In the book of Proverbs, God presents three kinds of people: the wise person, the fool, and the simple person (see Proverbs 1:20-22).
The simple person is naïve, impressionable, highly influenced and not influential. The simple are passive and they are not discerning. Scripture pictures the simple person as just drifting through life and going whichever way the wind blows them. There is no anchor for their soul, there is no conviction, there is no guiding reality, there is no truth by which they evaluate anything. The simple person is just carried along by whatever crowd they happen to be with and by whatever emotion they feel at the moment. One thing you learn in Proverbs is that the road of life is full of people who give bad advice – but the simple person can’t tell the difference in bad advice and good.
The fool is more purposeful. He or she dismisses the wisdom of God and live aimlessly without Him. Some fools are very intelligent, but they are not directed by God, they are directed by their immediate desires; the fool is a slave to his or her urges. And a fool won’t take instructions from God or listen to wise counsel from His people because he or she already knows everything. So the fool is limited by their own ability to figure things out. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”
Wise people fear the Lord. They have this deep conviction about who God is and their response is to live in humble reverence before Him. The fear of the Lord is not something that terrifies them – the fear of the Lord is a warm blanket around their life. It is protection. It is an understanding that He has me, He guides me, He leads me, and I am being watched over by the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
And from that starting place the wise person lives intentionally. They have a commitment to God’s Word and God’s wisdom, and their purpose is to give God glory. The wise person is not perfect, but their life has purpose and direction. They know that through the cross of Christ they have been redeemed, reconciled, and invited in. And because of that, their life will never be the same. It can’t be. The wise person is unhappy and unable to live with inconsistencies and hypocrisy in their life. They fight the drift into compromise and complacency and by the grace of God they become a person of courage and faith.
That leads us to our chapter for today, one of the greatest, most practical, most helpful passages in the entire Bible (I’ll focus on Proverbs 3:5-6). It describes how God directs the life of the wise person.
If I am living this God-directed life, I am confident in God’s care. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” You can have confidence in God; you can trust Him. But notice (v.5) you are to trust Him with all your heart – there is no such thing as half-hearted trust. You either trust God or you don’t. God deserves nothing less! Think about this: God’s character makes it impossible for Him to fool us, because He cannot lie. His wisdom makes it impossible for Him to fail us. He cannot make a mistake, so the only thing we ought to do is trust Him totally.
Then we are told, “Lean not on your own understanding.” You often see this in Proverbs: one verse will state the same truth two ways for emphasis: positively, then negatively. The word “lean” literally means “to support yourself by leaning on something or someone else.” In other words, we are not to be guided just by what we think, or what we feel we ought to do. This does not mean we are to be without understanding. It doesn’t mean you are to put your mind in neutral. It doesn’t mean that you don’t use common sense, but it DOES mean you don’t simply use your reasoning, your intelligence, or your thoughts, to determine what you do in your life. You choose to trust the Lord totally.
The God-directed life also means being committed to God’s way. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” You are to acknowledge the Lord in all your ways. That means, in your financial life, your social life, your recreational life, your vocational life, your marital life, you are to live with a commitment to doing it God’s way. The word “acknowledge” literally means “to recognize or to see.” Simply put, in every part of your life you are to be looking for God. You ought to think about every decision in these terms: What does God want? What does God desire? What does God say is the wise thing to do?
Last, the God-directed life means being controlled by God’s will. If you do your part, God will do His part: “And He will make straight your paths.” Even though this is a promise, it is a conditional promise: you will not be controlled by God’s will for you unless you are confident in God’s care for you and committed to God’s purpose for you.
Think about that phrase for a moment, “He will make straight your paths.” You can live your life on one of three levels:
Level 1: I do what I want to do. That is the level where most of the world lives today.
Level 2: I try to do what I ought to do. That is the level where a lot of Christians live today, but that is not the highest level – and it reveals a half-hearted commitment.
Level 3, the highest level: I do what God leads me to do. That is where God wants all of us to live. On what level are you living?