The Proverbs are trying to show us why we need to listen to God’s ways and God’s wisdom. The first two chapters have explained that God has wisdom for all generations. God gives this to us so that we can have a skillful, insightful, and successful life before God in this world. Wisdom is only found in God and is not found anywhere else. God’s wisdom is available to all people to keep us from the permanent damage that we can inflict on our lives. The shorthand of this message so far is found in Proverbs 3:4. If you will seek after wisdom like silver, you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and people. Now God is going to put before us the big idea and then show us three ways to follow through with this teaching.
So let’s start with the big idea. Look at Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (CSB). Both the word “trust” and the word “rely” carry the picture of leaning on something for physical support. Some translations use the word “lean.” Think about what God is saying if we are going to find favor and good success before God and people. Lean on the Lord completely. Trust him with all your heart. We do not like to lean on something completely because it is frightening. What will happen if we lean on it and it moves? We are going to fall down and get hurt. So we are not interested in leaning completely on something. We are not interested in trusting in the Lord completely because we have trusted other people and been burned. We trusted in someone and they let us down. So we think we are never going to do that again. I am not going to be that fool again.
What does God mean by trusting in him with all our heart? What does it look like to lean on him? Listen to the rest of verse 5. “Do not rely on your own understanding.” Do not depend on your own insights. Trusting God means not relying on our own wisdom, our own way of thinking, our own logic, or our own understanding. Now notice the verse again. We will completely depend on the Lord which means we will have zero dependency on our own way of thinking. We will trust the Lord and not rely on our understanding when it comes to dating, sexual relations, marriage, and divorce. We will trust in the Lord and not rely on our way of thinking when it comes to anger, bitterness, selfishness, and forgiveness. We will trust in the Lord, believing that he will care for us, and not depend on ourselves. We will trust in the Lord and give ourselves sacrificially to all and not rely on our own thoughts about why we are afraid to do this.
We have a lot of curious ways that we like to think that we are trusting in God. We like to say that we trust in the Lord. We like to tell other people to trust in the Lord. But listen to what that means. Trusting in the Lord means we do not rely on what we think is the right thing to do. Trusting in the Lord means that we do not do what we think is best. Trusting in the Lord means we will not listen to our own senses — what we see and what we feel — but will listen to him.
You will notice that this is what verse 6 says. “In all your ways know him” (CSB). Other translations read that we will acknowledge him in all our ways, submit to him in all our ways, and seek his will in all we do. We will listen and obey God in every decision we make. We will listen to him and not ourselves in every path we take. We will not listen to ourselves and then cross check with God later. We will look to God alone for every path we take. God says that if we will do this then he will make our paths straight. God will take you down the right road if you will depend on him and not on your own thinking. Jesus summed up this idea in a very simple sentence. Jesus said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is what it means to follow Jesus. We completely trust God’s ways and not our ways. This is what the people faith did. We do not have time to talk about people like Abraham who were asked to do things that were completely illogical in their walk of faith. But let me sum it up this way. If we need to understand and agree with everything we do, then we are not walking by faith. There is no room for faith. Everything is sight to you. You are relying on your own understanding and not leaning on God at all. So let’s talk about what this looks like in the next few verses.
Be Humble (3:7-8)
Trusting in the Lord means being humble. Look at verse 7. “Do not be wise in your own eyes” (3:7). What is God telling us? Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t think you have life figured out. Don’t think you have superior wisdom. Don’t think that your wisdom is God’s wisdom. Why is this so important? Why can’t we be impressed with ourselves? The reason why is that we will never listen to God if we think we have things figured out. If you are wise in your own eyes, you are not going to listen to God. If you are wise in your own eyes, you are never going to listen to good Christian counsel from trusted, spiritual, godly people. No one is going to be able to help you because you are so smart.
All of this means that we are humble about our lives. It is not me; it is God. Just because something goes well in our lives does not mean that we are experts. It means God has blessed us. We will talk more about this in tonight’s lesson from Ezekiel 25-33. Don’t think you have all the answers. Do not rely on your understanding. Now listen to what God says about this. If we will be humble, it will be healing for our bodies and strength to our bones (3:8). Your life can be refreshing if you will stop thinking so much of yourself and rely on the wisdom of God. This is such an important picture. God can give your life wholeness. You do not have to feel empty. You do not have to feel like there is something missing. You do not have to have a hole in your life. You can be complete and satisfied because God will give you the nourishment and strength to your life.
Be Generous (3:9-10)
Trusting in the Lord means honoring the Lord with your possessions and wealth. Be generous and use your wealth in such a way so that God is honored. Now why is this a picture of trusting in the Lord and not relying on our own understanding? How we use our wealth shows if we trust God or if we are depending on ourselves. When we choose to not honor the Lord with our wealth and honor him with the first of what we receive, then we are saying that we have to take care of ourselves. My money is for me and I need to take care of me. But I want us to see how counterintuitive God’s wisdom is to our wisdom. We think that the only way we can have is if we think about ourselves first and rely on our own wisdom.
But look at verse 10. If you will honor the Lord with your wealth, then your barns will be completely filled and your vats will overflow. What is God saying? God is saying that he will take care of us if we will trust him with the wealth he has given to us. Do we believe that God is going to take care of us today? Do we believe that God will take care of us tomorrow? God strongly tried to show this truth to us. Think about what God showed the people of Israel in the wilderness. Pick up the manna from the ground but only as much as you need for today. I will take care of you tomorrow. If you try to pick up extra, I will make it rot. But if you will trust me with your wealth and believe that I will take care of you, I will take care of you.
This is not only a picture to Israel but is a teaching for us also. In 2 Corinthians 9 the apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians to encourage them to have a generous heart to do God’s work. Listen to how Paul presents why they should honor the Lord with their wealth.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:6–11 ESV)
God’s message is very simple. If you will not use your wealth the way I want you to, why I would give you more? But if you will honor the Lord with your wealth, God says in verse 8 that you will have what you need and still abound in every good work. But if we hold on tightly to our wealth and possessions, then we are not trusting in the Lord. We are relying on our own understanding. Think about how you can honor the Lord with what God has given to you.
Be Teachable (3:11-12)
Finally, trusting in the Lord and not relying on our own understanding means being teachable. Look at Proverbs 3:11. Do not despise the Lord’s instruction and do not be weary of his discipline. God is going to do things in our lives to wake us up. God wants to teach us. God wants us to listen to him so that we will go down the right path. Please think about this question. What is God’s greatest desire for your life? God’s greatest desire is that no one would perish but all would come to repentance and be saved (cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Acts 17:30-31). So God is going to do all that he can toward that aim. We have noted many times that the scriptures tell us that God uses trials and suffering to teach us and refine us (cf. James 1:1-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9).
This is what verse 12 says. The Lord disciplines the one he loves just as a father discipline the son in whom he delights. It is important to remember that the word “discipline” does not only mean punishment. Sometimes we think of using this word only in this way. But discipline is the idea of instruction, guidance, and correction. The Lord is correcting those he loves. The Lord is teaching and guiding those he loves. This passage is quoted by the writer of Hebrews.
3 For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. 7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:3–7 CSB)
The writer of Hebrews applies the text in the same way. We need to be teachable and God uses our life situations to teach us. If we are wise in our own eyes, then we will not be teachable. We will resist God’s correction. We will resist God’s training seasons. But God wants us to look at our suffering as discipline. He wants us to see it as a corrective for our lives. Trusting in the Lord means that we accept that we have areas in our lives that we need to change. We accept that our life direction needs course correction. We will allow ourselves to be taught and changed by what God allows us to experience in our lives. We will not resist it. We will not despise it. We will not resent it. We will not be weary from it because we know God is showing his love for us. God’s greatest desire is for our eternal good. So he will act to move us toward him.
God’s message is that we do not follow our heart. Rather, we trust in the Lord with all our heart. We will rely on the Lord and his ways, not our own understanding. This complete leaning on the Lord will be seen in our humility in life, our generosity toward God, and in our life corrections. Do not be embarrassed when life blows up. Do not hate God when life does not go according to plan. It is a moment in your life that is a fork in the road. Will you trust in the Lord or will you trust in yourself? If you listen to God or listen to yourself? Will you submit to God in all your ways or will you still go your own way? Favor and success before God and before people is to trust God’s ways.