Proverbs 3:5-6 is quite the famous passage. So in 2015 YouVersion checked their statistics to see what the favorite verses of each countries were – meaning how many times the Christians in that country opened up a particular verse. You wanna guess – which of the following countries had Proverbs 3:5-6 as its top hit? China, Nigeria, Mexico or Australia?
(Source: YouVersion, 2015)
In fact, globally speaking, Proverbs 3:5-6 was the most shared verse in 2015, and presumably still in the top 5 in 2016 and so on. It’s the bible verse you’d write to a friend who’s thinking about life choices, career and relationship. It’s the bible verse you’d write to the youth in your church going with a heart of uncertainty into the army, right? So what about the verse is so captivating and so universally applicable?
Well it’s a verse that talks about finding God’s leading and guidance in our life isn’t it? Finding God’s direction and knowing the way forward – these are all the big questions in life and people want answers right?
But think for a moment about how people, or especially Christians, think about such issues? How do Christians understand what it means to be guided by God in chosing the paths of life?
I think there are generally two groups of people. The first group’s like the Hobbits and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings as they cross the bridge of Khazad Dum. Do you remember? They’re on a tiny little stone bridge it’s only a path straight ahead and there’s a huge monster, the Balrog, chasing them from behind. It’s all fear! For this first group of people, there’s only one right path in life that God has set aisde for us, God has a will for us and once we make a mistake and fall off the edge then we’ve messed up completely. I wonder if some of us here think like this!
The second group of people, let’s just call them the Second Prodigal son or what is familiar to us as the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He was always doing the right things so to speak, he was geographically in the right place. He made sure he never messed up his whole life like his younger brother did, in fact when he gets angry with his father at the end, you can tell it’s because he’s spent his whole life trying to be perfect and his father rewards the joker who let everyone down. The Second Prodigal has not broken any rules or been a disgrace. But he’s detached and disengaged, he’s never had a real, loving relationship with his father! I wonder if some of us are also like him, spending our whole lives avoiding certain obvious sinful lifestyles and trying to look like we’ve got life figured out.
Do you think these two groups of people understand what it means to be led by God and to walk in His path? Let’s see what Solomon says in our little verse today. He begins with something so challenging: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart.” First, Solomon says that being guided by God is all about assurance – having full confidence in God and not the fear of falling off the side like the Hobbits on the bridge. Secondly, it’s all about intimacy and devotion isn’t it? It’s giving our hearts to the Lord, not being detached like Second Prodigal or keeping our distance by keeping some rules.
In fact, this was what we said about the fear of the Lord if you remember? The fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom in the book of Proverbs is all in the context of a father son relationship, it’s a relationship in which we know Jesus the wise son of our Heavenly Father.
And actually to know Jesus well and to be guided by God is such a liberating experience, unlike what we typically think about God being a wet blanket or the one who restricts our fun and carefree lives. Because Solomon says in the next part, “In all thy ways acknowledge him.” Do you notice Solomon doesn’t say “in the one and only correct way that God has dictated”? Solomon tells us that we have all the freedom to do what we want, journey where we desire – indeed, Jesus gives us immense freedom and prerogative as we walk with Him.
And the Lord gives us an awesome invitation as we make all these decisions in our lives to acknowledge Him or to basically know Him. Each awesome path of joy, each gloomy trail of sadness, each decision made to sacrifice and serve Him, each effort to live out the gospel at work, the difficult choice of honoring Jesus whether in singlehood or in marriage… Each experience is a chance to know Jesus more. It’s not about making the correct decision that God has dictated.
We make choices not to avoid failure or to look like we’re quite good Christians. We make choices to know Jesus more.
This makes so much sense because the more we trust Him, then the more we can accept what Solomon says in the last segment. “He will direct or make straight your paths.” It’s a promise from God Himself – there will be failures and successes, we will get what we want (doors may open) but we will also not get what we want (doors may close). But no matter what, as we fix our eyes on Jesus and know Him better, every single path is journey upward to eternity, all of our past failures He will redeem, all of our past success He will perfect.”