A backpack full of essentials is a burden most wilderness hikers will gladly bear. Okay, perhaps the word “bear” was poor choice.
When I pack a backpack, about one ounce of that forty-pound burden is likely to be zip-lock bags. As one sets out on the trail, these bags serve to separate breakfasts from lunches and dinners. Others contain lotions, pills, Band-Aids, plastic spoons, and tooth-care products. If a lotion container cracks or spills, the zip-lock bag contains the mess from the surrounding stuff.
After meals are enjoyed (and they often taste better on a wild untamed trail), those zippy bags are still useful. They separate trash, dirty socks and interesting items found on the trail from the rest of your gear. Yes, good hikers carry out their trash.
Warning: Plastic bags cannot always protect food from a bear’s keen nose, especially used and open bags. But used properly, they can help contain tempting aromas.
Zip-lock bags testify that a good trailblazer is also a good planner. He or she only brings what is necessary and protects the perishables so they can fulfill their intended functions. Packers must set priorities and make wise choices.
The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about distinguishing articles for noble and ignoble purposes. He said, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter [ignoble purposes], he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21).
It’s an apostolic analogy, asking the reader to identify with articles (or vessels) in a house. Our analogy here simply points to a backpack. As Christians, we aim to be useful to God for His noble purposes.
When you become and instrument for God, you take on His purposes. Being fit for God’s backpack means being distinguished from whatever is intended for dishonorable purposes. Paul was clear: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (vs. 22).
This is what it means to be holy (literally, set apart). Holiness calls for a purposeful separation from dishonorable “vessels” so we can be useful to God. God’s backpack is not a random mess. He is too good a planner for that. He has a purpose for each article, even you and me. Our task is to remain pure and prepared, set apart for His use.
In another letter, Paul put it this way: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1).
Thinking this through is sobering to the soul. If you remain devoted to dishonorable purposes, you may not make His backpack. His choices are eternally purposeful.
On a wilderness trek I once made in California, one of my companions (whose name happened to be Paul) carried a small Bible in a zip-lock bag. It remained free of sweat, dust, and moisture, and it was always ready for use. Thanks to my friend Paul, we had some great campfire devotions and discussions. Like food, God’s Word always tastes better than expected on untamed mountain trails.