Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Do You Do When You Do Not Know What To Do

 Happy Sabbath dear brothers and sisters….Allow me to divert your mind as we focus for few minutes on our individual spiritual journey, one full of temptations and uncertainty. 
Let me begin this morning by asking you the question that you probably have asked yourself before. “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?”  As we consider this question and its implications to our daily spiritual life, let me recommend to you a passage from Proverbs 3:5-6.
Before we read the passage together, let me say few things about the book itself (thoughts from NKJ Bible study notes & Proverbs historical background notes).

An Introduction to the Book of Proverbs
The sayings in this book of wisdom were chiefly written or collected by King Solomon and were composed either from his own experiences or observations of Hebrew life. They contain concrete, verifiable incidents of Jewish existence in the land of Palestine in the 10th century BC. Granted to Him by God as a result of his request, Solomon’s wisdom was unsurpassed, acclaimed by men of all nations (1 Ki. 3:2-15; 4:29-34).
I. Definition of a proverb
Content -The proverb was designed to teach truth in a concentrated form. Proverbs are idioms, distinctive in style, that uniquely reflect the heart and life of the Jewish people. Proverbs (comparisons) are written in units (usually of two), the second segment either clarifying or contrasting (the first. They are self-explanatory and self-illustrative.
Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land (25:25).
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding (3:5).
Author Objective- Behind each proverb lay a philosophy of life, steeped in pragmatism, giving it powerful influence in the life of a believer. The proverbs were designed to:
1. Arrest the reader’s attention [listen]
2. Awaken responsive thought [think]
3. Adhere to the memory [remember]
4. Apply to life [practice]
II. Purpose of the Book of Proverbs
Overall objective- The book of Proverbs is a textbook for the classroom of life. While Psalms stresses a walk before God, the emphasis of Proverbs is on a walk before others. The book of James is the Proverbs of the New Testament. The proverbs were maxims of wisdom, concise and easily memorized containing both moral and ethical teaching. Proverbs is charged with action; warnings and advice are widespread.
Antithetical topics: The dynamics of the book are manifest by the author’s selection of oppositional subjects such as life/death, wisdom/foolishness, defining the ideal by decrying its opposite. Key words are “path” or “way.”
Behavioral consequences: The correlation of specific behavior to its consequences is a vital teaching technique in the Book of Proverbs. By this cause and effect portrayal, the reader is spurred to action by either the promise of blessing or the warning of imminent peril. The book was written to provide guidance for leading wise, godly lives and avoiding the pitfalls of unwise, ungodly conduct.
Together lets read again Proverbs 3:5-6 as we attempt to find -What do you do when you simply do not know what to do about any situation and/or decision.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[
a] your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,[
And strength[
c] to your bones.

How many here have ever seen the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”? George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) wonders if his life really matters. He feels like a failure. In his sacrifice for others he has not attained his dreams. At his point of crisis he meets up with an angel named Francis. In the end, George Bailey gets a delightful revelation of how God has been working all along and used his life in a marvelous way.

The lesson George Bailey learned is found in our text this morning: Prov. 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” NIV

I have found those verses particularly helpful in two kinds of life experiences. Sometimes life becomes so daily (so predictable and routine) that it gets hard to see the point of it all. In those times of extended boredom I am reminded of the old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and of Prov. 3:5-6. Maybe more is happening than I think. Maybe it all matters more than it seems.

And then at the other end of the spectrum are those times of crisis when there seems to be no right answer for the situation. “If I do this, that will go wrong. If I do that, then this will go wrong.” And I don’t know what to do. 
That’s why I have given this message the extended title, “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do”. The truths taught here apply to every day of our lives. Solomon is setting before us a good way to live every day. But for those times when I simply don’t know what to do, the simplicity of this passage is the bedrock advice I need. If I can’t do anything else I can do this. Here are some steps to take when you do not know what to do. These steps can help you to do something about the tough situation of your life.  
I. Trust in the LORD with all your heart.
Self-sufficiency and self-dependence have been the ruin of mankind ever since the fall of Adam.  The grand sin of the human race is their continual endeavor to live independently of God.
Repeat after me “If I trust in myself I am a fool”.
In 1981 the Ladies Home Journal asked the question, “In whom do you trust?” The sad answer that came back was this: 40% Walter Cronkite, 26% Pope John Paul, 6% Billy Graham, and only 3% God.[1] 

The text is very specific about where our trust must lie. “Trust in the LORD”. 
Try calling out on Walter Cronkite when you get into trouble and see how much help you get. 
Those who trust in the Lord acknowledge that:
1.     God is the fountain of all good
2.     He has made all intelligent creatures depend on upon himself
3.     He requires them to be conscious of that dependence
4.     He has promised to communicate what they need
5.     He commands them to believe his promises, and look for its fulfillment
6.     And to do this without doubt, fear or distrust: “with their whole heart”
Is God trustworthy? Is God reliable? Is it a reasonable, prudent risk to trust a God you cannot see with your natural eyes? For those of us here this morning our immediate response would be, “Of course.” There is a knowing that is even more reliable than the five natural senses. The evidence of God is overwhelming. All of creation shouts His existence and the Holy Spirit has revealed Him to our hearts. We can say God is indeed trustworthy. 

But there is the possibility that our answer is only theoretical, only theological, only intellectual. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” That speaks to our innermost being. From the core of who I am, do I trust Him—do I rely upon Him?

The measurement of my trust in God is not found in my theological answers but in the way I live each day of my life, in the way I relate to other people, in every decision I make and every action I take [2]—decisions to tell the truth when I am tempted to lie, decisions to give money when I am tempted to keep it for myself, decisions to forgive offenses when something in me would like to retaliate.
(1) The Person behind those promises.
Examples---I have a friend here in town that fell into hard times several years ago. He lost everything because of a sudden change in the economy. By all legal standards he had every right to declare bankruptcy and not pay a number of his debts. He did not feel that was the right thing to do so he and his wife worked out the money and paid the debts. That man is a doing well today. His promise to pay is valuable and trustworthy because of the kind of person he is. I can trust a person like that with finances.

The foundational basis for my trust in the Lord is knowing what kind of person He is. The more I know Him the more I know I can indeed trust Him.[3] Is He a fair weather friend? Is He one that is there when it’s to his advantage but gone when the going gets rough. No, I have found Him to be One who will never, no never leave me nor forsake me. 
To trust the Lord means I lean upon Him; I rely upon Him; I commit the whole weight of all I am and all I need to His care. “Casting all your care on Him”, as Peter says,” for He cares for you.”[4] 

When life get real, real crazy—when nothing makes sense, that’s when I most need to trust the Person—His character, His integrity, His divine attributes. 

There are times in life when God seems so near—times when everything we believe seems to work. We pray for the sick and they get healed. We ask God to save Grandpa and Grandpa gets saved. We pull into the Wal Mart parking lot praying for a good parking space and low and behold there it is. Those are fun times. 

But has anyone discovered that this is one experience in your walk with God and there are some others?

There are also times when nothing seems to work. It feels like God is a million miles away busy with something or someone else. You pray for the sick and they seem to get sicker. You pray for Grandpa and there’s no doubt about it, he got meaner. Nothing is making sense. You are stripped down to one thing—trust—trust in God’s character. When you’re in that kind of trial, remember the basics that: God is just. God is good. God is merciful. God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him[5]. The bedrock of a faith walk is God—just God, just relying upon who He is. He will not change on you. He is the same yesterday (when everything seemed to be working) and today (when maybe everything doesn’t seem to be working) and tomorrow (when the circumstances will be different again). There are a variety of season in a journey with God. Sometimes its Springtime, sometimes its Summer, sometimes it Fall, Sometimes it Winter. But God is over it all and reliable through it all.

(2) Trust His Purposes for you.
He has set His love on You. His thoughts toward you are good and not evil to give you a hope and a future. Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose) must be read with Rom 8:29 (For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.) NKJV God is at work in your life fulfilling His good purpose. What is that purpose? To conform you to the image of His Son, to make you and me like Jesus. He is always working. He is working all things (all these experiences) together for our good. What good? To conform us to the image of His Son. You can trust His purpose for you. It is nobler, more worthwhile than anything we could imagine.
(3) Trust His Plan as well.
The fulfillment of the purpose is already planned out. “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.”[6] God has a plan for you. God has a great and glorious plan for you. God has great things to accomplish through you. 

Eph 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” NIV

If we will just get up every day and obey God for that day, His plan will get accomplished. We don’t have to know the whole plan. If fact, sometimes if we know even some of it we start taking it into our own hands and trying to fulfill it in our own strength. Usually we are better off just knowing what we need to know now in order to obey. We don’t need to evaluate His plan. We just need to walk in it each day, one day at a time. There are many things about life and ministry I’m really glad I did not know 30 years ago. It was best to just take it as it came.

Trusting God is like skydiving. I will either trust the parachute enough to jump out of the plane or I won’t. If I stand on the edge of the plane talking about various theories of gravity and aerodynamics but never jump, I’m not a skydiver.[7] My faith is shown by my action. Am I willing to relinquish control and obey God and trust Him to make it all work? There is a decision required in our text—a decision to rely upon God enough to do what He says to do. Trust is a commitment to the One being trusted. 

II. Lean not in your own understanding.
Repeat after me-“God always has the best plan”
When we trust God we will begin, continue every work, purpose, and device with God”.
The command to trust the Lord is reinforced by the command to not trust our own understanding. The choice between one or the other is a common one—common because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.[8] The principles we learn in the world are often the exact opposite of those in God’s kingdom. Someone slaps me on the cheek. My understanding tells me—if I slap him back harder my problem will be solved. But what does Jesus say to do?—turn the other cheek, trust God to defend you. As one commercial says, “That ain’t natural.” I have to have enough faith in God to do it His way, trusting Him to defend me if I indeed need defending.

The world has its way of achieving greatness. The disciples were fussing and fighting with one another, trying to be greater than the other. Jesus’ way to greatness was the exact opposite of what their understanding was telling them. They thought you raced for the upper seat and climbed the ladder to success. But Jesus said, if you really want to be great become the servant of others. Now we have a life decision. How will I pursue greatness? Will I lean upon my own understanding and pursue it the way the world does? Or will I trust the wisdom of the Lord and pursue it His way.

And when I find that His way takes longer than the world’s way will I keep doing it His way. And when it doesn’t seem to be working will I keep doing it His way anyway.

Abraham is a great example of one who trusted God. In fact, he is known as the father of faith. When God told him to leave Ur of Chaldees he obeyed not knowing where that obedience would take him.[9] His finest hour was when God told him to do something that was radically contrary to his own understanding. All the promises God had given Abraham were to be fulfilled through Isaac. Yet God told Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice to Him. What did Abraham do? He obeyed knowing God was able to resurrect Isaac and fulfill His promises. If Abraham had leaned on his own understanding he would have never passed that test.[10]

But there were some test Abraham failed along the way. When a famine came his understanding told him to solve the problem by going to Egypt. That just got him into another situation where his own understanding told him to lie about Sarah being his wife. Were it not for God’s grace in that situation Abraham would not be called the father of faith today.[11] Abraham and Sarah leaned upon their own understanding in the conception of Ishmael and there have been problems ever since.[12] Do not think that you and I are above such failures. We have to remember this exhortation, especially when our faith is being tested.  Yes…Lean not in your own understanding.

Events will come into our lives that naturally cause us to ask why? Why is this happening? Why is it happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Why isn’t this working the way it worked for so and so? Why, Why, Why? God is not nervous about such questions. Neither is He offended. But often His answer is simple, “Lean not upon your own understanding.” As strange as it may sound, often the answer to why is “trust.” “The just shall live by faith.”[13]. We’re not smart enough to live any other way. The only time we’re outsmarting the devil is when we simply trust and obey. 

A Wycliff Bible Translator named Bernie May shares the following experience, "As an airplane pilot, from the first time I sat in the beginner’s seat beside my instructor I was taught to ’trust’ my instruments. ’Your instincts will fool you,’ my instructor rightly told me. ’You must learn that even though you may feel you are flying south, if your compass says you are flying east, you’d better believe it.’ 

Often when a plane is surrounded by swirling mist and being buffeted by strong winds, you may feel you are in a dive and be tempted to pull back on the controls. But if your instruments say you are flying level - or even climbing - you’d better believe them. To pull back on the controls might put you into a steep climb, which would cause the plane to stall, drop off in a spin, and leave you out of control."[14] 

That’s a good illustration of what it feels like to trust God. Sometimes circumstance or our own emotions are telling us we must do this or that. But those are the times to trust God just as the pilot trusts his instruments. Is there anything going on in your life that requires that kind of trust right now. Is there anything you would in the natural panic over but deep in your innermost being you hear the Lord say, “Fear not”?

When we rely upon the Lord we don’t always know what He will do about the situation. I remember how many times God has intervened in my life…one time the Spirit of God persuaded me to go for job interview that I didn’t think I needed, and didn’t apply for.  The woman who had called me insisted that I go to their office and feel an application and discuss with them possible future opportunities. Finally I yielded, went to the office, filled an application, and discussed areas of interest. In a week I was called for interview, made excuses not to go and finally ended up having phone interview. Three days later I had job offer that surprised me!  The same week my current employer handed termination letters to everyone in the office…something that no one saw it coming. The Lord knew! He had a solution before I knew that there was a problem.
Trust means, “God you can handle situation we know and those unknown to us anyway You wants to”.

III. In all your ways acknowledge Him.
This trust thing is not just apathy or passivity. We stand ready to do His bidding. We live in constant recognition of His presence and His involvement.
Repeat after me… “I am aware of God’s involvement in my life”
The three Hebrew children were brought before Nebuchadnezzar and ordered to worship the golden image. They were not expecting to deliver themselves but they also knew they were not ultimately at the mercy of Nebuchadnezzar. They acknowledged and counted on God’s involvement.
Daniel 3:16-18 “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." NIV 

Live with an awareness of God’s involvement in your life. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He leads me...” What an awesome comfort it is to know God is with me. He’s with me when things are going my way but He is also with me when things are not going my way. He is with me when I feel Him and He is with me when I don’t feel Him. I can bear rejection or persecution in a loving spirit because One greater than all has loved me and accepted me.

“In all your ways” means in everything you do[15]. If you can’t acknowledge God in it don’t do it. If it’s in a crowd where you can’t acknowledge God either get more boldness or get another crowd.
Listen to Prov. 3:5-7 from The Message, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!”

In I Samuel 30 we find David doing exactly what our text is instructing us to do. Listen as I read from 1 Sam 30:1-8 

0:1David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 

3When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5David’s two wives had been captured-Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. 7Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." NIV

Imagine with me for a moment the shock that David and his men must have felt as they first caught sight of their plundered camp. They have traveling for three days. They are tired, weary from the journey, looking forward to seeing their families and getting some

much needed rest. With great anticipation they approach the camp expecting to see their children running out to greet them and their wives welcome them home.

Instead they see smoke from the smoldering fire left by the Amelakites. Can you imagine how you might feel, guys, if you came home from work and found your neighborhood burned to the ground by your enemy’s or terrorists and your wife and children kidnapped. It was that kind of thing these men were experiencing. For David, he had the added sorrow of all his most trusted friends turning on him and wanting to stone him. It was a bad day.

What is so outstanding is the way David inquires of the Lord. He doesn’t just rush off to do what he would naturally think needs to be done. He doesn’t get bitter at God. He doesn’t spend a lot of time asking God the why questions. He simple acknowledges the Lord by asking Him what He wants him to do about it. Prayer is an important part of acknowledging the Lord—prayers of petitions, prayers of intercession, prayers of thanksgiving. Phil 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” NIV

Live a life recognizing that no matter what it may look like—God sits in the heavens. He rules it all and nothing gets by Him. There’s nothing He can’t do and there’s nothing He can’t fix. There is no problem too big or too little for Him to solve. There is a confidence available to us if we will acknowledge Him in all we do.
God makes a promise at the close of our text. If we will trust Him rather than relying upon our own understanding, if we will acknowledge Him in all our ways He promises to make our paths straight. What does that mean? It means He will go before you and prepare the way[16]. When I drive down an interstate highway someone has gone before me and prepared that road. I can travel down it safely because of the hard work someone has done in my behalf. Young people, adults and elders, God is busy everyday preparing and making our path straight.  “The way of the transgressor is hard[17].” It is full of obstacles and crooked turns. But for the person who puts his trust in the Lord there is a highway of grace to travel upon. God will make for you and me a way where there seemed to be no way. 

Do not underestimate what God is doing for you today. 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Note: This sermon was preached on December 22, 2012 by Pr Caleb Migombo on youth day at Umoja S.D.A Church, Raleigh NC USA.

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