Friday, June 15, 2007

Which Way Are You Leaning?

“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.” (Prov.3:5-6)

If our understanding leans one way, and God’s understanding leans another, we’re leaning the wrong way! This is not to say that our own understanding should be neglected or allowed to wither on the vine. When Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philip.2:5), he didn’t mean for us to become “mindless.” If you read the context, you will see that it is more of a mind-set that he is promoting. In this case, one of humility. No, we’re not told to put aside our own understanding, just to put it in second place. To say it another way, when it comes to making a judgment, what we think must be weighed against what the Bible says; and when the two disagree, the scales should always be weighted in favor of God’s understanding. There is good reason for this: Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We are only capable of understanding as far as our own accumulated knowledge. At its best, it’s still finite, and infinite Wisdom will trump it every time.

The one great thing that keeps us from doing this, I think, is found in the first part of verse seven. “Be not wise in thine own eyes.” The great hindrance to all true wisdom is the thought that we have already attained it. You can’t tell some people anything—not even God can. Their mind is like cement. They can’t seem to find the truth for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman. It would be easy to assume that great intelligence would be more susceptible to such implacable thinking; but we have all seen people with average or below average intelligence who prided themselves in what they like to call “common sense,” and who consider this to be the embodiment of all sense. Too often, however, what they call common sense is only common to them. Their own idea of what is right and wrong. Pride is a funny thing. It can turn up in unlikely and even unreasonable places. It’s like the woman who confessed to her pastor what she feared was the sin of pride in her good looks. However, the pastor was quick to point out that it was not the sin of pride in question here, but rather the sin of “vain imagination!” I think you get the picture.

There are some promises in the Word of God that are conditional, while others are unconditional. Verse six is an example of a conditional promise. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” If you want God to lead you, you have to consult Him. It only makes sense that a map is only helpful if one refers to it. I think a lot of times we define (at least with our lives) the word “acknowledge” by its most casual meaning, as in the case of acknowledging an acquaintance on the street with a friendly “Hello”—a simple recognition—instead of assuming its more formal meaning, which is to confess something or someone to be what is claimed about them, and to acquiesce to the authority of that claim.

Hebrews tells us, “[H]e that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (11:6). Unless we acknowledge God to be Who He says He is, able to do what He says He can, we need not apply for direction in our lives. He must be acknowledged not only as a subject would acknowledge a Sovereign (which He is), but, just as important, as a child would his Father (which He also is.) A judge may be called upon to decide a question of law; but surely the decisions he makes for his children are no less important. The former may be weightier, but the latter are no less meaningful.

Sometimes I come to God with weighty questions—important decisions. Other times I ask Him for, or about, so-called little things. Either way, I’m comfortable coming to Him. In the first instance, I know I’ll find infinite wisdom; in the second, I can always count on loving compassion and interest. I need to know how to answer my husband when he comes to me for an opinion; but I also want to know where I misplaced my keys. Does He consider either request unimportant? Not at all; because I have acknowledged Him to be not only Lord of Heaven and Earth, but Lord of my life…all of it. There is no desire or secret longing that cannot be trusted to His care. He is the Altogether Trustworthy One! And we can trust in Him, with all our heart.

And shall I fear to trust the One
Who gave Himself for me?
Or should I lean on my own staff
A useless, broken reed?

Ah, no! I will acknowledge Him
As Sovereign, Friend, and Guide
He shall direct my every path
His Presence by my side.


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