Lean on His understanding and focus on Him and His will and you will find your place at the destination that He has called you to.
Let me invite you this morning to turn in your copy of God’s Word to Proverbs Chapter 3, Proverbs 3:5-6. this morning. We always want to open up the Bible. That is, we do believe it is God’s Word, and we want to get into the Word so the Word will get into us and then flow out of us as we live our daily lives. We’ll be in Proverbs 3:5-6 this morning.
How many of you, and I can see most of you, how many of you rely heavily on a GPS when you’re traveling somewhere? Yes, it’s greatest thing ever is the GPS. I was thinking. So Graham was saying about getting a song stuck in your head and how it just repeats over and over and over again. Before I discovered GPS, my sense of directions was such that I would just drive around and around and around and around and never finding my destination. I have no sense of direction. I’m still using GPS to get around China Grove, and it’s not a big place, but it’s still confusing. Charlotte is a much harder place to navigate, and you know anytime I’m going to go to Charlotte, I’m going to pull up my phone and I’m going to listen to that wonderful person telling me which way to go. But even when you have those clear voices telling you to turn right and turn left, you can still mess up. Anybody ever messed up following the GPS? Nobody raised their hand, so I am all by myself. Here we go, I don’t feel as bad now. They’re just giving me sympathy hands.
I’m going to Charlotte. I’ve got to go to CMC-Main to visit somebody who is sick in the hospital. And so I’ve got my GPS, and oddly enough, it never takes me to that hospital the same way, I don’t know why it changes it up, but I come to an intersection in Charlotte and it’s telling me to turn left, and so I turn left. It’s at a stoplight and I guess I wasn’t paying attention to how big the intersection was. ‘Cause when I turned left, I quickly discovered I was heading down the wrong side of the road, in downtown Charlotte. You may be wondering how did you figure it out? People in Charlotte are nice enough to let you know when you mess up with all kinds of gestures and all kinds of noises and horns and so I didn’t know what to do. I was I was a little Honda CRV, not really high, so I just jumped the median little concrete median, tore up the bottom of the car by the way, and so got on the right path. Oddly enough, when you jump the median to get back on track, the cars go in the right direction, they let you know too. Even though I had directions, I still found myself going the wrong direction, because honestly, I wasn’t paying attention. Honestly, I really just wasn’t focused. I was focused on what I was having to do and who I was going to meet and the situation I was walking into and so I wasn’t focused on that. It leads to a very important question. In life, are we focused on what we need to be focused on to get to where we need to go?
You know, I think we’ve talked about it for a long time. The Bible is a road map for us. It is a GPS system for us, but there are times in our life we find ourselves going the wrong way. There are times in life where we find ourselves actually sitting at forks and we said, well, do I go this way or do I go this way? What do I do? What do I do? And wouldn’t it be nice if we had an answer to the question of what is the right way to go to the right place for my life? You know, where do I go and how do I get there?
Well, here in this Proverb, King Solomon, who is writing this proverb, gives us a direction on how we can know the right path to the right place. How we can find the right path to the right place? I love King Solomon’s story, especially as he’s a young guy. This is King David’s son. He’s going to take over the throne of Israel from King David. A young man in his early 20s when he is taking over the reign of a growing nation. And we read in First Kings three that God came to Solomon when he became king and God said, I’m going to give you anything you want, just ask. If God showed up today in your life and said, I’ll give you anything you want, just ask, what would you ask for? Money? Power? The ability to make people serve you at any request? I know, I won’t call the names, but I know there’s some men around here who would probably ask that their wives be more obedient. That’s a joke you can laugh at that. It is a joke. I want to stress. You can ask anything you want to ask and God will give it to you. What does Solomon do? He doesn’t ask for wealth. He doesn’t ask for riches. He asked for wisdom. He asked for wisdom. He wants to be able to do the right thing based on the knowledge that he has. He wants to be able to discern the right path to take to the right place. Solomon understands that he’s going to face impossible situations in his life. Solomon understands that he’s going to be looking at lose-lose situations all the time and he wants to make a decision that’s going to let him win. And so he says, God give me wisdom, and that’s what he writes in proverbs. This Godly wisdom, wisdom that we can use and apply to our life today. In these two verses he’s going to give us a really profound truth or several profound truths that will help you and I, graduates, and all of us take the right path to the right place.
Here’s what he says in verse five. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I’m gonna read it one more time ’cause it’s such a great verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
And I want you to look at that promise at the very end of the verse first. As Solomon is writing under inspiration, God is promising to make our paths straight. I love that truth, but I also have to point out he’s not necessarily saying he’s going to make them free of rocks. He’s not going to make our path free of gigantic hills, he’s going to make them straight. He is going to lead us. God is going to lead us in the right direction to get to the right destination or take the right path to the right place if we will do the things before this promise. The first one is trust God with all our hearts, we have to trust God with all of our heart with all of our soul, our mind and all of our strengths.
There was a guy one time who was rock climbing. You know those. I’ve done this in indoor rock climbing. It’s kind of fun to a point, but he’s climbing up the side of a mountain. He slips and he starts to fall. Bad situation. As he’s falling, he’s able to grab hold of a tree. You’ve seen the cartoons, you know that little tree that’s got the strongest roots known to man, and just one little bush. The roots are strong enough to hold this guy up and he’s hanging there and he starts yelling to the top of the cliff. “Is anybody up there to help me? Is anybody up there to help me?” And this voice comes down, “I’m here.” And the man goes, “can you help me? Can you help me?” And the voice says, “yeah, just let go of the tree.” And the man says, “wait, who are you?” He goes well, “I’m God and I’m telling you to let go of the tree and you’ll be OK.” The man sits there and he thinks for a few minutes. And then he says, “is there anybody else up there?”
Now, you may be wondering why he would do that and what God saw that the man didn’t see. If he would have let go of the tree, he would have fell into a nice cushiony set of bushes and he would have been fine. But the man couldn’t see that. All he could see was the impending doom of letting go of the tree. But God could see it. So let me ask you, do you trust God enough to let go of the tree even though you don’t know what the results are going to be? See Solomon says if you want to know the right path to go, or if you want your path to be straight sometimes you can’t see what’s ahead of you. Sometimes you can’t see how everything is going to work out, but God can. God can see everything in the past. God can see everything in the present. He can see everything in the future. God can see everything because God controls everything. He is fully aware of the past, present and He’s fully aware of the future. And so, what he says here is when you’re on this journey of life, the foundation has to be a trust in God. A trust in that, you don’t know what the results are going to be, but God does. So just follow Him, trust Him and all that you do.
Dwight L Moody, a great pastor, theologian, says that “Christians can either go to Heaven, first class or second class. Second class rides along the train of life and when they become afraid, that’s when they trust God. When they get scared, that is when they trust God. When they have problems, that is when they trust God. But a first-class Christian rides along the train of life trusting God first. I do that first. I trust first. Trust is the foundation of our faith. So therefore, you won’t be afraid in that scary situation, you won’t worry or have anxiety when you don’t know the future because you trust God. You don’t wait till things go bad, you just trust.”
Graduate, Gracie and Hunter, you are at a pivotal point in your life. You’re making a transition to something new and exciting. You might be wondering what’s the next path along your journey. You may not know, you may be wondering, you may be searching, but if you will trust God to guide your steps, if you’ll trust God each and every step of the way, then you’re going to end up at the place He wants you to be. For us as adults, we go through transitions to job transitions. I don’t know if I should stay here, I don’t know if I should do this. Transitions. We don’t know if we make the decision if it’s going to work out, but just trust God. Pray about it. Seek Godly wisdom, seek counsel, and trust God for the results. As a pastor, we deal with this. It is the decisions that we make as pastors, the right decisions. Is it going to have the right outcome and at the end of the day we want to know the outcome. I always want to know the results before I make the decision, but I don’t always know it. We just have to trust God for it.
The second thing if we want to find our straight path, or if we want God to lead us down the straight path is that we lean on God’s understanding and not our own understanding. You and I typically make decisions based on how we view the world. We make decisions based on our past experiences or our current experiences, but the problem is we have a limited knowledge of the world and God has an infinite knowledge of the world. God understands things more than we understands things. Now, I think men are the world’s worst at leaning on our own understanding. And men, if you’re not the world’s worst then your pastor is the world’s worst, and I’ll give you a great example.
Not too long ago, well, it’s been about 12 years now, Jennifer and I moved into our first house. We bought one of those pop-up gazebo style canopy. Now I didn’t realize you had to put the thing together. I mean everything, every from the littlest piece had to be put together. Well you know me, I didn’t need instructions. I had a picture on the box. And so I started building. And I built and I built. I built. I got almost done and I realized something when I was trying to finish. I had a piece that was too short and wouldn’t fit to complete the project. And I kept fighting and I kept fussing. Probably cussing too, but I’m not going to admit to that. Although I just did. I’m just mad. Somebody gave me wise counsel and said “look at the book.” Remember Andy Griffith? He kept saying “call the man Aunt Bee, call the man.” Well, I picked up the book and I realized I had used the wrong pieces at the wrong places, and that’s why the last piece wasn’t fitting.
See the manufacturer of this product, he understood how it fits together. I did not because I didn’t manufacture the product. I’m just a guy trying to do it my own way. If I would have picked up the book first and followed the instructions, I would have saved myself 2 hours of putting it together, 3 hours of taking it apart and 2 hours putting it back together. See, that is what leaning on God understanding looks like. Instead of doing it our way, let’s go to God Book and do it God’s way. By the way, God knows better, God manufactured you and I. He manufactured the world. He manufactured the universe. He knows how it’s supposed to work. But we don’t always understand that, so let’s lean on God’s understanding and not our own understanding of the way things work.
Graduates, I want you to imagine what your life is going to be like if you leaned on God instead of yourself. Every step you take, you’re like I don’t understand this I don’t know what’s going on here but God, you do. You have a plan. You have a path. I’m going to lean on Your understanding of these circumstances, not my own. Graduates, you will be faced with challenges to your faith. Whether you go to school or just whatever you do in the next steps, you will be challenged in your faith. The world is going to say what you believe is wrong. They’re going to say your understanding of the world is backwards. But it’s not. Stand firm, trust in God, lean on His understand and He will guide each and every step that you take
Parents, what would your family look like if you would raise your kids God’s way instead of the world’s way. What would it look like? We can go to parenting conferences. We can read parenting books, and I have, and I will, and I do, and they’re good. But if we open up God’s Book and raise our children the way God wants us to, how would that change things for our families?
Church, how would our church respond to the Great Commission if we did it God’s way and not our own way? How would we be able to advance and expand the Gospel if we leaned on God’s guidance and God’s understanding instead of our own understanding. Driving the church this morning, I was listening to a podcast by Thom Rainer. It’s an old, old podcast, but he was talking about how 9 in 10 churches, this would have been probably five years ago, so I don’t know what the stats are today, but five years ago, 9 in 10 churches were declining at a rapid rate. 9 in 10. And you know, there’s a lot of good-hearted people in these churches. There’s a lot of good Christian people in these churches, and they’re trying to fix it. They’re trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to advance the Gospel, but in many cases, they’re doing it their own way. And like I said last week or two weeks ago, sometimes we just gotta get out of the way and let God work. We just got to get out of the way and say, God, you understand the situation more than I do God you understand the people who live in the houses around our church more than I do. You understand how we can reach them, so let’s follow Your guidance and Your Word and lean on Your understanding and spread the Gospel, relying on Your strength and Your power to lead us.
If we want to go down the right path, to the right place, we trust God, we lean on His understanding. And last, we see we fix our eyes on Jesus. The Word says that in all of our ways acknowledge Him. That idea of knowing Him or acknowledging Him literally means fix your eyes on Jesus. I heard a story one time with a pastor, a youth pastor who took his youth group on a hiking trip. It was a multiple day hiking trip and they had set up a system where if somebody got lost they had a kind of call in response, the youth pastor would go “Woo-hoo, woo-hoo”. It sounds kind of silly, but nothing else is going to do that, so that was it. The response would be “I’m over here.” That’s kind of how that worked. What happened was one of the students got lost while they were hiking. It was late at night and they had already set up camp. He had got lost and here goes the youth pastor. He’s out searching. And he’s going “woo-hoo, woo-hoo.” And finally after an hour and a half, he heard the response. “I’m over here.” See that youth during his last period was fixing his ears on that noise. That’s what he was listening to because he knew the youth pastor was going to come find him. And so he stayed where he was, and he fixed his attention for that noise.
Church, God has got a plan for us and a path for us. And when we stray, He’s still out looking for us. We’ve got to fix our attention on Him. That’s hard too ’cause our attention…well, I don’t know how to put it. We don’t have good attention spans. You ever notice when you sit down to watch TV, you’re usually looking at your phone at the same time? It’s hard to fixate our attention on one thing in our culture. I sit down to do sermon prep and I’ll be answering emails, writing sermon, studying, doing like 8 things at one time. In the last several weeks, I’ve tried to focus my attention on the task at hand and man I’ve been a lot more productive. How productive can we be when we fix our eyes on Jesus? When we stop focusing over here and over here and on in all these different places and say you know what, my eyes are locked in on Jesus Christ. Nothing else is going to distract me. I’ve got my little blinders on; my tunnel vision and I’m going to look at Jesus. Because as we’re going down the path, you’re not always going to see what’s over the next hill. So fix your eyes on Jesus and follow Him.
Jennifer and I, several years ago, went to Morrow Mountain and we went on a hiking trip. I don’t know why, but we started at the bottom of Morrow Mountain. And I don’t know it was like 2 ½ or three, it felt like 100 miles, to the top. And we kept walking and walking and walking and walking and walking. And here’s what happened. We got to the last quarter of a mile, and you know, on the particular path we were on, to get to the top, to me, it seemed like it was straight up. It’s probably about 45-degree angle. I was spent. I was thinking that somebody needed to drive a bike up there and pick me up ’cause I wasn’t going to make it down. I remember looking and she started up. I remember looking at that hill and I looked at my feet. I looked at her and I said, “nope, I don’t believe I can do that.” So what did I do? I fixed my attention on the problem and I didn’t. We didn’t go up that point.
Here’s the thing when you’re on this path, like I said at the beginning, there’s no guarantee there’s not going to be a hill. There’s no guarantee there’s not going to be a rock. It’ll be straight, but it could be bumpy and it could be hilly. When you’re at the bottom of that hill, and you know you’ve got an upward climb, don’t fix your eyes on the problem. Don’t fixate your attention on the hill in front of you. Fix your attention on Jesus, who’s going to pull you up and over that hill. It’s going to be hard, but He’ll get you there. Trust Him. Lean on His understanding and focus on Him and His will and you will find your place at the destination that He has called you to.
Now all this is only possible if you’ll invite Jesus into your life. I mean, that’s really it in a nutshell. Those who don’t know Jesus, you don’t have anybody to help you up that hill. If you’ve never accepted Him, or if you’ve never decided to follow Him, or if you don’t have a relationship with Him, that’s your first step. If you want to get on the right path, you gotta first follow the leader. Jesus is the starting point, and if you’ve never made Him Lord and Savior, if you’ve never confessed your sins, if you’ve never said today, I’m going to follow Jesus, then do it today. His arms are wide open, and if you’ve never done that and you’re sitting here, then today’s the day for you to make that decision. He doesn’t want you to leave this place without saying yes to following Him. He doesn’t want you to leave here without having your eternity secured. He doesn’t want you to leave here without a promise of an eternal destination in heaven. And so I want to tell you, if you’ve been struggling, if you’ve been searching, if you don’t know which way to go and your life is just a mess, that’s good. That’s OK. ‘Cause Jesus takes messes and turns them into miracles. Salvation is a miracle. Being saved from our messy sin-ridden lives as a miracle. Jesus wants to take your mess and turn it into a miracle and puts you on a mission to help change others’ lives. So will you make that decision today? You’ve never strayed too far. You’ve never wandered too far down the wrong path.
Maybe you’re a follower of Christ and you’ve just been going the wrong direction. Maybe you’ve gotten a little stale in your Bible reading or your time with God has gotten a little dry or you’re doing it less and you’ve been kind of straying down the wrong path. That’s OK. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He’ll get you right back on track. So that’s what I want to ask you to respond to today. Do you need to get your life back on the right path to the right place? We’ll give it the guy, give it all to God. Or do you need to make the decision to follow Him for the very first time? If any of that to you man, you can come up here. I’ll pray with you if we have a lot of people, our deacons will pray with you or you can pray where you’re at. And just respond to God calling on your heart and on your life today.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You that You are the light for our path and a lamp for our feet through the Word of God. Father, thank You for calling us into our relationship where we can trust You, where we can love You, where we can follow You with the promise of being able to make it to the right place, down the right path. We know it’s going to be hard. We know it’s not going to be easy, but give us the strength to fix our eyes on You. We’re not going to always understand everything, but You do so help us to trust that. And in all we do, we acknowledge that You are Lord over everything. We ask all this in Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.