HOW TO SUCCEED IN LIFE
by Dennis Davidson
[This text has a special place in my heart. Since 1977 it has been one of my life verses. I have not always been fully obedient to its injunction, but when I have the promise that He shall direct my paths has proven true.] Does God still guide His people today? Certainly He guided Abraham, Moses, Samuel and the Apostle Paul. But will He guide us in our daily life and decisions? Can we come to the Lord and expect Him to give us the direction we need in the decisions of life. Here God says He will guide and direct us. He will led us into a balanced life and proper decisions. The big question though is will we obey God’s will if He reveals it to us? Trusting and obeying is what is absolutely necessary to be guided by God (CIT).
The day before his 52nd birthday, ABRAHAM LINCOLN left Springfield, Illinois to become President of the United States. With the threat of civil war looming, he said goodbye to the friends and neighbors who had come to see him off. “I now leave,” he told them, “not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me. I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
Many celebrate Lincoln’s kindness, integrity, and courage. Yet we can also learn from him how to face a daunting future with confident hope in the Lord. Lincoln’s reliance on God for guidance and strength reflects the instruction of Solomon: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”
I. TRUST GOD, 5a.
II. DON’T FULLY TRUST YOURSELF, 5b.
III. TOTAL OBEDIENCE, 6a.
IV. PROMISED DIRECTION, 6b.
The first step in getting the guidance of God for our lives is admitting we need it. Thus verse 5 begins with the command to trust the Lord. “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
From God alone comes true help and eternal prosperity. He knows the right way to the right ends. He knows what truly benefits us. He is able to free us from that which does us harm. Therefore it is our daily privilege and safety to place our confidence completely in Him and not in our-own feeble at best-judgment. For living without trust in God is like driving in dense fog.
We are commanded to trust God with nothing less than “all our heart”–and to obey Him in all our ways. That means total commitment to Him. The word translated trust means “to be helpless, face-down.” It is the picture of one allowing another to do anything to him and will not oppose it. It is casting all hopes for the present and future upon God and finding shelter and security in Him.
Heart in Hebrew can refer to one’s emotions (Prov. 12:25; 13:12; 14:10,13) but more often to the intellect or mind (or understanding-10:8; discernment-15:14; reflection-15:25) or the will (5:12). What God is saying is to cast upon our Lord our total trust. Not holding back in any area of our mind, will or feeling. That my friends is a major assignment.
Man was created to be a trusting being, he is thus always leaning on some object. His consciousness of dependence is so deep that he dare not stand alone. This trusting instinct, like all other instincts of his nature, has been sadly perverted by wrong direction. Everywhere man is leaning on the unworthy, the unreliable, and the undependable; hence his constant disappointment and further confusion.
Every one trust something or someone. Many trust in a business, a company, a job, home, bank account, lands, friends, government, a spouse, their physical strength or mental ability. These are all good things, but they are not worthy of our primary and supreme trust. God alone is worthy of supreme trust. He is the object of complete trustfulness. The all merciful, all wise, all knowing, all powerful, all loving, thrice Holy God. He alone will stand faithful and true in all the malignities, difficulties, tribulations and successes of life. He is the one and only all enduring Faithful One amidst the dissolutions of our existence.
It takes faith to get guidance. Most of us have had the experience of being in a strange place, trying to find an address. Usually we stop someone and ask for information. We have faith that the stranger we ask is going to lead us to the right place. When we are making decisions about specific problems in life, we go to an expert, a doctor, lawyer, or banker and trust them to give us the right counsel.
Choices, decisions, motives, intentions must all be directed to what God wants and what God can do. “Trust” steps onto the bridge of God’s loving power and leaves the shoreline of our own abilities and ambitions behind. Such belief means literally to “bet your life” on God’s truth and wisdom. [Hubbard, David.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol 15 : Proverbs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989, S. 72.]
Trust is natural to us. It is our lot to be dependent. God wants us to trust Him with our lives and He promises never to lead us astray. Our all knowing God loves us and will never give us wrong guidance. He has a perfect plan for our lives and wants us to follow His plan.
You are to trust Him “with all your heart.” The green apple does like to be twisted and torn from the tree, but the ripened fruit drops easily off. When the soul attains complete trust in the Lord it can loosen every other bond and easily let go of all that the world offers. To reserve a little in our cleaving to Christ spoils all. It endangers our guidance and destroys our peace.
Note it says all your heart. The trust must be undivided for the double minded man is unstable in all his ways. It is to be supreme for man cannot serve two masters. Man is to trust but not as in dry dull duty but with the supreme affection and willingness that can only come from the human heart.
II. DON’T FULLY TRUST YOURSELF, 5b.
We are also commanded not to lean on our fallen understanding. The warning is needed because if we lean on our own understanding we will miss God’s will. To lean here is to rest upon it in order to be strengthened or supported by it. Leaning has the sense of putting your whole weight on something, resting on and trusting in that person or thing. God wants us to only lean on Him which will open up His ability to give not just natural but supernatural guidance. This does not mean we do not use our brain for when God guides He will not by-pass the brain but doesn’t want us deepening on our natural way of reasoning. [Application Bible. Zondervan]
The warning is that we are not to depend on just our natural reasoning for God is a super-natural God and not limited to our shallow understandings. David would never have fought Goliath (or used armor and weapons that were unsuited for Him) if he reasoned as a man. Noah would have never built an ark in the desert. Abram would have never headed toward the promise land or been willing to offer up his son.
When we have an important decision to make, we sometimes feel that we can’t trust anyone – not even God. But God knows what is best for us. He is a better judge of what we need than even we are. We must trust Him completely in every choice we make. We should not omit careful thinking or belittle our God-given ability to reason; but we should not trust our own ideas to the exclusion of God’s. We must not be wise in our own eyes. We should always be willing to listen to and be corrected by God’s Word and wise counselors. Bring your decisions to God in prayer; use the Bible as your guide; and then follow God’s leading. He will make your paths true by both guiding and protecting you. [Application Bible. Ibid]
A truly wise person knows his limits. [Spiritual Vertigo] JOHN F. KENNEDY JR. died in 1999 when his single-engine place crashed into the ocean. Flight records reveal that plane had taken a course that suggested the pilot suffered disorientation, often called vertigo.
Surrounded by clouds, rain, darkness or a storm a pilot may experience spatial confusion when his senses send misleading signals to the brain. Vertigo can cause a pilot to lose his sense of balance and try to fly his plane by “feeling.” When he’s in a storm or dense clouds, he may begin to think up is down, north is south, etc. If he doesn’t trust his instrument panel, he’ll soon be flying by the seat of his pants. Any aviator should know the warning signs of vertigo and how to reduce the danger: avoid flight conditions that may cause vertigo, never take it lightly, be familiar and proficient with the plane’s instruments, and most important, trust the instrument panel.
If we’re not careful in our walk with the Lord, we can be vulnerable to spiritual vertigo. Sometimes we’re surrounded by problems-an account lost at work, a troubled marriage, a rebellious teenage, a serious illness or intense pain. We don’t know which way is up. We feel like we’re not standing on solid ground, we begin making all kinds of poor decisions, and our life spins out of control.
We need to be like the seasoned pilot who doesn’t give in to the confusion of vertigo. That means we need to avoid situations where we could lose our spiritual focus, never take lightly the continual temptation to ignore spiritual truth, be familiar with biblical principles, and always-above everything else-trust the Bible, the spiritual instrument panel that will guide us to a safe landing. Avoid spiritual vertigo by staying grounded in the Word of God on a daily basis. Flying according to God’s flight plan is always best. [STAND FIRM Devotional]
“Trust in the Lord” means that as we believe, pray, meditate on Scripture we will find the Holy Spirit renewing our minds, creating in us the mind of Christ and enabling us to think God’s thoughts and follow God’s guidance, all of which may at times be foolishness to the natural man (Isa. 55:8-9).
III. TOTAL OBEDIENCE, 6a.
The truly wise person is called upon to honor and obey God with his life in verse 6. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Notice the repetition of the often overlooked word all. “All your heart … and all your way.” Our trust in Him must extend to all our ways.
Man’s ways are many and men have different ways (determined by family, environment, education, attitude, character, idiosyncrasies, mood, etc). Whatever way you walk, in whatever stage of life you’re in, you should trust fully.
To receive God’s guidance, said Solomon, we must acknowledge God in all our ways. “Acknowledge” is to honor and obey. Acknowledging not merely His existence, personality and power but His sovereign right to direct your way of life and living. This means turning every area of life over to him. You yield your way to be subject to Him in thought, word, deed and aim of life.
About a thousand years later, Jesus emphasized this same truth (Matthew 6:33). Look at your values and priorities. What is important to you? In what areas have you not acknowledged him? What is his advice? In many areas of your life you may already acknowledge God, but it is in the areas where you attempt to restrict or ignore His influence that will cause you grief. Make Him a vital part of everything you do; then He will guide you because will be working to accomplish his purposes.
You are to acknowledge God in all the ways of life. In the great things, to heal the sick, uphold the word, forgive sin and also turn over the management of the minor decisions of life.
If we acknowledge Him we will be saved from atheism. Atheism is not simple intellectual disbelief in God. There is also practical atheism which is living our life as we desire instead of under the direction of God. There are many people who intellectually and even with heart believe in God but they are practical atheists. They give no acknowledgment to God and to the following of His ways in their daily lives. They live godlessly. Godliness is a life lived without reference, or submission to God. This is the insidious peril which threatens us everyday and everywhere. This is the danger from which this verse seeks to deliver us.
Acknowledgment is seen in the recognition of His directives, and the acceptance of His claims. It will produce obedience. It is to recognize the gifts He has given us and to use them in His will. Instead of leaning on man-made crutches of our own devising, we are exhorted to recognize Him in all our ways.
Acknowledging Him means to take the forces and abilities He has placed in your personality and character and to use them under His design and governance. Do not think that He will bring you to the mountain top of a close relationship with Him if you refuse to climb after Him.
Put Christ into your business. Let godliness be seen in all you do. Let this be true in your recreation and entertainment also. Don’t let your fear of the Lord lose its keenness to touch, direct and protect you.
“In all thy ways acknowledge Him.” Not just Sundays, but Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Not just Christmas and Easter but all 365 days of the year. Not just when in public view but in the secret and hidden ways of the life, mind and heart. In the light and in the dark; in the shop as well as in the sanctuary; in the valley as well as on the mountain top; at play as well as at work in all thy ways.
IV. PROMISED DIRECTION, 6b.
Now hear in the last clause of verse 6 the word of promise for those who will exercise their faith by honoring and obey. “And He shall direct thy paths.”
Observe what advantage true trust receives. True trust receives God’s guidance by simply following God’s leading. He leads those who trust in Him to the right end by making their path plain before them. His guidance secures safety amidst all perils and joy amidst all sorrows.
The word for “direct” in Hebrew means “to make smooth, straight, right.” The verb (is in the piel stem which) suggest intensity. The Lord will thoroughly direct and protect.
His guidance is there in which car, house or dress to buy. Which school to go to, what college major to consider, which job to take. What to do not only Sunday morning and evening but each and every morning and evening.
“He has many ways of directing. He directs by obstacles placed across the way which I cannot overcome, and which drive me into a new way. He directs by clearing obstacles away, which I thought could not be moved. He directs by delay, keeping me waiting long after I have heard His call to service. He directs by immediateness, flinging me out into a new position, wherein I must seek His guidance. He directs by opposition; the Spirit hindered Paul. He directs by encouragement, by whispers in the soul, which make a man dare, when all men tell him his daring is of no avail. He directs by disappointing, or by realizing our dreams. I state these contradictory things in order to throw you back upon this profound conviction; not from me nor from any man, must you take your rule of His direction. You must discover the rule for yourself in immediate relationship with Him. I say this now out of profound conviction, God help me to say it as it ought to be said. No youth or maiden has ever yet bared their soul to God, desiring to be led of Him and determined to follow, but that He has led, He has directed.” (G Campbell Morgan. Vol. IV. p147)
The personal pronoun “He” is packed with all the tender love of our Father. No evil can baffle if He directs the path. No enemy can prevent the final realization of His purpose. No obstacles can hinder if He leads. No opposition can overcome if He guides. No crises can overwhelm the wisdom of God, no events surprises Him. Oh, the safety of being in the will of God. “He shall direct thy paths.”
Not always in easy or pleasant paths, but always in right paths. Not necessarily in those I would have chosen, but always in paths which lead to eternal success.
The paths that He directs lead always, through mist and mystery, through battle and bruising, to fulfill the meaning and purpose of your life.
How much that is called success is dire and disastrous failure. I believe that these conditions may put limitations upon unbridled material success. But they will lead to greater eternal success.
The final test of life is beyond the things of time and sense. It will be a test of fire and only that which cannot be destroyed will remain. In the light of that final test if we would make our lives successful we must begin right. What is the first step. Surrender. What is the plan of life, the pathway to the end? Obedience. Confronting everyone of us tonight, God in Christ asks for our lives.
Result in His “directing our paths” by which is meant that He will not only be our guide but our road maker.
I pray for you that you may realize your ambitions, and fulfill your dreamings. In order that when the eternal morning flashes the eastern sky, you may come to the fulfillment He desires for you.
[ “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” For it is your responsibility note the four “your” ]
[THE INADEQUACY OF REASON] Logic and reason can explain in part, but logic in itself fails miserably and dismally. For a person to limit himself to reason or to logic is to blot out of his life the spectacular revelations of almighty God.
The Greeks played around with logic and metaphysics and loved doing it. An author named Zeller wrote Outlines of Greek Philosophy. In that book he presents a Greek sophist by the name of Gargius. By metaphysics, Gargius proved that motion is impossible–logically, reasonably, intellectually. First, a thing cannot move from where it is because if it does, it is not there. Second, a thing cannot move from where it is not; that is obvious. And third, where it is and where it is not are the only possible places that exist. Therefore, a things cannot move. Now one can think about that forever. That is logic.
Logic by itself takes you nowhere. There are people who want to live by logic, but they are always illogical. Other people want to live by reason, but they are always unreasonable. They reduce the world to an illogical and irrelevant fact.]
Trust in God is what He uses to raises a person up in the likeness of God. Reason can take one only so far. It cannot soar; it cannot rise heavenward. The eyes of the heart, the inward faculty that God has given a person, makes him go onward and upward.
Once you are leaning on God’s direction you can have self reliance. Thank God for your intellect. Respect it, train it, feed it with the choice fruits of the tree of science but don’t lean on it as an infallible guide. At best our intellect’s eyes are very dim, its ears heavy and its limbs feeble. The light of any man’s reason is far too feeble to guide us safely to the eternal city.
“He will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me.”
The final test of life is beyond the things of time & sense. It will be a test of fire; only that which cannot be destroyed will remain. In the light of that final test if we would make our lives successful we must begin right. What is the 1st step. Surrender. What is the plan of life, the pathway to the BEST end? Obedience. Confronting everyone of us today, God in Christ asks for our lives.
Who are you trusting with your life? Yourself or God? Do you look to your own intellect, abilities, and strength? Or do you trust the Lord?
Most of us would say that we are trying to trust the Lord, but we have trouble resting in that trust. We feel compelled to help God out by rearranging the circumstances. Or at least we feel obliged to do a little sanctified worrying.
There are two problems with trusting ourselves. First, we do not always have enough wisdom to know what is the right thing. Second, we do not have the power or capacity to be in control. God lacks neither wisdom nor power.
God keeps His promises when we obey His precepts, because our obedience prepares us to receive and enjoy what He has planned for us. Heed His warning about leaning on our or any other man’s understanding and thus missing God’s perfect will for our life.
With your whole heart and daily life actively contemplate God and observe His will and He will guide you into eternal prosperity.
Are you willing for Him to guide you? If He revealed His will to you -would you follow it? That is the only way He can get us fro where we are to where He wants us to be.
Will you fully surrender your life to the Lord today? Will you place your trust in God, in His love & in His power-& let Him begin to fully direct your life?
Will you “Trust & Obey”-for there is no other way.