Monday, January 19, 2009


Proverbs 16 Setting Your Sails To Discover The Will Of God

Proverbs 16 Steps To Tuning Your heart to The Will Of God.

“Since 1955 knowledge has doubled every 5 years. Libraries groan with the weight of new books. In fact, our generation possesses more data about the universe and human personality than all previous generations put together. High school graduates today have been exposed to more information about the world than Plato, Aristotle, or Benjamin Franklin. In terms of facts alone, neither Moses, Paul, or Solomon could pass a college entrance exam today. Yet, by everyone’s standards, even with all our knowledge, society today is filled with a bumper crop of brilliant failures. Men and women, educated to earn a living, often don’t know anything about handling life itself. Alumni from noted universities have mastered information about a narrow slice of life but couldn’t make it out of the first grade when it comes to living successfully with family and kids and friends. Let’s face it, knowledge is not enough to meet life’s problems. We need wisdom, the ability to handle life with skill! - HADDON ROBINSON

In answer to the question, "Where is happiness?" Clarence Macartney said, "It's not found in pleasure--Lord Byron lived such a life if anyone did. He wrote, "The worm, the canker, and the grief are mine alone." Happiness is not found in money--Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said, "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth." It's not found in position and fame--Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote, "Youth is a mistake, manhood a struggle, and old age a regret." It's not found in military glory--Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent because, he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer.""

The truth is you can never be happy unless you are doing God’s will.

You were designed to do God’s will.

Just as a train cannot run but on its own tracks, so you cannot have fulfilment and joy in life unless you run on the tracks God has designed for your life.

Ephesians 2:10 states For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

But how do you and I discover God’s will for our lives? Is it some mysterious map that God has to lower down to us from heaven? Will I find it by googling my name on google maps?

Many years ago a friend told me that you could liken discovering God’s will to one of those very old sailing boats that brought the convicts to Australia. Those heavy old ships were all powered by sail. If the ship wasn’t moving it didn’t matter how much the helmsman turned the rudder or what direction he turned it, the ship wasn’t going anywhere fast anyway. He could turn it as much as he wanted, but the ship wasn’t going to move.

If the sails were all furled, then the ship couldn’t catch the wind, and if the ship couldn’t catch the wind, they weren’t going anywhere fast.

God can guide a moving ship from the helm.

But how can we get moving? What steps are there to take to unfurl the sails so we can catch the wind of God’s Spirit as He guides us through life?

Solomon gives us the directions to unfurl each sail so you and I can catch the wind and God can direct our lives.

Sail 1. Unfurl the sail and Evaluate the Choices. Prov 16:1  The reflections of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.

For all of our choices in life, we must evaluate the options before us.  We should put our heart and head into equation to discover God’s will. 

Do you like “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” the host asks the question: “What is your final answer?” The final answer in the matter of the will of God belongs to the Lord. He Is Sovereign over all. There is a sense in which in His omnipotence nothing happens in life that does not fulfil His will.

Ephesians 1:11 says In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Which one of those all things is outside His will? None! Nothing catches God by surprise. In the final outworking of all things in human history, He remains the Sovereign Lord over history. He is in control and He has the final answer! In the end we must realise that there is a final decision, and the final decision is with the Lord.

(Prov 16:1) To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

(Prov 16:9) In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

(Prov 19:21) Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

(Prov 20:24) A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?

(Prov 21:30) There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

(Prov 21:31) The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

The message of Solomon's Spirit-inspired wisdom is clear: our God is sovereign, He is in control, it is His purposes and His plans that come to fruition.

James is well acquainted with the wisdom of Solomon. He too reminds us that we are not in charge, that we are not in control. James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”
14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

(James 4:14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.) Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

We don't hold tomorrow. For that matter, we don't hold today either. They are in the hands of God. Even our life is not our own, but belongs to the God Who has numbered the days of each of us. We don't know – anyone of us – if today is our last day, or tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year, or next decade, or even half a century from now. We just don't know because our life, its days, its years, is not in our hands. It is, rather, in the hands of God. It is God Who is in control.

Yet while the Lord is sovereign, he calls on us to reflect. We need to reflect to figure out the Lord’s will for us. He expects our engagement in the process. And tonight we are examining the steps we need to make to arrive at god’s perfect will for our lives.
James 4:15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

What we are to do, dear people, is to recognize God's control. We are to follow the Lord's leading. James says,

(James 4:15) ... you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Our plans, our hopes, our dreams, are to be made with God – His will, His leading – in mind. Our lives are to be lived in the awareness of God's presence and control.

"If the Lord wills." The Apostle Paul was a man who knew we cannot neglect or defeat the sovereignty of God. He sought the Lord's will in any and every situation. It was his desire to always follow the Lord's leading. He made no hopes, plans, or goals without also immediately adding a statement about God's will. For instance, when Paul said good-bye to the church at Ephesus, he said, "I will come back if it is God's will" (Acts 18:21). And, when Paul's friends and companions could not dissuade him from going to the city of Jerusalem, they said, "The Lord's will be done" (Acts 21:14). To the Christians at Corinth, Paul states that he would visit them in the near future "if the Lord is willing" (1 Cor 4:19) and "if the Lord permits" (1 Cor 16:7). To the church at Rome, Paul says, "I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you" (Rom 1:10) and, "Pray ... that by God's will I may come to you ..." (Rom 15:31-32). Finally, to the church at Philippi, Paul says, "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon" (Phil 2:19) and, "I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon" (Phil 2:24)."

Take responsibility. Reflect on God’s Sovereignty, and take responsibility for your part in discovering and doing God’s will.

Unfurl the sail named reflection!

Sail 2: Unfurl the sail and Allow God To Weigh Our Motives Proverbs 16:2 “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.” (Proverbs 16:2, NKJV)

Sheldon Vanauken, in an essay entitled, “The Loves,” describes how a husband left his wife for another woman.  The man said, “It seemed so good, so right.  That’s when we knew we had to get the divorce.  We belonged together.”  Vanauken then relates the words of a wife who was leaving her husband for another man.  She said, “It was just so good and right with Roger that I knew it would be wrong to be with Paul.”  Vanauken summarizes the decisions that this man and woman made when he writes that the two were “invoking a higher law: the feeling of goodness and rightness. …A feeling so powerful … that it swept away whatever guilt they otherwise would have felt.”
The rationale behind our decisions reveals whether we have made good decisions or poor ones.  It’s important that the followers of Jesus Christ follow the process that God puts in place when we have choices to make

We decide to do something because it appeals to our senses, and then we look for reasons why it’s a good thing to do.  That’s self-justification  But we need must remind ourselves that our judgment is fallible.  Making good decisions involves more than merely justifying what we’re already doing.  It involves more than merely rationalizing the course of action we’ve already taken. 
Sometimes we try to justify our decisions with how we feel.  If our heart is hot toward something, we conclude that it must be good.  But the Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Sometimes we try to justify our decisions with what we know.  If our mind intellectually determines the logical course of action, then it must be good.  But the Scripture tells us: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My (God) ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:9).  Our mind can only conceive a particle of what God sees and knows.  So what we determine through our thought process isn’t sufficient evidence for a good decision.
God evaluates the Motives.In order to make good decisions, we need to know that God is watching and weighing our motives.  We make good decisions when God’s standard of right and wrong is the model we follow.  Our motivations for following a course of action are clear to Him.  The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13).

Unfurl the sail named reflection! Reflect upon your own motives. Read God’s Word and let His word retrain and restrain your personal motives.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

Reflect on the Word of God. Let God’s Word retrain your motives. Let God’s Word cut deep into your motives and expose them for what they are.

You must unfurl the sail of reflection by reading God’s Word each day. Read 5 chapters of His Word each morning before you go to school or work. Let it touch your heart. Let it examine your motives. Let it retrain your affections.

Psalm 139 says 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.

Sail 3: Unfurl the sail called refocus and do All For God's Glory

Proverbs 16:3-4Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will be achieved.4 The Lord has prepared everything for His purpose— even the wicked for the day of disaster.

God’s Glory is the Goal of what we do.
We make good decisions when we commit ourselves to bring God glory.  The Sage uses a verb which means to roll or cast toward something. In order to make good decisions today, we must roll our works toward God.  He is the goal of what we do.  When He is the goal of our actions, then our decisions will reflect that commitment.  The apostle Paul said, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
I can remember when I was a student; how desperately I wanted to fit in with others at school.  I was new to the city, and I found out quickly that I had to do certain things in order to fit in.  Some of the things that would lead ultimately to their acceptance, however, weren’t part of God’s plan for my life.  In fact, I knew that I would have to abandon what God wanted to be accepted.
The decisions I made as a student reflected the goal of my heart.  If being accepted was the goal, then my decisions would breed deeds that pleased others and disappointed God.  If, on the other hand, God’s glory was the goal, then my decisions would breed deeds that pleased God and distanced me from others.
Today, we have the same choice to make.  What is your goal?  As a person who has been touched and transformed by God’s love and grace through Jesus, we have a “built in” goal of bringing God Glory.  The question we have to answer is whether we believe God’s glory will lead us to the best in life.  If what the Bible says is true (and I believe it is), then we can’t reach the best in life if we don’t live to honour Him.
God promises to “establish our thoughts” when we commit our works to Him.  Literally, God will make our future plans firm and strong because our present commitment is properly focused.  He will add His richest blessing to our future plans when we trust Him with our decisions and deeds.  We won’t need to fret about the way things will work out tomorrow when we live to honour Him today. Derek Kidner, Proverbs, TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1964), 118.  He writes that “our activities and plans . . . will be no less our own for being His: only less burdensome . . . and better made.”  Furthermore, “there are no loose ends in God’s world: everything will be put to some use and matched with its proper fate.” 

We exist to honour God. The reason the goal of our work and our decisions we make is God’s glory is that we were made to honour God.  He created us to bring pleasure to His heart.  After all, He is God.  He is the One who made us.  He created in our hearts the passions that we have, and when those passions are surrendered to Christ, they lead to decisions that honour God.  He created in our lives the talents that we have, and when those talents are surrendered to Christ, they lead to decisions that honour God.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke to the Father and said, “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).  That was Christ’s reason for leaving heaven and walking the earth as a Man.  To bring glory to God.  To finish the work that God had given Him to do.
The same is true for us.  We exist to bring glory to the Lord God who created us and saved us.  We were not created merely to make money, to have fun, or to pursue the dreams that swirl around in our soul.  We were created to honour the One who made us.  To bring Him pleasure with our decisions and our deeds.

Unfurl the sail called refocussing our intentions. Refocus on the glory of God. Get God’s glory as your final deciding factor in your life. It will keep you from the shoals of self-centred living.

Sail 4: Unfurl the sail called Redemption and Run To The Cross

Proverbs 16:5-6 Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.6 Wickedness is atoned for by loyalty and faithfulness, and one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord.

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, proclaimed his self-reliance in the face of the eternity he will meet.  The poem, Invictus, which means “invincible” in Latin, provides the theme of his prideful look in the face of his decisions in the past and his destiny tomorrow.  The last phrase of the poem declares: “It matters not how straight the gate / How charged with punishments the scroll / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”  That type of attitude is a guarantee for making poor decisions that will devastate our lives. 
Decisions that Lead to Disaster. Solomon shares with us the debilitating and disastrous result of pride, especially when it comes to making good decisions.  The “proud in heart” are those who think too highly of themselves.  They are the “captains of their own soul.”  We are proud in heart when we think too often of ourselves and too little of God.   We think that we have all the answers we need in order to get the best in life, and we don’t need God or His help. Derek Kidner, Proverbs, TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1964), 118.  He writes: “The proud man is placed in the very worst company in Proverbs, heading the ‘seven abominations’ in 6:17, and assured of judgment, in company with the adulterer (6:29), the perjuror [sic] (19:5), and similar scarlet sinners whom he doubtless thanks God he does not resemble.”
Pride is an attitude of the heart that will lead to disastrous decisions. 

As “masters of our own fate,” we take control of our lives with painful consequences.  An attitude of absolute dependence upon our friends or our own faculties rather than upon Jesus Christ is an “abomination” to God.  An abomination is something that is abhorrent to the nature, character, and senses. 

The most devastating consequence of pride, however, is found in our relationship with God.  God resists the proud (James 4:5-6).  He is disgusted by pride.  He will punish pride.
Run to the Cross. The way to overcome the disastrous decisions of pride is to run toward the mercy, truth, and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.  We run to the foot of the cross and turn away from self-dependence to surrender.  We humble ourselves before Holy God and beg for His help.  We submit ourselves to Him with a commitment to obey Him in every way.  We give our lives to the “fear of the Lord.”  In the fear of the Lord, we declare that we don’t have all the answers.  In the fear of the Lord, we confess that our pride is an abomination to Him.  In the fear of the Lord, we submit our present path to Him and our distant destiny into His capable, compassionate, and caring heart.  We fear Him and believe that He will direct us to the very best in life.  When we fear Him, we live in the absolute terror that we will do anything without His hand of love, blessing, and passion upon our lives. Today, we need to run to the Cross! 

Sail 5: Unfurl the sail and Keep Our Priorities Straight

Proverbs 16: 7-8 When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice.” (Proverbs 16:7-8, NKJV) 

Sign on the road in England which read: “Changed Priorities Ahead.”  “It has to do with how you give way to the traffic in the roundabout just ahead. You yield to a different driver than usual.”  To negotiate the difficult decisions in our lives, we need to listen to the counsel of that sign.  We need to live by changed priorities so that we yield our lives every day to the Lord Jesus.
We must keep our priorities in order to make good decisions.  The Sage teaches us that we will be faced with many different “drivers” to whom we can yield; namely, friends or finances.  In order to make the best decisions, we must blanket our choices in life with the supreme priority: Please God first!
Choose to Please God more than Gain Friends. The pleasure of God takes priority over making friends or appeasing enemies.  Relationships can be a strong distraction in making good decisions.  We can make poor decisions (those that break God’s heart) because we want to gain friends and influence our enemies.  We make poor decisions because we believe that our relationships can lead to a better life for us than can God.  But He is the “sovereign Lord directing history.”If He is sovereign, then He is able to lead us to the best situations in every relationship. We must choose to please Him first because He has the power and the passion to satisfy our soul with the relationships which bless our lives the best. In order to make the best decisions our focus must be pleasing God first.  No matter how that decision might influence our friends to be dismayed or our enemies to attack.  When we live to please God, we can trust Him to help us with our relationships.
Choose to Please God more than Gain Finances. The second distraction to the proper priorities in making decisions is money.  We must choose every day to please God more than gain money.  So often we choose to benefit our bank account rather than to bring pleasure to the heart of the Father.  It’s a tough temptation, because it is so prevalent in our mind.  Money is such a part of our daily lives.  We spend it every, single day.  We make it every, single day.  It can consume our passion and confuse our priorities.
money is fleeting and temporary.  Pleasing God is an eternal investment (Matt 6:20-21) Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21, NKJV

Sail 6: Unfurl the sail and Trust God With Our Future

Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.

We are Free to Choose.
We have the freedom to plan the course of our lives. It’s a freedom that God has given each of us.  In the book of Proverbs, however, we have learned that life comes down to two options.  We can choose to go the way of the wicked and the fool, or we can choose to go the way of the righteous and the wise.  We make choices that follow the path of the wicked when we tell God that we are the masters of our own fate. This saying distinguishes between the human plan and the divine direction; it has a whole process in mind: the way through life.  The journey involves many decisions, but there is consolation in the belief that the Lord’s direction will bring success along the way.”
When we follow God’s steps rather than the way that we think is best, we will experience the blessings of Christ.  When we follow the path of our own making, ignoring the steps directed by God through His Word and Spirit, we will be clothed with the pain of personal pride.
Our hope in the future is defined by the presence, power, and purpose of God to bring about the best in life for us.  We no longer interpret our need according to our abilities.  We no longer define our destiny according to our performance.  We have the presence of God through the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts to unveil a vision of what God is doing in our world and through our lives.  Through pride we reject God’s plan for our future and opt for a future of our own making (pain).  Through humility we place our future in the hands of the One who loved us.

Every Christian, if he or she is wise, will seek the Lord's leading. Every Christian, if he or she is wise, will not ignore the Lord and His will when making decisions and setting forth plans.

• Are you thinking of marriage? What is God's will for your life? Does He want you to get married and to whom?

• Are you thinking of college? What is God's will for your life? What college does He want you to go to? What major does He want you to study? What career does He want you to prepare for?

• Are you thinking of a move, a career change? What is God's will for your life? Where does He want you to move? What does He want you to do?

• Are you thinking of expansion? What is God's will for your life? Does He want you to become bigger or does He want you to be smaller?

• Are you thinking of retirement? What is God's will for your life? Where does He want you to retire and what does He want you to do with your retirement?

Do you follow God's leading? Do you even think about God's leading when it comes to matters like this?

Are you trusting in the Lord for your future?

Ps 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Jer 17:7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.

Ps 146:5 Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God,

Prov 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; 6 think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

"Trusting in the Lord with all our heart is the opposite of doubting God and His word. Such trust is fundamental to our relationship with God and is based on the premise that He is trustworthy."

“Putting confidence in an unreliable man is like chewing with a sore tooth, or trying to run on a broken foot” (Prov. 25:19, TLB). Henry Plantagenet, King of England, lay mortally wounded of foreign soil. He called for his faithful retainer Roger Malchael to read a list of the followers who had deserted to the enemy.

Roger unrolled the parchment but found it difficult to speak. At last the word came, “The first name that is written here is the name of Count John, your son.”

The king groaned, “Is it true that John, whom I loved beyond all my sons, and for whose gain I have suffered this misery, has forsaken me?”

The dying monarch turned his face to the wall, “It is enough. No need to read the others. Let the rest go as it will. I care no more for myself nor for aught in this world.”

But his oldest son Geoffrey upon whom he had not bestowed any particular affection stood by his father supporting his head and fanning away the July heat. “Dearest son,” whispered Henry, “Whatever a son could show of filial faith you have shown.”

Putting his trust in the notorious John Lackland had meant the king had faith in the wrong man. Where is your trust today? Are you trusting in the Lord, or are you trusting I other prospects that will fail because of their nature to fail.

Have you set the sails? Are you catching the wind of God’s Spirit for your daily guidance through life?

After preaching this message my church secretary aged 70 something stood and prayed “Lord help us to know your daily guidance for our lives so that we may do your will.” When older folk feel they need to know God’s will, as a daily experience, how much more should younger folk seek to know his will too. Are you discerning God’s will for your life? Take responsibility and seek to know His will. Set your sails. Trust the unfailing Lord to guide you.

And your life will become a fulfilling adventure with God.

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