Grace For The Journey
I want to start off my blog today with a fictitious story. Pretend you are a teenager (for you teenagers, that shouldn’t be much of a stretch). You are navigating your first week of High School. One of your friends, a friend you’ve know all throughout elementary school and middle school, is hanging out with you and some older students at lunch.
This older group of students loves spreading gossip and making fun of other students, especially if a student is the subject of their gossip. In spite of this behavior, you and your friend both like these older students and are hoping to be accepted into their circle.
But suddenly, as everyone is having a good laugh at someone else’s expense, your friend tells them an embarrassing story about you, and then begins to mock you front of them. The older students burst out laughing as they point at you and add more ridicule.
You are horrified and frozen. Within seconds, embarrassing stories about your friend begin to pop into your mind and a swirling mixture of different emotions begins to rise up inside you. The others, including your friend, notice you are about to say something. You begin to speak. So . . . What would you say? What would you do?
Keep that scenario in mind as we continue to look for wisdom to live by from the Book of Proverbs. We are going to look a Proverbs 3 verses 5 to 7. As you read these words of Solomon, the son of King David, think about that the above story. Think about how these truths would help … how they should direct that teenager. This is what Solomon says to his son about how to live life well. He writes, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
In those three simple verses we find an incredible amount of guidance from God. Let’s use our role playing scenario to think through what God, through Solomon, is telling us here.
- Acknowledging My Lack.
Solomon reminds his son that “your own understanding” (verse 5) is not strong enough to support the weighty situations in life. He is telling his son not to “lean on your own understanding”. It will break. It will fail you.
We see the same thing in God’s indictment against Egypt, given by the prophet in Ezekiel 296b-7. “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.”
This is what happens when we lean on something as flimsy as our “own understanding.” This same warning is repeated in Proverbs 3:7. Solomon restates his point in different words: “Be not wise in your own eyes.” If I see myself as wise, then I will have no reason to search for wisdom. And that is precisely the danger Solomon is warning us about.
If you are that teenager in the fictitious story I began my blog with, what kind of things will be running through your mind in that moment of crisis? What will “your own understanding” be telling you? I’m guessing things like this:
- You better do something quick, or your going to have zero friends.
- Two can play at that game. If they liked that story, they’re going to love mine.
- How could he? How could she? I’ll show them all.
- I’m never coming to this school again. I just want to go home and die.
But think for a minute . . . where will those idea lead if not checked in some way? If we’re honest, we know they will only lead to more pain.
Living life well, living the life you were designed to live . . .
Begins with acknowledging
The frailty of your own understanding
The foolishness of your own wisdom.
It starts with acknowledging the fact that,
Left to your own devices, you cannot live life well,
That is, life as God designed it to be lived.
You see, the brokenness of our world, of our lives, is the direct result of men and women leaning on their own understanding . . . Of you and me being ‘wise’ in our own eyes (Isaiah 53:6). But if we can acknowledge our lack, we can also acknowledge God’s riches. That’s our second point . . .
- Acknowledging His Light.
We don’t have the answers. But God does. I believe that is what verse 6 is saying. Look at it again:” In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” I think this verse can be easily misunderstood. Again, the keyword here is “acknowledge.” What does Solomon mean by acknowledging God? I think he simply means acknowledging that God is God. You see, this stands in contrast to “leaning on your own understanding.”
As you live your life, who will you turn to as the authoritative expert on all things you? Solomon calls us to acknowledge that God is the authoritative expert on all things, including all things you.
The Apostle Paul talks about the same contrast in Romans 1:21-22, where he writes this about our desperate condition in the grip of what the Bible calls sin, “… For although they knew God, they did not glorify [acknowledge!] Him as God, nor were they thankful, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
Notice how Solomon puts it in Proverbbs 3:6. He writes “in all your ways…acknowledge Him.” What does Solomon mean? He means, in everything you do, in every area of your life, look to God as the authoritative expert.
If you were struggling to teach a class on the Windows operating system and Bill Gates was in the back of the room, would you acknowledge him? If you were getting trounced in a basketball game and Michael Jordan or LaBron James was on your bench, would you acknowledge them? If you arrived at the scene of a car accident where people were dying, and you had an experienced EMT asleep in the back of your car, would you wake him or her up?
You would, because those are authoritative experts in their profession. But . . .
We are not talking about
Any of those scenarios.
We’re talking about your life;
About every day, you living your life
- In all your ways.
- In every moment,
- In every obligation and opportunity,
- In every relationship, In every decision,
- In every conversation and purchase
In all your ways, acknowledging God as the authoritative expert on your life. Do you believe that? Do you acknowledge God as such?
If you do, then He will direct your paths. But what does that mean? Listen to what Solomon would go on to write in Proverbs 11:5, “The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. Or again in 15:21, “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.”
In Proverbs the “straight” way is the way of wisdom, God’s wisdom. Consequently, it is the way of blessing. So, when you acknowledge God as the authoritative expert on your life, He will guide you down the “straight” way “in all your ways.” Solomon’s father David explained this in Psalm 25:8-9, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”
And . . .
“His way” WILL support
The weight of life.
It will not snap
Like a flimsy cane
O broken crutch.
His way is
Think about that teenager from the beginning of my blog for minute. That teenager needs to know that God, the authoritative expert on his life, on her life, can guide them down a straight path, a strong, solid, and sure path. God knows the right response. And where can that teenager find the right response? In God’s Word. In 1 Peter 3:9-12, Peter quotes Psalm 34, when he writes, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Our impulse as that teenager may be to lash out or join in their hurtful game. But God’s wisdom, God’s Word directs us to “bless” and to “seek peace” and to “do good.”
So, acknowledging God as the authoritative expert on your life should always lead us back to the Word of God . . . to the Bible. Did you know in the Bible, God has something to say about “all your ways,” about every part of your life? The Bible reminds us in 2 Peter 1:3, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, who called us by glory and virtue.”
Have you ever wanted expert advice . . .
- On your relationship ,
- On your finances,
- On your career,
- On feelings and struggles of the heart and will
- On conflicts and challenges
- On love
- On clothes
- On food,
- On belonging,
- On guilt and forgiveness,
- On right and wrong,
- On the meaning and purpose of life?
If you have, look no further than the Bible.
The world has plenty to say about all these things, but if we begin there, we will be leaning “on [our] own understanding” as human beings. God’s Word should be your starting point “in all your ways.”
But, in addition to this, Solomon tells us we need to be . . .
- Acknowledging His Love.
You could hear all this and think, “Ok, the Bible has important things to say about every part of my life.” You might even dig in and carefully consider what God’s Word tells you about this or that specific topic or this or that challenge in your life. But as we see in verse 5 . . .
Solomon is calling us to do
More than consider commands
And ponder principles.
It is not enough simply
To recite what the Bible says.
We can’t be content with simply knowing it.
Look again at what the Bible says in verse 5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart …” The teenager in our story can know what God’s Word says about using his or her words to bless and seek peace, but if that knowledge is not combined with faith, she will not follow God’s guidance.
This is where acknowledging God’s love comes into play. When you hear or read God’s Word, you have to believe God cares for you. You have to trust that what He is telling you, that the road He is showing you, that the commands He is giving you are for your unequivocal good. If you believe God is simply trying to control you for some dark end or is a cosmic ‘killjoy‘ who loves watching your suffer, you won’t acknowledge Him “in all your ways” or ‘Trust in the Lord.”
Just look at the next five verses (8-12) and see if you can feel the love of God in these words. Solomon tells his son, if you acknowledge God and allow Him to direct your path, “It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so you barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”
What does God want for that teenager? He wants him or her to trust Him. He wants her to believe He really does care; that He knows how hurt he or she feels, how alone he or she feels. He wants him or her to trust Him with the future, that he or she will have friends; that he or she will be okay. And He wants him or her to trust that the path of forgiveness really is the path of life.
In love, He will direct his or her paths. Do you believe that God cares about you personally? If you don’t, why would you acknowledge Him?
Now, in a study like this about God’s love, some might stumble over the middle of verse 7. Do you see what it says there? Solomon calls us to “fear the LORD.” They might argue that statement is antithetical to what we were just talking about? If God loves us, why would we fear Him?
But there is a false dichotomy here. Love and fear are not mutually exclusive, especially when we understand that “fear” here does not mean terror before an unhinged tyrant. This “fear” is that proper respect, reverence, and response to God. It is the kind of respect, reverence, and response that leads to rule-keeping and not rebellion. I’m sure those of us who grew up in healthy households can confirm a healthy “fear” of mom and dad, while at the same time, never doubting their love for us.
Did you know God wants us to feel the same way? The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:1 that we are called to “perfect(i)ng holiness int the fear of God,” while at the same time, not doubting God’s unrivaled and unconditional love for us. Trusting God in this way, as Proverbs 3 prescribes, begins with seeing God as trustworthy. So how does that happen?
When our daughters we little, they loved to play a game where they would fall backward into my arms. It is really a game that is all about trust. This kind of trust is connected to two things: 1) my girls had to trust I am strong enough to catch them. But equally important, 2) they had to believe I was good enough to catch them. And their trust in that fun game was built on what I showed them about my strength and goodness in every other circumstance. They were able to see my trustworthy in how I dealt with them every day.
When Solomon wrote to his son, and to all who would hear and study this Book of Proverbs, he knew the ways God had shown Himself trustworthy. He could think way back to stories of Abraham going to Canaan or Israel leaving Egypt, and he could think back to his father’s life and his own life to see the strength and goodness of God. Without a doubt, God had shown Himself to be completely trustworthy.
But what about you? Can you, do you trust in the Lord because YOU have found Him to be trustworthy? Listen to these words in 1 John 4:9-10, and consider what they tell us about the trustworthiness of God and the love of God: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
It was there on the cross where Jesus died that God demonstrated His strength and goodness in a radically unique way. Strength to conquer sin. Goodness to forgive sin. Through Christ, God paid the debt you owed so you could enjoy the riches of a relationship with Him forever. All that you have and are through Jesus. What more could He do to show Himself trustworthy?
What we all need is to trust in the Lord with all our heart, to fall back into His arms. He will help hurting heart; and He will heal sinful heart.
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”