Do You Acknowledge God? (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Topic: Proverbs Passage: Proverbs 3:5–3:7
Do You Acknowledge God?
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
October 16th, 2016
I. Role Playing
Let's do some role playing.
Okay, you are a teenager (for you teenagers, that shouldn't be much of stretch). So, you are a teenager and you are navigating your first week of High School. One of your friends, a friend you've know all throughout elementary school and middle school, this friend is hanging out with you and some older students at lunch.
Now this older group of students loves spreading gossip and making fun of other students, especially if a student is the subject of their gossip. Now, in spite of this behavior, you and your friend both like these older students and are hoping to be accepted into their circle.
But suddenly, as everyone is having a good laugh at someone else's expense, your friend tells them an embarrassing story about you, and then begins to mock you front of them. The older students burst out laughing as they point at you and add more ridicule.
You are horrified and frozen. Within seconds, embarrassing stories about your friend begin to pop into your mind and a swirling mixture of different emotions begins to rise up inside you. The others, including your friend, notice you are about to say something. You begin to speak.
So...what would you say? What would you do?
Keep that scenario in mind and turn to Proverbs chapter 3.
II. The Passage: “Trust in the Lord” (3:5-7)
We've already heard this passage a couple times this morning, but let's read through it once more. As I read through these words of Solomon, the son of King David, think about that teenager. Think about how these words would help, how they should direct that teenager. This is what Solomon says to his son about how to live life well. He writes...
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.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
In those three simple verses we find an incredible amount of guidance from God. Let's use our role playing scenario to think through what God, through Solomon, is telling us here. Now, I think the word “acknowledge” from verse 6 can help us think through the different parts of what we find in this passage. For example, the first thing we need to think about is...
1. Acknowledging My Lack (3:5b, 7a)
Solomon reminds his son that (v. 5) “your own understanding” is not strong enough to support the weight of life. Do you see that? He is telling his son not to “lean on your own understanding”. It will break. It will fail you. We see the same thing in God's indictment against Egypt, given by the prophet Ezekiel:
“Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel,  when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.” (Ezekiel 29:6b-7)
This is what happens when we lean on something as flimsy as our “own understanding”. And this same warning is repeated in Proverbs 3:7. Solomon restates his point in different words: “Be not wise in your own eyes.” If I see myself as wise, then I will have no reason to search for wisdom. And that is precisely the danger Solomon is warning us about.
If you are that teenager, the one we talked about a few minutes ago, what kinds of things will be running through your mind in that moment of crisis? What will “your own understanding” be telling you? I'm guessing things like this: You better do something quick, or your going to have zero friends. Two can play at that game. If they liked that story, they're going to love mine. How could he? How could she? I'll show them all. I'm never coming to this school again. I just want to go home and die.
But think for a minute...where will those idea lead if not checked in some way? If we're honest, we know they will only lead to more pain.
Brothers and sisters, friends, living life well, living the life you were designed to live, begins with acknowledging the frailty of your own understanding and the foolishness of your own wisdom. It starts with acknowledging the fact that, left to your own devices, you cannot live life well, that is, life as God designed it to be lived.
You see, the brokenness of our world, of our lives, is the direct result of men and women leaning on their own understanding...of you and me being 'wise' in our own eyes. But if we can acknowledge our lack, we can also acknowledge God's riches. That's our second point...
2. Acknowledging His Light (3:6)
We don't have the answers. But God does. I believe that is what verse 6 is saying. Look at it again: In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
I think this verse can be easily misunderstood. Again, the keyword here is “acknowledge”. What does Solomon mean by acknowledging God? I think he simply means acknowledging that God is God. You see, this stands in contrast to “lean[ing] on your own understanding”.
As you live your life, who will you turn to as the authoritative expert on all things you? Solomon calls us to acknowledge that God is the authoritative expert on all things, including all things you.
The Apostle Paul talks about the same contrast in Romans 1, where he writes this about our desperate condition in the grip of what the Bible calls sin:
For although they knew God, they did not honor [acknowledge!] him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools... (Romans 1:21-22)
But notice how Solomon puts it in Proverbs 3:6. He writes “in all your ways...acknowledge him”. What does Solomon mean? He means, in everything you do, in every area of your life, look to God as the authoritative expert.
If you were struggling to teach a class on the Windows operating system and Bill Gates was in the back of the room, would you acknowledge him? If you were getting trounced in a basketball game and Michael Jordan was on your bench, would you acknowledge him? If you arrived at the scene of a car accident where people were dying, and you had an experienced EMT asleep in the back of your car, would you wake him or her up?
You would, because those are authoritative experts. But were not talking about any of those scenarios. We're talking about your life; about every day, you living your life...in all your ways. In every moment, in every obligation and opportunity, in every relationship, in every decision, in every conversation and purchase...in all your ways, God is the authoritative expert on your life. Do you believe that? Do you acknowledge God as such?
If you do, then He will make straight your paths. But what does that mean? Listen to what Solomon would go on to write in Proverbs 11:5...The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. Or again in 15:21...Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
In Proverbs the “straight” way is the way of wisdom, God's wisdom. Consequently, it is the way of blessing. So when you acknowledge God as the authoritative expert on your life, He will guide you down the “straight” way “in all your ways”. Solomon's father David explained this in Psalm 25: Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8-9)
And “His way” WILL support the weight of life. It will not snap like a flimsy cane or broken crutch. His way is strong and solid and sure.
Think about that teenager for minute. That teenager needs to know that God, the authoritative expert on his life, on her life, can guide them down a straight path, a strong, solid, and sure path. God knows the right response. And where can that teenager find the right response? In God's word:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;  let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:9-12)(quoting Psalm 34)
Our impulse as that teenager may be to lash out or join in their hurtful game. But God's wisdom, God's word directs us to “bless” and to “seek peace” and to “do good”.
So acknowledging God as the authoritative expert on your life should always lead us back to the word of God...to the Bible. Did you know in the Bible, God has something to say about “all your ways”, about every part of your life?
Have you ever wanted expert advice on your relationships, on your finances, on your career, on feelings and struggles inside, on conflicts and challenges outside, on love, on clothes, on food, on belonging, on guilt and forgiveness, on right and wrong, on the meaning of life? If you have, look no further than the Bible.
The world has plenty to say about all these things, but if we begin there, we will be leaning “on [our] own understanding” as human beings. God's word should be your starting point “in all your ways”. But in addition to this, Solomon tells us here that acknowledging His light also means...
3. Acknowledging His Love (3:5a, 7b)
You could hear all this and think, “Ok, the Bible has important things to say about every part of my life.” You might even dig in and carefully consider what God's word tells you about this or that specific topic or this or that challenge in your life. But as we see in verse 5, Solomon is calling us to do more than consider commands and ponder principles. It is not enough simply to recite what the Bible says. We can't be content with simply knowing it.
Look again at verse 5: Trust in the LORD with all your heart...That teenager can know what God's word says about using her words to bless and seek peace, but if that knowledge is not combined with faith, she will not follow God's guidance.
But this is where acknowledging God's love comes into play. When you hear or read God's word, you have to believe God cares for you. You have to trust that what He is telling you, that the road He is showing you, that the commands He is giving you are for your unequivocal good. If you believe God is simply trying to control you for some dark end or is a cosmic 'killjoy' who loves watching your suffer, you won't acknowledge Him “in all your ways”.
Just look at the next five verses and see if you can feel the love of God in these words. Solomon tells his son, if you acknowledge God and allow him to make straight your path...
[Verse 8] It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;  then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.  My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof,  for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
What does God want for that teenager? He wants her to trust Him. He want her to believe He really does care; that He knows how hurt she feels, how alone she feels. He wants her to trust Him with the future, that she will have friends; that she will be okay. And He wants her to trust that the path of forgiveness really is the path of life.
In love, He will make straight her paths. In love, He will make straight your path. Do you believe that God cares about you personally? If you don't, why would you acknowledge Him?
Now, in a conversation like this about God's love, some might stumble over the middle of verse 7. Do you see what it says there? Solomon calls us to “fear the LORD”. But isn't that antithetical to what we were just talking about? If God loves us, why would we fear Him?
But there is a false dichotomy here. Love and fear are not mutually exclusive, especially when we understand that “fear” here does not mean terror before an unhinged tyrant. This “fear” is that proper respect and reverence for genuine authority. It's the kind of respect and reverence that leads to rule-keeping and not rebellion. I'm sure those of us who grew up in healthy households can confirm a healthy “fear” of mom and dad, while at the same time, never doubting their love for us.
III. Knowing the Lord is for Us
Did you know God wants us to feel the same way? We are still called to bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1), while at the same time, not doubting God's unrivaled and unconditional love for us. But trusting God in this way, “trust[ing] in the Lord” as Proverbs 3 prescribes, begins with seeing God as trustworthy. So how does that happen?
In our house, since they were little, my kids love to do an exercise that's all about trust [child falls backward, into my arms]. You see, that kind of trust is connected to two things. First, my kids have to trust I am strong enough to catch them. But equally important, second, they have to believe I am good enough to catch them. And their trust in that fun circumstance is built on what I've shown them about my strength and goodness in every other circumstance. I have shown myself to be trustworthy.
When Solomon wrote to his son, and to all the Israelite readers who would hear and study this book of Proverbs, he knew the ways God had shown himself trustworthy. He could reach way back to stories of Abraham going to Canaan or Israel leaving Egypt, and he could reach back to his father's life and his own life to see the strength and goodness of God. Without a doubt, God had shown himself to be completely trustworthy.
But what about you? Can you, do you trust in the Lord because YOU have found Him to be trustworthy? Listen to these words and consider what they tell us about the trustworthiness of God and the love of God: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [i.e. the satisfying sacrifice] for our sins. (I John 4:9-10)
It was there on the cross where Jesus died that God demonstrated his strength and goodness in a radically unique way. Strength to conquer sin. Goodness to forgive sin. Through Christ, God paid the debt you owed so you could enjoy the riches of a relationship with Him...forever. All that you have and are, plus Jesus. What more could He do to show himself trustworthy?
What that teenager needs is to trust in the Lord with all her heart, to fall back into His arms. He will help her hurting heart; and her sinful heart. Shouldn't we do the same?