Thought for the Week - 1st July

Lloyd Hopkin

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

The idea of God directing our paths has been with me for quite a while.


This translation says direct your paths.  In the Hebrew it can also mean make straight or made smooth.  You could think of it like an equation.  On one side we have acknowledging God.  This equals Him directing our paths.


What does it mean to acknowledge God?  What can we acknowledge Him in and how do we do that?  It starts at the very earliest of our Christian walk.


1. We first acknowledge there is a God.  To acknowledge someone first of all is to recognise them.  We can’t see someone, be aware of them, and know what they’re all about without recognising them.


We recognise His hand in our life.  We recognise that He is there, and that He wants the best for us.
In recognising that He loves us and wants the best for us, it changes our hearts.  We begin to realise that He is directing our paths Him.


If our God is so great, has done so much, and has created the world, and He loves us, it’s almost obvious that He will take care of us.


That truth can be often thinned in our minds and in our experience.  We forget how God loves us, we can forget that He wants the best for us.  As soon as we do that, we cease to acknowledge Him, we cease to recognise what He’s doing in our lives.


2. To acknowledge God is to invite Him in.  When we first became Christians, we asked Christ into our hearts.  We recognised who He was, that we had a need for Him, that we were sinners and invited Him into our lives to take control of our lives.


In inviting Him in, we have started that path that He is beginning to direct our paths.
As we go on, as we mature, and as we go through parts of life, we have to invite Him into every single area of our life.  Not simply the spiritual parts, but every single areas of our lives – the personal, professional, the big decisions, wherever we go. We continue to say “Lord, come into this part of my life.  What is your will?”.


3. In acknowledging God, we’re acknowledging our commitment that He is Lord of our lives.  In doing that, we are saying “not my will, but yours”.


If we are to walk in His way, we have to listen to Him.  If we don’t, we hardly walking in His path.  We’re walking in our own.


We need to throw ourselves upon Him.  Ask Him what should I do?  Ask Him to come in.  We know this on a head level.  Yet when we get into our everyday lives, we can forget what God has said to us.  We forget what God can do and what God has done for us very quickly.  Within the space of a few weeks, without intending to, everything seems completely different.  God can seem further way and His truths seem less real.


We need to bring our minds back to Him and think about what He has done for us, and what He can do for us.  Acknowledge Him by throwing yourself on Him again.


4. To acknowledge God is to thank Him.  It is to praise Him.  It is to recognise what He has already done for us in bringing us to this place.


God, the creator of the world and the ancient of days, is deeply and passionately interested in your heart, in your life and in what you do.  It’s a tremendous thought that we can’t grasp.  Often, we don’t thanks God enough.  We forget to thank Him.  We bring ourselves to Him to thank Him for the blessings He’s given us and the blessings He has promised us.  In doing that, our faith grows. We see more and more the path that he has for us.


In all your ways acknowledge him, 
and he shall direct your paths. 


This is a wonderful thing.  There’s so much power in this.  God is running the show.  When we acknowledge Him, when we put Him first, He is in charge.  He is making the decisions!  Not our will but Him.  We go where He wants us to go.


As well as that, He is guiding you and directing the path in front of you.  As we walk, He is directing the path in front of us.  Once we’ve put our faith in Him and are living in obedience to Him, we don’t have to worry about which way to turn or what to do.  He shall direct our paths.


Whether it’s by a clear, visible voice or simply Him paving the path in front of us, that we don’t even realise.


There is great freedom in this.  Not that we can do what we like and say God will pick up the pieces, but that in Him directing our paths, us acknowledging Him and having obedience in Him, He will sort it out.  We don’t have to worry or be afraid of tripping up.  We can rely on Him!


In all your ways acknowledge him, 
He shall make straight your paths.


Again, if we acknowledge Him, He will make sure that way is straight.  We don’t have to worry about being perfect. He will do that work of perfection within us.  He will do the work of changing us and setting us free.


In all your ways acknowledge him, 
He shall make smooth your paths.


Does that mean we have it easy or no problems?  No.  The path can go up, down, can be steep and twisting.  But He will make the path smooth.  He will take the obstacles out of the way – the little stones and the big boulders.


Often when walking God’s path there can be a huge tree in the way.  Or a valley where there seems no way out.  But He will make the paths smooth.  The path won’t just end.  It won’t just find a point where there’s nothing onwards or a huge thing that you can’t get past.  And if there is something huge that you can’t get around, He will make it smooth.


In Psalms we see a practical application of this:


Psalm 25
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses,
For they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name’s sake, O Lord,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
Who is the man that fears the Lord?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all their troubles!


David was having a particularly difficult time.  God had promised him so much.  Yet is seemed almost everyone was against him.  Throughout His life, people hated him and wanted to destroy him.  Later in life, even His own son despised him.  Yet again and again He comes back to God.


This Psalm fits well with the verse in Proverbs. We see almost the practical application of David acknowledging God in all his ways and all his sins.  He acknowledges God in his troubles and all the good things.


He speaks of the humble.  He’s not talking about perfect people – that if you’re good enough you can get onto God’s path or if you pass a test.  He teaches sinners in the way.  The humble He guides in justice.


Those who acknowledge, like David, that they are sinners and know there’s nothing they can do, and that the only way they will change is by walking in God’s way.  He is humbling Himself before God and saying it is only Him.  That his ways are not better than God’s.


Do we lift up our soul to God?  Do we cry out to God?


We need to lift up our souls to Him and say “this is who I am, these are my pains, these are my flaws, this is where I am and I lift it all to you.  I need you to deal with this”.  Whatever problem we have, wherever we are – lift your soul up to Him.  Trust Him to deal with you.


Do we declare our trust in Him?  When we feel circumstances are coming around us and when things seem to grow dark, do we declare our trust in Him? Do we say, even so Lord, I trust you?  There is something in that which grows faith.  Even when we feel the doubts coming against us, we say even so, Lord I trust you.


In the Streams in the Desert daily reading,  at the very beginning of the year it speaks of God lining our ways like those trees line a road. Wherever we are we can look back and see those trees that He has planted that are growing.  We can look forward and not see many trees but so far He has been with us. And in declaring our trust in Him, we say Lord regardless I trust you that you grow that faith in me.


There are three things I’d like to draw out from this Psalm:


1. He says “let me not be ashamed”.  It’s an interesting phrase.  David had a lot of enemies – both physical and spiritual. We see the jealousy of others because of the calling He had.  The devil also hated David.  Throughout his life, those who did not acknowledge the ways of God were used to assault David.  Yet those enemies rose, his prayer was “let me not be ashamed”.


The desire of the devil is to shame us.  For what we have done, for our sins.  He takes the conviction that God gives us of things we must change and twists it into a guilt and a shame.  David says that even though his iniquities are great, God has forgiven him.


The fear of failing.  The fear of doing it wrong.  The fear of making a big, fat mess of it all.  Feeling that we’ve tried to put God first, carried on a certain way and made a mess of it.  We feel ashamed that where we’ve got to is not where we want to be.


If we are walking God’s path, if He is directing our path, we will not be ashamed.  We will not get to that point where the road drops off into a big cavern.


We read in Jeremiah that God has plans and a purpose for is, to prosper us and keep us safe.  If we are acknowledging God, He will direct our paths and we will never be ashamed.  He won’t simply just drop us.


David put His trust in God.  When we take His hand, God tells us that it’s His reputation and His responsibility.  That’s not to say we don’t make mistakes or get everything right.  But when we are walking in His path, we rely on Him.


David poured every problem He had onto God.  He asked Him for help.  It is God directing our paths who will take care of us.  It doesn’t matter what hatred our enemies have for us, it is powerless in the face of Christ.  We can turn to Him and in acknowledging Him, He will protect us.  He will keep us safe.


David says “He shall pluck my feet from the net, He will take my foot out of the trap”.  When we are walking in His way and acknowledging Him, He shall pluck us from the net.  When the devil tries to snare us, He will pluck our feet from the net and keep us safe.


We have a great God.  When we acknowledge Him, He sorts out the rest.


2. David keeps coming back, He says “show me your ways”.  He repeats it again and again. He wants to know what God’s will is.  He’s not saying God you sort it out and I’ll carry on regardless.  He’s constantly asking God to show him His ways and teach him His paths.


He’s showing obedience.  He’s putting God first.  He’s choosing God’s way.  He’s acknowledging He doesn’t know the best way.  He declares His ignorance.  We might do that as well.  Where we come to the place where we know we are ignorant.  We ask Lord, you are the only one who can teach me and show me; will you show me?  He will teach sinners in His ways.


He talks about God’s paths.  We read “Show me your paths.  Lead me in truth”.  He talks of mercy and truth.  God knows our frame.  He takes us on a path that He knows we can bear.  He doesn’t take us on a path that we would fail on.  He takes us on a path that He has prepared for us, and in His mercy He strengthens us every step of the way.


He who fears God, He will teach as He chooses.  If we acknowledge Him and have a holy fear for Him, He will teach as He chooses.


3. David says “I will wait on you all the day”.  We must wait for God and wait on Him.  We wait for Him to move or for something to happen that hasn’t, or if we need God to move in our lives.  Wait for Him.  We wait on God by relying on God in our situation, and where we are.  No matter what happens, we are saying our strength and very person is waiting on Him.  We hold onto Him.  In that, He grows the strength within us.


We learn to wait in quietness.  When life is happening.  We have such a loud, hectic society.  How often do we quieten ourselves before God?  How often are we silent?  Or are the things of the day constantly going round in our head?  Pour them out to God.  Give it all to Him.  As we do it, we quieten ourselves before Him.  As we quieten ourselves we hear the still, quiet voice of Christ rising from the depths of our being that we cannot always hear because there’s so much going on.  We must take the time to quieten ourselves.  As we do, we train ourselves to hear the voice of Christ.


There’s a beautiful line in a hymn by Samuel Rutherford.


I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned.


That whenever our paths go, wherever we go, when we reach heaven and turn around and look at it all… I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned.


Whatever circumstance we go through, it’s His hand is guiding and it’s His heart that’s planned it. Because it’s His hand and His heart, bless it.


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