Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

Read time: 9 minutes

Proverbs 3:5–8 (RSV2CE):
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight (understanding).
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths (lead you).
7 Be not wise in your own eyes.

All my life I have tried to understand as much as I could about all aspects of life and use that understanding to be successful.  This is the way of the world and it seems to make good sense.   It is the way and goal of higher education in our western civilization.  My mother was a teacher and always instilled in me the importance of education.  However despite my 6 years of post-secondary education … and my best efforts, often times I am not as successful as I was hoping to be.

In our western world people trust in their own understanding.  They try to figure everything out.  But there are many things that don’t make sense according to mere human reasoning.  For an open heart and searching mind the miracles of Jesus are hard to understand.  For those hoping to be their own god the miracles are a contradiction to their way of thinking.  For those who refuse to trust no explanation is enough.  And for those blinded by the enemy the truth is invisible.

The wisdom in the proverb above gives a key ingredient for success in navigating life. No matter how much we learn; no matter how strong our powers of reason are we don’t know the future.  Only God knows and therefore only He knows the best course of action for sure.  Despite this self-evident truth many people choose to figure out what makes sense to them and then decide their course of action without asking God what He thinks.

John Wimber was a man used by God to bring renewal to the Evangelical denominations in North America in the 80’s.  He was the leader of band called the Righteous Brothers and met God in the wilderness around Los Vegas.  In 10 years the Lord started hundreds of churches all around the world under him.  The one rule that John followed was if an idea was not from the Holy Spirit he did not support it.  After a number of years he reflected on what happened.  He said that he and his leaders probably only followed the Spirit 10% of the time even though their goal was 100%.  If the Lord can do such amazing work through a group that only follows him 10% of the time could he not work through us as well?

Peter, in his profession that Jesus is the son of God and Messiah, illustrates what it is to follow the Spirit.  When he said that Jesus is the son of God he scarcely knew what he was saying … Jesus said that the revelation was from the Father – not from Peter’s own understanding.  For if he had understood what he said he would have not disagreed with Jesus in the very next breath.  He tried to discourage Jesus from going to Calvary.  It made no sense to Peter that Jesus would have to die and so he followed his own understanding.  When he followed the Spirit he had revelation from God.  When he followed his own understanding he found himself opposing God.  Jesus rebuked him, then Peter decided that he had to fight for Jesus in the garden … and also promised to never leave Jesus (all of which came from his best efforts to figure things out).

Of course all of his efforts were in vain and were of no help whatsoever.   He must have been very disillusioned after the crucifixion, and humbled.   After all he really tried his very best to be a good disciple and failed.  Peter was not weak minded, he simply did not have all the information he needed to figure out the right course of action.

It is encouraging to note that none of Peter’s failures changed his calling or the Lord’s confidence in him … as we see later when Jesus tells him 3 times to “feed my sheep”.

Then, much later before Pentecost, Peter and the other disciples really did not know what to do.  They could not rely on their own understanding because … well … they did not have any.  But the experience of meeting the Holy Spirit at Pentecost increased their level of faith so that they could trust instead of fear and have faith instead of worry.  The Holy Spirit became their wisdom and source of direction.  They no longer had to depend on human reason alone.

It is my prayer for the church (all of us rally) that we too would learn to follow the Holy Spirit every day so that His kingdom could come.

Jesus never lost his intimate connection with his father or the Holy Spirit and so always followed the Spirit.  Saint Paul never lost his fire or intimate experiential knowledge of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  Joshua never lost his faith or zeal.  Brother Lawrence in the book – Practicing the Presence of God – gives us the simple truth of God’s desire to remain in communion with us each day and give us the wisdom to build the kingdom of God.

In other words the wisdom that we need to determine our daily paths will come from our relationship with God the Holy Spirit.  We may not be called to works of God that are great in the eyes of man … but all works we are called to are important in God’s eyes.  And if we want to follow His path for us we must be open to His leading so that our understanding will be His work in us and not our own striving.

I see in my own life that to change and grow in holiness is not really something I can do.  It has been a process of discovering who I already am; and what the Lord has hidden in my spiritual DNA.  This is really the work of the Spirit. The devil tricked Eve by telling her she could be like God when in fact she was already created in His image.  She acted on her own understanding and fell from grace.  When I think I have to change and be someone I am not I look outward to find what is missing, and miss the treasure I already have that is buried within.  To look outwards and strive to be like a saint is a futile effort.  Instead we must rest from our efforts to understand everything, be at peace within, and trust that Holy Spirit will make us into the saint He had in mind from the beginning.

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