The Way of the Wise

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12 NLT

“I know where I’m going! I don’t need to ask for directions!”

Yes, as a red-blooded American male, I have uttered those exact words on more than one occasion, and lived to regret them. I have rejected the loving counsel of my well-meaning wife. I have ignored her pleas for me to stop and ask for directions at the nearest convenience store or gas station. I have stubbornly stuck to my ill-chosen path, even long after I have determined that the current direction in which we were headed would never get us to our original destination. I would rather arrive late than admit defeat. You can chalk it up to pride, arrogance, or an over-active sin nature, but the bottom line is that most of us as men hate to admit we’re lost or wrong. And that proclivity can tend to leave us off course and out of sorts with those who find themselves innocent passengers on our sometimes aimless journey through life.

My dislike for directional assistance has never resulted in our family being so lost that we were in danger of losing our lives. We’ve never ended up in the Mojave Desert, out of gas, rationing the last Diet Pepsi before succumbing to dehydration and heat stroke. But that same prideful streak that would cause a man to arrogantly drive in the wrong direction rather than confess his mistake and turn around, can show up in other areas of our lives. All throughout the Book of Proverbs, life is referred to as a journey. It speaks of paths and ways, streets and roads. Walking is regularly mentioned throughout the book. There is an unavoidable sense of destination and determination to end up in the right place by avoiding wrong turns. We are encouraged to seek wisdom in order that we might live our lives wisely. We are commanded to fear God and follow His ways. To put it simply, we are called to follow His directions because He’s God and He knows best. We are told that following His directions will result in disciplined, successful lives and an understanding of what is right, just, and fair (Proverbs 1:3). We are promised insight, knowledge and discernment ­– for life – so we’ll know the right way to go in life (Proverbs 2:9). Proverbs is all about living life on God’s terms, following His directions, and trusting that He knows how to get us where we need to go.

The God-Directed Life.

Those who say they are following Christ have essentially agreed to allow God to lead their lives. To say I am following someone sounds like it was my decision and I am the one determining my own way. But when I follow Christ, I am walking the way of God, the path He has chosen for a righteous, godly life. It’s the same path that Christ took and, when I follow Him, I go the same way. Only He knows the direction, so I must follow closely. If I choose to wander off the path and go my own way, it will not go well for me. The godly life is a God-directed life. It is learning to allow Him to direct my steps, determine my way, and then empower me as I take each step. Solomon seems to have known this truth, because it permeates the Proverbs. He realizes that the godly person is one who recognizes that God directs his life. But Solomon knows that, as human beings, we struggle with the seeming loss of control. In Proverbs 20 he asks us “the Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (Proverbs 20:24 NLT). We want to know where we are going and we want to know why we have to go there. At times we find ourselves going through a rough patch of life and we demand that God explain how He got us there. But God is not obligated to explain Himself to us. A prerequisite for following anyone is TRUST. Especially if we don’t know where they are taking us. Along the way, we may encounter difficulties, but we have to trust that God knows what is best. But not only do we have to trust God for the direction of our lives, we have to trust him for strength for the journey. All along the way, we will have countless opportunities to stray and take the path of the drunkard, the fighter, the swindler, the sluggard, and the fool. Solomon deals with these individuals repeatedly. They illustrate the life of the person who has decided to follow their own path rather than God’s. We can easily become self-deceived when we live self-directed lives. We can even think we are doing well, but Solomon warns us, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin?'” (Proverbs 20:9 NLT). This is obviously a rhetorical question and the answer is “no one.” Only God knows our heart and only God can cleanse it. Only God can direct our lives so that we end up living lives of integrity and wholeness. Only God’s way will result in a life marked by godly behavior. “The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (Proverbs 20:27 NLT). As God directs our lives, He will use the activity of the journey to expose what is going on inside of us. He will reveal weaknesses and sinful habits that need to be repented of and removed from our lives. He will change our hearts and alter our behavior, and it is our God-directed behavior that will reveal to others that we are His. “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right” (Proverbs 20:11 NLT). When we follow God, others will see our walk and know by our behavior and the direction of our lives that we are indeed godly.

Living Life in 4D

Life can be hard. Decisions have to be made. Difficulties must be dealt with. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do or how to respond. We are bombarded by bad advice and the well-meaning counsel of friends who are just as lost and confused as we are. So what are we to do? Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, encourages us to “cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures” (Proverbs 2:4 NLT). It would appear that Solomon expected us to put in a fair amount of effort into the process. He seems to believe that we must want insight and understanding bad enough that we would expend some energy in order to get them. Cry out! Ask! Search! Seek! How badly do we want these things? How hard are we willing to pursue them until we find them?

As we go through life we encounter our desperate need for insight, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. This world can be a confusing place. We don’t always know what to do. So the first step seems to be a recognition of our deficiencies. We have to come to an understanding of our lack of understanding. We are not the brightest bulbs in the box. But the sad truth seems to be that we don’t usually reach this point of awareness until something difficult happens in our lives that leaves us at a loss. It is in those times of desperation that we tend to turn to God, and that is the key – we have to turn to the source. Solomon makes it clear that insight and understanding are only available from one source and that is God. When we cry out, ask, search and seek from Him, we are told that we will “understand what it means to fear the Lord” and we “will gain knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5 NLT). God gives us discernment, direction, discipline and discretion – the four Ds. He provides us with all we need to live life on this planet wisely, safely, and righteously. Rather than live according to the standards of this world, we learn to live God’s way. We learn to think like He thinks, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and view life from His perspective. This life can be hard, but God has given us everything we need to not only survive, but thrive. We can live wise lives, marked by discernment, direction, discipline and discretion. He will keep us on the right path. He will help us make wise decisions. He will protect us from the temptation of this world. He will give us the ability to see life from His perspective. But first we must come to the realization that we need what He has. We must desire His  understanding, knowledge, insight and wisdom more than anything else in the world. Then we must seek after it diligently, eagerly, and regularly.

When it comes to living life, all of us have a terrible sense of direction. But God has made the path clear. His own Son has walked on ahead of us blazing an unmistakable trail to follow. We have the Word of God to light our way and the Spirit of God to empower us for the journey. We have the testimonies of countless saints who have gone before us, assuring us of that God’s way is indeed the only way. We have the warnings of Proverbs to remind us that the world’s way is the wrong way. It may look promising, even pleasurable, but it’s a dead end – literally. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

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