Category Archives: Encouragement

Leaning on Your Own Understanding

Last night during our family devotions, we opened up to those famous verses in Proverbs 3. “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,” (vv. 5-6, ESV). As we discussed this, I told my family that for years I completely misunderstood these verses. Taking them out of context, I saw them as verses telling me to trust God. He knows what he is doing even if I don’t. While that sentiment is true (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9), that’s not what these verses mean. I explained to them that in this context, we are talking about God’s wisdom versus our own wisdom, or our own thoughts.

We are to trust God’s wisdom–God’s revealed wisdom in his Word–and distrust our own understanding of our lives. It is God’s Word that is truth and our own hearts that lie to us. This thought took us to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it,” (ESV)? The heart lies to us more than anything else! It is deceitful above all things! If a friend were to lie to us once, we would probably give them a break. We have all lied; maybe he/she thought he/she was in a bind. But what would happen if the lies continued? Would we ever trust anything that friend said?

I know someone personally who is a habitual liar. I’m not even sure if he knows he is. It seems so engrained into his nature to lie. He lies about little things and big things. My family has simply learned not to ever plan on anything he says to come to fruition. We love him dearly, but we don’t believe his words. Yet, think for a moment what Jeremiah told us: the heart is deceitful above all things. That means my heart is even more deceitful and more of a habitual liar than that person I know. That’s saying something there! No wonder Solomon told us not to lean on our own understandings, but to trust God with all our hearts (ironic I know).

That being said. . . This morning I got up to do my morning Bible reading and meditation. As I was reading Deuteronomy 1 for the third time this week, I thought about what Israel had done. Preaching through 1 Corinthians 10 these past few weeks reminded me that Israel and their history was written to serve as an example to the church. In Deuteronomy 1, Moses recounts how Israel had neared the Promised Land forty years prior. They sent out 12 spies, only to have 10 come back and tell them they couldn’t win the land. Only Joshua and Caleb said they could. The people recoiled in fear. They believed man’s wisdom instead of God’s. They believed their own fearful hearts rather than trust God completely. What was the outcome? God would not allow them to enter into the Promised Land. They missed out on the blessings–the land which flowed with milk and honey. Only those who trusted in God, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter forty years later.

How often do we miss the blessings of God because we do not trust in his wisdom, but lean on our own understandings of this life and world we live in. God reveals his truth in his Word and yet we will not believe it because our hearts tell us a different story. Those deceptive, sick, depraved hearts shout against God’s still, small voice. They foolishly rebel against God’s all-powerful, all-knowing wisdom. If it were a person, we’d be living our lives completely oblivious to the heart’s promises, foolishness, and rebel words. But it isn’t a person. It’s our own inner-thoughts, inner-testimony, our own inner-fears, and so we lean upon our own understandings.

The result is the same as Israel’s. Israel missed out on the milk and honey. They missed out on the fruits and vegetables and fattened flocks. Instead, they continued to wander the wilderness with manna and water from the rock. God continued to provide. He did not abandon them, yet the missed out on the straight paths, the blessings and wisdom that were theirs if only they had trusted.

When Solomon brought up that God would make straight our paths, he didn’t necessarily mean that everything would be easy in life. Instead, that which was difficult would be eased because we don’t live by our wisdom, but God’s. When pain came, we could handle it because we would not believe our thoughts on the matter, but God’s. When hardships came, we would focus on God’s wisdom rather than our own. When we faced a cross-roads and needed to know which way to go, God’s wisdom would see us through. How blessed is that!?

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being read to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete,” (10:4-6, ESV; italics mine). Spurgeon wrote about these verses:

[The believer’s] powers of meditation and consideration keep within the circle of truth and holiness, finding green pastures there. Even when thinking about common things, matters that have to do with affairs of this world, he seeks to serve the Lord, for he knows that “every thought,” not some thoughts, is to be humbled into the obedience of Christ. (Spurgeon Study Bible)

One must remember that Spurgeon suffered severely with depression his entire life, and it worsened after people were trampled (seven killed and 28 severely injured) by a wicked calling of “fire!” during his preaching at Surrey Gardens Music Hall. I believe Spurgeon would say that this his words about the matter are the ideal thought-life of the believer, though not the way it always is. If the believer was always living by this standard, he’d be perfect. It is when we live by our own understandings that we sin against God. But the truth is this: the believer, because he/she has Christ, can bring his/her thoughts captive to him. That however means leaning not on our own understandings, but trusting Him.

May we seek to take our thoughts captive to Christ, trust God with all our hearts and lean not on our own understandings. Those bumps and twists and turns will be made straight and smooth as we grow in his wisdom and follow his navigating of our lives.

I Must See Jesus!

I was reminded today about two men in the Bible that did whatever they must in order to see Jesus. One was a blind man who lived in Jericho. A crowd had apparently gathered and was walking to get a glimpse of Jesus. Noting the commotion, blind Bartimaeus asked who it was that was coming. Notice how the people spoke of Jesus: “They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by,'” (Luke 18:37, ESV). Thrilled to hear the news that Jesus was coming, Bartimaeus could not compose himself. He must see Jesus! Notice how Bartimaeus spoke of Jesus, “And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,'” (Luke 18:38, ESV)! To the crowd, Jesus was “of Nazareth,” but to Bartimaeus, Jesus was the “Son of David,” the Messiah that everyone had hoped for.

When everyone sought to shut him up, he would not be silent. He must see Jesus! “But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me,'” (Luke 18:39b, ESV)! Jesus stopped and had mercy upon poor, blind Bartimaeus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God, (Luke 18:41-43, ESV).

No amount of shushing would keep this blind man from seeking what he longed for. He must see Jesus! If you haven’t noticed, the word “see” is intentional. In such a way, this story reminds me of Fanny Crosby, the great 20th century hymn-writer. Fanny Crosby went blind just a few weeks after being born. The story is told about a conversation a preacher had upon visiting Ms. Crosby.

“I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,” remarked one well-meaning preacher.

Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” said the poet, who had been able to see only for her first six weeks of life. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” (Christianity Today, emphasis mine)

But there was another man who must see Jesus in Luke’s text. This man is even more famous than blind Bartimaeus. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He too had heard that Jesus was in Jericho, and something welled up within him a desire to see Jesus. He must see Jesus! But he was short. Too short to see over the crowd that had gathered. Being a tax-collector probably made it even harder on him to scoot through the crowd. Why would a respectable citizen give way for the rift-raft? “So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way,” (Luke 19:4, ESV).

Whatever it took he would see Jesus. A grown man acting like a child, hiking up his robe, he ran and climbed a tree to see Jesus. Who cares if he looked ridiculous? He must see Jesus! “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully,” (Luke 19:5-6, ESV).

Two men: one blind, one a “sinner”–both must see Jesus. Because they sought him out– even at the expense of themselves: their dignity, their self-respect, their reputation (grant it Zacchaeus probably did not have a good reputation)–the saw Jesus! They not only saw Jesus, they experienced Jesus’s life-changing power. Jesus healed Bartimaeus of his blindness and Zacchaeus of his greed. Both of their lives were instantly transformed.

That being said. . . do we believe that we must see Jesus? Are we willing to do whatever it takes to see Him? What are we willing to lay down, sacrifice for the opportunity to see Jesus? To the believer, we will ultimately see Him one day face to face. But what about now? We may not see Him face to face, but we can still experience that life-changing power when we seek him with all our hearts.  While the verse was written to exiled Israel, I think we can still apply it to our lives: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV). That’s what we see with blind Bartimaeus: “And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,'” (Luke 18:38, ESV)! It is what we saw with Zacchaeus: “So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way,” (Luke 19:4, ESV). Most Christians want to see Jesus, but they do not believe that they must see Jesus. It is not urgent to them and so they do not act in urgency. If we get around to Bible reading, study, and meditation, then great. If not, oh well. If we can squeeze in a few moments for prayer, we’ll be better off probably, but if not, so be it. We allow the shushing of our schedules and daily grind and emotions and busyness to keep us from crying out. We do not run to the Word and climb the tree of contemplation seeking the Lord Jesus. We do not cry out in our prayers, “Jesus, Son of David!” with much urgency or faith that He will hear. If we kind of would like to see Jesus if it isn’t too much trouble, we might not ever get the opportunity. But if we must see Jesus and put such a must into action, we will see Him as He comes upon the way. He will come, but we must keep seeking until He does. It will be a different sight than Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus saw, but we will see Him nonetheless.

’Tis the blessed hour of prayer, when our hearts lowly bend,
And we gather to Jesus, our Savior and Friend;
If we come to Him in faith, His protection to share,
What a balm for the weary! O how sweet to be there!

’Tis the blessed hour of prayer, when the Savior draws near,
With a tender compassion His children to hear;
When He tells us we may cast at His feet every care,
What a balm for the weary, O how sweet to be there! (Chorus)

’Tis the blessed hour of prayer, when the tempted and tried
To the Savior Who loves them their sorrow confide;
With a sympathizing heart He removes every care;
What a balm for the weary! O how sweet to be there! (Chorus)

At the blessed hour of prayer, trusting Him we believe
That the blessing we’re needing we’ll surely receive;
In the fullness of this trust we shall lose every care;
What a balm for the weary! O how sweet to be there!

Blessed hour of prayer,
Blessed hour of prayer:
What a balm for the weary!
O how sweet to be there!

~Fanny Crosby

I must see Jesus!