Take the Straight Road
Have you ever noticed that some people have an uncanny sense of direction and are able to instinctively find places, whereas others have to rely completely on a map or other directions? In our case, it is Amanda who is able to find places fine on our own, while I could still get lost following a GPS. There are plenty of places that I have been numerous times that I still plug into the phone to make sure that I have a chance to make it to the right place.
Many of us need a road map to get through life. When it comes to the Bible, this is the role that Proverbs play. You would never go to Proverbs to develop a complex theology. Proverbs is a practical book that helps us to navigate the world of right and wrong, wise and foolish. Proverbs is a book that tells us when we have gone in the wrong direction and need to make a u-turn to get back on track. We are going to look at one of the most familiar passages in Proverbs, but one that really points toward the rest of the book in what it is trying to do. This passage has two things for us to do that will help us to get to the destination of living a good life. Those two actions are trusting and acknowledging.
We need to trust in the Lord. That sounds fine. But what does that mean? It is much more than believing in God. By far the majority of people believe in God, but it is a far lower number that truly trusts. When we as Christians talk about being saved by faith, that faith includes both belief and trust. So we better understand what trust means.
We use the word trust a little too loosely. If I say that a certain movie is amazing and that you have to trust me on this, that is not really trust. If I am wrong and you hate the movie, you have lost nothing more than a couple hours of your time. But if I take you to a rickety old rollercoaster and tell you to trust me that it is safe, that is trust. Because if I am wrong and it is not safe, you will be hurt and perhaps killed. True trust requires that there is a real need for the one making the promise to be trustworthy. So the trust in God that we are called to have is one that if God doesn’t follow through, we are in big trouble.
How much are we to trust God? With all our heart. We think of our heart as our seat of emotions. So we might think of this as passionate trust. But for the ancients, the heart wasn’t just about emotions but also the place of rational thought. It is about thinking through whether we really want to do this and concluding, yes, we are prepared to trust in the Lord.
Trusting in the Lord is not just the adding on of something, it is also the subtracting of something else. Before we begin to trust in the Lord, we need to acknowledge that we are already trusting in someone else and that is ourselves. That is not that we give up all confidence that we know anything. But we should give up on the idea that we know everything. The problem is when we lean on our own understanding. That is based on assumptions that we see things clearly, which we do not. Think of ship during a storm. Do they rely on their own perspective as they are tossed by the waves or on the lighthouse which is on a solid rock? God is our rock and it is him that we must trust.
Are we prepared to trust God? Even if that means humbling ourselves? That is the first step if we are going to take the straight road and arrive safely at our destination.
Trusting should lead to what some translations call acknowledging. Acknowledging is not like when you see a person you know and nod your head to acknowledge that you saw them. I prefer what some others say that we are to submit. That is a better way of looking at what the Proverb is saying.
We can acknowledge the Lord by having our name on some church membership roll or we can really acknowledge the Lord by including him in every area of our life. What does God want from us? It is far more than just one hour a Sunday. God wants to be integrated into every area of our life. How do we treat our friends and family? God wants to be a part of that. How do we spend our money? God wants to be a part of that. What will we do with our time? God wants to be a part of that. What words come out of our mouth? God wants to be a part of that.
That may seem pretty intimidating. I remember as I was reading the Bible as a seeker who was considering becoming a follower of Jesus. My old understanding of a religion tacked onto life was being replaced with this new understanding of living for Jesus. My first instinct was to run because it seemed too hard. That was because I didn’t understand the concept of Christianity as a journey.
I am a Star Trek fan from way back. If you have ever watched Star Trek, you know that there are two ways for the members of the Enterprise to travel from their ship to whatever planet they wanted to explore. The quickest way was to use the transporter. With a click of a button they would dematerialize on the ship and re-materialize on the planet. Or they could load up into a shuttle, leave the shuttle bay, travel through the atmosphere, find a suitable landing place and disembark. When it comes to the spiritual life, we would prefer the transporter to the shuttle. The transporter is immediate, while the shuttle is a journey. But we don’t have a transporter for our walk with Jesus. Nor should we be discouraged because it takes us a while to submit our lives to God. In no other area would we determine our attempt by whether or not we were perfectly successful at our first try. We expect stumbles and gradual improvement. The same is true for our walk with God. We need to have grace, not just for others but for ourselves as well.
We have a destination toward which we are travelling. That destination is the good life, not as defined by the world, but as defined by God. It is a life where we are at peace with God, with others and with ourselves. We need directions to find our destination. Proverbs is a great place to start. The goal is not to be good enough to earn God’s love. We are adopted into God’s family only by our faith in Jesus. But living as a child of God takes effort. There are two parts o this journey. We need to trust God and submit our lives to him. Neither step is easy but both are needed. This is not to make our lives more difficult but to make them more fulfilling. Follow the directions and make sure not to get lost.