“Walk” is a common figure of speech in the Bible. Both the Hebrew word yalak and the Greek word peripateō literally refer to the physical act of walking. But they are also used figuratively to denote the way a person regulates his life or conducts himself. Thus our “walk” involves everything we do. And the point is, of course, that we are to walk in a way that glorifies God.
Consider a few casual observations on walking and their connection to spiritual life.
Walking isn’t instinctive. Most animals learn to walk all by themselves within days after their birth (we’ve all seen it with baby dogs, cats, cows and horses). Humans, on the other hand, have to be taught, helped, and urged along, and still it’s a long process of learning and practice. Walking with God is not something we master all at once, either. It takes a lifetime of learning, trying — and yes, falling down — to get the hang of it. We need constant training and encouragement. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth” (Psalm 86:11). And we need the Lord to hold our hand as we go. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Walking is done by taking one step at a time. We can’t go from one place to another in giant leaps, nor are we physically capable of flying. We get there slowly, simply and methodically, by putting one foot in front of the other. Spiritual maturity is not reached by leaps and bounds, but by continuous, persistent steps forward. Wisdom, knowledge, contentment — all are attained only by daily effort. “That you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Walking can be trouble if you don’t pay attention. You have to look ahead or you’ll run into something or fall into a hole. You have to watch what’s around you or you’re liable to step into the path of a speeding bus (or in some parts of the world, stampeding livestock). You have to keep an eye on the ground or you’ll trip, slip, and stumble. The point? Pay attention to your walk, brother! “Keep sound wisdom and discretion…Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble” (Proverbs 3:21-23). “See then that you walk carefully, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
People recognize you by your walk. Some folks walk fast, some slow. Some walk with great strides, some with tiny steps. Some walk on their toes, others shuffle. Some bounce up and down, some sway from side to side, and others just seem to glide along. People who know you can spot you in a crowd by the way you walk. Folks identify you by your spiritual walk, too. How you conduct yourself —your speech, your habits, your temperament — distinguishes you from everyone else. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 4:1; 5:8).
One more thing: The image of “walking” suggests that you’re going somewhere. Do you know where? “Enter by the narrow gate: for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).