Walking the Path
October 1, 2007
When I say the word “change;” when I lob that word out there, what comes into your mind? People think a lot of things. But basically when I say “change”, most of us think about the rearrange. One would say, “If I rearranged my marriage or if I rearranged my priorities; if I rearranged the way I parent; if I rearranged my career; if I rearranged the way I ate or worked out, then I would experience change.”
Well, I would agree with that, sort of. You’d experience superficial change, but not supernatural change, not true change, not the kind of change that the God of the universe is after.
True change comes when I come to a point in my life where I say, “I can’t.” When I say, “I can’t” and open the lid of my life and allow God to come into my life as the change agent, then he gives me the power truly to change.
God, who does not change what the Scripture says, sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and rise again so we can change. It’s ironic, it’s paradoxical; there’s some great tension there.
The unchanging God is all about change. When I come to a point in my life where I tell the truth about my condition before God, where I agree with him, then I can allow him to come into my life because of a faith decision. And the exchange takes place.
I trade in my guilt for his grace, my failures for his forgiveness, my pursuits for his agenda. Then, as he comes into my life, he places the change agent in the depth of my being, which is the Holy Spirit of God. And the Holy Spirit of God works from the inside out to produce change.
Change takes place with the exchange as I continue to change because remember—true change happens during my salvation experience; but lasting change is a decision followed by a process. It’s not as easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3, automatic, systematic, boom, I’m changed. Because if we could change that quick, all of us would be perfect. And none of us are perfect.
So, change is this process. So once I change and once God changes me, I’m thrown into the spin cycle of success. And the spin cycle of success is change, conflict and growth.
And so often, when we experience resistance, a push-back, when all hell breaks loose—and by the way, they don’t tell you that before you become a Christian. They don’t tell you that it’s going to be hard after you make that exchange; they don’t tell you that, but we’ve got to talk about the real deal, right?
Once we experience conflict, so many of us bail right before the breakthrough. We bail right before our marriage goes to another level. We bail right before we get financially free. We bail right before we have a real breakthrough in that character deficit in our lives.
Yet, if we defer to God and honor God in this change; if we allow the Lord to push us and give us endurance and power, we can go through the conflict, through the resistance, and we will experience growth that will be totally off the charts. To get to it, to get to the best, we’ve got to go through it. Say it with me. To get to it, we’ve got to go through it.
Change takes place because of God; yet this process of change is the path, is the journey, that God wants all of us to join him on. And this is really unpacked in the book of Proverbs—Proverbs 3:5-6. This text has pretty much been the life text of my family for many, many years; in fact, I would say decades.
Now, this text teaches us about change. But I’m going to tell you, if you live by this text—we’re always talking about texting this and texting that—if we live by this text, we will discover God’s best for our lives. I want to tell you something. God has the best in store for every life here. So if we live by these words, I’m telling you, it’s going to be unreal.
Solomon wrote a lot of the Proverbs. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men who ever walked on planet Earth. He didn’t have millions, he had squillions. He was super-intelligent. His IQ was just on a whole ‘notha plane and planet. People would come from all over the world to hear this guy talk and teach them and ask him questions, and he owned all of this.
Of all people to write a verse like Proverbs 3:5 and then to follow it with verse 6, and then to keep on going in verse 7 and 8 and 9, you would think, “Why would he do that?” because this guy could control everything. He had everything at his fingertips. I mean, he could say, “Jump,” people would say, “How high?” He could do whatever he wanted to do any time.
Yet, he wrote this verse that is all about surrender; that is all about change; that is all about the lordship and leadership of Jesus Christ. It’s just amazing. So let me talk to you about this, because this is all about change. And I’m going to parallel this, too, with another text in Scripture, Romans 12:2.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Proverbs 3:3-6. I might go to some other verses in Proverbs, but definitely I’ll go into Romans 12:2.
But here’s where we’re going: the outlook and the outline will always determine my outcome.
God’s outlook and God’s outline for every single person’s life here will determine our outcome. Now, for me, if I had to choose, okay, my deal or God’s deal, A or B, C or D, 1 or 2, I’m going God’s way every time because God invented life. He invented our passions. He invented everything. Why not do it God’s way?
And this is what Solomon was driving at. Solomon wrote this when Israel was at the peak and pinnacle of their existence. It was the golden era. It was great to be a part of his nation. Everything was going great. And check out his words.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Notice right upfront Solomon talked about an outlook. When I say the word “outlook,” what do you think about? You should think about perspective, because Solomon says, “Trust in the Lord.” I mean, trust is a must. If we don’t trust, we’re going to end up in the dust, right?
We all trust in something. Some are trusting in material possessions; some are trusting in substances; some are trusting in travel, some are trusting in just feelings. Solomon says, “Trust in the Lord….” Then he says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart”—not some of your heart, not most of your heart.
I think Solomon, being a man, knew how tempting it was to compartmentalize our lives. And men, we really struggle with this. “Okay, I’ve got my recreational world here, I’ve got my financial world over there, I’ve got my relational world here, and the spiritual world there and the financial world there, recreational world there.” And we live this compartmentalized life, sort of like a robot.
Well, Solomon says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. If you want to discover God’s best, trust in the Lord with all of your heart.”
Now this word “heart” in the Hebrew refers to our emotions. We have emotions, and the mantra these days goes something like this: “Trust your heart. Go with your heart. That’s right, honey. Trust your heart in that dating relationship. Hey, man, go with your heart in that marriage.”
It sounds great. It makes a great chick flick, an incredible romance novel. Lifetime television makes zillions off of it. It sounds so good. But you know what? It doesn’t work!
Self-reliance leads to self-deception, which ushers in self-destruction. And Solomon knew the danger of our feelings and emotions. So we should not trust our hearts. We should trust God with our hearts. We should submit our hearts, our feelings, our emotions to God.
We shouldn’t go with our heart. We should let go of our heart and let God go with our heart. That’s what Solomon’s driving at. Trust in the Lord; nothing else but “in the Lord with all of your heart, he totality of who you are. That’s what he’s saying.
When I trust with everything, I begin to have this perspective, this outlook that no one else has. I see things with discernment. And I see things with depth that no one else sees.
But if I don’t, I’m covered up. And a lot of people are living their lives covered up. Yeah, a lot of people have an outlook and a perspective, but it’s very limited. It’s dark. It doesn’t smell real nice under the covers. People don’t know where in the world they’re going. They’re trusting in this; they’re trusting in that. But this is all they can see [Ed is referring to darkness under the blanket]. What a limited perspective!
That’s why we need to uncover our stuff, uncover our shams and shortcomings, uncover our perspective, our agendas, and say, “God, have your way with me. I trust you with all of my heart. Surround me with your righteousness and your mercy.” That’s the outlook.
And if we have this outlook, Proverbs 14:12 says this, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
And then Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but b transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The battlefield, the venue, the stadium of this whole change element is in the mind. Because when you say the word “change,” it’s basically an accumulation of choices and decisions. That’s what it is.
So decisions and choices are pretty much the forerunners of all this change stuff that we’re talking about. And Proverbs says we’ve got to choose to trust God with all of our hearts. That’ll give us the right outlook.
And then notice the right outline. When I outline something, what am I doing? It’s a system of thought. I’m putting my thoughts together. It’s prioritizing what someone’s saying or what I’m reading. God’s priorities are not open for discussion or debate. They’re here in Scripture.
So we either get in on them, or we don’t. But to have some kind of discussion about what my priorities should be has got to be one of the most ridiculous discussions we could ever have, because they’ve been settled for us already.
So I have the outlook, the right perspective, and I’m going to have God’s outline for my life, which is God’s priorities. And also, notice this: I’ll have the persistence that he wants me to live by as I do the stuff. So the exchange is taking place, I’m experiencing the conflict. But instead of resisting it because of resistance, I’ve got to stay with it, with persistence.
Proverbs 3:6, it says: “…in all your ways acknowledge him.”
In other words, I’ve got to line up under God’s priorities in all my ways. Now, sometimes we read that verse and think “Acknowledge”. Interesting. But it’s not a nod. It’s not a wink. It’s not like, “Yeah, baby.” It’s not, “Jesus is my homeboy.” No, no, it’s not that. It is, “I have an intimate knowledge of God.” And when you see the word “acknowledge” in Scripture, usually it’s used in the context of submission.
So many of us today have authority issues. And we need to get under those things that God has put over us so that we can get over those things God has put under us. If you want to go up, you’ve got to get under it. If I want to discover God’s best for my life; if I want to discover growth, I’ve got to get under his authority.
He’ll take me through the conflict, through the resistance, through when all hell breaks loose, and I’ll go to the other side. And my life will hit on this level that God wants it to hit on.
In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God.”
In other words, he’s saying the Christian life is all about a decision, a step, followed by a process. It’s about persistence. It’s about that daily walk.
So we say, “God, I’ve got your outlook, your perspective. Now, God, I see your outline for my life. Your priorities—I fall in line with those. I want to think like you think.”
Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The battlefield is the mind. And then I’ll discover this phenomenal outcome, which is God’s purpose and plan.
Look at the last part of verse 6, Proverbs 3:6, “… and he will make your paths straight.” or you could read here “blessed,” or “He’ll pour out his supernatural favor upon your life.” And this is more than just guidance here. This is God smoothing and paving the way—the best way that we have. And I like this. It says, “He’ll make our paths straight” or “direct.”
ILLUS: This past summer, my son and I did some hiking in the jungles of Mexico. And we went with a guy named Carlos who’d grown up in the jungles. And this jungle had these weird trails through it. And if you got off the trail, there was this plant called the “chachin” and if you brushed up against it, it would rot your skin to the bone.
There were crocodiles. There was a snake called the fer-de-lance, which is the two-step snake. This snake will actually chase you down, and if it bites you, you only have about two steps, then you’re dead. So it was a dangerous deal, and you had to listen and watch your guide.
Along the way, Carlos would tell us where to step. And some of the places he told us to step seemed weird, because the path was wide and it seemed like shallow water. He would say, “No, no, don’t step there; you could sink all the way up to your chest. You’d be in trouble there.” So we made our way through this swamp, through this jungle.
Now, how ridiculous would it have been if we said, “You know what, Carlos? Thanks very much. You just stay back. I’ll cut my own path, you know. I will determine my own destiny. I know about the jungle. I’ve seen a couple of movies; I’ve watched The Discovery Channel. I know what’s happening.”
I would get in severe trouble. And that’s how ludicrous we look before God. We have this covering on; we’re trying to do our own deal, and we’re trying to negotiate the jungles of life—conflict and resistance. And we’re trying to do what we want to do in relationships or in our spare time. Or we’re trying to do what we think we should do in our career. How foolish do we look?
We’re going to get into trouble. You can’t go through a jungle like this [Ed puts a blanket over his head]. You’ve got to go through a jungle with your eyes open. You’ve got to go through a jungle free and ready to go. The outcome, the purpose, the path, the plan, the agenda. Carlos was removing barriers, making the path smooth, and we had a great hike.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”
Some of us have relationships that are toxic. Some of us are hooked up with unbelievers. And this is a very powerful verse because it’s a picture of a yoke. A yoke is kind of this wooden thing that has two holes in it. And you would put animals that are equal in the holes, and the holes would go around their necks. You put two cows or two horses or donkeys or et cetera.
Well, you wouldn’t put a donkey in one hole and a cow in another. You would not plow a straight line. I mean, that line is going to be here and there and yonder. Well, that’s what happens if you are dating someone who is not equally yoked. That’s what happens if your best friend is someone who is not equally yoked.
God wants us to discover this direct path. He wants us to discover the quickest way to the blessed life, to the life of favor. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be like walking through the jungle. There are going to be difficult times; there are going to be snakes and crocodiles and quicksand and army ants. But if we follow the guide and allow him to smooth the stuff and remove the roadblocks, it’s going to be unreal.
And the thing that pretty much shows us the path along with the Holy Spirit of God is the Word, the Bible. Psalm 119:105 (KJV), “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
This Bible shines in darkness. It shines a light. It’s like your headlights. Your headlights give you just enough light to keep on driving. If they didn’t give you any light or just a little bit of light, man, we would be in some serious stuff.
And then Psalm 37:23-24 (NAS) says, “The stapes of a man are established by the Lord, and he delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”
So my outlook—my perspective—determines my outline, which are my priorities, and this persistence thing. And because of that, I discover this incredible outcome, this purpose, that God has for me. But if I do everything myself, I’m going to be in some serious, serious trouble. Because self-reliance equals self-deception, which turns into self-destruction.
Stinking thinking will lead to an emotion commotion, which will usher in a collision in all of your major decisions. Because, see, if you’re under the covers; if you’re covered, you’re involved in stinking thinking. You can’t think right. And when you don’t think right, what’s going to happen? You’re not going to feel right. You’ll have a commotion in your emotions. And if you have a commotion in your emotions, you’re going to have a collision in all of your major decisions—who you hook up with, who you marry, how you handle your money, how you process things, how you deal with your future. How can you live covered with a blanket?
So it’s either covered or uncovered; it’s A or B, 1 or 2, C or D. I’ll choose God’s way. Unless you think that you’re faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, choo-choo-choo-choo, choo-choo-choo-choo, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Solo-Man!”
See, Solomon wrote much of the Proverbs. And what’s so ironic and paradoxical about this is, he wrote all of this incredible stuff, yet he totally turned his back on his advice. Read Scripture, because God gave his children all of these decrees and laws. And one of them was in 1 Kings.
He was talking to his people. Basically, God said don’t intermarry with foreign women. Because if you do that, they’ll introduce foreign gods. You’ll follow the foreign gods, and it’ll mess up the whole deal.
Solomon obviously, again, took a step back and thought, “Well, that sounded good years ago, back in the day. But this is kind of a modern time and, you know, I’m the man. This is kind of a contemporary deal, and no one’s ever had the power and the squillions like I do.
“So, I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do. Yeah, I’m going to do something different than God told me. But I can control the outcomes. I am an exception to the rule.”
That’s what Solomon said. So let’s read together in 1 Kings 11:1-4, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’
“Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love…” Maybe that should be “in lust”. “He had 700 wives of royal birth…” Read here, men, 700 mothers-in-law. That’s scary! “…and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord, his God.”
Now, why did Solomon do that? I’ll tell you why. Solomon was thinking, “I know what’s best for me. I married all these foreign women who are daughters of all these kings. We’re going to have a time of peace; no one will mess around with us. It’s going to be amazing what’ll happen to the nation. Man, this is going to be unreal!”
So he married them, disobeying God’s principles and precepts, because he did not want to face the outcome he thought he was going to face. Because he disobeyed God, he faced the outcome that he tried to avoid. And the outcome, I’m telling you, was not pretty. His kingdom was divided. Thousands of Jews were killed. Thousands more were deported.
So are you going to tell me you’re going to roll the dice? Are you going to say, “You know what? I know what’s best for me. I can control the outcomes. I know I should do this, I know the path I should take.”
Well, I’m going to tell you something. The thing that you’re bolting on; the thing that you’re leaving; the outcome you’re trying to avoid is the very outcome you’re going to face to the tenth power. It’s not worth it. God’s way is the best.
Three questions that I want you to ask yourself based on the talk today. Number one, who am I trusting? Number two, what am I thinking? And number three, where am I going?
Because in God’s economy, to get to it we’ve got to go through it. It’s all about change, change, and more change. It’s about conflict and—here’s the good part—growth. What is change? It’s an accumulation of choices.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”