Lean Not On Your Own Understanding – Part 2
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
There it was. Up on the wall of a local coffee shop alongside other inspiring quotes written on cool looking pieces of wood pallet art.
Of course, on the surface, this sounds right. It sounds true.
At least according to our culture.
I can just imagine the lines of people who visit this coffee shop each day looking up as they wait for their latte or fresh brew, reading this quote and thinking to themselves,
“That is it. I just need to trust myself more and then I will know how to live. Yea, that seems right. That must be the solution. I need to trust myself more!”
But there is a problem.
The problem with this line of thinking, as assuring as it may sound, is that it is, well, insane.
Quite literally, according to Scripture, this is crazy talk.
It is not in tune with reality.
Trusting ourselves, leaning on our own understanding, leads nowhere good.
In his excellent article, “The Insanity of Leaning on our own Understanding,” Jon Bloom writes,
“So many of the things that cause us the most difficulty and heartache in life, the source of so much of our anxiety, fear, doubt, and anger with others and with God, is the result of leaning on our own understanding…In exercising faith — trusting fully in the Lord and not leaning on our own understanding — we’re not setting aside our intellect. We’re resting our intellect upon the intellect of God. Nothing is wiser or saner. To do so is to allow him to direct our paths, which not only lead to ultimate joy, but also make the journey itself, even when laden with sorrow, joyful. And it preserves for us all the pleasures God provides us in the world. To not do this is the height of foolishness and the path to misery.”
This is precisely what God tells us in His Word. In fact, there may be no clearer passage that speaks to this than Proverbs 3:5-6, which reads,
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.
In Part 1 we spent our time looking at verse 5. Let’s now consider verse 6 for a few moments.
To begin, the word “acknowledge” comes from a simple Hebrew term – “yada” - that means, “to know.” It is also used in 1 Chronicles 28:9, when David encourages Solomon to “know (yada) the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind.”
This kind of “knowing” is personal and experiential. It is relational. It’s not simply “knowing facts” in your head about God. It is actually “knowing” the living God intimately.
Knowing Him in personal relationship.
Knowing His values, His priorities, His convictions, His desires.
Knowing what He loves and knowing what He hates.
Knowing His heart and mind intimately that He might conform your heart and mind to His.
This is the heart of being a true disciple. Knowing God, acknowledging God constantly in your life as you walk with Him day by day.
I love what Dallas Willard says about this. He writes,
“Discipleship means learning to acknowledge God in all we do—and it takes a lot of learning. You actually never get done learning because you are always learning, and increasingly you are able to acknowledge him in all of your ways. You are able to do everything you do in word or deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you do that, among other things, your fear and anxiety disappear because you aren't out there on the limb by yourself. You are actually watching God in action in your life.”
I love that. You are watching God in action in your life. And for the disciple of Jesus, this watching leads to obeying. Joyfully obeying God as you walk with Him step by step, moment by moment in your life.
This is what Solomon means when he says, “In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”
Now, notice this phrase, “your paths.” What's cool about this phrase is that it is speaking of the particular paths God calls each of us as individuals to walk on. Our particular “paths” will be different because God has made each of us unique and He has unique plans for each of us.
But, regardless of the particular paths God calls us to journey on, we are all instructed to “acknowledge the Lord” completely wherever He leads. No matter what path comes our way.
The easy paths and the difficult ones.
Paths that take us to the peaks of laughter and celebration, as well as the paths that take us into the valleys of mourning and despair.
What Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us is that whatever paths the Lord leads us on, He is with us and we can trust Him. More than that, as we look to Him, as we acknowledge Him, He will direct our steps. He will guide us. He will make our paths straight.
You see, this last phrase in verse 6 is God's promise to us. As we trust the Lord instead of our own perspectives and opinions, He promises to "make our paths straight."
The word picture here alludes to the ancient practice of highway building. If you can imagine, in the ancient world they would clear any obstacles that were in the way. They would cut through interfering rock, they would level the hillside, they would quite literally cut straight pathways into the sides of mountains.
As we deepen our trust of God and as we acknowledge Him day by day, He will clear the way and help us successfully follow the straight pathways he has “cut out” for us.
He will make straight our paths!
Even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.
“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.”
The Lord desires for you and I to trust Him in all our ways.
To know Him and acknowledge Him with every step we take.
He desires to make straight our paths today and everyday that we have left on this earth.
This is the love of God.