My father, Paul Thomas, was a very good singer, with a fine baritone voice. That was his gift. He found it very difficult to speak about his faith. He had a younger brother, also called Paul, who died as a child. That child was a very capable speaker and often ‘talked’ the gospel to his friends as a young boy. Perhaps my father heard about this in his childhood and grew up feeling a little inadequate. I remember him choking up one time when I asked him about this being a possible reason for his struggles to find sharing comfortable, living in the shadow of his brother.
I cannot be sure of the timing, but I believe it was when I was leaving home for teacher training college at Chester. In my Bible dad wrote the following scripture:
Proverbs 3:5-6: “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.”
Whilst I may not have had many talks with dad to gain from his life’s knowledge, experience and wisdom, this scripture has remained with me, all the more deeply because it was he who wrote it in my Bible. Over the years it has guided me more than many words from a parent may have done.
Notice LORD is in capitals. This is one of 6,823 times it is used in the KJV. The meaning behind this is literally ‘to be’. It speaks of eternal existence. The LORD is I AM. Imagine the impact when Jesus said;
John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
The Hebrew translation is Yahweh, or YHWH, as they did not have vowels in their alphabet. From this came the English translation, Jehovah; not the best scholastically, but much loved by our hymn writers; for example, these well-known words from William Williams in 1745.
“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand.”
I must confess that I have not always trusted the LORD with all my heart, which here includes your mind, will and emotions. Nor have I always acknowledged Him. When I come back from injury to get running again, I discover that I trust modern rehabilitation methods and acknowledge my physiotherapist, especially when people ask if I am training for another race or challemge. I even recognise my own training that has got me fit again. Why do I find it so difficult, uncomfortable, to acknowledge the LORD as the healer and motivator?
What if this text was rewritten to reflect a more worldly approach to life? Something like this: Trust in your own strength, and understanding. Acknowledge your own efforts and be proud of what you achieve. This is not far from how many people conduct their lives. Perhaps, as evangelicals, we might have to honestly say that we are somewhere in between. I am prepared to trust the LORD some of the time and usually, with quite a lot of my heart. I lean on His understanding, as much as I am acquainted with it, but am often self-reliant. I find it much easier to share what the LORD has done for me when I am with other believers. He makes my paths as straight as He can, considering how often I choose the broad way.
Thanks, dad, for this word of wisdom you left me. It points me to another Father, the great I AM, who knows the end from the beginning. 'Straight paths' does not mean straight forward, i.e. get this text sorted and life will be relatively easy. As well as our own sinful ways and thoughts, there is the deceitfulness and seduction of the enemy. Only as we understand Him through His Word do we become more certain of our identity in Christ. Scripture declares in Galatians 2:20 that for those like Paul who are born again, we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer we who live. Christ now lives in us, and the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself for us. Romans 8:14: reveals that those who are led by the Spirit, these are those who are being fathered by God (sons of God). So to not lean on our own understanding means we should never just reason things out in our minds only. We should subject everything in our life to the leading of the Holy Spirit as well. As we are filled with His Holy Spirit, we will become empowered to be His witnesses, acknowledging Him in every way to everyone.
LORD. You are the great I AM, the eternally existent Creator. Help me to trust you more, to see things your way, to acknowledge your immense presence in my life, especially to unbelievers, because I know your only desire is to keep me on the straight path that leads to a stronger, deeper relationship with you.