Pastor Michael started his exhortations last week in the book of Proverbs, and today we’ll be continuing through them. One passage that has been particularly helpful for me, as been Proverbs 16:1-9:
1 The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
7 When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.
9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
The verse that has been particularly helpful has been v. 9 (and you see the same idea in v. 1 as well), where you see our desires, our plans and God’s sovereignty come together in a really sweet way. And I think in v. 9 where the text is talking about our plans and what we want to happen, I don’t think it is referring to sinful things, it could be really good things.
Like wanting to deal well in our career, and get a job and advance in that. Or wanting to see things happen in your family, and having family goals. In the ministry I work for, we make tons of plans and pray for things to happen every year, but the thing with our plans is that we don’t know the whole story. And there’s so many variables that we cannot control, and we do not know what will come of them.
So you could spend your whole life working towards some career, and one cut and it could be over in one day. You could work really hard in school and not get into the program you wanted. You might have some unexpected expense come up and not meet an expected goal. Missionaries could be sent home if the country no longer gives them their visas. One change in a policy in administration and our ministry could not longer be welcome on a college campus. So, all of these different things that we think of, can make it feel really scary. The uncertainty of our plans, the uncertainty of what happens, is a really scary thing and can easily lead me to anxiety and fear, when I am going through life trying to live out plans.
I think the reason I am so fearful, and the reason we are so fearful, is because we think that we know best, and if things don’t turn out the way that we want, we can think that our whole world is going to be ruined.
I’m much more mature in handling these emotions than my daughter, who is two years old now. But, I think that in the same way that when things don’t go my way, I throw internal temper tantrums. I may not be screaming and flapping on the floor, but internally I feel all of these emotions come out in crazy ways. I think that this way of living is not honoring to the Lord, and it is not a good way to live.
I think this is why this proverb is a comfort. Because, this proverb reminds us that we get to make the plans, and we get to step out, but ultimately we are trusting God and asking him to guide our steps. And, he has the final say. We’re saying, “God, these are ultimately your plans. We are going to trust you. We are going to step out in faith. But we’re going to trust you to guide us, we’re going to trust you to lead us.”
I think that this results in really sweet intimacy and dependence on God, that is really an amazing thing. So, we don’t have to fear the uncertainty. It’s true that we don’t know what will happen of our plans, but we know that God knows best and he knows the whole story. He can bring the stability and hope that we’re looking for.
Similarly, when Peter gets out the boat when Jesus tells him to walk on water, he is trusting that Jesus is the one sustaining his steps. And this is what we’re supposed to do, step out and trust God to guide us. The fact that God is the one guiding us may be difficult and hard for people. Because we might be questioning if God really knows what he’s doing, and if he really cares about us.
I look to two places that I run to when answering these questions, if God really knows what he’s doing and if he really cares, and the first one is the I run to the cross. At the moment when it looked like God was the most out of control, is actually the moment when Jesus was dying for our sins, and giving us life and giving us hope. So, when we’re in a stage where we’re not sure if we know what God is doing, we can look to the cross and see the clearest example of where it looked like God had lost complete control, and yet had complete control, and the results were amazing.
The second thing is the gospel and when we look at the gospel, we know that he cares. He does care for us, that he did not spare his own son, he will graciously give us everything we need. And so, we can rest and find hope there. What I keep running to is that, if we could tell our life stories and what would happen it would be really comfortable, easy and boring, but when we look and see that God is telling a much greater story we see that it is beautiful and dynamic. It’s sad, it’s joyful, and it’s way better than we could ever tell, and it’s a much better place to rest and trust in him.
So, this week as we go throughout our day and week, we can trust to step out in faith and ask God to lead us.