Ken Paginton - Footprints - Aylesbury Convention - Sunday Morning, 1988

Hebrews 12:13, “…make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

 

1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

 

Luke 22:28-30, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations.  And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

 

I have been thinking of this pathway that we follow and the example Christ has left us and where this pathway is leading us.  In that last meeting before Jesus died, He held out a wonderful hope to His disciples, “…that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom.”  At the end of this pathway we are following, when all the struggles are gone and our tears are wiped away and our heartaches healed, we can sit down one day with Him in His kingdom.  There is a very straight pathway that leads to this.  This verse in Hebrews says, “Make straight paths for your feet.”

 

The pathway Jesus took right from the very beginning was leading back to His Father's kingdom.  He made a straight path for His feet.  He said, “I must be about My father's business;” “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me;” and “I do always those things that please Him.”  Along that pathway, there were different pressures that might have caused Him to turn His feet a little, but He made such a straight path for His feet.  He said to His disciples, “You have continued with Me in My temptations.”  There were times when His disciples saw those temptations come and they saw the way He made such a straight path for His feet.  They learned some lessons that, if applied, would help them walk that straight path so one day they would sit with Him at His table.

 

You will remember the day Jesus went with His disciples up to Jerusalem and they came to a village of Samaritans.  Those people did not receive Him.  When James and John saw that, they said, “Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”  But Jesus turned and said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”  Earlier He had spoken to them on the mountain, at the beginning of Matthew, and taught them to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you…and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”  When that day came, one of His close disciples said, “Shall we do that?” and there was not the slightest shadow of turning--“No, we can't do that kind of thing.”  If we were ever to take that attitude toward people and want to strike back at them, we couldn't really sit down at His table in His kingdom.  Jesus never did that.  There was never the slightest turning in the way He set His feet.  Whenever I think about the apostle John, I think of such a kind and loving, gentle man.  It was John who said, “Shall we call fire down and destroy them?”  That entire attitude was gone when John wrote those beautiful letters.  He had learned to make a very straight path for his feet.

 

The day after Jesus had been feeding the multitude and the people were going to make  Him king, He told His disciples to go across the sea, and He went up into the mountain to pray.  The atmosphere of worldly popularity is a dangerous atmosphere to be in.  A little human popularity and foolish flattery can turn our feet, but Jesus was never turned from the straight path.  Abraham had been out and fought the battle to save his brother Lot.  The kings had come to give him treasure but he said, “No, I don't want anything from you!”  He wanted no riches or praise or popularity from the outside.  In that parable in Judges 9, the trees wanted a king over them.  “The olive tree said unto them, 'Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?' And the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come thou, and reign over us.'  But the fig tree said unto them, 'Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?'  Then said the trees unto the vine, 'Come thou, and reign over us.'  And the vine said unto them, 'Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'  Then said all the trees unto the bramble, 'Come thou, and reign over us.'  And the bramble said unto the trees, 'If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'”  That is how it had to be.  It isn't wrong for people to get on a little in their work, or get a promotion.  We read of some in the Bible who received promotions because of their faithfulness.  It's good but not if it is going to be at the expense of your own usefulness and fruitfulness in the kingdom.  Try to aim at the right things.  There are some jobs where there are certain duties but just getting a promotion to get more money or more place, if it is going to be at the expense of usefulness and fruitfulness in the kingdom, the straight path for our feet is to say, “No, I am not leaving my fruitfulness."  If we are seeking flattery and praise and riches from the world, that wouldn't be the path that will take us to sit down at Jesus table, for He never did that.

 

Another day, there was a temptation that could have turned Jesus' feet.  He went into that home where a little girl of twelve had died, and people were crying and mourning.  Mark 5:39-40, “And when He was come in, He saith unto them, 'Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.'  And they laughed Him to scorn.  But when He had put them all out, He taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with Him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.  And He took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, 'Talithacumi (which is, being interpreted, Damsel), I say unto thee, 'Arise.''  And straightway the damsel arose, and walked…”  The Lord said, "What's all the fuss about?  She is only asleep!  I will go and wake her up."  They laughed Him to scorn.  The simplicity of it!  Those people didn't want that.  It would have been fine if He had said, "I am going to do a great miracle; you come and watch."  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “…so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”  This simple way of Jesus, this simple way of worship, this simple way of carrying the gospel, if we ever begin to think we are going to get anywhere by making a big show and display in front of people, our feet will surely be turned.  We would find it difficult to go and sit down with Him at His table.  He never sought any kind of place or praise from people.  If we were ever to get corrupted away from this simplicity that is Jesus, we would soon go wrong.

 

Another time Jesus could have been turned was when He was talking to His disciples and told them what was to happen to Him and how He was going to suffer.  Peter said to Him, "No, that must not happen to you," and the Lord rebuked him and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”  When Peter said, “Be it far from Thee, Lord” (another translation puts it this way: “Lord, pity Thyself”).  Self pity can turn a person's feet but Jesus made a straight path for His feet.  He was never turned by any idea of self pity.  One day we want to sit with Him at His table and we couldn't be, if we were going to be turned into the way of self pity.

 

Another day when temptation came, it could have turned His feet, but Jesus made such a straight path.  It was when that young ruler came and wanted to follow the Lord and go out into the work.  The Lord told him, "You have to do the same as the others have done"--“…sell that thou hast, and give to the poor: and come and follow Me.”  This man had a lot of possessions, and he went away sorrowful.  It says that, “Thus, Jesus beholding him, loved him.”  Jesus never altered a step to the conditions laid down to preach the gospel.  It would be a terrible thing if we ever turned in any way from the "rightness" of the foundation of this wonderful, precious ministry that Christ established.  Not one word did He ever change.  That is how it has to be--right to the very end.  It has touched my heart to see some of the young workers here.  It is a wonderful thing that this still exists in the world.  It is wonderful that this gospel is still being carried by this same ministry.  There can never be any change from it, and we value those who uphold it.

 

Jesus said to that young ruler, "Get rid of it and then you can come."  It is not just a matter of getting rid of material things but also every personal ambition and hope, all the things that could be in a life that we would naturally desire and aim for.  You have to burn the bridges behind you and cut every tie.  It isn't something you can start and see how you get on, or whether you like it or not.  That is not it at all.  There was a little family of farmers, and the boys worked for their dad.  One boy had a pig that he was fond of.  The time came when he joined the Army and he asked his dad to look after the pig.  After a few months in the Army he had had enough, so he sent a telegram back, “Sell pig.  Buy me out!”  His father sent a telegram back, “Pig dead.  Soldier on.”  It is going on and yielding all, right to the very end that counts.  We are so grateful for those who pray for us and keep it like that, upholding our hands in it.

 

I'll tell you one of my best memories of my father and mother.  It was the 9th of January 1965, in the evening. I was sitting down at home with my parents and my sister.  I was to leave the next day, to go to Madagascar for the first time.  My father said to me, “Ken, remember when you are there, if you get news that there is anything wrong with us, we are ill or we are dying, you are never to think of coming back for that.  You just have to stay right where the Lord puts you.”  I am grateful that I had parents like that.  I am grateful too, for all of God's people who have helped to keep it like that.  When dad died, I was thousands of miles away.  When my mother died, I was home in England, sitting with my sister by her bedside, as she slept away.  It would be wrong not to say there weren't any human feelings, but there was a far deeper feeling of thankfulness.  We are so grateful for this ministry that is still here, and our feet that are going straight on.  We are grateful for every sincere prayer that goes up that the Lord would continue to send forth labourers into the harvest.  There is such a need in the world.

 

My second year in this work, there was an experience that helped confirm in my mind the worthwhileness of carrying this gospel.  My companion had to be away and I was alone.  A call came that one of our old sisters was dying, and I went to where she was.  Her son spoke to her as she lay there, but there was no response.  Then he mentioned the names of the two sister workers that brought the gospel to her and she sat right up, and said, “I know them!” and fell back on the pillow unconscious.  The only thing that meant anything to her at all, at that time, was that the gospel had come.  Is there any better way for a young person to spend their life?  The Lord made this straight path for His feet right to the very end.

 

Peter said in 1 Peter 2:21, “…Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”  Every morning, before breakfast, I have been going for a walk.  The road is a bit dusty, and I have been looking at the footprints in the dust, and I have even tried to follow a set of footprints.  As we follow Jesus, we talk about the narrow way.  Within the limits of that narrow path, you can wander a bit from side to side, but right down the middle of this narrow way, I see a line of footprints.  That is my struggle.  I don't have a real struggle with staying inside the way of God, for I don't want to go outside of its limits, but within this pathway, my struggle ever day is to try to bring my feet a little nearer to those footprints.  Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, wrote so much about the way of God and what the borders are in some things.  Then at the end of 1 Corinthians 12 he said, “…Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”  Could there be a more excellent way than the way of Jesus?  In chapter 13, we see that line of footprints going right down the middle of the path.  Sometimes, when I feel I need a little bit of shaking up and a little bit of humbling too, I take this chapter and read it.  Where the word “charity” is used I put in the word “I.”  I suffer long and am kind; I don't envy; I am not puffed up; I am not easily provoked; I think no evil, etc…  I can't get very far with it, and I see that I still have a lot to do to come near to those footprints.  I am in this pathway, but “charity” is the line of footprints going down the middle of the pathway.  This is the struggle I have.

 

When Peter wrote those words “Christ also suffered, leaving us an example,” maybe his mind was going back to those last hours when the suffering was pressing in on the Lord.  I read over some of those chapters and tried to find some of those footprints in the middle of the path, right to the end.  The first one was when it tells us, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.”  We see that footprint of love right down the middle of this path that Jesus followed.  We are grateful for times when we can really stand in that footprint and do something, because the love of Christ motivates us in what we did.  Then we can see we are getting nearer to those footprints, those footprints in the middle of the path.  “He loved them unto the end.”  It didn't make any difference what was going to happen, or what they were going to do.  There are times we can stand in that footprint and love somebody even though they have hurt us, and it doesn't make any difference.  Then we are getting nearer to that footprint.

 

The second footprint is that wonderful footprint of humility.  He got up and poured water into a basin and washed the disciples' feet.  Even in that meeting those disciples were in the narrow way, but they weren't in that footprint.  They were saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus washed their feet.  He was saying to them, “This is the way now; this is the middle of the path.”  He left us that footprint of humility.  He also left a wonderful footprint of impartiality.  How often do we wander in the path when we are a bit partial?  It is easy to be partial to some people.  We picture the disciples sitting there and the Lord coming to each one.  He probably would have had to kneel down to wash their feet.  We see Him washing Peter's feet and then John's, and then He came around to Judas and it made absolutely no difference to Him--He had such an impartial attitude.  That is a wonderful footprint right in the middle of the path.

 

Another footprint is seen in the prayer He prayed to His Father.  He prayed, “That they may be one, as We are.”  This was the footprint of unity, a footprint we should always try to stand in.  We should try to pray and labour and to sacrifice for unity in God's kingdom and the little church.  Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he was glad.”  Abraham saw Jesus: he saw His foot prints in the middle of the path that day when he stood in them himself, and said, “Let there be no strife I pray thee, between thee and me…for we be brethren.”  He stood and he let Lot choose which way to go.  There are times when we need to stand in that footprint of unity.

 

We have in the Old Testament, the story of the tabernacle.  In Exodus 26:6, it says that “…and it shall be one tabernacle.”  What made it one tabernacle?  The Bible tells us that over the tabernacle there were curtains with little loops all around--they were united. Exodus 36:17-18, “And he made fifty loops upon the uttermost edge of the curtain in the coupling, and fifty loops made he upon the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.  And he made a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers' skins above that.”  Through the year ahead, we will have many little points of contact together, not just in the meetings, but also in visits and writing letters and visits on the telephone.  Put something into that little contact, something that would unite the church and unite the fellowship.  Don't put in anything that will sow division and criticism.  It is so important to put the right material into those contacts.  We want to put our feet into that footprint of unity, for it is a very necessary footprint.

 

Another footprint we see is when the Lord came into the garden.  He went on ahead and left His footprint in prayer.  I don't stand in that footprint nearly as often as I should.  It wasn't a footprint of just giving time to the saying of a prayer, but it was the footprint of a deep, earnest prayer from His heart.  Go and stand in that footprint.  Alongside of it, He left another one--the footprint of submission, when He said, “Not My will, but Thine be done.”  We're safe and right in the middle of the path every time we stand in those two footprints.  Every time we can really go and pray in secret with this real deep heart submission that whatever it means or costs has to be the Lord's will.  So often we can wander from that footprint.  We pray, and when we look back we know that our prayer wasn't like that.  It is easy to have little reservations or self-seeking when we pray.  It wasn't so with the Lord, for when He went on and prayed, and it was in such agony, that He said, “Not My will but Thine be done.”  Those were the footprints He left.

 

He left another wonderful footprint at the time when He was judged and stood before Pilate.  When He was before Herod He was silent, but now He stood before Pilate and told him, “Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above.”  There was this footprint of complete assurance in the fact that God was guiding things and looking after it.  We can get so worried about things instead of just putting our feet in that footprint.  The Lord is on the throne and He is going to see that things are going right in the kingdom and in the world.  We don't worry about what is going to happen in the nations.  One night Jesus was in the boat with His disciples, and someone was worried about how things were going in the kingdom.  There was a storm and the water was coming into the boat.  They came to Jesus and said, “Master, we perish.”  If they had stopped looking at the waves and had looked at that figure asleep, they would have known there wasn't any possibility of that ship sinking.  The Lord calmly got up and said, “Where is your faith? I can calm those waves.”  The Lord is in this and this boat isn't going to sink.  Sometimes when tests come and things would get us pretty worried, we just need to put our feet in that footprint with absolute assurance that the Lord is still on the Throne and He sees everything that is happening, and He can put His hand out when He wants to.

 

He went from the Judgment Hall and was on the way out to the cross.  He spoke to some women along the road and said, “Weep not for Me; weep for yourselves.”  When He hung on the cross, those nails in His hands, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son!”  To John, He said, “Behold thy mother!”  I don't think I would have been thinking about anybody but myself.  He left this footprint of thoughtfulness for others even when He was the one bearing it all.  His back was torn and bleeding, the nails were through His hands and feet.  It is so easy to wander from the footprint of thoughtfulness.  I would like to know better how to put my feet in that footprint and have a little more understanding for the needs of others around me who sometimes need just a word or look or a little touch, which makes such difference in life.  I never cease to be grateful for those who have put their feet in that footprint for me when I needed it.

 

Right to the end of that journey, He made this straight path for His feet, and right at the end we have the last footprint of all--the footprint of forgiveness.  He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  We are safe if we stand in that footprint.  Things go wrong at times and we put our feet in that footprint.  We think of Stephen and all he had gone through.  People were standing around with stones in their hands, and he looked up and saw heaven open.  He knew that the great Forgiver could receive a forgiving spirit.  He said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  He finished standing in that footprint.  Jesus said if you forgive others, you will be forgiven; if you don't, you won't be forgiven.  It is a very safe thing to come to the end of each day standing in that footprint.  I am grateful, and I'm not trying to boast, but I think I can say I never go to sleep at night without forgiving everybody.  Never hold any malice or unforgiveness in your heart.  Little differences come and maybe we ache a bit, but we need to get this spirit right because it is all we are going to give back to God.  “Father forgive them…”--it is a safe place to stand.

 

We have the story of the tabernacle in Exodus.  It tells of all the different things that were in the tabernacle.  The altar and the table were there, and they were made with rings so that they could be carried on the shoulders of men.  For the Ark of the Covenant, it was different--we read that the staves were never to be taken from the ark even when it was put in its place inside the tabernacle.  That is part of our covenant, this willingness when the Lord speaks, to take up the burden and go on in this journey.  We must never settle down and think we have come far enough.  If you read on to the final story when the ark was brought into its final resting place in the temple, the staves were drawn out so that the ends could be seen.  They were a memorial and were never to be taken from the ark.  One time I went to see an old brother who had been professing for over forty years.  He talked about what he had done, and that now he was doing absolutely nothing now.  He had taken the staves out and put them in a corner, and he wasn't in the journey any more.

 

The ark was brought in and put under the shadow of two big cherubims.  We are conscious of the Lord's mercy as we journey, but only when we reach our final resting place, will we understand just how great that mercy has been; we don't understand now.  When the ark finally came to its resting place, it was under the shadow of those wings that were far greater.  It is when we come to the end of this journey because of the Lord's mercy and because of this straight path that He set for His feet, and because of His grace that has helped us to struggle to get nearer to those footprints and sit down at the table with Him, only then will we understand how great His mercy has been.

 

I remember when I was a little boy, my father would be out in the country on business and he'd walk away through the snow and I would try to follow him.  I'd try to stretch my little legs and put my feet in my father's footprints if I managed to do it, but when I looked back, I couldn't see my own at all.  I would like to try to live like that so that when I come to the end I don't leave a lot of personal marks.  That is my struggle, but I'm glad I see this line of footprints down this pathway we are trying to follow.  I am glad I can see where they are leading to and that they are within this pathway.  I want to try to get my feet just a little nearer to them.