The Kernel of the Book of Proverbs
Dear New Covenant Family,
On the list of best-known verses in Proverbs, surely these are near the top:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Many people are willing to give God a try; but few people are willing to give God their trust.
We like to approach God the way I approach entering into Lake Michigan—I stick my toes in to see how it feels before I’ll commit to diving in.
Don’t we often treat God the same? “If I start to feel better—if my marriage starts to improve—if my financial situation changes—then I’ll give God my trust.” In essence, we’re saying “I’ll worship you, God, if you prove to me you’re worth it.”
Trusting God contains no ifs. This golden nugget from Proverbs urges us to trust him entirely, exclusively, and exhaustively. And it also searches our hearts and exposes three reasons so many people are willing to give God a try, but will not give him their trust.
We Have Divided Hearts
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” In order for that to take place, we need God to do open heart surgery on us. We don’t want to give God our whole heart. We want to save some room for other affections and other ambitions. But Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters. Only God is unfailingly faithful, and only God deserves our wholehearted trust. To trust in him is to rely on him completely—as the hymn says,
Other refuge have I none,
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me!
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
So let us pray, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).
We Think We Know Better
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” This is hard for us, isn’t it? We like to understand things. We like to get to the bottom of a matter. And it’s not wrong for us to be guided by our understanding—but it is wrong to rely on our own understanding.
Trusting God requires us to worship him and to rest on him even when things don’t make sense. Are you willing to worship him and love him and trust him in any circumstance, even when you don’t understand what he is doing in your life?
When John Newton was watching cancer slowly ravage the life of his beloved wife, he wrote in his journal, “I believe it was about two or three months before her death, when I was walking up and down in the room offering disjointed prayers from a heart torn with distress, that a thought suddenly struck me with unusual force, to this effect— ‘The promises of God must be true; surely the Lord will help me, if I am willing to be helped!’ It occurred to me, that we are often led … from an undue regard of our feelings, to indulge that unprofitable grief which both our duty and our peace require us to resist to the utmost of our power. I instantly said aloud, ‘Lord, I am helpless indeed, in myself, but I hope I am willing, without reserve, that thou shouldest help me.’” Newton testified how from that point on, when he ceased leaning on his own understanding and cast himself completely on the help of the Lord, he was supernaturally enabled to fulfill his duties with great peace throughout the heartbreaking ordeal.
We Think We Can Handle Some Things Without Him
“... In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Sometimes it’s easier for us to trust God in the great crises, but to think we can work out the “minor things” ourselves. Is there any area of your life that you think you can handle without God?
To acknowledge him is to know him personally, to be aware of him, to be mindful of him, and to cultivate fellowship with Him. And he wants us to have that kind of relationship with him in all our ways. God cares about the little details of our lives just as much as he cares about the big problems. He wants us to rely on him in all the normal, mundane responsibilities just as much as we do for the great challenges.
Bruce Waltke translates the verse insightfully: “In all your ways desire his presence, and he will make your paths straight and smooth.”
Only Jesus has completely put this proverb to the test. He trusted God entirely, exclusively, and exhaustively, and that trust led our Savior all the way to the Cross—but it also brought him forth from the grave in resurrection victory! Trusting God like Jesus did will involve a cross and trials, but take heart: He will make your paths straight and smooth.
Follow Jesus: Believe this proverb and give God your wholehearted trust. For as someone has said, “Proverbs 3:5-6 is not untrue, but it’s often untested.”
Oh for grace to trust him more!
Pastor David Sunday