SKILLFUL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Last Friday evening at our Valentine’s banquet, I showed some pictures of people doing some foolish things and it drew a lot of laughs! Let’s look at them again. What is the problem in all those pictures? Sometimes people are using the wrong tools for the job, sometimes they have the right tools but they are locked up, sometimes they are being reckless in the face of hazardous materials, or sometimes they are overestimating their abilities or misjudging their obstacles. All of this reflects lack of skills and sense of discernment. So also, in life, people lack the right skills and a sense of discernment, and they make foolish and costly decisions. Skillful living comes when we turn to God for wisdom and guidance. More specifically, true wisdom is Christ. When he becomes our life, we begin to live skillfully. For the next few weeks, we will be in a brief series through Proverbs titled “SKILLFUL” (also the title of today’s message). The goal of this series is to help us live life skillfully.
Proverbs 3 5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Question: Who do you lean on for understanding in life? Self, friends, family, or God. Are you living your life skillfully? Is Christ truly at the center and focus of your life?
Background: When it comes to the Book of Proverbs, people typically have a low view of it compared to other books like Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the New Testament books. This is a huge mistake. In Jeremiah 18:18, we find an ancient saying that reveals to us the various ways that God spoke to His people. It goes like this—“… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” The context of this passage is negative but the implication is still valid. It is this: God considers the counsel from the wise (proverbs) to be on the same level as the law from the priest and the word from the prophet. In other words, Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom are the 3 different ways that God spoke to his people. Proverbs are not secondary or optional. They are just as important for our spiritual growth. In fact, Billy Graham used to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day. He said that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, one for every day of the month. I encourage you to do the same and get your children to read a chapter of Proverbs every day.
Back to the passage we just read—Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Before we go any further, this goes completely contrary to what the world says—“Trust your heart.” Amazing how the Enemy has stolen some key words from this verse! As a result, we have made the heart the object rather than the means to the real object who is God. Trusting your own heart is like the guy who attached the safety harness to himself! But it’s worse than that—Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” Jesus said inMatthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Are you trusting your heart?
Let’s look at this verse carefully: The Hebrew word trust is “bethath,” which means “to lie helplessly, face down.” It is a picture of a servant patiently waiting on his master’s command. Trusting in the Lord is not “I’m hoping things will work out”, “I’m trying to hang in there,” “I’m trying to be strong or positive,” “I’ve been going to church and reading the Bible every day,” “It is what it is. I cannot control what happens. The man upstairs is in charge,” or “I’ve given up.” Trusting in the Lord is about developing a deep personal relationship with God.How do you develop a deep personal relationship with God? How do you develop a deep personal relationship with any person? Listening and Talking to them. Isn’t that what dating is all about? Same with God. You listen to his voice by reading his Word. You talk to him by praying to him. This does not happen automatically. You have to work at it and invest time in it. Unless you receive Jesus as your Savior and King, your relationship with God will only remain superficial.
The proverb emphasizes that this trust has to be “with all your heart.” There is no place for half-hearted, wishy-washy, quick waiting before God. In fact, if you are wise, you will wait on your face before God for as long as it takes. The longer you look at God through the eyes of faith, the more you will get to know him in a deeper and more personal way; you will begin to understand how he thinks and how he feels; and, you will begin to understand how much he loves and cares for you. Please don’t misunderstand: Waiting before God does not mean inactivity. It is not sitting there just staring at God. We’ll come to that in a moment. For now, just remember that “trusting in the Lord” means developing a deep personal relationship with him.
Application: Do you have a deep personal relationship with God?
Listen again, Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Unfortunately, instead of lying on our face before God, we tend to lean on our own understanding. What falls in this category of “understanding?” Our upbringing, our experiences, our education, our impulses, etc. You have to be willing to lay all of them aside if they don’t line up with the Word of God. In the Bible we see many examples of such “understandings”:
- Abraham did this when there was a famine in the land and they had to flee to Egypt. In a moment of fear, he told Sarah to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. What a colossal mistake. Pharaoh was about to take her to be his wife!
- Joshua did this when he decided to send a measly two to three thousand men to go up and attack the city of Ai. In a moment of self-confidence over Jericho, he failed to consult the Lord if there was sin in the camp.
- Peter did this when he decided to follow Jesus on the night he was betrayed and ended up denying him three times. In a moment of fake loyalty, he failed to obey his Master who had told him to watch and pray.
Let me give you some positive examples:
- Job faced the worst trials anyone other than Christ faced and yet he said Job 13:15“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
- Ruth refused to go back to her people and chose to follow Naomi to Israel.
Application: Are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart? Are you leaning on your own understanding and insights?
Now, verse 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” The Hebrew word “yada” can be translated admit, confess, acknowledge, and recognize. In other words, in all your daily happenings give God credit for everything. Lift him up. Glorify him. Use every opportunity to magnify his name. It also means check to make sure that he is still with you. Don’t drop him and run ahead. Stay right behind him. No matter what that step is (a job, a date, a venture, an opportunity), say a simple quick prayer, “Your will be done God, not mine.”
Application: Do you do that? Do you constantly glorify God no matter what’s happening? Do you constantly glance up to make sure that he is still ahead of you and you haven’t wandered off? Do you pray “Your will be done, not mine” daily?
What is the promise if you do that? 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The actual word here is “yashar,” which means smooth, straight, and right. The idea is that God will help remove the obstacles from your path as you follow him. It does not mean that there will be no obstacles. Only that, he will remove them for you. Isn’t that awesome! Now you can live skillfully as you follow Christ.
Personal Illustration: My parents taught me growing up to always acknowledge God and to keep him first in everything. This did not make life easy. I had many obstacles in my life. I remember the Christmas of 1993 being stuck at an exit waiting for my brother to come get me. The weather is freezing cold. I wrapped myself inside a telephone booth to keep myself warm. I made a promise to God then and there that my life belongs to him from here on. It hasn’t been problem free but God has made the path clear for me. I give him the glory.
Invitation: What is your testimony? Is Christ the center of your life? Do you have a deep personal relationship with him? Do you acknowledge him in all your ways? Are you saved?