Sometimes I Don’t Submit

Sometimes I Don’t Submit

I have a nice lady who gives me directions when I need them most 

No, not my wife … the wonderful computer voice on my phone’s GPS

I have learned, especially for some of the new parts of the city where I live

And for first visits to new locations in other cities and provinces

That I need help getting around and reaching my destination.

Every three minutes or so I have this nice electronic lady telling me when to next turn right or left and when a major intersection is upcoming that will require me to be in a certain lane and to slow down

It seems that, for the most part, the GPS works fine unless the area has just recently been developed 

Then it has yet to be programmed into the GPS and the sweet lady goes silent and is of no help whatsoever

There is one other time the kindhearted lady with directions goes silent – when I tire of hearing her voice and simply turn the darn thing off and thus trust my own wonderful sense of direction

This lack of trust and failure to submit often leads me to a unintended destination 

Arriving at a place where I had no intention of being

As well as having to admit to those in the car with me that I am lost

If I would have trusted and submitted to the kind GPS lady I would have had the best and shortest path to my desired destination

And the same is true about the relationship between submission to God and our ability to choose the right path – the best path – and reaching the desired destination

Now, I realize that submission is not your favourite word

It’s not mine either

My favourite word is coffee

But because I am not sure how helpful a teaching on brewing and drinking coffee would be we will stick to talking about “Sometimes I Don’t Submit”

Truth: Our failure to trust and submit to our heavenly Father will lead us to unintended destinations

But instead of simply wasting a bit of time and a lot of gas, these detours can eat ups years of our lives

NOW AND LATER

The challenging aspect about picking the right paths is that the choices are now

The outcomes are later

The decisions you make today have ramifications down the road

 

Sometimes the outcomes happen tomorrow

You studied for a test on Tuesday night and did well on Wednesday

You read several books six months ago, took notes from them on Monday and Tuesday and taught well on Wednesday on-line with the youth leaders from Kazakhstan

The problem, however, is that most of the time the outcomes of the decisions we make now won’t be felt until much later

The paths you chose in your twenties as a single person impacts what happens to you in your thirties when you are married with kids

 

The financial path you chose early in your life to spend or save impacts what happens financially as you face retirement

Unfortunately, you and I don’t know the outcome of many decisions we make until it’s too late to do anything about it

Sure, sometimes we’re glad — Oftentimes we are disappointed, or worse, devastated

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: We cannot go back in time, reset the clock, and recapture those years

They are gone forever

There is no way to unmake those decisions and the consequences of those decisions  

Which is why it’s so critical for us to follow the right directions and make the right decisions up front

But how do we do that? 

How do we make wise decisions?

Like I said, we make choices today and won’t know the effects of those choices for years or even decades

There’s a delayed reaction between the first cigarette as a teen and emphysema at fifty

There’s a delay between casual sex as a teen and cervical cancer or infertility at thirty

There’s a relationship between the habit of investing in an RRSP in your twenties and retiring with a decent amount of funding at sixty

Some of those outcomes are obvious because of the abundance of available data

The warning about the effects of smoking printed on every pack of smokes

The teaching about STD’s you sat through and were a little uncomfortable about in health class in high school

Frequently, however, we face decisions where the outcomes aren’t so clear cut and specific

And, even when we ask someone for help – someone who knows the area we are making decisions in – we often don’t follow the wise advice based on experience that they give us

Or we face a screen full of statistics telling us what the odds of success or failure are

We would ignore them and assume, as we often do, that we know better or we are the exception to all those statistics

I mean, let’s face it:

We have all ignored good advice at some point in our lives

We’ve ignored advice from doctors, coaches, physical therapists, motivational speakers, nutritionists, financial experts, preachers, marriage counsellors, friends, even our mother-in-law

The list goes on and on

And the embarrassing thing is, in most cases we paid for the advice we ignored!

Looking back, our lives would be richer today and more fulfilling if we had done something with what we heard

If good information isn’t enough to guarantee good decisions leading to great outcomes, then what do we need?

What are we missing?

I’m glad you asked

Choosing the right path begins with SUBMISSION not INFORMATION

Not even direction – like a GPS – SUBMISSION

Specifically, submission to the One who knows where each path leads, as well as where it doesn’t lead

Submission to the One who knows what’s best for you better than you know what’s best for you

It is tempting to think that information alone is enough

You know – Google it and find out how to do this or that

But we all have our own illustrations or examples to prove that information alone is not the answer

Generally speaking, information is not our problem — There is plenty of that available

Independence is our problem

And the solution for independence is the dreaded S word: submission 

When you and I get ahead of God — by thinking we can do just fine without His direction or by relying solely on conventional (worldly) wisdom — things don’t go so well

The problem, of course, is that sometimes it takes years, some of our best years, to discover that we have made a mistake by following conventional (worldly) wisdom

That’s why parents have that famous piece of advice: Do as I say, not as I did

THE SMARTEST MAN IN THE ROOM

If ever there was a man who could have trusted in his own ability to discern which path to choose, it was King Solomon

The Bible refers to Solomon as the wisest man who ever lived

Heck, he wrote three books in the Bible:

Proverbs — well worth reading ASAP

Ecclesiastes — don’t read it until you are over forty

Song of Solomon — only read after you’re married or if you think the Bible is boring

Inside those three books – which, by the way, we refer to as wisdom literature, Solomon displayed his remarkable insight into all realms of science, mathematics, business, marriage, and justice

Name the topic — and his wealth of understanding was unequaled

But this wasn’t the result of being born to smart parents

Solomon’s insight was due in great part to God’s unique intervention in his life

Perhaps you’ve heard the story

When Solomon assumed the throne in the place of his father, David, he was around twenty years old

David had been a great warrior

Solomon was a great … well, we don’t know that he was great at anything

So we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that he felt a bit overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading his nation

Not to mention his dad left him with the responsibility of building the temple

And supposedly, the ONLY temple the nation would ever have

And as far as we know, Solomon didn’t know the first thing about construction

As Solomon was settling into his royal role, God communicated to him in a dream

To paraphrase, God said, “Solomon, because I loved your father, I love you; and because I made a promise to your father, I want to make a promise to you. Ask me anything you want. Just make a request and I’ll give it to you. You want long life, you got it. You want money, no problem.”

Solomon had a blank cheque

Imagine that. What would you have asked for at twenty years old?

Solomon asked for wisdom – Wisdom!

And that’s a bit odd, because you would already have to have a boatload of wisdom to even come up with that response

Apparently Solomon was just wise enough to know how wise he wasn’t

So, he asked for more wisdom

Here’s how he put it:

1 Kings 3:7-9 “And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him all the stuff I probably would have asked for to begin with:

1 Kings 3:11-13 “And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.”

And sure enough, Solomon became extraordinarily wealthy and extremely powerful

There was peace along the borders of Israel

Kings and queens from surrounding nations traveled great distances to come and sit at his feet and listen 

In time, Solomon’s kingdom was the envy of the ancient world

Many refer to this as the Golden Age of Israel

My point?

If ever there was a person who could say, 

“God, now that I’ve got the wisdom I need and access to all the available information, feel free to go and do what God does because I’ve got everything I need to call my own shots. You’re hereby dismissed. I can take it from here,” 

If ever there as a person who could say that — it would be Solomon

But Solomon was wise enough to know better

He knew wisdom and information alone were not enough

Wisdom and information didn’t guarantee anything

Even he knew better than to trust in his judgment alone

Later in life he would offer this advice to anyone wise enough to listen:

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding”

That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

Don’t trust in your heart; trust God with your heart

Let me repeat that a few times:

Don’t trust in your heart; trust God with your heart

Don’t trust in your heart; trust God with your heart

Don’t trust in your heart; trust God with your heart

Don’t trust in your heart; trust God with your heart

The term translated trust carried with it the idea of lying helplessly facedown

      • Vulnerable
      • Dependent
      • Submitted

Then notice the contrast, “Lean to” as in “Don’t prop yourself up with…”

The term translated lean literally means to prop something up against something else; to be supported by it

The imagery associated with the term lean gives us further insight into what Solomon meant by trust in in the first half of the verse

Solomon was instructing us to lean on the Lord and His wisdom rather than lean on our own understanding and insight or worldly )conventional) thinking of the day

When the way we view things conflicts with the way God views things, we are to lean in His direction rather than our own

When what makes sense to us doesn’t line up with His revealed will, we are to side with Him, and ignore the whispers of our hearts

It’s as if Solomon could read our minds

He wrote as if he had been following us around

Somehow he knew that our natural inclination was to choose our paths according to how they looked and felt to us

Solomon was saying that in spite of all you know and all you have experienced — don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re 

      • Old enough
      • Wise enough 
      • Smart enough 
      • Experienced enough 
      • Careful enough 

To be able to lean on (as in trust) your own understanding and wisdom

Choosing the best path, then, begins with submission

When considering your options, the place to begin is,

Lord, I’m leaning on You, not my experience, my insight, my education. When worldly wisdom conflicts with what You have revealed through the Scriptures, I’ll lean into Your revelation rather than my understanding. When my emotions are in conflict with your Word, I’ll lean on Your Word and harness my emotions.”

Obviously, this is easier said than done

But observation and experience would argue that it is much easier in the long run to lean into the wisdom of your heavenly Father than to lean into your own wisdom and understanding

Leaning on our own understanding has the potential to take us exactly where we don’t want to go and never planned to be

Leaning on your own understanding in the arenas of finances, parenting, marriage, or any number of things has the potential to be seriously costly in so many ways

So far the wisest man in the world has given us two important imperatives (not suggestions):

Trust in and lean not

But that is only half the equation

In the second half he gives us a third command and a promise

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight”

(Proverbs 3:6)

Notice he didn’t say, “In almost all of your ways”

He said “all.”

Solomon didn’t leave any wiggle room

In all your ways means in:

 

          • Your dating ways
          • Your marriage ways
          • Your entertainments way
          • Your financial ways
          • Your education ways
          • Your morality ways
          • Your professional ways
          • Your friendship ways
          • Your family ways

He wasn’t speaking of just:

          • Your Sunday ways
          • Your religious ways
          • Your prayer ways

ALL means all

In every arena of life — we are to acknowledge God

So what does that really mean?

Again, thanks for asking!

Unfortunately, the word acknowledge has lost something over the years

Ever listen to  public speaker, sports figure, or guest of honour at a fund-raising banquet?

Typically they begin their comments by saying something like, “I’d like to start by acknowledging so-and-so for his blah-blah-blah.”

But when Solomon said the word acknowledge, he wasn’t talking about a token tip of the hat or some sort of obligatory shout-out, giving God His props for being a nice guy

Rather — to acknowledge God means to recognize who He is and respond accordingly

What it the proper response to God? – SUBMISSION

We are to recognize God’s authority over every component of our lives

We are to seek and submit to His will in every area of our life

In other words — “in all our ways”

That said, Solomon concludes with an extremely practical promise: “and He will make your paths straight”

There’s our word: path – as in ‘the way,’ the direction we are to take, the way we are to walk

But note:

At first glance, it looks as if Solomon is guaranteeing that if we trust (submit to) God, He will straighten out whatever path we choose

But what this verse actually asserts is that God will make the best path obvious

The Point: If we trust with all our heart, refuse to lean into our limited understanding, acknowledge that He is God and Lord of our life, and submit every aspect of our life to Him, the best path will become unmistakably clear

And, you will reach the right destination

Divine direction (guidance) begins with unconditional submission (surrender)  — not information!

In our personal relationship with Him — that began when we became born again — God wants us to acknowledge Him and His involvement in every aspect of our life

And, to surrender our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength to Him (submission) 

Let Him truly be Lord and not just Saviour

So instead of sending us a rule book to live by (as some think that the Bible is a rule book)

So instead of supplying us with a built in GPS and a voice that quietly says, “turn left at the next corner”

So instead of giving us a matrix for decision making

He simply asks us: 

    • To trust Him
    • To lean on Him and not on our own wisdom, experience, or understanding
    • To acknowledge His right to rule, guide, and direct

AND, in exchange, He will make our paths clear – We will know which way to go and what to choose

Divine direction begins with submission

Good information does not guarantee good decision making

And neither does insight or even wisdom

Ironically, Solomon serves as both a best and worst-case example

In spite of his great knowledge, unmatched insight, and vast wisdom, there was a time in Solomon’s life when he decided to trust in his own understanding

And he paid dearly

In fact, the entire nation paid for that decision to lean on his own flawed understanding

As is typically the case, his flawed logic had to do with his choice in women

When God established the nation of Israel, He strictly forbade the men to marry foreign women.

That included the king.

In fact, this command was especially important for the king to obey for a couple of reasons

1> As the king goes, so goes the nation

2> Kings generally married foreigners as a way to ensure good relations with nearby and oftentimes hostile neighbours

God did not want Israel’s leaders leaning into their neighbours for protection

He wanted the nation to rely solely on Him

But in this one area, Solomon opted for the conventional  (worldly) wisdom of the day over obedience and submission to God

So he married Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3)

Politically speaking, it was a great move

Israel would never need to worry about going to war with the powerful nation of Egypt

But as strategic as his decision might have been, it was in direct conflict with the command of God

Solomon was declaring his dependency on a foreign king rather than trusting God

In an attempt to ensure peace and avoid bloodshed, Solomon opted for a path that would eventually divide his heart and his loyalties

Ultimately his decision would divide the entire kingdom

Pharaoh’s daughter was just the beginning

Once he aligned himself with Egypt, it must have dawned on him that Egypt’s enemies had just become his enemies

Once again, conventional wisdom whispered in his ear, and he listened.

Eventually he married women from just about every nation in the region

The writer of 1 Kings described it this way:

1 Kings 11:1-3 NASB “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.”

Seven hundred wives!

Think about that

Seven hundred mothers-in-law

What was he thinking?

Apparently he wasn’t

And don’t miss the last line of that passage: “and his wives turned his heart away.”

Away from what?

We find the answer to that question in the verses that follow:

1 Kings 11:4-5 NASB “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.”

Solomon’s decision to prioritize his relationships with foreign kings over his relationship with God cost him his relationship with God

Not because God pulled away but because Solomon’s heart was pulled away

A decision designed to protect his nation ultimately, in time, corrupted his heart

His heart was turned away from THE thing God desired most — Relationship

A relationship characterized by dependence and trust (submission) / Lordship

When Solomon opted for what made sense culturally, he leaned away from what made sense relationally

And, in time, his heart was corrupted

Before long he was allowing things that earlier in his reign as king he would have had people executed for

He actually financed the construction of altars to the pagan gods Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:7)

This was unthinkable — Unimaginable

A direct violation of the first of the Ten Commandments

But in his confused state, these decisions made perfect sense to the wisest man in the world!

Why?

Because submission — not talent, information, insight, experience, worldly wisdom — none of them is the key to good decision making – Submission is!

Once Solomon abandoned his posture of surrender, he made one bad decision after another

Once again, we see a smart person plagued by bad decisions

In his attempt to strengthen Israel’s relationship with her neighbours, Solomon actually weakened it

Soon after his death, the nation was divided into two weaker kingdoms

For generations these two lesser kingdoms would be plagued by a series of kings who followed Solomon’s example of marrying foreign women and adopting their pagan religious practices

Solomon chose a path he sincerely believed would shore up the nation’s national security

But the path he chose undermined the nation’s dependency on God and ultimately eroded the nation’s moral fabric

His decision was not merely a decision

It was a path — and like all paths, it had a destination

The moral of the story is this:

In order to make the best decisions now, we need much more than information, common sense or conventional wisdom

We need God

We need to live with a posture of dependency (submission)

We need to acknowledge Him in all our ways

We don’t know exactly what motivated Solomon to make such a radical departure from what he knew God asked of him

Was it pride?

After all, he was the wisest man in the kingdom , and everyone knew it

Was it fear?

Did the fact that he ruled the wealthiest kingdom in the region cause him to feel like a target for his neighbours?

Perhaps it was lust?

Maybe a combination of all three?

We don’t know.

But what we do learn from this narrative is that apparently pride, fear, and lust all have the potential to override wisdom, discernment, and insight

One or a combination of those three lured the wisest man in the world down a path no one would ever have imagined him travelling

And regardless of his power and experience, he still arrived at the prescribed destination

If the wisdom, understanding, and insight of a man like Solomon does not ensure against choosing the wrong path

Isn’t it foolish for us to lean on our limited insight and understanding?

If Solomon needed something other than his own intuition to protect him form a misguided decision, how about you and I?

Solomon’s story should give each of us reason for concern

Because deep in our hearts we all believe that we are too smart to make decisions that will adversely affect our lives

We are convinced that we are too careful, too shrew, too experienced

But, that’s because our propensity is to lean on our own understanding

To trust our own judgment

In spite of Solomon’s story and our many years of going down the wrong paths our natural bent will always be towards trusting in ourselves

We will be inclined to make decisions based on conventional wisdom

So we each have a choice to make each and every day

Will we surrender to the will of our heavenly Father – or will we continue to lean on our own wisdom, understanding, and insight?

Will we acknowledge God in all our ways, or will we pick and choose?

Every path we choose has a destination

Every choice we make has a future consequence

Direction, not intention, determines destination

Divine direction begins with submission

Information is not enough

Insight is not enough

We need God. And so you are invited to:

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 your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Make the right path – the right choice that gets you on the right path to the right destination – make it so obvious that you can’t miss it

Questions to ask yourself:

      • Why do I hesitate to give God full access to every part of my life?
      • What do I fear will happen on the other side of that decision to trust?
      • What is the most difficult area of my life to yield control of to God?