A sermon preached at Hebron Baptist Church, Denham Springs, LA on October 4, 2009 by Pastor Joe Alain.
Series: “Foundations: Lessons On Assurance”
Focal Passage: Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
It’s a question that is never too far from our thoughts, “What is God’s will for my life?” “What does He want me to do?” And “how can I know God’s will?” “Am I going in the right direction?” “Am I making the right decision?” “Does God’s Word have something to say to me?” God has a path for each of us to walk. Likewise, He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to guide us in the right paths of life. That is the promise we are reflecting upon today in Proverbs 3:5-6.
We can have the assurance of God’s guidance in our life when we put our Scripture passage into practice.
1. A Principle (3:5a, 6a) – Trust in the Lord
Taken together, the opening phrases of verse 5 and 6, highlight the absolute necessity of trusting in the Lord. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . In all your ways acknowledge Him.” What does it mean to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and to acknowledge Him in all of our ways?
The word “trust” in the biblical language means “to confide, to place hope and confidence in any one,” the person here being the Lord. Trust is an ongoing action of faith on our part. (This word is an imperfect which means the action is not completed) We are to “trust” in the Lord with “all” our “heart.” The Hebrews thought of the heart in terms of “the seat of intellect; hence, (1) mind, purpose, intention; (2) understanding, knowledge, insight; (3) courage, spirit.” To trust in the Lord with all your heart is to allow God to have confidence in God when it comes to your thoughts and actions, even your passions, but especially as it relates to the way that you make decisions. To trust God with all our heart is to have faith, confidence in His ability to guide us.
God wants us to trust in Him in “All” my “ways,” literally paths. In every way or path of life, God wants me to trust in Him to guide me. For God to guide me I must “acknowledge him” in all of the ways of my life. God restricts His guidance of my life to the areas (the paths) that I am willing to surrender to His guidance.
Are you acknowledging the Lord in “all your ways”? Are you trusting Him with the decisions that you make related to your family? With the way you handle your finances? With your work? Your schooling? Your dating relationships? Your friendships? Your social life? To trust in the Lord with all your heart is to have the mind of Christ who said, “not My will, but Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42). When we acknowledge him in all our ways, we can have the assurance that the Lord will guide us.
1. A Principle – Trust in the Lord. We also have . . ..
2. A Prohibition (3:5b) – Do Not Trust in Yourself
Verse 5 says, “And lean not on your own understanding.” This is the negative side of the instruction that God gives us. Every negative that God gives to us is really a positive if we look at it right. When your parents told you “don’t play in the street” it was a negative that was positive. If the light is red at a busy intersection, stopping (a negative if you’re in a hurry) may save your life, so that’s a positive. So God gives us here a negative. What is it? Do not trust in yourself. Do not lean upon your own understanding. Do not follow your inner compass when it tells you to do something contrary to what God has said for you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense, which it will not sometimes.
Have you ever been lost? At the worst it can be kind of a scary experience, and at best it is frustrating. One time I was lost. Well, not really one time. After driving around awhile, leaning on my own understanding, I finally stopped and asked for directions. After giving me directions, the nice lady said “I couldn’t miss it!” Well, I did. Maybe I didn’t hear her right or maybe she didn’t know either. After driving around some more, I stopped again for directions. This time I finally arrived at my destination. Living is very much like driving through a strange city. We spend a great deal of time wandering around. People are often quick to give you directions. Sometimes they are well-meaning but the directions they give are bad. People might say, “It’s ok to lie and cheat, just don’t get caught. It’s ok to do what you want. Take care of yourself and Forget about God.” But these directions in life won’t help us. They will cause us to continue wandering around – lost!
When we feel that our way is best rather than God’s way, we are leaning on our own understanding. We are trusting too much in ourselves. And when we do that we just end up staying lost in life. Just like me driving around and around thinking “The place I’m looking for is right around the corner,” when I was not even close. So following my understanding apart from God keeps me wandering.
What’s wrong with trusting in our understanding? Why can we not trust fully in ourselves?
(1) For one our heart (even the Christians) is not completely reliable. Jeremiah 17:9, NLT said, “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Our heart (the seat of our decision making) is not completely objective. We are still subject to those human passions that want to go against what God wants me to do (see Prov. 14:12). God says “do this by faith,” and our heart tells us it can’t be done, so we go with what we know rather than who we know. Jesus says, take the narrow path of trust in Him, but our heart tells us, “go down the broad path. Everyone else is traveling that way so it must be right. The broad road looks smooth, there is no cross along that road.” If we lean only on our own understanding, we are going to miss out on God’s plan for our lives.
(2) Our Understanding Is Limited.
Proverbs 14:12, NIV says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” We should not place too much faith in ourselves because we don’t always have the whole story. How many times have we thought certain things and acted upon information that was later proved to be only partly true or altogether false? Things are not always what they seem.
1. A Promise, 2. A Prohibition The passage concludes with . . .
3. A Promise (3:6b)
What is the promise that God gives to us when we follow the principle and the prohibition? “and he will make your paths straight” (NIV) or the NKJV, “And He shall direct your paths.” The word “direct” means to make smooth. If we will trust Him, He will guide us in the right path and He will remove the obstacles in the path so that the road will be smooth. The CEV says, “And he will clear the road for you to follow.” The Msg says that “he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
When we try to make something happen the road is rocky and hard. When we trust in Him, He will do the directing, the guiding, and the path will be much smoother. God may lead us down some narrow paths, but they will be far smoother with Him than if we went down a broad path without Him.
Practical Application How does God guide us?
1. Through His Word
Jn. 17:7. God’s guidance is right in front of us, but we too often miss it. In teaching, I always give a review before a test. I will tell them what to expect, but you would be surprised at how many students would miss a question and ask me about it. They had the answer all the time, they just didn’t bother looking it up. We do the same thing with God’s Word. And yet, think of the guidance that is available to us through His Word? God’s word counsels us (Ps. 119:24), and provides light for our path (Ps. 119:105, 130). For God to provide us guidance, we must seek His guidance through His Word.
2. Through His Spirit
God’s Spirit, His very presence lives within every believer (Eph. 1:13-14). God-given desires are one way that the HS works in our life to guide us (Ps. 37:4). What God-given desires do you have? If you are delighting yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart because they will be God-given desires. Philippians 2:13 reminds us of the powerful truth that God is at work in every believer “to will and to act according to His good purpose.” God speaks to us through His Spirit, are we listening?
3. Through Other People
God places people in your life. There is wisdom in godly counsel. See Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 24:6. This is the “fourth and one principle.” In football if it is the fourth down with one yard to go for the first down, sometimes the quarterback will call a time out to get some advice from the coach. When it comes to direction, don’t rush into something without seeking and receiving Godly counsel. God has placed people in your life to help guide you. Godly parents, grandparents, teachers, leaders in church and in the community can greatly help you. God speaks to us through others.
4. Through Our Circumstances
Sometimes God opens doors (Acts 16:6-ff.), sometimes He closes them. I have to admit, this is the area of how God guides me that I do not fully understand or always appreciate, but I know that He guides me through circumstances, things that happen, doors that open and door that close.
As a follower of Jesus, you have a powerful promise that God is going to guide you every step of the way. If you’re a believer, keep on following Him, keep on trusting, He will direct your paths, he will make your path clear, He will keep you on track. If you’ve never established a personal relationship of trust with the Lord, God has made it possible for you to do that today. He is the “way” the truth and the life!
For His Glory!