Search This Blog

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Your Own Understanding? Lean Not!

Quite often we can learn important lessons from observing the history of people who've lived life before us. As we do, some fundamental truths can become evident. But these fundamental truths, while not denied by anyone, are very frequently also not remembered by anyone. And so we repeat the mistakes that others have made

Think about that for a moment. Someone who may have lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago makes a bad choice that results in some unpleasant consequences. The event is recorded and made available to us now. Nevertheless we either are ignorant of it in the first place or fail to remember it. Perhaps we are aware of it and recall it, but we don't think it is applicable. Our situation or circumstances are "different" to the point that we don't think the consequences could be the same. Thus we are surprised by what would have been very predictable dilemmas or outcomes to our decisions or actions.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were God's chosen people. He intended to favor them and bless them richly. And He did ... when they obeyed Him and sought to follow His ways. The thing is that they weren't consistent. Often something different than obedience occurred ... and God's favor and blessings evaporated right before their very eyes.

Judges 17:6 tells us why. "In those days, Israel had no king (i.e. no absolute rule or pre-set boundaries in day-to-day life), so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Said differently, the people relied only on their own perspectives to decide how they should live. Their perspective ... or their own understanding was the source of their morality.

Of course, each time this happened, Israel found itself at odds with God and His will. They also found themselves outside of His favor and His rich blessings. The solution? Repentance of sin. Look at that again. Repentance of sin. So the thing is that doing whatever seems right in or own eyes is sin. Did you know that? Anytime that you look at a situation, process it with your own perspective and your own understanding, you are sinning against the Lord.

Proverbs 3 provides a wealth of knowledge on this whole notion of doing what seems right or best in our own eyes. Let's take a look at some of this rich wisdom directly from God's Word.

"... do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, ... Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him ... Do not be wise in your own eyes ... Honor the Lord with your wealth ..." Did you get all that? Notice that it's not vague or ambiguous. In fact, it couldn't be said more succinctly than this.

We are not to lean on our own understanding ... of anything. Why would that be? Basically it's because our own understanding of anything is incomplete at best. More than likely it's perverted because of our own biases and imperfect perspectives. So no matter what you think in a situation ... there's a very good chance that you're flat out wrong. Do we allow for such a possibility when we're drawing conclusions or making decisions?

I had to have a difficult conversation with one of my sons earlier this week. He was in the middle of a situation that he thought was quite impossible. He saw no way to proceed. In his despair, he communicated his perspective very poorly and ended up on the losing side of a conflict. I had to sit him down and explain to him that I knew of a way out. I knew of a way in which he could be victorious in the face of those seemingly impossible circumstances he found himself in.

As we concluded our conversation, he realized that my perspective had significant value. We talked a bit about that. It wasn't difficult to see that leaning on his own understanding had left him in despair, and on the losing end of what he believed to be an impossible dilemma.

Why did I know so much more? Basically because I'm not him. It's not that I'm smarter or more intelligent. It's just that I have a different perspective. And mine is shaped by the significantly greater number of years that I've been experiencing this human life.

Whether you're talking about a nation or a teen-aged son, God's Truth is consistent. Leaning on our own understanding will inevitably lead us to despair and failure. But allowing God to use the perspective of other people, seeking God's perspective, and allowing for the possibility that we ourselves could be wrong is precisely how God wants us to go forward.

Truth is not relative. So doing what we think is right can quite often lead us to trouble. The right way forward is therefore found only in the collective perspectives of those whom God puts in our lives, as well as God's own perspective. But each of us must lay aside our pride long enough to go and get those other perspectives. Each of us must seek out the understanding of God and others whom He puts in our lives --- instead of making do with whatever understanding we ourselves may possess at the time.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for us. It is a plan to prosper us and give us a hopeful future. It is a plan for us to be victorious over life's challenges and circumstances. But the thing is, this plan of God's --- it is never found through our own understanding. Never.

"So Lord, let me have the presence of mind to realize that whatever my own understanding is, it always has the potential to be incomplete or even wrong. And let me have the humility to lay aside my pride and seek out Your perspective, as well as that of the wisest people that You've put in my life. In Jesus' name I pray this. Amen."

No comments:

Post a Comment