Proverbs 3: 5, 6
This text is striking in its simplicity. There is nothing difficult about it. It is so simple that it can be understood by the youngest believer, and yet it is a comfort to the oldest saint of God. It is good for everyone in between. These words cling to the soul because they speak to a great need we all feel – the need for guidance. They provide the basis on which guidance will come. It is a short course in knowing God’s will for your life.
1. Five Key Words
Sometimes when we know a passage so well, we almost know it too well. We have heard it so often that we have never stopped to think about what it is really saying. Let’s take the key words one by one and see what each one teaches us.
Means “to lean with the full body, to rest the full weight upon.” In our thinking the word trust means to rely upon or to have confidence in. But the Hebrew word is stronger. It has the idea of stretching yourself out upon a bed or resting on a hard surface. The word means to put your full weight on something. To trust in the Lord is to rest your whole weight upon him – to depend on him completely.
Means to rest upon something for partial support. What you do when you walk with a crutch. You lean on something when you are not strong enough to stand alone.
Refers to the mental processes by which you analyse a problem, break it down into its smaller parts, and then make a decision about what you are going to do. Early in the morning when you make a list of all the things you have to do that day, you use your understanding to sort out your priorities. Understanding is the decision-making ability that God has given you.
Use all your mental powers, but do not lean on them for total support. Don’t trust in your own ability to work out your life. Lean instead on the Lord! Rest your weight on Him!
You could translate this by saying, “In all your ways know him.” The Hebrew word means to know deeply and intimately. It’s the kind of knowing that comes with personal experience. When you live together for many years, you get to know each other at such a deep level that you actually begin to know what the other person is thinking even as he or she is thinking it. You know what your wife is going to say before she says it. You know what your husband is going to do before he does it. You have a deep, personal, intimate knowledge of each other. “In all your ways know God intimately … deeply … personally. When you know God that way in every area of your life, he will direct your paths.”
Imagine that you are driving along a road that appears to be impassable. The road winds through the mountains and down into the swamps. It seems to have a thousand switchbacks. As you travel on, you discover that portions of the road are washed out, others are filled with potholes, and still others are blocked by huge boulders. In some places the road apparently becomes a dead end. This is the road of your life. As you look at it, it appears to be covered with boulders and rocks. Some parts of it seem to be filled with potholes; other sections appear to be going nowhere. That’s the way life is.
Here is God’s message to you - If you will know God in every area of your life, he will take personal responsibility to make your way smooth and straight. He will remove the obstacles if they need to be removed. He will fill in the potholes if they need to be filled. He will redirect the detour so that what seemed to be a dead-end turns out to be the shortest way to reach your destination. All you have to do is trust in the Lord. Rely completely on him for full support. Don’t lean for support on your own human understanding. In all your ways know God intimately. He will take the path of your life that seems to go up and down and around and sometimes seems to curve backwards, and He will make your way straight. That’s the promise of Almighty God to you.
2. Philip Yancey’s Definition of Faith
“Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” We want to know why things happen the way they do and why couldn’t things have happened some other way. It would be wrong to say that faith provides all the answers. It doesn’t. Perhaps in heaven we will fully understand, or in heaven our desire to know will be transformed by our vision of the Lord. By faith we see things that are invisible to others and by faith we believe in advance those things that right now make no sense but one day will make perfect sense because we will view them in reverse. The world says, “Seeing is believing.” God says, “Believing is seeing.” We believe, therefore we see.
3. When You Need to Know, You’ll Know
That’s how God works, isn’t it? When you need to know, you’ll know. Not one day sooner, not one day later. If today you don’t know what to do next, it’s because you truly don’t need to know. Because if you needed to know, you would know. If God is God, that must be true. That’s why the search for God’s will is so exhilarating. When God is leading the way, every obstacle will eventually be removed. The path may have many twists and turns, but in the end he will make your path straight. You have his word on it.
So many people struggle at this very point. The Bible says, in all your ways know God intimately, know him deeply, know him personally. When we get up in the morning, we say, “O God, help me. I’m busy today. I’ve got so much to do. Lord, I don’t even have time to pray – so here’s my list. Bless it all, Lord. I’ve got to go.” We wonder why our days are filled with frustration.
Many of us go through life leaning almost completely on our own understanding. We like to be in control. I number myself among that group. I like to know what’s going on. I like to be in charge of my own destiny. This passage is a warning to all of us who lay out life the way we want it and then say, “Here, God, stamp it with your blessing because I am going to go out and do it for you.” God says, “I don’t work that way. Know me first. Put me first in everything, including all your plans, all your thinking, and all your scheming. Put me first. Then I will make your way straight.”
Do you want to know the secret of knowing the will of God? Here it is: in everything you do, know God. But we all want a formula. “I don’t like that. Give me a formula. Give me three steps.” The secret is a relationship with God. We want to reduce our relationship with God to a formula. God says, “Know Me. Spend time with Me. Put Me first in every area of your life because when you do that I will take care of all those details.” This is a revolutionary way of looking at life.
Durban, Dubai or Dublin?
We’re hung up on the decisions of life. Should I go here? Should I go there? Should I marry Jane or Sue or Eric or Sheldon? Should I take the job, or should I say no? Here is the teaching of this passage stated in one sentence: God is much less concerned with what you do than with what kind of person you are. So when you say, “Lord, should I go to Australia or should I stay in South Africa?” you are asking the wrong question. The question is not where are you going to go, but what kind of person you are going to be wherever you go. The question is not, who should I marry, but what kind of person am I going to be no matter whom I marry?
While you are wrestling with the question of relocation, God wants to know, “Are you going to be my man or my woman whether you go to or whether you stay in WilroPark?” If you decide to put God first in everything, it doesn’t matter where you live. If you are not going to put God first in everything, it doesn’t matter where you live either. We focus all our energy on decisions. But God says, “Know me and I will take care of the details.” We want specific direction. God says, “In all your ways know me, and everything else will fall into place.”
In the year 2452 it won’t matter whether you lived in Durban, Dublin, Dubai or Johannesburg. But what will matter is that you decided in all your ways to know God. That is what will really matter. All these trivial details that just soak up so much energy will be seen for what they really are – trivial details.
What is the will of God for your life? To know God in everything. To see him present everywhere and in everything, and to live in total surrender to him. The most important thing is not the decisions you face; the most important thing is your relationship with God. The closer you get to God, the easier it will be for God to guide you in the way he wants you to go.
Lord, here are my hands. Lord, here are my lips. Lord, here are my eyes. Lord, here are my ears. Lord, here are my feet. Knowing God means taking all that you have and placing it at the disposal of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Proverbs 3:5, 6 ends with a promise: “He will make your paths straight.” God is able to remove the obstacles in front of you. He is able to fill in the potholes and turn a dead-end into a four-lane highway. God rewards those who show regard for him by leading them straight to the right end and removing all the obstacles along the way. We rarely see this in advance. We mostly see the potholes. The boulders block our view. Many times it seems as if there is no path at all. But he will make a way. No one can say how he will do it. There are thousands of ways in which God leads his children. He leads us through delays, detours, miracles, the advice of friends, unexpected opportunities, suddenly closed doors, answered prayer, unanswered prayer, inner impressions, and a still, small voice in the night.
You don’t see it on this side. On this side you see the problems. But when you know God, he leads you step by step. When the journey is done, you will look back and say, “I don’t know how I got from there to here, but I do know this: Jesus led me all the way.”
Doing God’s will often involves great uncertainty and periods of deep doubt. But if you are willing to do what he wants you to do, he then takes responsibility to reach into the chaos of life and lead you step by step to the place where he wants you to be.
Life is a mysterious journey, full of unexpected twists and turns. The path ahead is a mystery to us all. No one can say for sure what is around the next bend. It may be a smooth road through a lovely valley or we may discover that the bridge is washed out and we have to find a way to cross a deep river. Often the road will seem to disappear or it may suddenly seem to go in three different directions and we won’t know which way to go. But there is One who knows the way because the past, present, and future are all the same to him and the darkness is as the light of day.
He knows the way we should go. He promised to direct your path and he will do it.
You can count on it. When you need to know, you’ll know. If God is God, that must be true.