’m not throwing these guys under the bus, I’m only pointing out a fact. Guides survive based on their ability to put hunters on game…to put them in positions to take a shot. Most of their work comes before the hunters arrive. They scout, read sign, and try to determine Elk behavior before taking anyone out for the hunt. Their livelihood depends on their success rate. Guides increase the chances of hunters coming home with meat for the freezer and antlers for the wall. It increases their opportunity to win the prize.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
I realize that hunting without a guide is like boxing the air. I am in the race just like the other hunters…I am exercising self-control…yet I am running without aim. I haven’t taken the step necessary to win the prize. There are hunters out there who have learned the art of guiding and have the time, ability, and perseverance to hunt by themselves with great success. Apparently…I am not one of them. This disqualifies me from leading others in the “How To’s” of Elk hunting.
Obviously, the passage in 1 Corinthians is not talking about Elk hunting. It is talking about our pursuit of Holiness.
Philippians 3: 13-16 says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”
The prize is the upward call of God…in Jesus Christ. All followers of Him should be pursuing intimacy with Him. How are we doing with that…? There are some Christians with the time, ability, and perseverance to maintain a constant communion relationship with the Holy Spirit. Others…are stuck some where along the way and need a guide…a fellow believer…to show them the way.
Finding a guide is not the easiest thing. When hunting, the good guides with the highest success rates are booked out years in advance. Other guides may have motive issues. They are so worried about their website or their T-shirt sales that they are slacking in the scouting, tracking, finding categories. Finding a guide with Elk on his mind is the key. In discipleship, the keys are the same. Finding a spiritual guide with Jesus on his mind is the key. A guide who quotes from the passage above, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet”…and…“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call”…is the kind of guide we should be looking and praying for.
A good spiritual guide understands they are not Jesus. I know that sounds silly…but seriously, the idea of following another human, to follow Jesus, just rubs us wrong. (Satan has been very successful getting us to think this way.) Watching another believer follow Christ with their life, utilizing prayer, scripture, and the other spiritual disciplines in every day situations…teaches us how. It also creates a bond between hunter and guide. The dynamic is understood by both…the hunter trusts and follows…the guide leads with grace…the prize is Christ.
2 Timothy 2: 4-5 says, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”
This is what a good spiritual guide does, they live for Christ in all aspects of their life. They do not get entangled in the every day affairs of the world. They live to please the One who enlisted them…they live to please God. The prize of Jesus cannot be won without following the rules…a guide explains the rules to the hunter. In this manner, the hunter is not trying to pursue his quarry by means which would drive the quarry away. All spiritual disciplines are intended to let God do what God does…and that is to change hearts and renew lives. This is the goal of the guide…to deliver the hunter to the imperishable prize…Jesus Christ.