Fifteen years ago today, the United States experienced a Pearl Harbor for this generation. In the years since then, 9/11 has brought many changes to our world and way of life.
There are questions about the balance between our right to privacy and the need for security. And then there’s constant warfare against terrorists in faraway places like Syria and Iraq. And, of course, getting on an airplane is much different from what it used to be.
I remember talking with other pastors and Christians after 9/11. We wondered if the tragedy would turn people back to the Lord. We wondered if the churches would see a spike in attendance.
Well, the little town of Longville where we lived then, didn’t see any changes in church attendance, but nationwide there was a spike in church attendance. But it was a temporary spike that was soon gone. One person reported:
After Sept. 11, Gallup reported that church attendance in the U.S. jumped from 41 percent to 47 percent. Less than two years later, that percentage was down to 38 percent. Last year it hovered around 36 percent.
For an extremely brief window of time, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers prompted many Americans to reexamine their lives and ask some probing questions. But it didn’t last. The effect faded with the shock. (http://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/blog/15-years-later-looking-back-on-9-11/ )
Imagine, there have permanent changes in the way we travel on airplanes since 9/11, but no permanent changes in the spiritual soul of our nation. Quite the opposite, as atheists have become more outspoken and numerous since 9/11.
We all face difficult times in our lives—not on the scale of 9/11, but those tough times can be a personal 9/11 to us.
We have difficult choices to make from time to time in our lives. How do we make those choices and face those times?
Proverbs 3:5-6 is perhaps the most famous of the Proverbs. It has guided countless believers through trials and choices for centuries.
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
First, above all things, and in all times, whether good or evil, we are to…
Trust In The Lord
Proverbs 3:5a Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
1. What Is It To Trust In Someone?
To trust someone means that you know that they will always have your back and that they care about what is good for you. You know that they will not betray you to the enemy, or leave you because of their own selfish purposes.
There was once a daring escape from a Nazi war prison. The inmates had dug a tunnel but had miscalculated. The tunnel surfaced twenty feet short of the cover of a wooded area. They waited until a moonless night, then sent one man through the tunnel and into the woods to watch for the time when the guard turned his back. The [first] escapee’s job was to pull on a piece of string that ran from the woods into the tunnel. This would let the next prisoner know it was safe for him to emerge.
One by one, the men felt the tug of the string and surfaced, running into the safety of the dark woods. At one point, the guard heard a sound and walked across to the area of the hole. He didn’t see the opening, but stood by it for some time, looking around suspiciously. Time seemed to stand still for the next prisoner who was waiting underground for the tug on the string.
[Finally,] He could stand it no longer. He moved forward, then up and out of the hole in the dark. It was the last thing he did. The guard swung around and fired on him with his machine gun.
…If only he had trusted the person on the other end, if only he had obeyed the instructions given to him, he would have found his freedom. Instead, he lost his very life. (Ray Comfort, God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists: Proof That the Atheist Doesn’t Exist [Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1993], 127–128)
To trust God is to know that he has your back even when you can’t see him and all you have is a little string—the Bible—to look at.
2. Why Do We Trust Someone?
We trust someone because we know them. We know their character, their tendencies, and so forth. We believe their words because we have seen them back up their words time and again. We must know a person to trust them.
Our Lord can be trusted. His Word is always true, he never lies. He always has our best interests on his mind. The apostle Paul trusted the Lord completely, he says…
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Knowing leads us to trusting. That’s why the Bible says “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Do you know enough about Jesus to trust him?
3. What Does It Mean To Trust Someone “With All Thine Heart”?
In the Bible, the heart is not just about emotions, it’s about our wills, our mind—it’s the decision making center of our lives. Your heart represents your whole life.
When you get married, you trust your spouse with your whole life—emotions and decisions and everything. It’s no longer about me and you, it’s about us. You don’t say, “I’m going on vacation, dear; I’ll see you in a couple weeks!” When you get married, you throw everything into the same boat with the other person. That’s trusting someone “with all thine heart.”
4. How Do We Know If We Are Trusting The Lord With All Our Heart?
The following principles are based on Ray Ortlund, Jr.’s work:
(1) Do we let the Bible—God’s Word—override our own thinking? Ray Ortlund, Jr. put it this way:
Do you merely agree with the Bible, or do you obey the Bible? My dog sometimes agrees with me, but she never obeys me. If you merely agree with the Bible, then your response is not obedience but coincidence. It’s just that the [beliefs] you have soaked up from your culture happen to line up with the Bible at that point. But what do you do when the Bible contradicts what you want to be true? (Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom That Works, ed. R. Kent Hughes [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012], 64)
(2) Do we trust God in the biggest matter of our lives—that believing in his Son Jesus is, in fact, the only way to go to Heaven?
If you think that Jesus is just one of the ways to Heaven, or that he is just a part of the formula of works and rituals to get to Heaven, then you obviously don’t trust him with your whole heart.
(3) Do you take risks to obey Jesus? Maybe it is the risk of embarrassment of publicly demonstrating your faith—being baptized or praying for your meal in a restaurant. Ray Ortlund, Jr., again has a challenge for us—
When was the last time your life looked obviously different from the life of someone who does not trust Jesus at all? (Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., 65)
Trusting the Lord with your whole heart means that you believe that he has the best in mind for you in every situation. It means that you know that the Lord has your back. And that will make you willing to step out in faith and live for him no matter what happens and what other people say or think about you.
How do you trust the Lord in your day to day living? It means that you…
Don’t Lean On Your Own Understanding
Proverbs 3:5b And lean not unto thine own understanding.
What does it mean to “lean not unto thine own understanding”?Does leaning not on your own understanding mean that you don’t think, reason, or even mentally prepare? No, it means that you submit your reason and mental ability to the Word of God.
A good example of this is found in the debate between Evolution and Creationism. There’s a lot of Christians who cannot get past the claim that the earth is millions and billions of years old. They want to believe the Bible, but the claims of secular scientists hold a lot of weight with them.
So, in order to have the best of both worlds, they try to fit billions of years into the Bible. They might claim there is a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Or they might say that the six days of creation were a billion years each. Are they submitting their reason to the Bible? No. They are submitting the Bible to their reasoning.
Take the layers of dirt in the Grand Canyon, for example. The evolutionist thinks they must have been laid down over millions of years of gradual erosion. A creationist looks those layers and sees how they could be laid down during a massive world-wide flood.
He uses his mind to evaluate the evidence and comes to a conclusion that fits with what the Bible plainly says. The creationist submits to God’s word, and uses it to help him understand.
Here’s another way of looking at what it means not to lean on your own understanding—
An airplane pilot has to smart—they have to use their mind, right? You have to know a whole gaggle of technical information about planes and flying. You use your reason a lot to fly.
But at the same time, you have to trust your instruments and what they are telling you. You can’t trust your eyes, at least not in bad weather, to tell you how high you are, what direction you are going, or even if you are upside down!
A pilot makes the airplane go up by pulling back on the stick or yoke, and he makes it go down by pushing forward. If the airplane is upside down, the directions are reversed. If you are upside down and you think you are right side up, the difference is deadly.
So the pilot looks at his instruments—like a altimeter, a compass, and that one with the ball that shows how level the plane is, and then, trusting what they say, uses his reasoning—his mind—to make decisions about what to believe and what to do.
We may not always understand how things work out in this life or in this world. We may not understand why a 9/11 happens, and the world turns upside down. But we can always trust the instrument of the Bible. And if you trust the Bible for your understanding, then you can…
Acknowledge God In All Your Ways
Proverbs 3:6a In all thy ways acknowledge him,
1. What Does It Mean To “Acknowledge” God?
In our language, the word “acknowledge” is fairly weak. We might say to someone, “Why won’t you even acknowledge me?”
The Hebrew word can mean anything from being acquainted with someone to the most intimate of martial relations—it’s the word in the phrase, “Adam knew Eve.”
But when you look at the context of the verse, the word seems very strong. We are to “trust” God with all our heart. We are to “lean” not on our own understanding. We are to “acknowledge him” “in all [our] ways.”
In other words, this is “…not simply an intellectual awareness of God’s existence but acceptance of God’s presence to guide and direct your life” (William David Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry, A Handbook on Proverbs, UBS Handbook Series [New York: United Bible Societies, 2000], 74). To acknowledge God is not just to accept that he exists, but to be intimately acquainted with him, and to be willing to submit to his will in your life.
2. We Are To “Acknowledge” God In All Our “Ways.”
Our “ways” refers to everything in our lives. Here are a few examples:
(1) Acknowledging God in all your ways is seeking God in the work that you do. Many times we feel that God and work are separate—that there isn’t anything very “spiritual” about work. What does God say? “…whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).
God wants to be involved in your work. It may be in terms of doing your work ethically, or thanking God for your work (even if it’s menial), or praying for joy as you work. Pursue God in the “ways” of your work.
(2) Acknowledging God in all your ways is seeking God in the private times and places of your life. What do you think about? What do you watch on the television, the computer screen, the smartphone when no one is around? God is there.
Do you acknowledge him?Or is he out of sight, out of mind? God is there. Pursue God in the “ways” of your private times and the privacy of your mind.
(3) Acknowledging God in all your ways seeking God’s direction and honor in your marriage. I read a great quote by Christopher Ash this week about marriage, “Surprisingly, the key to a good marriage is not to pursue a good marriage, but to pursue the honor of God.” Exactly right—pursue God in the “ways” of your marriage.
When you do this, the result will be that God directs your paths.
The Result: God Will Direct Your Paths
Proverbs 3:6b And he shall direct thy paths.
Some people look to this verse as some sort of magical means of guidance. They think that if you trust the Lord (or at least keep telling to everyone that they do) then they can claim that God is directing their paths in whatever they are doing—even if it is something the Bible says is wrong.
“Oh, I trust the Lord,” they say, “Don’t judge me because you think what I’m doing is wrong—that’s your opinion. I trust the Lord and he’s directing me this way.” No, I’m not judging you. The Bible is judging you; I trust the Lord not to go against his word in the Bible—Amen. You may be trusting someone, but it’s not the Lord.
The word “direct”—יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר yeyashsher—literally means to make straight and smooth, like when building a road. It makes sense that, if God would direct your path, that he would make it a straight path!
When we trust and obey the Lord, it will be that we are on a straight path. In the next chapter of Proverbs, we are admonished to obey and be on the straight path:
20 My son, attend to my words; Incline thine ear unto my sayings. 21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; Keep them in the midst of thine heart. 22 For they are life unto those that find them, And health to all their flesh.
23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, And perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, And let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, And let all thy ways be established. 27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: Remove thy foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20–27)
In other words, the way that God directs our paths is when we trust what he says in the Bible and turn not to the right or to the left from it. The path that God has for us may involve trials and difficulties that we can’t see, but the path will be straight.
How do we start trusting the Lord? What is the first thing about God that we need to lean our understanding on? Where is the place we ought to start acknowledging God?
It’s believing that his Son, Jesus Christ, was sent to die for our sins. That Jesus’s death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice and his resurrection from the dead proves that God the Father was pleased with his sacrifice. It’s placing our full trust in the Jesus for our salvation.
You need to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation. You to lean your understanding on his sacrifice for your sins. You need to acknowledge—know—that Jesus is the only way you can be saved. What is the straight path God has for us here? It’s Jesus.
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)