A dripping faucet, nose hairs, and whack-a-fool …

 

Chapter 19 is a string of pearls with many truths. While some stand on their own, a few are linked together. Verses two and three are an example of this that pair up nicely to begin the chapter with a bang:

“Desire[a] without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:2-3

Verse two shows us that quick responses, hasty words, and sudden acts lead to … harm. Verse three recites a familiar refrain, “Selfish people do dumb things.” Also, it teaches us that selfish folks can turn straight lines into spirals, then in their self pity they place the blame on God.

 

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

Verse 11 contains some good, old-fashioned truth ready to wear. Wisdom and discretion can make us calm-headed and help us to know what to “let go.” The wise are not quick-tempered or looking for a grudge to hold. In fact, a grudge will not fit in the heart of the wise.

 

Let’s move on to the speed round of  wise lessons:

13a – A nagging wife = a dripping faucet. Guys, you are welcome. Ladies, those are God’s words, not mine. Is it the words or attitude behind the words that causes the aggravation? Answer: Both. We all have to be careful regarding our choice of words and tone with others. Will you fellows please stop giggling? Your wives might hear you, and then …

15 – God is hard on the lazy; they are soft on themselves.

16 – Pay attention! Keeping God’s Word is an intentional process; carelessness is long term ignorance in all directions.

 

17 – Memory verse alert! Here is a great verse about generosity:

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

 

18 – Skipping discipline is a commitment to destruction.

20 – Wisdom doesn’t always arrive with age; age often shows up alone. Old age sometimes waltzes in with its fly unzipped, and, lots of untrimmed nose hairs. Listening to counsel and receiving instruction are prerequisites for attaining wisdom. It’s an active process.

27 – The best short cut to trouble is around God’s word.

29 – The chapter closes with … Let’s grab a stick and use a fool for a piñata! Amen!

 

So, the lessons from chapter 19 for the guys are:

  • Listen to wisdom
  • Never say “nagging” and “wife” aloud in the same sentence.
  • Regularly trim your nose hairs!

 

Have a good weekend!

 

There are two kinds of people in this world …

My grandfather said it, my dad said it, and I say it. My children hear the familiar refrain, “there are two kinds of people,” more than they wish. That statement is true. Given any matter of life, it holds up. It holds up because it is biblical. On most any topic in Proverbs, we see how two kinds of people — the wise and foolish — think, speak, relate, work, and act. The same is true in life.

This post will be slightly longer than usual. That is because chapter 14 is like a sock drawer, it is stuffed full and things pop out when you open it. Let’s plan our walk through this chapter. First, we need to shift gears down and move slowly. Second, as we tour more slowly we will take in more scenery. This will result in us examining more verses than we have in previous posts. Third, we will circle back and dig into verse one. Fourth, we will gather up some verses and pray though them. This last step might be new to some. I’ll gladly demonstrate how to wrap a verse around yourself and personalize it through prayer.

So, before we set off on this hike through chapter 14 you might want to visit the restroom, pour a cup of hot tea or coffee, and light a cigarette (just kidding).

 

 

Base Camp: Verse One

Verse one will serve as our home base.

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 14:1

This verse has it all: striking word pictures and penetrating truth scrunched into 16 words. The general idea here is that some people build and others destroy. We know who is who here. In fact, someone in each of those two categories of people might have flashed in your mind. Let’s move along the trail and take in some eye-opening principles.

 

 

Strolling and Studying:

As we meditatively mosey along I will attempt to offer a summary and application of a few key verses:

  • Verse 4 – Excuses aid the lazy in remaining sloth-like. It goes like this, “I didn’t get an ox to plow with because I would have to clean up after it; cleaning stalls is hard work. Even though I do not have grain stored up in my barns, my ox stalls and troughs are clean.” Some people exert greater effort in manufacturing excuses than in working.
  • Verse 6 – As you grow in wisdom, further growth is more attainable and consistent. See Matthew 13:10-13
  • Verse 8- The wise live deliberately by knowing what they are doing and why; fools stagger along with no direction.
  • Verse 11 – A fool can fail in a fancy house; the wise can thrive in a tent. In other words, it’s not your situation that brings, or ruins, abundance, it’s your character.
  • Verse 23 – Big plans and words do not put food on the table; the wise see work as honorable and profitable. Remember, God speaks highly of work and doing work well. He commands us to work, and to do our work for His honor. See 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and Colossians 3:23.
  • Verse 30 – You cannot have a satisfying life with envy (or bitterness) slithering around inside you. When envy, then bitterness, invades your heart it will strangle your life.
  • Verse 33 – Wisdom rests quietly in the heart of the wise; foolishness constantly drips out of the mouth of fools. Consider this verse and apply it to talk shows. Hmmm …

Now that we have made the loop around the chapter we arrive back at base camp – verse one. Let’s unpack it, and apply it through prayer.

 

Building or Breaking:

Verse one teaches us that wise women (or men) are builders. In particular, whether it is family, friends, or those in need, wise women and men encourage and build up others. (See Romans 15:2, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Thessalonians 5:11). God wired us for relationships; we were created to relate. We are relating at our best when we are building up others.

Verse one also shows us that the foolish are destroyers. They divide and tear down others and poison relationships. This is because they cater to themselves in everything, at all times.

 

Applying and Praying:

We have seen many first-rate truths in this chapter. Reading and appreciating them isn’t the end of the exercise though. It’s the beginning. As with any time in the Bible, application is the end point. How do we link reading and marveling at God’s Word to living it? Through prayer. As you finish your reading in Proverbs 14 select a handful of verses and personalize them through prayer. Here are three of the verses from our previous list with a prayer of application to prime your pump:

“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.”Proverbs 14:8

*God, please help me to examine what I do and why I do it so that I can discern how to follow you better. Please use Your Word each day to keep me from focusing on myself and following my plans.

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

*God, please remind me to work hard as a way to honor You and help others. Help me to do my work as service to others. And, please provide me with a huge raise this year. Just kidding. I’m making sure that you are still paying attention.

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 14:1

*God, please remind me that a mark of wisdom is to build up others. Help me to be a builder and to stay away from those who divide and destroy. Give me opportunities today to encourage, build up, and love others as Jesus would.

 

Wrapping it up:

There are two kinds of people in this word: the wise who are building and the foolish who are breaking; those who are listening and applying, and those who are ignoring; those who are doing and those who are making excuses. There are two kinds of people in Proverbs, you know who they are. There are two kinds of people in your life, are you recognizing them with greater clarity now?

Getting God’s Direction …

 

It seems that many folks grapple with finding God’s direction for their lives. Relax, verses 1, 3, and 9 begins to help us discern how God directs our steps. Keep in mind that it is a process, not an event. It requires a steadfast commitment to … waiting. Let’s read those verses, then rough in a structure for the process of learning God’s plans for you.

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:1

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

 

From these verses a framework for following God’s leadership develops:

  • Plan, but plan prayerfully – A bucket full of verses in Proverbs have shown us that we tend to think and move in directions that seem natural to us, but are not God’s plan at all. God’s ways are not our ways; His plans are not like our plans. See Isaiah 55:8-9
  • Submit to God’s Word and direction – Submission is continual surrender to God and following what He shows you. You cannot be “surrendered” to God until your will is neutral and you are happy with any direction that God provides.
  • Keep seeking Him in His Word. The primary way that God teaches and “speaks” to us is through His Word.
  • Be patient!
  • Move as God directs, one step at a time, and be content with only knowing the next step, not the ending.

 

Take a few moments and think back through each of those points. Ask yourself some tough questions from them.

I assume that you took a few minutes to revisit those verses. If not, shame on you. You will never know God’s plan for your life. I’m kidding, sort of.

 

Now, back to our routine that highlights some intriguing verses in a succinct and snarky fashion:

  • Verse 7 – Walking with God can help tame even your fiercest foes. This a remarkable kind of favor from God.  Keep in mind, this is not a passive process.

It’s not, “Hey God, look, I’m being nice, give me peace with the jerks around me.” You might want to review the summary of verses 1-3 that you brushed off earlier and read the verse below:

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6

  • Verse 24 – Being kind-worded helps others; it helps them down deep. It helps even more than we know.
  • Verse 25 – While doing dumb and destructive things might seem normal to us, it’s always best to check with God first. All the more reason to listen the counsel of others.
  • Verse 27 – People who stir the sewage are not a new phenomenon! Even Solomon had to put up with those types of no-gooders. Stay away from them. This verse yields a fine description of a trouble-maker — one who looks for trouble, digs it up, and spreads it at record speed.
  • Verse 32 – A cool, deliberate head has greater might than the biggest muscles.

 

As we close … Memory verse alert!

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

OUCH! That one stings, but it saves us from trouble. When we are most self-pleased we are most suited to fall, or fail. Rather than elaborating on this, just circle back, read that verse several times, and commit it to memory. You will be surprised how often it flashes to mind during the day. And, how it humbles you … which is the point.

Fools do not have full lives, or full bellies …

Do you ever wonder how knot-heads become even more knot-headed? And, how do discerning people grow even more discerning? Verses 1, 8, 13, 15, and 23 in Proverbs 12  usher us to the answer. Take a moment and read them. Those verses chart a course that the rest of the chapter will follow. Now, read the rest of the chapter with them in mind.

With that said, I want to highlight a couple of verses to focus on in this post. These two verses speak to growth in wisdom and growth in work:

 

Growth in Wisdom:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15

This verse distills many principles and applications into 18 words. Those who are wise demonstrate it by listening — really listening — to sound counselors. Although the verse does not outright name the advisers as wise, it implies it. Be choosy in whom you seek out for advice.

As a stark contrast, those who are foolish only listen to themselves, and in doing so multiply their foolishness. Fully stocked with arrogance, the foolish do not even consider listening to anyone but themselves. The self-immersed eventually become self-deceived.

Knowing who to listen to (not yourself mostly, dang, there goes all the self help books) and learning to spot wise counselors and heed their advice is critical.

 

Growing in Work:

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. Proverbs 12:11

The Proverbs pack tons of truth into small spaces. This verse aptly and concisely describes why some have enough, and are easily contented (“plenty of bread”), while others have nothing, and lose even that. It comes down to work. Those who are wise and work will receive what they need — and because they are wise and humble — will be grateful for it. Those who are foolish chase frivolous things and never gain anything (if they did receive anything they would waste it). So, the wise work and the foolish fantasize. The wise are content and the foolish crave. Did certain folks flash across your mind as you read this? Yep, mine too.

Both verses are a lens for viewing the world, and others. They bring clarity to how people around you think and live.  The wise grow wiser, work diligently, have plenty and are content. The foolish lie on the couch, daydream, and advise themselves into more frivolity.

That is one of the beauties of proverbs. They reveal readily recognizable patterns. They help us sort the laundry of life …

There are no humble fools …

A portion of the beauty of the Proverbs is their poetic form, which creates memorable word pictures as teaching tools. In the opening verses Proverbs 9 demonstrates this in vivid fashion that flows into instruction about the way of the wise (7-12) and the way of fools (13-18).

 

What a scene:

The opening verses sketch a scene of wisdom building her house and preparing a banquet. She opens her home and table to all who hear — the simple, fools, and the wise alike. It becomes evident in the seventh and eighth verses that one group will snub the invitation and one will accept. We are given the reason why one group avoids wisdom’s invitation while the other readily accepts it: Pride. That is the reason for avoiding wisdom, plain and simple. Fools cannot bear to be corrected and will even despise the one trying to offer helpful direction (7-8b). The wise appreciate correction, even being rebuked (8b), and will love those who admonish them (this is an ideal spot for a teaser for Proverbs 27:6, one of the most truth-packed, concise sentences ever penned).

 

What a difference:

Fools are low on humility and high on pride. Correction is an insult to them. That is why they resist it, and, continue to grow more foolish with time.

The wise embrace humility, which in turn fashions them for growth through correction. In turn, they grow even more wise, and more humble, over time.

Pride and wisdom cannot abide one another; they go together like white shirts and spaghetti. You have probably already figured out that one of the primary hallmarks of the wise is humility. Humility is the foundation for the “fear of the Lord,” which is the beginning of wisdom (10). To be clear, the “fear of the Lord,” is not being terrified of Him; it is standing in reverential awe, or holy wonder, of Him. Think of it as sanctified respect.

If you want to grow wise, first bow low. There are no stick-necked, straight-backed, high-chested wise men or women. Park there and perform some self-examination. Each of us has pockets of pride inside. They are our barriers to wisdom and hinder our walk with God.

Chapter 9 concludes with a description of the way of fools. Yep, you guessed, it’s ole Ms. Pants of Fire looking for a guy with more nerve than verve. It’s a sad scene. It plays out each day, everywhere, all with tragic outcomes.

 

What a God:

Why are you and I not romping off into that lifestyle? Grace, God’s grace. Through His grace He creates humility in us that leads us to listen to His Word and submit to His correction. We owe Him thanks for this, and so much more. He provides the humility that enables us to embrace His wisdom. Through the wisdom we receive, we become more humble, and ready to revere and worship Him. That is where wisdom begins …

Proverbs 7

In the first verses of Chapter 7 we encounter strong verbs that describe our responsibility to God’s instruction: keep it, treasure it within, keep it and live, and write it on your heart.

Why such strong commands? Verse 5 reveals to us that it is to “keep us from …” In other words, when God warns us we are to respond. Also, in verse 5 we find the “seductress” making her rounds again. The majority of the verses in chapter 7 are warning against sexual immorality, but those principles can help us fend off other sorts of temptations as well.

To help us digest it, let’s divide this chapter into three bite-sized portions:

 

Typical ways we go astray: verses 5b-13

  • Falling for flattery (verse 5b). The smooth, complimentary words of others can often lure us away from obeying God.
  • Being in the wrong place (8-9). While this can be a place of outright debauchery, It can also be a more common, yet subtle, venue such as the break room at work (gossip/complaining). Other places to avoid might include bars, casinos, church business meetings, and Arby’s. I don’t think Arby’s is sinful, but what it does to your stomach at 3 a.m. might cause you to think or say sinful things, and/or threaten bodily harm to whomever made you eat there.
  • Being with people that we shouldn’t be with (10-13). These verses provide a description of what these folks are like: loud, rowdy, immodest, crafty/schemers, and impudent.

If you sense that any of these three are taking place, it’s time to head the other way!

 

Tools used to tempt us: verses 14-20

  • Excuses or justification for the act are offered. (14). You can likely recall some that have been heaped upon you in the past.
  • Personal appeals to participate are provided. (15). This tool is double diabolical, it is uses manipulation through a relationship in order to reel you in.
  • Sense-exciting invitations are dished out. (16-18). Bad things require over-the-top advertisement to convince others to join in; good things do not require such titillating sales pitches.
  • An encouraging round of excuses is offered. (19-20). New excuses are used to seal the deal, or as a last resort.

If you take a moment you can certainly recall personal examples of these that have been used on you in the past. Recall them, identify them, and steady yourself to fight them in the future. And, do not get the double roast beef with “horsey” sauce. Just sayin’.

 

Attitudes that temptation preys upon: 21

Verse 21 provides remarkable insight for us to use to guard against temptation. Although we are enticed and flattered by others to yield to temptation, our internal attitudes cause us to give in. Specifically, discontent and pride can become the two rails that temptation runs upon.

Keep in mind, while the context of the chapter deals with the specific sin of snuggling with a seductress, the principles transfer to most any form of temptation. We can be tempted to become angry, indulgent, jealous, gossip, lust, or greedy in the same ways.

 

Two take-a-ways for tomorrow:
1. When you sense someone beginning to flatter you, appeal for your involvement, offer excuses as approval, and tingle your senses with descriptions of what they are planning … run the other way!

2. Please do not think that temptation can’t break through your wall of resistance. Verse 26 registers a sobering statement: the weak and strong alike can fall prey to the wares of the worldly. We cannot withstand temptation in our own strength. We must run to Christ, He is our strength and wisdom! Seek him and sin loses it’s allure.

Troublers of many types …

Congratulations! You have completed 5 days of the Proverbs Challenge. Great job! I hope that you have gained a new appreciation for the Book of Proverbs, an enriched time in the Bible each day, and a desire to spend more time in it.

Proverbs 6 is a series of brief bursts of observations and instructions. A title that ties it together is: types of troublers and why to avoid them. In this chapter there are three categories of no-gooders to avoid. If this were a high school “who’s who,” the categories would be:

  • Most likely to never get a job (6-11)
  • Most likely to create trouble for those around them (12-15)
  • Most likely to get an STD (20-35)

As we read those verses we might be prone to think, “thank the Lord, those do not apply to us.” And, hopefully, that is true. But, and you knew that there would be a catch, we have to be careful with this type of thinking. In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus shows us that we are to avoid committing sinful acts, and to also avoid the attitudes that fuel them. So much for our high-minded judgement of others. So, let’s apply what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:21-48 — you might want to take a few minutes and read those verses — to the three types of folks listed previously. We will do so with some very penetrating, yet profitable, questions that will assist us in removing those attitudes before they have time to act.

  • Are there parts of your life where laziness is hiding, or napping? Are you doing what you should to develop spiritual depth, healthy relationships, a healthy lifestyle, financial freedom, or service to others? Everything we have is a gift from God (James 1:17) and we are to be good stewards of His gifts. To not do so is … sin (James 4:17).
  • Are there attitudes that you harbor, or things you say, that wish or cause trouble for others? Christ-followers are to be know for serving, helping, encouraging, and building up others. (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Are there thoughts that you foster about the opposite sex, or forms of entertainment you watch, that you should avoid? Even if you have loved all 87 seasons of The Bachelor, or bing watch Game of Thrones, it’s never too late to stop.

Those are tough questions.

While actions are often easy to avoid, attitudes set up residence in our hearts, make themselves at home, unpack their troubles, and do so unseen by others.

In Proverbs 6, God is clearly showing us to avoid those three types of people — which if you are doing the Proverbs Challenge it is unlikely that you are a lazy, back-stabbing, gossiper who hangs out with prostitutes — He is also warning us to avoid the attitudes that cultivate that type of living. People rarely run full speed into sin. Their attitudes slowly nudge them into it, almost imperceptibly.

You might wonder which specific attitudes generate such a gravitational pull into ungodly living. They are listed in verses 16-19 of Proverbs 6. In those verses Solomon introduces seven things that God despises. You will quickly notice a pattern in verses 17-19. In each of those verses Solomon names the ungodly attitude(s) then the action that it causes. Keep in mind that the attitude does not usually cause the action instantly. It takes time. Those attitudes can simmer in the Crockpot of our souls long before the action emerges.

An implied lesson in this chapter is: guard your heart and mind by filling them with God’s Word. You might recall the following verses from Proverbs 4 that apply here:

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:20-23

An amazing aspect of the Proverbs is that they build upon and shed light upon themselves. It’s remarkable how God speaks to us, teaches us, and does it so incredibly. He intends to show us Himself, His ways, and to do so in amazing fashion. Stay tuned, it gets even better!

It hinges on a single word …

One of the most critical words in our language consists of only two letters. Hopes or fears, plans or problems often teeter on this tiny word. The word is “if.” Take a minute and think about all the “ifs” you encounter, or say, in a day.

When God’s “if” is met with your prayerful pursuit of Him, the trajectory and tone of your life can re-begin. In Proverbs 2 God outlines great benefits for those who move from “if” to “I will.”

Proverbs chapter two begins with, “My son (or daughter), if you receive my words …” It’s an opening statement that combines a challenge with a promise. Likewise, verses three and four begin with “if” as well. God is prompting us to pause and ponder what He is offering. He affords specific blessings to those who take heed to His word. Let’s line up what He requires so that it points us to the obedience He desires so that we can receive those benefits.

Three “If” Statements:

  • If you receive my words and treasure my commandments. Verse 1
  • If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding. Verse 3
  • If you seek it (His word and wisdom) like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures. Verse 4

With these few words God opens the way to His wisdom and knowing Him better. Here’s a summary of it: When we receive His word we are to treasure it, pray for insight, and continue to seek Him; then, He shows us Himself, His wisdom, and His ways. We must take care here: our pursuit of Him and His word is to have a earnest and singular focus (verse 4). This process of pursuing Him cannot happen every now-and-then, or by happenstance. It’s deliberate.

A real life example might help here. I am an avid — but not very fast — runner. My oldest daughter, Emma, and I often run together. The best part of our running is not finishing big races or earning medals, it is the time spent together, challenging each other, talking, and laughing. The meaningful part of our running is pursing it together, not the completion of it.

The same idea follows in the “if” statements. God is giving us these statements to get us to Him, not to get us to a spiritual achievement. The treasure is in growing closer to Him, not performing spiritual exercises for Him.

He delights in us as we draw near to Him. He joyfully gives Himself, and His wisdom, to us as we take joy in Him. It’s true. It is that simple. As you read Proverbs chapter two, mull over this question, “what will happen when I draw near to God in His word and seek His wisdom?” The answers to that question are found in verses 5-12. They will amaze you. Go ahead, read them, and find out for yourself. There is a treasure trove in those verses.

Speaking of a treasure trove, and of treasuring God’s word (verse 1), allow Matthew 13:44 to demonstrate what a singular and relentless pursuit of and joy in God looks like:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

It is worth noting that the pursuit described in Matthew 13:44 is not one of guilt or grit, duty or demand, rules or religion, no, our pursuit of God in Christ is to be one of joy. As you take joy in Him in His Word, He will take joy in drawing near to you and showing Himself and His wisdom to you.

It all begins with “if.” Today, take the leap from “if” to “I will.”

More life in your living …

Of the 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, two verses seem to be quoted the most. They are Proverbs 3:5-6. Those verses are rich. But, there are amazing truths in the verses that come before and after them as well.

In particular, verse two says that God adds length of days (quality), years of life (quantity), and peace to those who heed His word — more life in your living! Verse four teaches us that God also shows His favor to those keep His word. So, how do these blessings become ours? By writing them down. They could be written in your journal, or on a note card for your bathroom mirror, or even on a sticky note on your computer screen. But, truly, verse four refers to the best place for God’s word to be inscribed: on your heart. Proverbs 3:4 actually says that we are to write God’s word on our heart.

Be aware that someone is writing on the tablet of your heart each day. Is it God, you, or someone around you? Is it TV, social media, or our culture? Who is scribbling their thoughts and beliefs onto your heart? Why are you letting them? Tough questions, but necessary questions. It’s time to erase what others and our culture have written on our hearts and let God pen His principles and truth on our hearts.

How does this take place? The answer is found in those famous verses five and six:

“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 straight your paths.”

Are you ready to erase the world’s graffiti and self-engraved nonsense from your heart? Here’s how:

  • Turn your entire heart over to Christ; He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Trust in Him instead of relying upon yourself; He never breaks the trust you place in Him (Hebrews 13:5-6, Matthew 28:20).
  • Walk away from your “wisdom” and seek His; He wisdom is without limit or end (Romans 11:33)
  • Follow His ways, forsake your ways; He is the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6).
  • Follow the path He creates, instead of creating your own (Psalm 23:3, Psalm 31:3, 1 Corinthians 7:17)

All of those principles are compacted into Proverbs 3:5-6. No wonder it is so beloved and often quoted.

When you yield to Christ as the only Author allowed to put pen to the paper of your heart, He will:

  • Add life to your soul. 3:22
  • Help you to walk through each day securely and prevent you from stumbling. 3:23
  • Remove anxiety and give you sound sleep and rest. 3:24
  • Offer you hour-to-hour and day-to-day peace. He keeps you safe from the “sudden fear” that creeps into all of our minds. 3:25

In summary, He becomes the confidence, peace, direction, and surety that we all long for. He can cleanse our hearts, remove what bothers and embitters them, and provide direction and protection for them. His pen is ready.  Are you ready?

You want me to do what???

Does it ever seem like your best efforts aren’t cutting it? Sometimes our best efforts are our worst enemy. Sound unreasonable? Of course it does.

Let’s take a look at Luke 5:3-5. These verses will help us make sense of how God’s ways are different from ours.

“Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he (Jesus) asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Jesus had hitched a ride in Peter’s boat onto Lake Gennesaret. From there he had taught the masses. Afterward, he made an odd request of Peter to go further onto the lake and let out his nets. Keep in mind that prior to shuttling Jesus onto the lake, Peter had spent the night fishing (for a living, not for sport) and was caring for his nets. He was tired, downtrodden, and ready to eat and sleep. But, as usual, Jesus was asking someone to do something that seemed unusual and unlikely.

At that point, what do you think raced through Peter’s mind? Perhaps he thought, “this doesn’t make sense at all.” What would you have thought? Often, our responses to God can unfold into the following excuses:

  • What you are asking me to do rejects my experience and efforts. Or put glibly, “Jesus, you are ignoring my expertise and ability to do this work on my own.”
  • What you are asking me to do bypasses my usual approach. Or, “Jesus I know what I am doing here, and this won’t work.”
  • What you are asking me to do undercuts my reputation. Or, “Jesus, all good fisherman — like those on the shore — know that fishing like you suggested would be foolish.”

Take a minute. Go back and re-read those three excuses. Do they sound familiar? They are not unique to this situation. They are the same ones, perhaps with less syllables, that sprout and bloom in our own minds. When God gives us direction and nudges us into action these complaints, common to us all, incubate, then hatch.

Thankfully, Peter responded correctly. Though he barely knew Jesus he called Him, “Master.” He recognized Jesus’ authority, power, and Lordship. How? Perhaps, he had heard of Jesus and his reputation. Or, it might have been his response to his front row seat to Jesus’ teaching. Either way, he submitted to Jesus and obeyed Him. He got it right. It is easy to get it wrong here. We often yield to our own experience and efforts, or heed the counsel or coercion of others. Peter turned away from his own thoughts and preferences, looked away from the fisherman on the shore (his partners in business), and gave way to God’s word to him.

There is a pattern here that must not slip by us:

  1. We must move out of our routines to hear God’s Word. Peter had been washing and mending his nets. His shift was over. He was ready to go home. Jesus picked an odd time to step into Peter’s day. In the same manner, God rarely steps in at a time that suits our schedule.
  2. We must act on — not argue with — what God is teaching us or directing us to do. Peter had just heard Jesus teaching others, yet he applied it to himself. Think about that one. Ouch!
  3. We must leave the results with God, and embrace whatever follows. You know that this encounter resulted in Peter catching so many fish that he had to call out to James and John, his partners in the fishing business, to come and help him gather all of the fish. Obedience to one command led to two boats full of fish for future apostles.

Before I close, let’s rewind to Peter’s reply to Jesus, “we toiled all night and caught nothing,” and fast forward to Jesus’s words to the apostles in John 15:5:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Just as Peter couldn’t do it on his own, neither can we. Our experience, our efforts, our best ideas, and our best intentions are nothing apart from Him. But, with Him, and through Him, anything is possible. Adjust your time and attention, keep your antennae tuned, and get ready for God to show you your next step. Then, launch out by faith in Him, His grace, and His power. The outcome will be unlike anything that you could have imagined. It may not be two boat loads of fish, but it might be just as amazing to you as those fish were to Peter, and to everyone who witnessed it.