Series: Proverbs II
October 15, 2017 | Randy Smith
Wholehearted TrustProverbs 3:5-6
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
Verses 5 and 6 of Proverbs 3 are two of the most well-known and deeply loved verses in the Scriptures. Possibly some of you have written them in the flyleaf of your Bible or have them displayed on a wall in your house. Most of you have memorized these verses. But why do they really grip our hearts so much? Because, as one author rightly said, "In plain and simple language the sage lays his finger on what is of the essence of religious faith: trusting God" (Aitken, Proverbs, p. 37).
Each day our lives enter the unknown. Many of the events are shrouded in darkness and uncertainty. Moreover, important decisions need to be made. Trials occur that defy explanation. Burdens are heaped upon our backs. Events transpire that can affect our future. People, finances and health rarely go in a way we had expected or desired. As Jesus said, each day has enough troubles of its own, but what about the issues from yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow? Life can be overwhelming and we too often experience worry, stress, fear and hopelessness.
Of these four destructive traits, did you know that God doesn't want you to experience any of them? As a matter of fact He calls all of them sin because they are the opposite of what He expects from His creatures. You see, all of us as humans naturally depend on something to get us through the difficulties of life. Possibly it's another person or alcohol or money or possessions or even yourself. But the worry, stress, fear and hopelessness is an indication that none of these false gods have brought any of us much relief. God wants it that way. He wants us to realize the futility of a life absent from Him. He wants us to forsake the idols of the world and look to Him in wholehearted trust. He wants us to depend on Him so He can give true peace and a life with purpose and direction.
Listen again to the foundational words of Solomon: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Pro. 3:5-6).
As I hope God's Word blesses your heart this morning, I wish to take a look at the three commands and the one promise contained in these two memorable verses. And although many of you are familiar with this text, I encourage you to listen anew and allow the Spirit of God to really search your hearts as to whether or not you are really living by what these verses command. For in doing so you will honor God and receive great peace.
1. First Command: Trust Him
The first command (and this will be our longest point) is to trust God. Verse 5 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart."
At the root of the Hebrew word "trust" is the idea of lying hopeless on the ground. For example, many of you are familiar with the large German shepherd we had several years ago named, "Blitz." It frequently happened that smaller dogs will see him and immediately roll over and lie motionless on their backs. Their posture was not for play. It was for submission. I believe this is what biblical trust is all about.
In the same way that one animal will place itself under the mercy of another, we as humans are called to cast ourselves into the merciful arms of God. We are called to submit to His leading. Not cowering fear, but the realization of our hopelessness and trust Him.
You ask, "To what extent should we trust God?" Verse 5 continues, we are to trust the Lord "with all [our] heart."
The Hebrews used the word "heart" to speak of much more than the internal muscle that keeps the blood flowing through our body. In this context, the word "heart" refers to our inner person - our intellect, will and emotions. This is why the greatest command is to love the Lord will all of our heart (Dt. 6:5). So when God calls us to trust Him with all of our heart, He is calling for total trust with every fiber of our being. We are talking about unwavering obedience, absolute dependence and complete confidence in Him. As one commentator said, "[This is] a summons to the faithful to live faith-full lives" (Aitken, Proverbs, p. 38).
Listen to the testimonies of two human beings just like us who trusted God with all of their heart.
Job has surpassed all of us in the arena of suffering. His life and testimony are recorded in the biblical book that bears his name. Within a short period of time his children, his wealth and his health were all swept away. All he had was his wife whose only advice to her husband was to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9). Where was Job to turn during this time of affliction? Where could he place his confidence when everything that defined his existence was stripped away? Job turned to God. And even though he never received the "why" for his calamities, he did say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15a-NKJV).
Asa was the King of Judah. The Bible says he "did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God" (2 Chron. 14:2). Asa had just under 600,000 fighting men at his disposal. A formidable force unless one is being attacked by one million Ethiopians with 300 chariots. What was the King to do? In Second Chronicles we read, "Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, 'LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You'" (2 Chron. 14:11). At a time when most military generals would be drawing up their battle plans, we find Asa on his face before the Lord in prayer. As his great relative, King David, once said, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psm. 20:7-NIV).
Though none of us have ever suffered like Job, I personally know many of you that have and are still experiencing excruciating trials. And though our suffering may differ in degree, none of us in this room are exempt from the pain that comes from living in a sin-cursed world. Maybe it's that cancer that suddenly appeared at a young age or those allergies that persist without any relief. Maybe it's your spouse that's seeking divorce or that co-worker who hates you for no reason. Maybe it's the inability to have children or that rebellious child who continues to pull further away from God. Maybe it's the unfulfilled desire to be married. All of these situations are beyond our control. What's one to do? he biblical response is clear: Trust God!
Though many of us will never face the monumental decisions of King Asa, each day every one of us needs to draw wisdom and strength from the Lord. Maybe it's the husband who needs to choose a new profession or the wife who needs to lovingly confront a Christian sister. Maybe it's the teen that is offered drugs or the child nervous about a school recital. Maybe it's the fear that comes from sharing your faith or the concern as to where the next meal will be coming from. All of these situations are beyond our control. What's one to do? The biblical response is clear: Trust God!
The need to trust God is one of the most basic and fundamental tenants of the Christian faith. It's so primary that without trust in God we cannot be saved! We are saved by trusting God and we persevere and succeed in the faith by continued trust in Him.
Yet trusting isn't that easy. Trusting at times can be so difficult. Jerry Bridges in his book Trusting God hit the nail on the head when he said, "I acknowledge it often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable… Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God's revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown" (p. 17).
But God gives us grace to trust Him. As a matter of fact, our trust should grow the longer we walk with God. Why is that? Two reasons immediately come to mind.
First of all, we learn throughout the years that God is faithful. You know when God gave new exhortations to the Israelites; often He reminded them of His faithfulness during the Exodus. He wanted the Jews to realize that He could be trusted in the present because of His faithfulness in the past. The same principle applies to our lives as well. The more we see His faithful hand shaping the events of our lives in the past, the more we realize that He can be trusted in the present. In hindsight, we can recall the situations when God either removed a trial or gave us sufficient grace to endure the trial. We can recall the good ways He has shepherded us along life's journey. He has never disappointed us. Through experience, we learn that God keeps His Word and never fails on His promises. We learn that He is good. We learn that God can be trusted. We come to agree with John Newton who said, "If it were possible for me to alter any part of his plan, I could only spoil it" (Newton, Works, vol. 5, p. 624).
The second reason we can trust God is because of His character. The more we read the Bible, the more we will become familiar with the attributes of God. We begin to know about, moreover know, the God who is all-loving, all-wise and all-sovereign. As one author rightly concluded, "God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about" (Author Unknown). We begin to know that the God who created us and sustains us is also the God who finds no detail of our lives too insignificant for His attention and no circumstance to difficult for His control. He brings light out of darkness. He not only promises, but has the ability to cause "all things to work together for good to those who love Him" (Rom. 8:28).
Christian, it shouldn't take us long to realize that you can "[cast] all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). It shouldn't take us long to realize your need to trust God because He knows better than you do what promotes your best interests. It shouldn't take us long to realize that all the other gods and idols of the world pale in comparison to almighty Jehovah.
One pastor said, "It wasn't Allah who loved me enough to send his only son to die for me. It wasn't Muhammad who took his cross and stamped 'pardon' on my soul to save me from hell. It wasn't Buddha or Confucius who divinely inspired the writing of an infallible, inerrant Bible. It isn't the Rev. Moon who gives me a peace that passes all understanding. It isn't Merrill Lynch or Charles Schwab who provides my every need. It isn't some new age crystal that heals my diseases. It isn't the stars that give direction and meaning to my life. It is the LORD Who has done all of this. He has proven time and time again that He can be trusted" (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, Funeral Sermon, February 12, 2003).
2. Second Command: Lean Not
The second command in Proverbs 3 is found in the latter half of verse 5. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding." Leaning on our own understanding is obviously the natural contrast to trusting in the Lord.
We live in an age when the world has placed "self" foremost in our affections. Modern catchwords such as "self-esteem" and "self-love" dominate our vocabulary. We are taught to believe that the world revolves around "me" as William Ernest Henley made popular in his classic Invictus. "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
But on the contrary Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Lk. 9:23). The world wants self-dependence and self-reliance, yet Jesus wants self-denial. The world wants us to trust ourselves, to "lean on our own understanding." Jesus wants us to trust Him and lean not on our own understanding, but rather His.
God wants us to realize that our thinking and reasoning is flawed. He wants us to realize that our emotions and feelings are often contrary to His will. He wants us to realize that when we lean on our own understanding we neglect the life of faith in utter dependence on Him that He desires.
We know so little. We need to believe God's invisible hand is at work.
I can remember about 20 years ago when I thought my sister was nuts for moving to downtown Chicago. She was working in the suburbs. Why would she be so foolish to want an hour commute to work each morning? I was positive I was right in my own understanding. However, she failed to heed my advice.
Within her first year downtown she left the Catholic Church and began attending Moody Bible Church pastored by Erwin Lutzer. She got saved. Soon she began dating a member of the church. The man became her husband. I went to visit my sister at Moody and it was there that I met a young woman named Julie VanGennep who soon became Julie Smith.
But I was positive that my sister was making a tremendous mistake moving to Chicago! In hindsight, I am thankful God permitted her to make the decision against my blessings!
Folks, God works in mysterious ways. We need to trust Him because often He works in a way contrary to our own understanding. We dare not think we have Him all figured out. In the book of Isaiah He said, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8-9).
As a Pastor, I'm frequently asked why God permits certain things to happen? Maybe you have a few of those questions on your heart right now. I always tried to have an answer, but as I grow in my faith, I find myself saying more and more, "I don't know, you just need to trust the Lord." God is never accountable to us. He doesn't owe us an explanation for His actions. We're simply called to trust Him. We're called to lean on Him. We're called to live the life of faith. As Charles Wesley penned in Jesus Lover of My Soul, "Other refuge have I none; hangs my hopeless soul on Thee."
3. Third Command: Acknowledge Him
This was Solomon's point as we get to the third command. In the beginning of verse 6 we read, "In all your ways acknowledge Him."
Just because we are to trust the Lord in everything, it doesn't mean that we are to not make any decisions. We dare not to lean on our own understanding, but as verse 6 declares, we are to lean on Him. We are to acknowledge Him an all our ways. Acknowledge Him in our decisions. Acknowledge Him in our emotions. God is not calling for an anti-intellectual or anti-emotional faith, what He is calling for is for our will to be submitted to His. As one author put it, "This is not to say that trusting God means we no longer are responsible for figuring out the best course of action, but that we put God's desires at the center of our decision-making" (Koptak, Proverbs, p. 132). It's not a "let go - let God" mentality. It's seeking His wisdom and His will (through prayer, Bible reading and wise counsel) and then acting accordingly. It's following the thesis of the book of Proverbs: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Pr. 1:7a). Even the next verse in Proverbs 3 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD" (Pr. 3:7a).
We are called to acknowledge God in all of our ways. In all of our planning. In all of our thinking. In all of our dreaming. In all of our activity. In all of our spending. In all of our decisions. The small as well as the great. The personal as well as the corporate. The temporal as well as the eternal. In all of our ways we are to acknowledge Him.
We are do all things, Colossians 1:18 "so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." We are to do all things, Colossians 3:17 "in the name of the Lord Jesus." "So that in all things," 1 Peter 4:11, "God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Acknowledging God in all things is the biblical call for the Christian.
4. Promise: Straight Paths
Finally, are there any benefits for trusting God, not relying on your own understanding and acknowledging Him in all your ways? Christian, I hope from faith and experience you can answer the question. But if you have any doubts, verse 6 concludes with a promise. It says that the result of following the previous three commands is that "He will make your paths straight."
You see, when we cast ourselves into the loving arms of God, He directs us down the best road possible. Even when the road is bumpy with unexpected turns, we can "walk by faith [and] not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7) knowing that God is in the driver's seat. He is in control and His plans for us are perfect as He seeks to accomplish a good goal.
I think of Paul and Silas who were beaten with rods and fastened to the stocks (Ac. 16:23-24) for their missionary endeavors. They were persecuted for doing God's will. They were detained when God called them to share Christ with the world. How would they respond? They trusted God. The Scriptures say that evening they "were praying and singing hymns of praise to God" (Ac. 16:25).
Only when we believe God will make our paths straight, despair gives way to joy, worry gives way to faith, anger gives way to love, gloom gives way to hope and suffering gives way to abundant life.
That great man of faith, George Muller, once said, "Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends."
My Father's ways may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache.
But in my heart, I'm glad I know
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away.
But still I'll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know His way.
Though night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I'll pin my faith, my all in Him;
He maketh no mistake.
There's so much now I cannot see.
My eyesight far too dim.
But come what may, I'll simply trust,
And leave it all with Him.
For by and by, the mist will lift,
And plain it all He'll make.
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He maketh no mistake.