My dad, like many dads, has a half dozen stories that he loves to tell us on a regular basis. When I was young, I often wonder if he knew that he told them so often. But now I realize that by telling us those stories he was actually telling us the story of his life. Sometimes at the most unexpected times one of those stories gives me direction in my life so today I am grateful for all of dad’s random stories about his army days, his car breaking down in the middle of no where, how he met my mom, and taking cross-country road trips. My dad’s stories all had one small, simple principle: “If you want to do see or do something with your life then you must walk through the door of opportunity.” I always think of this simple wisdom when I come to a life decision – when my life road comes to a fork – do I go right or go left is always my question. I usually never think “Ok – I think that I will build a house here at the fork.” Why? Because my dad’s stories tell me that if I want to see or do something then I must keep walking through opportunities door. I want to do something great when my life so I must keep moving forward. Simple wisdom from my dear old dad is important. Like me, King Solomon probably grew up hearing stories from his dad. At the minimum he had to hear stories about his dad. I mean women wrote songs about King David and sang them in the streets. Can you imagine being little Solomon at mealtime? David starts to tell the story about being a shepherd boy who met a giant named Goliath and killed him. I can just see myself sitting there thinking “WOW! My dad killed a bear, then a lion, then a GIANT.” Needless to say, King David cast a big shadow for his son, Solomon to follow. Solomon had many challenges when he followed his father to the throne, but he had an advantage. He had heard the stories – and by listening to those stories he knew the secret to David’s success.Like my dad, all of David’s stories come down to one simple, unifying principle. It is easy to find because Solomon wrote it down for us in the Bible: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5) That was the theme and the lesson from David’s life, a lesson Solomon knew and embraced early on, but then drifted from later in life. I want to look at Proverbs 3:5, 6 today. “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.” I entitled the message “Life Path Equation”. To understand an equation first you must know what the terms mean. So let’s define some terms.
1. Trusting God = Submission
If ever there was a man who might have thought that he would trust in his own ability to discern which path to choose, it was King Solomon. The Bible tells us that he was the wisest man who ever lived. He had remarkable insight into all things whether science, mathematics, business, marriage and justice. God came to Solomon when he took the throne and told him, “Ask me anything you want and I’ll give it to you.” Imagine that. What would you have asked fro at twenty? Long life, money, power, fame. Solomon asked for WISDOM. Solomon was just wise enough to know how wise he wasn’t. God kept his word and gave him wisdom greater than any man on earth. But the amazing thing about Solomon is that he realized that wisdom and information alone was not enough. These two great assets in your life don’t guarantee that you will make good decision or choose the best path for your life. He knew better than to trust his judgment alone. He said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” That is pretty easy to understand, isn’t it? Basically he is saying, “Don’t trust your own heart – trust God with your heart.” What does the word “trust” mean? It means to become “dependent” then notice the contrast in the verse. “Lean not” as in “Don’t prop yourself up with…” The term translated lean literally means just that to prop something up against something else; to be supported by it. What has Solomon actually learned from his father’s life stories…when the way we view things conflicts with the way God views things, we are to lean in His direction rather than our own. When what makes sense to us doesn’t line up with His revealed will, we are to side with Him and ignore the whispers of our hearts. Solomon’s God-given wisdom told him that we all have the propensity to choose our paths according to how they looked and feel to us. I think my dad would put it this way, “Bobby, in spite of all you know and all you have done, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are old enough, smart enough, experienced enough, or careful enough to be able to lean on your own understanding – you trust and lean on God.” Do you want to have a good life? Do you want to make decision and choose the best path for your life? I think that we would all say “Yes.” Then we must all remember this “Choosing the best path begins with submission.” When you come to the moment of decision – to the fork in the road – when you have several options to consider you begin with “Lord, I’m leaning on you, not my experience, my insight, my education. When my wisdom conflicts with what you reveal through your Bible, I’ll lean hard into your truth rather than my own understanding of life. When my emotions are in conflict with your rules, I’ll lean on your guidelines and harness my emotions.” Submission to God shows that we truly trust Him with our lives. So the wisest man in all the land has given us two important things to think about and obey: trust in and lean not. He tells what to do and what not to do. Trust in God and lean not on our own wisdom, but that is only the first half of the equation. In Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
2. Acknowledging God = Submission
Notice that he didn’t say, “In most all of your ways.” He said “ALL.” It’s simple – all means all. It means in your dating ways, marriage ways, entertainment ways, moral ways, education ways, professional ways, and financial ways that you acknowledge Him. But what does that really mean? To acknowledge God means to recognize who he is and respond accordingly. What is the proper response to God? Answer is Submission again. We are to recognize God’s authority over every aspect of our lives. We are to seek and submit to his will in every area of life. That is, in all our ways. So we now know what the terms of our equation mean so let’s write the equation:
3. TRUSTING GOD (SUBMISSION) + ACKNOWLEDGING GOD (SUBMISSION) = _____________.
Look at the end of verse 6 “and he will make your paths straight.” There’s that interesting word “path.” I like to describe our live as a path not a road. When you have a road there is usually a map that you can follow with clear directions and towns but when you see a path you are a little uncertain where it goes and what danger might be around the next bend. You see Solomon is not saying “If you trust God, He will straighten out whatever path you choose.” What he is saying is “If you trust with all your hearts, refuse to lean into your limited understanding, and submit every aspect of your life to Him then the best life path will become unmistakably clear to you.” I believe that divine direction begins with unconditional submission not mere information. In the Old Testament, there is the history of God’s relationship with Israel. In the Gospels of the New Testament, there is the history of Jesus who came to pave the way of salvation then the rest of the New Testament is the history of the church proclaiming the message of salvation to the world. By the way, that message is that God wants to have a personal relationship with you. But as I read the Bible I see that God’s primary goal was not that I always make the right decision. A life with “happily ever after” is not God’s goal for me. That statement may come as a surprise to you but He wants more for me. He wants me to walk down a path. I see myself walking down a path in the deep forest. I can’t see where the path goes from day to day but I do know where it ends (heaven). I hear strange sounds coming from both sides of the path. It is sometime scary on the path – it may rain and storm on the path – it gets dark on the path – but I know if I trust and acknowledge than my crooked path somehow in the end becomes straight and smooth. Why? Because God desires to have a personal connection with me. He wants to have a relationship with me. And through His Son Jesus He went to great lengths to make that relationship possible. As I walk down that path, I lean on Him and He gives me just enough strength and light to make it through the day. It is not just existing it is LIFE.
As a parent of two boys, I would rather have imperfect children who love me and need me than perfect ones who feel no emotional connection with me at all. I want my boys to make wise decisions and I want them to choose a path that enables them to enjoy life, but I want more than that for them. And so does our heavenly Father for you and me. What is the answer to our equation?
TRUSTING (SUBMISSION) + ACKNOWLEDGING (SUBMISSION) = DIRECTED LIFE.
Ask yourself these questions as you leave today:
- Why do I hesitate to give God full access to every part of my life?
- What do I fear will happen on the other side of that decision?
- What is the most difficult area of my life to yield control?
Each path has a destination. Direction, not intention, determines destination. Divine direction begins with submission. Information and insight are not enough. We need God.