Lean Not On Your Own Understanding – Part 1
Earlier today I was reading my wife’s Caring Bridge update on our son, Eli. I was struck by something she wrote. In her post, she shared the lyrics to one of her favorite hymns, “His eye is on the Sparrow.” Verse 2 of the hymn jumped out at me...
“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path he leadeth But one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, And I know he watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, And I know he watches me.
When I really soak in these words for a few moments, I cannot help but be moved by the wonderful reality of the tender, providential care of God. Just as our Lord watches over the sparrow with deep love and concern, so He watches over you and me. And just as a tiny sparrow can fully trust the Lord to provide for its every need, so you and I can trust Him as well.
No matter what happens in this life.
When cancer comes.
When a parent dies.
When a job is lost.
When a child is sick.
When the darkness of depression will not lift.
When regret is all-consuming.
When the reality of death stares you in the face.
What do you trust in? Who do you trust in?
For many of us, we take our cues from the world around us on this one. We put our trust in whatever or whoever everyone else is putting their trust in. We do so blindly.
Most often, of course, we put our ultimate trust in ourselves. In what we think. What we desire. What we feel is best. We do so foolishly.
Let’s consider a better way.
This better way is the wisdom that comes from trusting not in ourselves, and not in the patterns of this world, but in the Lord and His ways.
Trusting God is a much, much better way.
However, trusting God, really trusting God, can be a scary and dangerous thing. It means letting go of control. And if you are like me, I’m not a big fan of letting go of control.
Trusting God means taking Him at His Word. It means jumping when He says jump and waiting when He says wait.
It means turning when He says turn and bravely moving forward into an unknown future when He calls us to move.
It means, “Not my will but Yours be done, Oh Lord.”
This kind of trust is quite foreign to the sensibilities of safe, lukewarm “Christianity.” In fact, to many, it seems foolish.
Welcome to Biblical Christianity.
Welcome to the life of true discipleship.
Welcome to the life Jesus died for you to live.
An uncomfortable, dangerous, counter-cultural, purposeful, joy-filled, sacrificial, God-glorifying LIFE!
Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6 writes this,
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
You will notice four important verbs in these two verses. Four verbs that help us to understand what Solomon desires to communicate to us about living with radical faith in God. These are four verbs that are essential for those who want to live lives marked by Godly wisdom. The words are:
Let's look at each of these verbs one at a time beginning with “trust.” Imagine that someone were to hang out with you and shadow you for the next week. If at the end of the week I asked them who or what you most trust in, what would they say?
I’ve been thinking about this lately for my own life. In the face of our son’s battle with cancer, I pray God would use this trial to strengthen not only my faith and my family’s faith, but the faith of others as well. The faith of those watching from the outside.
My constant prayer is…
“Lord, do not let me waste my pain in this season. Make me more trusting of you that others might see how good and trustworthy you alone are! Show us the emptiness of life apart from You.
Lead us out of the shallow end of the pool that we might experience the depths of Your love, Your mercy, Your sovereignty, Your power!
Become bigger and bigger and bigger that we might become smaller and smaller and smaller. May You increase that we might decrease. Joy is found there!
Let us not be content with where we are in our walk with You, Oh God. Stir up in our hearts a hunger for Your presence and Your truth! Set us on fire for Your truth!
Cause us to trust in You, to lean on You and not ourselves, not on our own understanding. That even in the face of great tears and sorrow and suffering we might shout out, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord, who gives and takes away. Blessed be His Name!” In all of this, be glorified in us, Oh God, our Redeemer. You are more than trustworthy!"
Solomon tells us in verse 5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Trusting in the Lord involves two actions, or commands, according to this verse. One negative and one positive. The negative is seen in the second part of verse 5, "do not lean on your own understanding." This term “understanding” is so important that in the original Hebrew text, it appears first in the sentence. It reads, "your understanding, do not lean upon."
I’ve heard it said that if you want to spend a day, a week, or a month of your life absolutely miserable, try to work out your problems using only your limited viewpoint, leaning on your own understanding. You will drive yourself nuts.
You won’t find clarity. You will find confusion.
This is particularly true when you find yourself in one of life’s dark valleys.
Verse 5 says, "do not lean on your own understanding." Now this doesn’t mean that we should not investigate and research the facts of a situation or seek out counsel from others. What it means is that ultimately our perspective is limited, and so we must humble ourselves and seek the Lord’s guidance above all else. That at the end of the day we give greater priority to leaning on and trusting in God’s Word and God’s truth than we do our own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
This is the positive command in verse 5, ”Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”
This is what we are to do. We are to trust in the Lord completely. That is what “all your heart” means. With every part of who I am, I will trust in the Lord and His wisdom, His truth, His ways. Not mine.
Let me offer some diagnostic questions (6 of them) that I have personally found helpful in honestly assessing whether or not I am living a life of trust in the Lord. Spend a few minutes meditating on and praying through these questions. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal areas where you need to trust Him more.
Question #1: Do you regularly let the Bible overrule your own thoughts, opinions, and feelings?
Question #2: Do you merely agree with the Bible, or do you obey the Bible?
Remember, it’s one thing for a Christian to agree with what the Bible says. It is quite another to actually obey what the Bible says.
Question #3: What do you do when the Bible contradicts what you want to be true?
If you are trusting in the Lord, leaning not on your own understanding, you will let God’s Word challenge your most cherished thoughts, opinions, and feelings. I say this in love: Don’t fight the Bible, submit to it. Freedom is found there. Don’t try to make the Scriptures say what you want them to say. Come humbly before the Word of God and with an attitude that says, “Oh God, show me Your truth. Conform my heart and mind to You and Your truth. Do not let me conform Your Word to me and my understanding of things. Correct me. Show me where I am wrong. Reveal where my mind has been conformed to the patterns of this world rather than Your Word (Romans 12:2). Fill me with the joy of knowing You and Your truth rightly. Help me to apply it. Help to live it. Help me to walk in the light as You are in the light!”
Question #4: How often do you take risks that appear foolish in the eyes of the world in order to obey Christ?
Question #5: When was the last time you took a risk on your future…socially, financially, professionally, for the sake of Jesus?
Question #6: When was the last time your life looked obviously different from the life of someone who does not trust Jesus at all?
Here’s the deal, if our lives as followers of Jesus never look any different than the lives of unbelievers, there is a real problem.
If the way we talk, the way we spend our time, the stuff we buy, the things we are most passionate about, if these are no different from those who do not know and love Christ, something is wrong.
If the way we suffer is no different from the way unbelievers suffer, what is truly going on in our hearts? Where is our hope, really? Where have we put our trust?
Trusting the Lord entirely, with all our hearts, leads to trusting him exhaustively, across our entire life. Of course, only the Lord can do this work in us and so we must cry out to Him, begging Him to take us over…heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Lord, in all things, by the power of Your Spirit, cause us to lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways may we acknowledge you that you might make our paths straight.
You are more than worthy of all our trust.