The Bible gives seven characteristics that describe a full and healthy walk with God. From the very beginning, the Lord created us to walk with Him.
In the Garden of Eden, He walked with Adam and Eve - not as a distant Dictator but as a present Parent, caring, generous and watchful. Even after the couple had disobeyed the Lord by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God continued to pursue them.
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9).
Like Adam and Eve, we sometimes most readily feel the Lord’s presence when conviction comes. But we can rest assured that He does indeed walk with us all the time, despite our falls, bruises and banged up souls.
God’s question of “Where are you?” was about their hearts, not logistics. It was a relational inquiry indicative of a personal relationship, letting them know He hadn’t abandoned them or stopped walking with them in the wake of their rebellion.
From the Garden to Golgotha, God relentlessly reaches out in love for all of humanity.
“And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt [insert your own personal pit of sin here], that you should not be slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (Leviticus 26:12-13).
To walk erect is not to grovel or crawl to the altar in shame, although it would be fitting for us to do so. Walking erect with God is walking in grace, with your head held high; it is accepting the forgiveness from God that came at the highest cost - through the death of His Son.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, taking on the wrath of God that we deserved, so that we could walk with His Father (I John 2:2).
Adam and Eve lost the privilege to walk in the Garden, but God in His goodness sacrificed animals and covered them with skins to allow them to keep walking with Him outside the boundaries of paradise (Genesis 3:21-24).
The serpent lost the privilege to walk after deceiving Eve and was cursed to slither on its belly and eat dust, which symbolizes death and decay, all the days of its life (Genesis 3:14).
How can we walk upright with God?
Only by the mercy and power of God can we walk with God.
There is something sacred about putting one foot in front of the other, trusting God to walk where ever His will leads - from the lowest valley to the highest peak – and experiencing deep fellowship with Him through faith.
Enoch walked with God right into heaven (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5).
Noah walked with God as he built the ark and weathered the flood (Genesis 6:9).
The people of Israel walked with God through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:29).
Peter walked with Jesus on water (Matthew 14:29).
You can be a believer but not an abider
But like Peter, your walk can waver.
“Climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:29-31).
One minute you can be abiding in Jesus and the next minute sinking in deep waters for fear of the wind and waves around you. When our eyes become fixed on the settings instead of the Savior, fear will creep in to try to overshadow our faith.
But Jesus is quick to catch us before we drown in a sea of our own doubt.
We can also walk contrary to God. In His great and perfect love, God gifted us with free will. We can make choices apart from God that will undoubtedly cause us to wobble, stumble and slip to a soul-jolting fall.
Conversely, when we walk with God, we will be surefooted amidst the quick sands of life.
“He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2).
What are the characteristics of walking well?
1. Abiders in Jesus walk faithfully
“Keep your obligation to the Lord your God to walk in his ways ... ‘If your sons guard their way to walk faithfully before me with all their heart and all their soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 2:3-4).
When we walk faithfully with God, we keep Jesus on the throne of our hearts.
The famous Johnny Cash song, “I Walk the Line”, refers to his fidelity to his second wife, June.
While the lyrics croon about the contentment Johnny felt from staying true to his beloved, they could easily be in reference to the relationship with the greatest Lover of our souls.
“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”
God wants us to walk with Him, faithfully and unequivocally, not only because that is part of our covenant promise but because it will bring us unparalleled joy.
However, when we “walk a fine line” as the saying goes, testing boundaries and pushing limits to what is acceptable and pleasing to God (indulging in too much alcohol or social media or sheer busyness, for instance), we might feel as though we are exercising earned freedoms.
But in reality, we are confining ourselves to the yoke of slavery.
The term, “walk the line” was actually coined in the 1700s to refer to convict exercise yards, where the prisoners had to walk around a wide circle on a painted line. When we walk outside of God’s statutes, we believe the lie first told in the Garden that we will know more, have more and enjoy more.
It is only when we walk faithfully with God, forsaking everything else as gods that fail to fulfill, that we will experience the true freedom Christ came to give.
2. Abiders in Jesus walk humbly
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Like a child holding his mother’s hand, God wants us to walk humbly with Him, trusting where and when He leads us. We are to let Him, the all-knowing God, set the place and the pace. This kind of walk requires humility and surrender, that even when the destination or timing seems unclear, you trust that God as a Good Shepherd will lead you beside “still waters” (Psalm 23:2).
3. Abiders in Jesus walk obediently
“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (Leviticus 26:3-4).
Obedience brings blessing. This is not prosperity gospel but a natural result of walking within the safe and sure boundaries of a sovereign and loving God. The primary blessing that obedience brings is the fruit of righteousness, but the blessings are as boundless as God is infinite (Hebrews 12:10).
Life functions as it should when we walk obediently to God. When bad things come our way, we can be assured that even they are part of God’s good and perfect plan for us.
Conversely, disobedience brings fury. It is a terrifying thing to ponder. We like to skip over the Old Testament part of God that focuses on His wrath, because after all, Jesus took on God’s wrath for us. Yes, there is grace. But we cannot ignore that this immutable, never-changing God still despises sin and seeks justice for it.
“But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27-28).
“But they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands” (Judges 2:17).
Would you rather walk with God or against God?
4. Abiders in Jesus walk consistently
When a baby takes her first steps, she doesn’t start out running. She teeters and toddles and takes lots of falls. Never has a parent’s instinct been to shame the child and accuse, “Why can’t you walk better? Go ahead and give up walking since you didn’t get it right the first few times.”
No, every parent will cheer and encourage and document the moment of a baby’s first steps. Your back will often ache from bending over to hold the child’s hands while you help steady her walk.
So does the Lord encourage and enable us, even when we are well into the maturity of walking. We walk with God by abiding in Jesus every day so that we will become strong enough to run the steepest hills and rockiest valleys.
The apostle Paul encourages us to “run with endurance the race set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
No one sprints before they walk. The consistent habit of walking with God will strengthen our faith muscles so that we can run our Christian race well.
5. Abiders in Jesus walk carefully
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is…” (Ephesians 5:15-18).
As we navigate this world with all its temptations, we are to walk carefully, as though walking in a jungle filled with landmines. We watch where we step. We anticipate areas that could be dangerous for us. We plan ahead as best we can to avoid the pitfalls. We prepare with our offensive and defensive weapons, the Bible and prayer, so that we won’t sin against God.
Part of walking carefully is having the wisdom and discernment – which we can only glean from God – to know where, when and with whom to walk.
6 & 7. Abiders in Jesus walk in Love and Light
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God … Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:1-2, 8).
A simple test of knowing if you are walking in love and light is asking yourself if you would want to be doing or saying or thinking that thing in the moment when Jesus returns. We can complicate Christianity with the gray zone, not knowing if it falls into the category of darkness or light. Ask yourself, does this make God look good?
If you wouldn’t do it in front of the visible Jesus, then don’t do it with His invisible Holy Spirit abiding in you.
Walking in love and light will lead your feet to places your flesh would likely refuse. When you walk in the Spirit, you will go into places of darkness to bring light. You will go to places of hate, confusion and apathy to bring love. You will give your time and energy and resources away for the glory of the Kingdom of God, not for personal rewards on earth.
Walking in love and light will be exhilarating, shocking and costly. But it will be worth it.
Keep walking even if you're wobbling
Even if you’ve fallen recently, let Jesus take your hand and help you back up. Let Jesus steady and strengthen you and “make straight the paths for your feet” (Hebrews 12:13). His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).
Your walk won't be perfect, and that alone will keep you humble, but it can be faithful, obedient, careful, consistent and have the swagger of light and love.
Jesus is cheering you on, saying "Come on, child!" He longs for you to come to Him and walk with Him. Abide in Jesus and learn to walk well.