Proverbs 3:5-6 is perhaps the most famous of the Proverbs. It has guided countless believers through countless trials and countless choices.
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, you are to…
TRUST THE LORD WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART
Proverbs 3:5a Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
What is it to trust 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—even if that might be a hard thing. It’s to know that they are capable to do what they say.
In 1994, Arthur Spears, a 63-year-old accountant who lived in London, needed to have bladder surgery. The problem was that Arthur did not trust doctors or hospitals. I mean, he really did not trust doctors!
So great was his distrust that he decided that he would do the surgery himself. And he did! The result was that he died. All because he could not believe that a doctor would have good in mind for him. (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1994/12/29/in-the-throws-of-winter/93f61bfb-d97a-4fae-8eac-28a64483858b/).
Had he known that the doctors cared about doing what was good for him and were capable to do it, Arthur could have trusted them and would have lived.
To trust God is to know that He has your back and wants what is good for you even if it is painful. It’s to know that He is capable to do that good.
How do we come to 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.
Imagine I am sitting in my office one day when my wife calls me and says, “Come out to the parking lot.” I might say, “Why?” And she says, “Just trust me.”
Well, I would go out to the parking lot because I trust her. I know that she isn’t going to run me over with a truck! And I trust her because I know her.
But if a stranger called and said the same thing, I would want some more information before I went out. I’d say, “Who are you? Why do you want me to come out?” I don’t know who this guy is or what his intentions are!
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 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? Countless people have come to know Jesus and have trusted Him after being advised to read one of the four gospels in the New Testament. (Many unbelievers are told by a Christian friend to read the Gospel of John, for instance.) Then they saw Jesus’s character in the gospels and said, “This man is true,” and placed their faith in Him.
But just because you are a Christian now that doesn’t mean you don’t need to read the gospels any more. They are not “milk” that you can skip for the “strong meat” of the rest of the New Testament.
My habit is to always be reading a chapter from the gospels every day. I commend it to you as well. We need to know Jesus to trust Him, not just for our salvation, but in living our daily lives.
We need to keep learning more about Jesus so that we can trust Him more and more with all our heart.
What does it mean to trust “with all thine heart”? In the Bible, the word “heart” can refer to our emotions. But more often it refers to our wills, our understanding, our minds. For instance, in Proverbs 15:14 we read:
14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge…(Proverbs 15:14)
And another example is in Genesis 6:5, referring to mankind, we have the phrase, “thoughts of his heart.” If the heart was only about emotions, how could it have thoughts? So the heart is more than emotions, it’s also mental.
How does this help us understand what it means to trust “with all thine heart”? Well, first, it means that it’s not about working ourselves up emotionally to trust God. It’s not making yourself feel like trusting God today. It’s mental—it’s making a decision to trust God despite the feelings you have.
Anyone who says they are a Christian will say that they trust God…they trust Christ. I mean, you have to trust Christ in order to become a Christian!
But listen, it’s possible to have a trust in Christ for salvation, but in the practical day-to-day affairs, you trust in other things.
Some call this your “functional trust.” Does your life function by a trust in Christ or by a trust in other things?
What other things do you trust other than Jesus to function? It could be anything: your pride, your looks, your job, your insurance policies, your spouse, your family, your money, your possessions, your intelligence, your social status, your reputation.
One way you find out if you have been trusting something else to function other than Christ is just to see what happens if it is taken away from you.
The Coronavirus Crisis has given many Christians the opportunity to see what happens when they have had something taken away.
This is one reason why God allows trials in our lives—so that we can see if we are trusting Him or if we are trusting the things and people around us. We are forced to ask, “What is our functional trust really based on?” We are forced to evaluate our mental decision-making.
Another way we can tell if we are trusting the Lord with all our heart is to ask ourselves, “Do I let God’s Word overrule my thinking?”
Again, notice how this is a mental process. It’s not feelings. What is your heart—your mental decision-making facility—relying on to make decisions? Is it the Bible or something else like traditions or experts?
A third way to tell if you are trusting God with your whole heart is to examine your life and ask yourself, “Do you ever 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 or sharing the gospel with someone. Do you trust that Jesus will honor your commitment to Him?
I’ve had people walk up to me after praying in the restaurant and thank me. You can’t receive the reward unless you’re willing to take the risk.
Maybe it is the risk of not responding to an insult or offense, but trusting that Jesus will deal with the person in His own way and time.
Trusting the Lord with your whole heart means that you won’t just think the right things about God, you will act on those things—even if it means that you need to take risks.
Do you trust the Lord in your day-to-day living? Do you trust the Lord with your whole heart? To do so…
YOU MUST NOT LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING
Proverbs 3:5b And lean not unto thine own understanding.
Does not leaning on your own understanding mean that you don’t think, reason, or even mentally prepare? No.
God is not saying here that we are not to use the brains that He has given us. He means that you submit your reason and mental ability to the Bible.
A good example of this is found in the debate between Evolution and Creationism. There are 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. For instance, they might claim there is a billions-year 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 man’s reasoning. To explain the world around us, we must look at it through the Bible. We must let it dictate how we think.
A man named Alasdair MacIntyre explains this with an illustration:
Imagine you are standing at a bus stop and a young man you’ve never met in your life…walks up to you and says, “Hey, the Latin name of the common wild duck is Histrionicus histrionicus histrionicus,” and then he walks away.
…How do you make sense of that? MacIntyre’s point is there’s only one way to make sense of it, and that is you have to put it in a narrative. You have to say, “What is the story in which this incident makes sense?” It can’t make any sense unless you stick it into a story.
He suggests three possible stories. There are probably more.
The first story is actually very likely and a pretty sad story. The sad story is the man is mentally ill or mentally deranged or traumatized or something so he’s mentally not right. It’s a very sad story. That would make sense, would it not? Of course, it would makes sense of it, and there would be sympathy for him. So that’s one story that would make sense of it.
He says here’s a second story, and that is its mistaken identity. Maybe several days ago when he was in the library he was trying to look this book up and find it about the common wild duck. He talked to the librarian, and you look like the librarian. It was dark in there. Now he’s out here at the bus stop, and he thinks you’re the librarian. So he walks up because you look like that person somewhat, and he says, “Hey, do you know what? I did find the book.” That’s a little bit less likely, but it’s possible.
MacIntyre says here’s the third story, by the way. The third story is this man is a spy, he has mistaken you for his contact, and he’s giving you the code. That’s not as likely, but it could be.
Here’s MacIntyre’s point. What happened makes no sense unless you stick it into a narrative, and the narrative you put it in completely determines how you respond to it. Obviously, you’re going to respond in very different ways depending on whether the person is a mental patient or that sort of thing or a spy. (Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2012-2013)
The point is—to correctly understand anything in life—we need to have a story—a narrative—to put everything into.
When Proverbs 3:6 says, “Lean not on your own understanding,” it means that we need to rely on God’s narrative (the Bible) to understand the situations in our lives. The way we need to interpret the world is through the Bible.
The creationist looks at the layers in the Grand Canyon and says, not that they were laid down slowly over millions of years, but catastrophically during the flood of Genesis 6.
Here’s another example. Suppose a mother murders her four babies. During such events, I hear Christians wondering out loud how such and such thing could happen, or how people can be so mean. For me, the answer to those questions is easy.
But they are picking up their understanding from the world. The world says that people are basically good, so yeah, it’s a real head-scratcher why people do bad things. If people are basically good, then how can a mother murder her four babies?
But if you have an understanding built on the narrative of the Bible, then you know that people are basically sinful and that sin has broken the world. You also know that there’s an evil supernatural world of demons. You know these things.
That gives us at least three biblical possibilities for why a mother could murder her four babies:
1) Perhaps she had allowed sin to control her life to the point where she would commit such an evil act.
2) Perhaps she was a broken creation; she was mentally ill.
3) Perhaps she was demonically possessed.
My point is that we need to lean on God’s understanding—presented to us in the Bible—to understand the world around us.
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,
The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” can mean anything from being acquainted with someone to the most intimate of martial relations—it’s the same word in Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve.”
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.
We are to “acknowledge” God in “all” our “ways.” Our “ways” refers to our attitudes and actions and behaviors and decisions. It refers to how we live our lives and, mind this now, in “all” areas of our lives.
Here are a couple 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. But 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 boring or difficult), 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 when you are alone? 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.
When you do acknowledge God in all your ways, 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.
The word “direct” (yshr)—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!
What does this teach us about the age-old question about finding God’s will for your life?
There are times in our lives when we really worry and wonder about what direction God would have us take. Do we marry this person? Do we move to this place? Do we take this job?
First, what did we learn about trusting God with all our heart? It’s mental, not emotional.
So, if you find yourself saying, “I feel like God wants me to…” That should be a caution flag for you. What are these feelings based on? Are they based on your own understanding, or are you putting them in the narrative of God’s Word?
When you find yourself saying, “I feel like God wants me to…” you should immediately ask, “Am I acknowledging God in all my ways?” Feelings are often directed by our selfish desires and not by God.
Let’s put this in the classic example of deciding who to marry. This is one area where Christians desperately want God’s guidance on. They might want God to confirm with a sign if this person is the right person. They might want God to rubber-stamp their feelings and approve this person.
Let me say this first: Yes, in God’s plan, in His mind, in His knowledge of the future, God does know the person you are going to marry.
This is true. But (you knew that was coming) He ain’t gonna tell you that! So get over it. The secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Once you start trying to think about what God’s secret sovereign plan is for your life, you get yourself in trouble. What if it turns out I don’t like her after five years? Did I pick the wrong one after all? Man, I was sure that falling star was a sign from God!
We aren’t meant to untwist the intricacies of God’s mind, so don’t bother. Instead, what does Proverb 3:5-6 teach us about guidance from God?
1) Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Obey Him (in what He has revealed in His word) in your decision-making. Obey the Bible—the parts that are meant for you and using the proper interpretation of the Bible—when you make decisions.
2) Don’t lean on your own understanding. Let the Bible be the narrative in which you understand your life and everything else!
What does God’s word say about marriage? Those things (e.g., don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers) have to be the first principles that you lay down and hold to in your decisions.
“But I feel…” Stop! Don’t go there. Don’t let your feelings become the narrative which directs your life. Let the Bible be that narrative!
3) Acknowledge God in all your ways. Sometimes lukewarm Christians will want God’s guidance on an issue, like marriage. They might even try to cut a deal with God: “Lord, I’ll start coming to church more…I promise!”
Let’s say this: if you aren’t obeying God in areas like going to church and use of your tongue and all those areas that lukewarm Christians often throw out the window, don’t expect Him to direct your path in one certain area.
Acknowledge God in all your ways, then He will direct your path.
Here’s what I want to say to unmarried Christians—just focus on being a godly person in all your ways. Give your whole life over to God and reserve it for someone else who is doing the same thing!
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 proved that God the Father was pleased with His sacrifice.
- You need to trust in Jesus with all your heart 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)
Levi Durfey—LDM-20-Proverbs 3.5-6-20200503FBCAM-SERMON