Where Is Your Trust? Part 6: A Promise

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“And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Up until now our verses have dealt with our call and responsibility to trust God. Now, from the last line of this famous passage, there is a promise that “He will make your paths straight.” God is a God of order, not disorder. He has set everything where it should be. Everything has a time and place. He organized the entire cosmos. God is a God of clarity, not confusion. He has plainly laid out the Gospel and revealed Himself in His Word and creation (Romans 1:20). Those who miss Him do not miss Him because He is not clearly revealed, but because they do not clearly see. Being a God of order and clarity, God will not set a path before His people that is too confusing to follow. He will make it clear and straight. So what does it mean that God will make your paths straight? I will give four things I have taken from this promise and what it means for you and me.

1. A Straight Path Is A Sure Path

If you haven’t already noticed, when I’m reading the Scriptures I really like to break things apart. I can’t help it. This is the reason why I struggle with the “read the Bible in a year” programs. It is not because I have a hard time reading the Bible. It is because I have a hard time reading enough of it in one sitting to make it through in a year. I have this urge to stop and analyze every word and phrase. To be honest, I wouldn’t change that for the world. The Bible says man lives on EVERY word that comes from the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matt. 4:4). I hunger to know EVERY word and I hope that all of you will catch that same hunger with me. Though not every translation uses this same exact wording, I believe the idea is the same. There is a combination of words here that stood out to me: “He will make your paths straight.” When thinking through these words I couldn’t help getting the image of a wanderer who does not know where he is going. He is neither here nor there. He is following many paths based on whatever seems right and enjoyable to him at the time. He places his trust in the Lord and begins walking in faith. Then God works in his life and gives him one clear path, direction, and purpose.

A straight path is a sure path because those who trust wholly in the Lord will always know what is being asked of them. We don’t know what all lays ahead on the path, but we know what path we are on. We have identity, purpose, and direction. No longer are we wandering through life, but we are following a clear path.

2. A Straight Path Is Not Always An Easy Path

Some people will make misleading claims from this Scripture. One is to say that God will reward you with an easy and unchallenged life. We know that is not true from the very testimony of Scripture. Paul trusted in the Lord, yet no one can deny he had a very hard and challenging road. James tells believers, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when (not if) you encounter various trials (James 1:2, parenthesis mine).” Hardship in life is a given. Hardship in life as a follower of Jesus Christ is a promise (John 15:20). “Straight” and “easy” are not the same. God has given me a very straight path, but easy is not a word I would ever think of to describe it. Sometimes the path is downright agonizing. Sometimes the path leaves us wondering if we can even go another step. The promise is not an easy path, but a clear path.

3. A Straight Path Means God Is In Control

This one might be harder to swallow than the fact of suffering. Because, if you’re like me, it’s a lot easier to accept your suffering if you chose it than if it was chosen for you. The verse says God will make your paths straight. That means God is the one moving the path, not you. That means that during your journey of walking in trust and obedience, when you cross through suffering, in the wonderfully complex thing we call the sovereignty of God, it is His plan that you are there. This hits home for me. Yesterday was one of the hardest days my wife and I have ever experienced. Our adopted son experienced one of his all day rage episodes, the worst one he has had. Raising children is hard enough. When one of those children had almost every drug imaginable in his system while he was in the womb, it is indescribably overwhelming. How do we deal with that? And how is it suppose to encourage us that this is actually God’s will? It should encourage because it is God’s will. The times of suffering and joy that we pass through in this life are not just random, meaningless products of chance. All the pain we walk through. All the happiness we experience. It is all a part of God’s mysterious plan. That means it is all heading somewhere. I don’t know all the answers or all the reasons why, but I know the same God who has planned for my family to walk through these trying times also has planned the end of my life’s story, and somehow all of the joy and pain I go through in this life is taking me there (2 Corinthians 4:16). That leads me to the last thing.

4. A Straight Path Has A Clear Destination

“we have no fixed residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to place, or whenever any change happens to us, let us think of what the Apostle teaches us here, that we have no certain abode on earth, for heaven is our inheritance; and when more and more tried, let us ever prepare ourselves for our last end; for they who enjoy a very quiet life commonly imagine that they have a rest in this world: it is hence profitable for us, who are prone to this kind of sloth, to be often tossed here and there, that we who are too much inclined to look on things below, may learn to turn our eyes up to heaven.”
– John Calvin (on Hebrews 13:14)

If there is one thing that I can say my experience with my son has done, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is that I think often about heaven, about my true home, and with a kind of longing that I cannot explain to you. I cannot imagine the kind of hopelessness I would feel if all the situations in my life are to just end with me dying and ceasing to be. Or if it was all to end with me dying and being separated from God, the source of all hope and joy. But I know how this thing ends. I don’t know what all is going to happen on the way there, but I know where it ends. I know there is coming a day, already set in heaven, when I will depart this broken reality, when my work here is through, and I will finally be home in the presence of my God, living peacefully in the midst of His eternal glory. That is the end game. So because I have a sure path that God is in control of, even though it is not always easy, I have concrete assurance of where it all leads no matter what I walk through on the way there. And this is exactly why I can take each step along the path. This promise is given to all of us if we would simply place our faith and trust in Jesus. So, in conclusion to this series, I would like to urge you to:

“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 your paths straight.”

My Day of Desperation (A Story From Jonah 1)

Desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. The fleeting last moments of your life bring alot of focus and clarity. I can personally attest to that. My day of desperation came recently and unexpectedly. It was very chaotic. Everybody was panicking. That day we all thought we were going to die.

When we left Joppa the weather seemed fair. The route to Tarshish was one we had taken many times. I worked on the boat, usually doing the inspections and making sure everything was in working order. I gave the boat a thorough inspection before we shipped off and everything checked out just fine. The only thing that I found strange before we left was one of the passengers. His name was Jonah. He looked nervous and he had a heaviness about him. He couldn’t get down into the bottom of the boat fast enough. It was like he was trying to find the darkest corner possible. I could tell he was running. At the time, I didn’t know why or from whom. It wouldn’t be long until I found out.

I don’t remember exactly how far from Joppa we traveled before the storm came, but we were far enough out to be at the mercy of the sea. It came suddenly and behaved strangely, not like any storm I had ever been through. The clouds were different. They had a peculiar and glorious kind of darkness. The waves began to overpower the ship and we were going to be thrown into the sea.

We all worshipped different gods and we put them all to the test that day, crying out for salvation. All of us, that is, except Jonah. I suppose he was testing his god too, just in a very different way. We were all running around in frantic madness, praying prayers, and trying to throw off unnecessary weight to keep the boat from sinking. Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the boat. Looking back on everything, maybe Jonah wasn’t bothered by the storm because he was afraid of something bigger. The captain was beside himself when he found Jonah down there. He woke him up in a hurry and begged him to cry out to his god because no one else’s god was answering.

The ship couldn’t take another hit and we were at the peak of our desperation. We are a superstitious bunch and we knew this was more than just a natural storm. If no one’s god would save us then one of them must be angry. The other sailors and I decided to cast lots to see who was to blame for all this. That is how we determine things around here. The lot fell on Jonah. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, he was the one acting a little strange. We all started bombarding him with questions. His answer drove us even deeper into our desperation and fear. He said, “I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and dry land.”

That was bad news. Some of us knew more than others. But we all had heard enough to know that you don’t want to be around when the God of the Hebrews gets angry. Jonah told us he was running from his god. He was supposed to go to Nineveh and warn the people of the Lord’s judgment against their wickedness. Instead, he is on our boat fleeing to Tarshish. He told us the only way to stop the storm was to throw him overboard.

What could we do? I, for one, did not want to be responsible for the loss of a man’s life, but the God of the Hebrews is relentless! He does not stop! As deep as our desperation was, the most desperate thing we did that day was to try to save Jonah’s life. At that point the boat could have been blown apart by the waves at any moment and every second we wasted was an opportunity to lose our own lives, but we were not killers. We grabbed our oars and rowed as hard as we could to escape the storm, but Jonah’s God had already proven He cannot be outrun. We failed and there was no more time to waste. We were all going to die trying to save a guilty man’s life.

We cried out to Jonah’s God the best we knew how. It was His intention to toss Jonah into the sea and there was nothing we could do about it so we begged Him not to judge us for our actions. There at the peak of our desperation, with the rage of the Hebrew God thundering down on us, we had to act. We dropped our oars, grabbed Jonah, and tossed him to the sea. He left our hands as we gave him over to the God he rejected. Before Jonah’s body even touched the water’s surface the clouds dispersed, the sea ceased from its raging, and the winds calmed to a gentle breeze.

I can’t explain the feeling I had in the aftermath. Of course, there was fear. But there was also an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. Since that day I have worshipped the God of the Hebrews. He was the only god who answered. I don’t know what happened to Jonah. Perhaps the Lord saved him. Maybe He didn’t. But today I’ve been hearing talk of some kind of revival in Nineveh. Those wicked people are turning to the Lord.

I will always remember what I have learned through it all. The God of the Hebrews, now my God too, is faithful. He is faithful in wrath and judgment, but also in grace and mercy.

As I said, desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. That day’s desperation quickened my spirit to the God of the Hebrews.