The Most Important Things in Life Are Not Things
Dr. Jim Denison
Here are some of the least-important facts I know:
– Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.
– There are more chickens than people in the world.
– Two-thirds of the world’s eggplant is grown in New Jersey.
– An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
– A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.
– It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
Here is the most important statement I know: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37, 39-40). As does your soul’s summer.
Last week we investigated the first great commandment, finding ways to draw close to God, to love him each day.
Today, we’ll explore the second great commandment. How will you love your neighbor as yourself this summer, thus proving that you love God? What will be your strategy for changing someone’s life, for living with significance and purpose, for making a difference that matters? How will you redeem this summer for God?
May I give you a proverb for these months, three words live by all summer long?
Learn God’s word (5-8)
When I was a high school senior, a dear friend gave me a topical Bible in which she inscribed two verses. They became the first biblical verses I ever learned: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV). Let’s pitch our tents here and explore for a while.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”:
“Trust” means to rely upon in total dependence. The Hebrew originally meant to lie helplessly face down, with no way to get up or save yourself. Not just believe intellectually, but trust personally. You do not “trust” the airplane pilot until you get on his airplane.
“In the Lord”—we all trust in something or someone to give us meaning and purpose. Some trust in the stock market, others in their job, others in their ability, health, parents, spouse, or children. The proverb says to put your trust in the Lord, to depend upon him for your life, meaning and future.
“With all your heart”—the “heart” is not just your emotions but your will and intellect. This is a command to trust in God with your decisions, plans, future; to trust him with your life, ambitions, and direction. With “all” your heart means that you trust completely and only in God to be your guide, source and strength.
“And lean not on your own understanding”—This is Hebrew parallelism, where the second line comments on the first. In this case, the second line restates negatively what has just been said positively.
“Lean” means to depend fully, to support yourself in the sense of leaning on a wall or a railing. When you have surgery you “lean” on the doctor to wake you up—you put your life in his hands.
“Not on your own understanding” is in the present tense; it actually says, “stop trusting in your own understanding.” To trust in the Lord with all your heart means that you don’t trust in yourself. You don’t trust your abilities, education, experience or circumstances to give your life meaning, purpose and direction. If you’re doing that, stop it now.
“In all your ways acknowledge him”—”All your ways” means every step, every action, every decision. Everywhere you go, everything you do.
There is no sacred/secular dichotomy here, no Sunday/Monday split. In every part of your life—your finances and friends and family and future.
“Acknowledge him” means literally to “know him” personally, intimately. Walk with God in everything you do, everywhere you go. God is not one of the electives in the school of life—make every choice with his will in mind. And take every step only after you ask him what to do. With this result: “and he will make your paths straight.”
The Hebrew means, “He will direct your paths” or “He will set you on the straight and narrow.” He will manage your life, guide your steps, take you where you need to go.
God wants to do this for us. He is waiting to “make your paths straight,” right now. But you must ask him to; you must follow his leadership. His will is your Global Positioning Satellite system, but it is no good unless you look at it and do what it says. It will not drive your car for you.
Bear in mind that walking down his paths will cost you something: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops” (v. 9).
The “firstfruits” were the farmer’s first and best harvest. The ancient Israelites lived by the crops they produced, but the Law required that their first harvest be brought to God as a sacrifice.
Your “firstfruits” are your best resources. The first hour of the day given to God in prayer, Bible study and worship. Your best preparations for the class you teach or the ministry you lead. Your sacrifice to help a hurting neighbor, to reach out to a lost friend, to care about a lonely soul. Your best service to God, whatever the cost. When God directs your path, you walk down it whatever its price.
But then you position yourself to receive the blessing God so wants to give: “then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (v. 10). Then God can meet your needs and make your life abundant and significant. Then you can make a difference that matters. And only then.
Ask God first
So the proverb for the summer is these three words: Ask God first. Before you make your plans. Before you plan your vacation, your job, your activities, your days, your life. Lean upon his word and not your wisdom. Ask him to direct your paths, and believe that he will use your life. Depend on him. Ask God first.