A Clear Path

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6, RSV

I can remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. I was sitting with my parents in a little church in Yonkers, New York. It was a few short weeks after I had become a Christian. I was eager to learn of the Lord, sitting on the edge of my seat to hear the pastor’s words. “God is looking for a man,” he said. That’s all I remember.

Reflecting on it now, I think he must have been preaching from Ezekiel, chapter 22, verse 30:

I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land.

But what riveted my attention then was this simple thought: that God was looking for a man to do something for Him. That released a torrent of yearning within me. I didn’t know what it all meant or where it would lead, but I knew beyond all doubting that I wanted to be a man like that. If He was looking for someone, somewhere, to fulfill a mission, I felt like saying, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”

Soon after that I went to see the pastor, to talk with him about how to live as God’s servant. He gave me a book. I can’t recall now what the book was, but I remember that inscribed on the inside front cover was a Scripture reference: Proverbs 3:5,6. I didn’t even know at the time where the book of Proverbs was in the Bible. But I found it. And for the first time in my life I read these words:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

I felt then, and I believe even more strongly now, that those words have a lot to say about being God’s person, becoming the kind of servant He is looking for.

Up until that time I had been uncertain about my vocational direction. My mother was a talented actress and I knew that she wanted for me a career in stage and screen. She took me once to an MGM Studio to be screen-tested for an upcoming movie, “The Yearling.” I knew that my great uncle who had promised to pay for my higher education thought I should study law, and prepare to run for public office. All those avenues were interesting to me, but none of them seemed personally compelling. Now I was learning that beyond the ambitions of my loving relatives, God had a “something” for me to do. The thought of that fired my imagination. I remember telling God under the stars, with adolescent fervor, that what I wanted most was to find His purpose for me and fulfill it.

Let me pass on today the word that gentle, silver-haired pastor brought to me: God is still looking for a man, for a woman, to build up the wall, to stand in the gap for Him. If something within you resonates to the news of that divine search, if you’re eager to run the race that He sets before you, here’s a great map to show you the way. If you trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding, if in all your ways you acknowledge Him, He will direct your paths. He’ll make them straight; He’ll clear the way; He’ll see to it that you reach the goal.

WHERE TO START

Let’s think about that together. The first step into God’s will for your life is to trust in the Lord with all your heart. In the most profound sense, everything starts there. We begin with faith. The New Testament writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:

Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? We’ll never give a thought to doing God’s will or take a step in His direction unless we believe that He is there, that He’s real. Atheists don’t aspire to be God’s servants, do they? They don’t cry out, “Lord, what will You have me to do?” For them that would be shouting into the void. They don’t think there is anyone “there.” For them there is no such thing as a “will of God” to be done.

We need to believe not only that God exists but also that He has spoken, that He has revealed Himself to us. How else would we know that He’s looking for a man, a woman, to fulfill His purpose?

But faith doesn’t stop there. Those who come to God, who get to know Him, who learn to please Him, are those who believe that He is the rewarder of those who keep on seeking Him. They believe that God can be found, that He can be known and, best of all, that He is infinitely worth discovering.

None of us will ever trust in God unswervingly unless we’re convinced that He’s good. If His character is flawed, if He’s not fully dependable, who can rely on Him unreservedly? You don’t entrust yourself completely to someone who may let you down. Christians believe in the God whose name is “Father.” They know that He is kind, gracious, eager to give good things to His people. They know that supremely because He has given His own Son to reveal Himself to us, to take upon Himself our nature, to bear our sins and carry our sorrows, to die in our place. We know that God is marvelously good because in Christ He takes our burdens upon Himself and deals with everything that would keep us away from Him. He’s a God who not only gives but forgives, who not only loves His children but spends Himself utterly on their behalf. In Christ we discover a God who intends everything for our best interests, whose will for us is good, acceptable, and perfect and who is abundantly willing to show us the path. Our first step is always to trust Him completely.

Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me.

The changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see.

I ask Thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing Thee.

Will you trust Him today? Will you believe the promise He makes that everyone who trusts in Christ will be forgiven, accepted as God’s child, and given eternal life? Will you rely upon Jesus totally as your Savior? Will you bank on it that His will for you, what He wants for your life, is the way of real fulfillment? That’s where you start.

WHAT TO AVOID

Now that’s just the opposite of “leaning on your own understanding.” You know what it is to lean on something. That means resting all your weight upon it, depending on it to hold you up. If you’ve ever gone rapelling in the mountains, you know what leaning is like. There’s a rope anchored up above you and hitched around your waist. The idea is to keep your feet flat against the face of the mountain wall. The only way you can manage that is to do something that seems very scary at first. You have to lean back, lean out over nothing, believing that that rope is going to hold you. Now the point is, you can’t trust in the Lord with all your heart and also lean on your own wisdom.

In Old Testament days, the Lord would often chide His people because they did not wait for His counsel. They did not seek for His direction. In the decisions they had to make, they didn’t give Him a thought. They simply went ahead, confident that their unaided wisdom was enough. Do you know what God says about that? Listen: “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool.”

That’s blunt enough, isn’t it? According to the Bible, the fool is the person who says in his heart, “No God.” Maybe he doesn’t say that to others. Maybe he professes to be a believer. But in his thinking, planning, and deciding, he never takes God into account. Whatever he professes to believe, he is practically an atheist. He orders his life as though God did not exist. What he depends on is not the Lord’s wisdom but his own. However prudent he may seem to be, however sharp an eye he seems to have for his own interests, to God he’s still a fool. He trusts in his own heart.

If you make your decisions on your own without considering God’s will for you, will you always make the wrong choice? Not necessarily. But you’ll be headed in the wrong direction. You’ll be following the wrong guide. At the practical level, you’ll be trusting in the wrong God.

You’ll never appeal to the Lord for wisdom if you think your own is sufficient. You’ll never pray, “Lord, show me the right way” if you think you know it already. So there we have principle number two, which is really a corollary of number one. Don’t think you’re smart enough to find the right way without God.

WHOM TO ACKNOWLEDGE

Now for the third charge. “In all your ways acknowledge him.” To acknowledge someone means to take note of that person, to welcome his or her presence. It means to show a person honor, to give a guest due recognition.

The opposite of acknowledging others is ignoring them. We overlook them, pay no attention to them. We act and speak as though they were not present. Maybe you’ve experienced, as I have, how that feels. You come into a room as a new arrival, but no one greets you. No one even looks in your direction. People go on conversing in their little circles, completely oblivious to your presence in the room. How do you feel? If you’re like me, very uncomfortable. You almost feel like leaving, don’t you?

Maybe you go up to a couple of people and try to start a conversation but they turn away. You try to catch someone’s eye or get his attention by clearing your throat. But nothing works. They all seem determined to treat you as a non-person. How chilling it is not to be acknowledged!

Have you ever considered how often we treat God that way? What makes it unimaginably rude is that we are His guests. We live in the great house He has made. He is there in the midst of us as a gracious presence, speaking to us, ready to be known, seeking fellowship, desiring to share Himself with us. But we, strangely, can go on for days unaware that He is there. We make our plans, carry on our relationships, conduct our business, enjoy our pleasures, without even looking in His direction. What consummate discourtesy!

Becoming God’s person, however, involves an entirely different way of treating Him. “In all your ways,” comes the command, “acknowledge him.” That is, in everything you do, take Him into account. Don’t plan things, decide things, as if He were absent. Instead, do all of that with the awareness that He’s right beside you. Treat Him in every experience and undertaking as a present Guide and Friend. Let there be no compartment of your daily living from which He is excluded. Let everything you do be an occasion for recognizing Him and welcoming His companionship. In everything relate to the Lord as someone you know. That’s what it means to acknowledge Him.

When you give thanks before a meal, you acknowledge that these good gifts have come from His hand. When you confess to Him a wrong that you’ve done and ask for His forgiveness, you acknowledge Him as your Savior. When you seek His direction, in the Word and prayer, you acknowledge Him as Guide. When you offer yourself in worship you acknowledge Him as supremely worthy. Whenever you think about what He wants for your life, you are acknowledging Him as the Lord, the One to whom you’re ultimately responsible.

That, friends, is what the Almighty wants from His human children: to be acknowledged, to be recognized for who He is, our gracious, present Lord.

THE SURE PROMISE

Now for the promise. If we are trusting in Him and not in ourselves, if we are seeking to welcome Him into every part of our lives, then there can be no doubt about the outcome. He will direct our paths. He will straighten them out. He will clear them of debris. He will lead us by them into all that He has planned.

We aren’t told exactly how that guidance will come. We are simply assured that it will. We’ll fulfill our ministry. We’ll make it to the finish line. In spite of our weakness and the wrath of all our foes, we can affirm what the psalmist said, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” Those who lean on the Lord and cherish His companionship won’t lose their way even though they walk through the valley of the shadow. And the One who walks beside them will surely be there to greet them at the end of the road.

Do you think God is looking today for a man, for a woman, to do His bidding? Indeed He is! And remember, it’s never too late for you to start on His road. So trust in the Lord with all your heart, friends, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

PRAYER:Lord, help us not to think we know it all. Help us to trust wholly, to acknowledge You in every part of life, and to find that You are guiding our way. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.