WORDS TO LIVE BY
THREE OF THE GREATEST VERSES OF THE BIBLE
“UNDER THE INFLUENCE – PROVERBS 3:5-6”
PASTOR ED YOUNG
MARCH 21, 1993
I grew up on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina, in an area that was an absolute blast to grow up in—out in the middle of the woods, on a dirt road. Across the street from the dirt road was a 25-acre lake. My brothers and I explored the woods, played in the lake; we had a wonderful time growing up. One Friday evening—I will never forget this—my father looked across the dinner table at my brother and me and said, “Ed, Ben, it’s a full moon tonight. How would you like to do a little fishing?” We looked at each other, then we said, “You’re talking about night fishing right now, Dad?” He said, “Right now.” We said, “That would be great!”
So we run and get our cane poles, our flashlights, and we head down to the lake. We find a path through the woods and we are on the bank, the crickets are chirping, the frogs are croaking. We’re doing some serious night angling with our cane poles. That beautiful Carolina moon reflecting off the water. Out of nowhere, I said, “Ben, look at that huge stick in the water. I didn’t know there was a big stick there!” And my father said, “Ed, Ben, that’s not a stick. That’s a giant water moccasin.” Sure enough, a six foot water moccasin about as big around as my forearm was cruising, and my father said confidently, “Guys, that snake there is poisonous. I’m glad he’s in the water and we’re on the bank. Aren’t you?” We said, “Yes, we are, Dad.” Then my little brother Ben, six years old, goes, “There’s another snake,” and I look and sure enough. Then I said, “Dad, another snake and another snake.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve fished and I’ve been in the outdoors my entire life and I don’t know what happened. I’m not sure if it was water moccasin mating season or what, but we saw at least 100 snakes in a five-minute period. They were in the water, they were around our feet, they were hanging off the branches right at our back, and I did what any cool-headed, sports type individual would do…I began to cry. “Whaaa, Daddy, Ben! What can I do?”
You could hear the snakes. I was in a serious dilemma. I began to search frantically with my eyes through the shadows to find a trail back through the woods to our house. I couldn’t find it. I was scared to take a step because I might step on one of the big, bad water moccasins. I was in a dilemma.
If the truth were known, a lot of you are in a similar situation right here in Irving, Texas. Right here in the Metroplex. You’re on a bank and you have things pressing in on you. Maybe not a water moccasin, literally, but other things: circumstances, problems in a relationship, financial difficulty. You’re wondering about direction. You’re disillusioned and you’re standing there and you feel all of this weight, all of this worry, and you’re searching frantically for a path. You want direction. You need guidance and you’re here today to hear a word from God. I’ve got some fabulous news for you and for me because life is one dilemma after another dilemma.
Behind me on the screen are two verses of Scripture and these verses are definitely words to live by. In fact, I’ll promise you something: If we listen to these words, if we take these words and make them relevant in our lives (because God’s Word is relevant) when we leave this place, every time we enter a dilemma or a difficult circumstance, we will have direction. Is that a good deal or what? If you listen, if you pay attention and apply, you will have direction in the middle of your dilemma.
Today, I’m beginning a three-week series entitled, “Words to Live By.” We’re studying three of the greatest verses in the Bible. Today, Proverbs 3:5-6, one of my life verses, and these words are definitely words to live by. The book of Proverbs—let’s set the stage for this book—is a book that’s powerful and potent. If you want direction for your life, read the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs talks about the benefits concerning trusting God. If you don’t want direction, if you don’t want purpose, if you don’t want guidance, don’t read Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is written in Hebrew. Hebrew is a language of the verbs. They are called “weak verbs” in the Hebrew. If I’m going to find direction today, if you’re going to find direction today, you’ve got to understand what the verbs mean in these two verses. There are four verbs. Say them with me. The first verb: trust. The second verb: lean. The third verb: acknowledge. The fourth verb: make straight. Four verbs. The first three verbs are in imperatives. They are commands. They are words of action.
You go to a high school football game. Most of the time (and I love cheerleaders, don’t get me wrong, my wife was a cheerleader), but many times they don’t know what’s going on in the game. Have you ever watch them cheer, “A-C-T-I-O-N. Action! We want action. Go!” and nothing’s happening on the field? Action words, verbs. If we understand what they mean, we will have direction.
This section of Scripture is a contract. That’s right, a divine contract, and this contract is very simple to understand. You don’t need 10 New York lawyers to explain it to you. It basically consists of man’s responsibility and God’s responsibility, and God says, “Man, if you hold up your end of the deal, you can count on me. I’m a trustworthy God.” God says to you and me, “Prove me trustworthy.” And if we entrust our lives to a trustworthy God, and if we hold up the responsibilities on our end of the deal, we’ll have the direction, we’ll have the purpose.
What’s my part of the deal? My part of the deal is the first three verbs. I’ve got to trust, lean, and acknowledge. That’s my part—three responsibilities. What’s God’s responsibility? God says, “I will make your paths straight. I will make your paths straight.”
Let’s look at the first verb, “trust.” What does it mean to trust? The word in Hebrew means “to cling tightly to.” To cling tightly to. It’s to put yourself totally in the hands of God—past, present, and future—and say, “God, I give it all to you. Hook, line, and sinker, once and all. Here I am; take me.” That’s trust.
The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” In other words, you’ve got to give up control, I’ve got to give up control, to gain control. I’ll put it this way. The theme of Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust is a must; if you don’t trust, you’ll bust. Trust is a must. If you don’t trust, you’ll bust. And the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.” See that chair right there. If I walk up to this chair, I’m thinking it’s going to hold me up. I trust that the chair is sufficient to hold up my 175 pounds. So I walk up to the chair. I sit down. I put my trust in the chair. Am I going too fast? What if I decided, “You know what? I’m not going to totally trust the chair. I’m just going to partly trust the chair, so I’ll put part of my weight on it.” Is that a very comfortable way to sit? No. It’s very uncomfortable.
The reason so many people in this life are uncomfortable is that they’re only trusting God part of the way. That’s our first responsibility in this contract. Trust. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Put all of your weight into the deal, and when we trust the Lord with all of our heart, we’ve got to understand the principle of the sovereignty of God, meaning God’s in control. We don’t say, “God, I tell you what, let me see how my path’s going to go and then I’ll trust you. I’m not sure about….” God says, “You first trust me, then I’ll direct.” He’s not going to direct without trust. And we’ve got to trust in a total package type mentality.
Romans 8:28 is a fabulous verse on the sovereignty of God. It says, “And we know that God causes all things….” All things. Does that include difficult things? Yes. Does that include delays? Yes. Disappointments? Yes. “God causes all things to work together for good.” He didn’t say everything is good. He said that all things, whether good or bad, work together for good. Here it goes now, here’s the clincher, “to those who love God.” That means those who trust God with all their heart. And look what happens, “and those who are called according to His purpose.”
When we understand that, when we understand this principle, the sovereignty of God, the light should come on. Suddenly, every situation we encounter, whether it’s difficult, whether it’s divine, whether it’s beautiful, whether it’s bad, we say, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me? What are you trying to show me? How are you trying to guide me?” Every situation that I come in contact with, that you come in contact with, if we first of all trust God, is a teaching situation. That’s trust. That’s the sovereignty of God. He’s in control. We’ve got to trust Him. Not part of the way, but with all of our hearts. The word “heart” is not talking about the organ, the heart. It’s talking about the seat of intellect—our personality, our will, our everything.
The second responsibility after trust, “do not lean.” Hey, don’t lean, the Bible says, “on your own understanding.” The word “understanding” here in the Hebrew refers to human understanding. My own human understanding. This word “lean” refers to being on crutches. Instead of turning to God first, what do most people do? They lean on their own understanding. They consult the armchair experts, or maybe a glassy-eyed guru, and you can see where that gets you. Look at Waco, Texas, and the tragedy there. On your own understanding.
How many of you have ever been on crutches before? It’s not very comfortable, is it? Your underarm is raw, and your hands get all tired. Let me give you some advice, do you want to spend an exhausting day? Here’s how to spend an exhausting day. Rely on your own understanding. That’s right. When situations come your way, rely on your own understanding, and you’ll be totally exhausted.
This verse is not saying that we take intellect and cast it to the wind. It’s not saying we do not use our reasoning power. It’s saying that when we come across any interchange, we’re first of all to look to God because God has made and orchestrated His creation to be dependent on Him. Go back to the chair analogy. We’re right here: “Oh yes, God, I’m trusting you.” Don’t lean on your own understanding, our second responsibility in the contract.
Now, if we can fulfill this third responsibility, we can take this contract, it will go to the title company, signed, sealed, delivered. The investment is eternity. It’s going to be incredible. What’s the third part? Acknowledge Him in some of your ways? No. In all of your ways. Acknowledge Him in all of your ways. Look at these words “in all of your ways.”
The word “acknowledge” really brings us to Psalm 119:105. I want you to turn there. Let me look at this particular section of Scripture, and think about the word “acknowledge.” In our modern day vernacular, this word “acknowledge” means “Yes, I kind of wink at you. I will nod my head. I will smile politely,” but in the Hebrew, the word “acknowledge” reflects Psalm 119:105, meaning community, fellowship with God.
A couple of weeks ago we talked about people being in pseudo-community, not really in deep fellowship. A lot of us, spiritually, are in pseudo-community with God. It’s not real fellowship. God wants us in community. He wants us to acknowledge Him, to live in the presence of God. Here’s how we do it, Psalm 119:105, another outstanding Scripture verse in the Bible: “Your word, God is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” You see, if I’m not spending time every day getting to know God, if you aren’t spending time every day getting to know God, then you’re missing out, I’m missing out on one of the purposes for me being here. And your life will be at half mast. You’ll have one oar in the water. You’re trying to fly with one wing.
Have you ever tried to use an object for something for which it isn’t designed? I fish a lot as you know and the first eight years of my life, when I fished in that little pond that I talked about with the snakes, I used to bite the line with my front teeth. I have a big groove in my right front tooth because I bit the line. My teeth are not made to bite trilene, 20-pound test fishing line. They’re not made for that. It’s just going to mess you up. So when you use your life for something for which it’s not designed, or you try to say, “God, hey, I’ll go my own way. I will tightly clench my fist and shake my puny little fist in the Creator’s face because I’m the creature and I’ll try to sovereignly rule over a universe called me,” trouble occurs. The third responsibility, I’ve got to acknowledge God in all of my ways. Turn to Him first.
Now, let’s look at God’s end of the deal. Turn back to Proverbs 3 and we’ll look at the last part of Verse 6. “In all my ways I must acknowledge Him,” and here’s God’s part, “He will make my paths (put your name there—Ed’s path, Lisa’s path, Susan’s path, Roy’s path) He will make your path straight.” Remember the principle? God only guides those who trust Him first.
Last week, Mac Richard talked about Romans 12:1-2. Verse 2 says, “The will of God is good, is pleasing, and it’s perfect.” The word “perfect” means tailor-made. People have this misconception that if God directs me, it’s going to be terrible, it’s going to be bad! You know what David said? “I’m glad to do God’s will. I’m glad to do God’s will.” I’ve been in the ministry for 12 years and the people that I have observed who have kept their end of the deal, who have trusted God, who have refused to lean on their own understanding, who have acknowledged Him in all of their ways, have found something that is supernatural. As they trust God, God will put you in the place, He will put me in the place, and we will do that thing which really gives us the most pleasure. Because suddenly my desires are His desires because I’ve completely trusted in the Lord and the way God wires us up, if we totally trust Him, He will put us in the perfect position, whether it be in the marketplace, whether it’s in the school or any situation, to fit your giftedness or my giftedness. And that is a great, great principle!
Incredible! “Well, what if I trust God with all my heart and He sends me to Bangladesh on the mission field? Now, I don’t want to be a missionary so I’m not going to trust God.” If God does call you to be a missionary, and He probably won’t, but if He did, over in Bangladesh you would be, and God knows this, the happiest person you’ve ever been in your life during that time. I didn’t say it was going to be easy, but you would be the most fulfilled, you would be so fired up because you are using your talents to glorify God. He’s going to make your paths straight. And God says, “Trust me. I want to prove to you, man, woman, that I’m a trustworthy God. Entrust your life to a trustworthy God.”
Most of us though, we sit on the chair kind of partly and we sit here and we theorize, “Is God trustworthy or not? I’m not sure He is. Is He trustworthy?” And we sit on our hands. God says, “Get off your hands. Stand up and begin to take steps of faith. Go out on a limb and I’m going to make your paths straight.” These words “make straight” mean that He’ll give us direction. I want direction for my life and I know you do, too.
Direction. I have a poor sense of direction. A couple of weeks ago I was driving with some friends of ours and they knew the Metroplex very well and they knew I don’t know up from down about directions with respect to the Metroplex. As I was driving, they said, “Ed, turn right.” I’d put the blinker on and turned right. “Turn left. Merge. Stop.” I thought about this particular verse. That’s what the Lord does for you and for me. He will guide. He will direct.
I want to share some rapid-fire Scripture verses with you. Write these down. Don’t turn there. Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
In other words, God is saying, “I will hold up my end of the deal.” How about you? These words “make straight” in the Hebrew also mean “to smooth the path.” The 23rd Psalm talks about the Good Shepherd, that’s Jesus, with the sheep. Sheep kind of go their own way, don’t they? They are not very wise animals, and we’re compared to sheep in the Bible. The sheep must have a shepherd and we must have Christ. As Christ leads us down the path, He’ll lead us through the dark valley up to the mountaintop, beside the still waters, the beautiful pastures. He’s going to clear the land. He’ll clear the pasture of all the contrary grasses, the things that will harm the flock. If we trust Him, He will smooth it out for us.
How many golfers do we have? Check this out. The ball is on the green. I’m always thrilled when the ball’s on the green. Aren’t you? You go, “Whoa! I’m on the dance floor. Hey!” I use one of the fluorescent balls because my ball is all over the course. When I see the fluorescent ball on the green, I’m going, “Oh! Great!” So I walk up there, I gingerly walk on the green and the first thing I do, the first thing you do, we kind of do the Freddie Couples thing. We study the green, don’t we? We really try to read the green. We watch golf tournaments on television. We get down like the golfers and we look this way and we’re going to break right to left, left to right and down low speed and everything. We look and then we check the imaginary path of the ball to the hole, and if there’s any debris in the area, what do we do? Grown men, 50, 60 years old blowing everything off, little specks because a lot of them have a lot of money on this particular putt, which I don’t really encourage; but anyway, that’s another story in itself. But anyway, they brush everything off; they make it smooth.
Again, that is what it means when God makes our path smooth and straight. He clears away the obstacles. He shows us where to go. He says, “This way. This way. Come on. This way. This way.” He’ll make your path, He’ll make my path straight.
Man’s part. God’s part. God says, “I’ve done my part. It’s an eternal deal.” If we do our part, this deal, in a matter of seconds, will go to the title company, it will be closed and you’ll have direction, I’ll have direction in the middle of our dilemma, in the middle of your dilemma, in whatever dilemma you’re facing, like you’ve never known before.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
At the first of this message, remember I talked about the story with the snakes. I more or less left myself stranded, didn’t I, on the bank, and you’re wondering, “Ed, did you get out? How many bites did you suffer on your little ankles?” I’ll tell you what happened. I was crying. Remember, I was freaking out? I was upset. My father was about 20 feet to my left. I’ll never forget what he said. I was here. Ben was there. He was standing there. I could make him out in the shadows. Ben had a flashlight. I think it barely worked and Dad said, “Ed, Ben, take three steps and jump on my back. I’m going to carry you out.” “Dad, I might step on one.” “Ed, Ben, you’ve got to trust me! Take three steps and jump on my back.” “No!” “Now!” We take three steps and jump on my father’s back and I remember how tightly we held him; it felt so good.” Our feet were pulled way up.
Then he said, “Ben, turn the flashlight on. Give us some light so we can find the path.” My little six-year-old brother has the light, he’s so scared it’s going this way [makes shaking motions]. “Ed, take the light from him.” So I take the light from Ben and we’re on his back, doing this deal and four or five snakes go across our path, and I find the opening in the woods for the path and he leads us through all this difficulty on the path and the light is at our feet and we finally make it through the snakes to the woods and we’re home! I felt so good. I felt wonderful.
That is precisely what the Lord is saying to us. We’re in difficulty. We’re in circumstances. Snakes are at us, and God’s saying, “Hey, take three steps and jump. Come on. Trust me now! Trust me!” The word “trust” means to cling tightly. We jump and cling tightly to the Lord. Then we acknowledge Him, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” It’s the flashlight. We turn the flashlight on as we see God and know Him through His Word and the light of the Word illuminates the path. We find the path. We find direction in the middle of our dilemma and we’re able to negotiate the path as we are on the Father’s back. He’ll bring us through any dilemma, in any dilemma you can name or I can name and you can’t beat a deal like that. You can’t!
Where are you? That’s right. Where are you? Are you on the bank right now with the snakes, crying? Wallowing in your worry? Trying to wrestle with worry? Or have you taken two or three steps, jumped on the back of the Father, are reading His Word as the ultimate flashlight, finding your direction, your unique path He has for you. I pray that you’ll understand that to trust is a must.