Charles Bridges, that great Puritan, said of this text that it's the polar star of every Christian life. You and I can't live the Christian life without knowing the principle contained in these two verses. God has so designed them that as we seek to trust him so, he becomes everything that God is to a man. We walk not by sight but by faith. And, indeed, the Bible says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).
Without faith it's impossible to live a G life. Indeed, Paul reminds us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin. And the Christian life is an act of faith from the very beginning and an activity of faith, an attitude of faith, right through to the very end.
Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way,
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by.
Trusting him what e'er befall,
Trust Jesus, that is all.
The trusting heart makes a decision
What does our text teach us about the trusting heart? Once again I'm going to ask you to come to the text itself, because always my procedure is the exegesis of the text, to let the text say what it says in relation to our every need here tonight.
Faith expresses itself, first of all, in the decision of a trusting heart. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart." Will you notice that this is a command. This is not an invitation. This is not even a promise at this point of this opening sentence. It is a definite command. "Trust in the Lord."
In Hebrew psychology that little word heart has to do not so much with the emotions, though they are included, but primarily with the intellect and the will. The mind, of course, must be satisfied and the heart stirred and the will strengthened to act as a total personality, but the appeal here is to the will. God is saying, "I want you to trust me. I want you to lean upon me, to step right out upon me in total trust." It's a decision. It's a decision of the trusting heart.
If somebody is coming to this place tonight, and you're not a believer, you're still outside of the fold. Or you came to this conference and you've got this far and you don't know the joy of full salvation in Christ, you don't know what we're singing about and talking about because you're still outsidemy friend, the way into the kingdom is a decision of trust. But I want to add the way right through the life of the kingdom is a trusting heart. "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Col. 2:6). You see, the first step is trust. So the walk is a projection of those steps all the way along the life, right through to the end of the journey.
But I want you to notice something that is absolutely tremendous and that has challenged my heart deeply as I've meditated upon this text. In this decision of a trusting heart, two tremendous principles are involved. First, the total capitulation of your heart to God. A total capitulation to God. This act of trust is not something naïve or fatuous or nebulous. It's a total commitment of your will.
Will you notice what the text said? "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. God does not accept your trust unless it's total. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart." To quote Charles Bridges once again: "The trust called for here is not only entire; it's exclusive." With all thine heart.
Oh, my friend, tonight my first challenge to you is this: Are there any reservations? I don't believe a man should preach the Word of God or expound the truth of God without backing it by his experience, and I'm not given usually to telling stories about myself. But I'm encouraged to do so tonight. And I want to tell you just how that touched me at a point in my life and revolutionized my entire direction. Total capitulation to God. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.
I was born in Africa and at a very young age committed my life to Jesus Christ, was baptized and brought into the church there. But for several long years in my life, I wandered in the wilderness. I never knew the great experience of victory and fullness in that land of milk and honey in Canaan. Those are all figures of speech just to show what life in Christ is like. The Ephesian equivalent is: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (1:3).
But I had a quarrel with God, and that quarrel with God was that I wasn't going to go his way. I was going to go my way. I'd been brought up on a mission station, and I had seen times when we faced almost stark starvation. I'd seen some of the trials and tribulations that a missionary has to go through, and my concept of a Christian service was discipleship and constancy and suffering. And, frankly, I wasn't prepared for that.
I decided to carve out my own empire, and I was given a tantalizing invitation to take a job on the west coast of Africa as an engineer. But I had to have a degree. And so I started to study for my degree, and I loved it, every minute of it. I like the practical side, and I was set for this great career. But I knew deep down in my heart that this was my way, not God's way, and it led me completely astray. I became detached from spiritual things of the church, and there was a backsliding period in my life that I'll give my right hand to recall because of the years that are gonegone. Although I know God does restore the years that the locusts have eaten, it's still a scar and still a regret.
I was working on fast machines at the time, because that was a project that I was given. I chose the motorbike. And I used to know everything about a motorcycle, and I developed a form of carburetion that pushed the air into the carburetor faster in order to vaporize the gas and produce better explosion for greater speed. And I took it to races, and I won race after race and cup after cup, and I was very proud about it. But God was seeking to teach me a lesson, and God brought me to a halt one day when he permitted something to happen to give me a good spanking. I was thrown from a fast machine and partly concussed. Before I could recover, I caught a serious form of double pneumonia. In those days they didn't have the drugs we have today, and they wrote me off. They said I had two weeks to live. And I was told that.
And to cut a long story short, God met me at that point of utter desperation. My father was in Africa, thousands of miles away. It took three months for a letter to get to him and back again. And yet without knowing at all, what was happening in my life and how I was disgracing his name, God gave him the inspiration to write me a letter, which arrived just at the point of my greatest need. My mother brought that letter in one afternoon. I closed my eyes and didn't want to talk to anybody. I had refused to see any of the elders of the church. I'd been sent home from the hospital. As soon as she left, I opened that letter. It was very short. Nothing about shooting leopards or lions or elephants or gazelles. Just a little introduction and then these words: "My son, this is of most importance. Only one life shall soon be passed. Only what's done for Jesus will last."
I want to tell you, that was a heavenly sledgehammer. It pulverized me. Two weeks to live, and I had to stand before him. Two weeks to live, and I had lived for self alone, nothing to show for my life. And my heart absolutely melted within me.
Crushed and broken by the sense of my wretchedness and sin and conviction, I slipped from my bed. I wasn't allowed to move, but I slipped to my knees and I cried to God for mercy. And God not only healed my body, he restored my soul. Something happened in my life, which the Holy Spirit took possession of, and peace came in that has never left me. That was the peak point of my whole Christian experience. Though God's taken me higher, I still remember that because that was the turning point.
But now what was going to happen? While I was recuperating on the south coast of England, a dear old missionary from the Barbados met me, and he stopped me. He said, "Are you Stephen Olford?"
I said, "Yes."
He said, "Is it true what I hear about you?" And he told me the story.
I said, "Sir, yes."
He said, "What are you going to do with your life?"
I said, "I'm praying it through. I'm thinking it through."
He said, "Are you prepared to give him everything?"
And I coined something that I've used thousands and thousands of times in meetings over the 30 years since I've been in the ministry. A lot of preachers have picked it up, but there's a little something I coined there, and I never heard it before. I said, "I'm prepared to go anywhere, at any time, at any cost for Jesus."
He said, "You really mean that?"
I said, "I do."
He said, "Will you kneel right down here and tell him?" There were two big whalebones embedded in the concrete of that promenade before the war blasted them to pieces. He said, "Kneel down here." Hundreds of people are going up and down the promenade. It was a lovely, sunny day. He said, "Will you kneel down here?" We looked crazy. There we were with hundreds of people, kneeling between two whalebones crying to God. But it didn't matter. It didn't matter. And I just looked up and said, "Lord, any place, any time, any cost."
I had to go back to Plymouth, the very city from which the Mayflower sailed away into this country, my childhood home. And I went to see my professor, and I told him the story. He was enraged. He said, "I want to graduate you. You mean to say you're going to let me down now?"
So I told him my story, and I held to my conviction. And he swung away on that chair of his. He looked out at the playing fields of that technical college. He paused for a moment, and swung back and looked at me. There were big tears in his eyes. He said, "Sorry for what I said. I called you a fool. Perhaps I'm the fool. Good luck to you. As far as I'm concerned, as long as these doors are open, you can always come back."
I said, "No, sir. I won't come back."
You know why? Because I don't believe when you trust in the Lord with all your heart, you ever leave that door exit. That's what it means. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, with all thine heart, with all thine heart.
I wonder how many of you here have trusted the Lord, but you've got a little backdoor exit in case something doesn't work out. You see what I mean? I wonder if you trusted the Lord, but you got a little bridge that just takes you over into another territory. Blow it up tonight, for that isn't true trust. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart."
So this is the capitulation to God. I have total capitulation to God.
But will you notice? The Spirit of God is so insistent that he goes further. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding." There's not only a capitulation to God but a renunciation of self, a total renunciation of self. Capitulation to God, renunciation of self. "Lean not unto thine own understanding." Exclusive and entire is this trust. And just as I've illustrated this by my own story, I'm thinking of another story in the New Testament that illustrates it.
Do you remember the young fellow who came to Jesus and said, "Lord Jesus, I want to come, and I want to be a preacher, and I want to follow you all the way, but Lord Jesus, let me first go back and bury my own father"?
Jesus turned around to him and said some very strange words. He said, "Let the dead bury their dead. But go now and preach the kingdom of God" (Matt. 8:22).
That was a very strange thing for the Master to say to somebody who said, "Let me go and bury my father." But many people misunderstand that passage. What that young man was actually saying was this: "Lord Jesus, I like your ministry, and I'd love to be a preacher, and I'd love to follow you, but somehow or other your cause is a rather insecure one. It's a total life of faith. And somehow or other, I'm not prepared for that. Let me go back and live with my elderly father until he eventually dies." Because obviously he hadn't died. The Jews bury on the same day.
He said, "Let me go and bury my father, wait until he dies, and when he dies, I will receive my inheritance at his death. And when I advance that inheritance, and I've got plenty of money, and I've got social security, and I've got everything that can take care of me (in case your show breaks down), I'll come and I'll be a preacher."
And Jesus turned around and said, "You're talking the language of the unregenerate. Let the dead bury their dead. But go now and preach the kingdom of God. You trust me with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding."
That's hard hitting. But are you prepared for that? That's the decision we've got to make, the decision of heart trust. It's total capitulation to God, total renunciation of self. No backdoor exit. No bridges of escape. It's total capitulation to God, total renunciation of self. Are you prepared for that?
A trusting heart is completely devoted
Let's go further into the text and notice that this reality of a trusting heart is not only a decision of heart trust, but it's a devotion of heart trust. The text goes on: "In all thy ways acknowledge him." Let's stop there for a moment.
If my decision of heart trust is complete capitulation to God, renunciation of self, then there is a devotion of heart trust, which is described here"In all thy ways acknowledge him." This means we're to seek to know his presence everyday and in everything we do. This is literally practicing the presence of Christ, knowing the presence of Christ on a daily basis. "In all thy ways acknowledge him."
Charles Bridges uses a beautiful illustration of Abraham. Abraham was called out of the Ur of the Chaldees in a way that we can't explain from Scripture. There was no evangelist ever sent to him. God just looked from heaven and spoke to him. And out of utter apostasy and total darkness and superstition and witchcraft, the man who became the father of the faithful stepped out in total faith. He didn't know where he was going except where God was telling him. He'd never been there before. He was walking an uncharted way, and he stepped out in total dependence upon God.
Do you know what the symbol of that was? Wherever he pitched his tent he built his altar. Wherever he pitched a tent there was an altar to talk with God and say, "O God, what's the next step?"
"In all thy ways acknowledge him." I don't believe we know anything of the life of faith unless we relate every moment of our life to the Lord Jesus, whether it's going into the supermarket to buy a pound of tomatoes, or whether it happens to be cooking breakfast, or whether it is facing that business debt with its telephone calls and letters, or whether it happens to be checking your check at the bank and knowing what you're going to do with that money, or whether it happens to be selecting a text to preach a sermon. In every way, in all our ways we're to acknowledge him.
It's what the old Christian faith used to call "practicing the presence of Christ." Jesus Christ living his life in me, replacing what I am for all that he is. Jesus living in me moment by moment, looking through my eyes, speaking through my lips, working through my hands, walking through my feet, loving through my heart, radiating out through my life. In every area of my life being acknowledged.
Somebody asked me today whether we have a right to go up to a person stone cold and just say, "You're going to hell. Do you know that? I have a way to heaven." I believe we should be witnesses all the time, but I think we've got to be careful about this matter of acknowledging the Lord Jesus every moment of every day.
The great spiritual divine Oswald Chambers was walking up the side of a hill, and as he was walking up the hill with a shepherd, a farmer was coming down the other way. And Oswald broke away from the shepherd and began to talk to that farmer about the Lord Jesus. And then the shepherd joined Oswald. To Oswald's absolute surprise, instead of commending him for what he did, he quietly asked, "Did you get the permission of the Holy Spirit to do that?"
Now that doesn't take you off the hook of your responsibility to preach the gospel to every creature. I don't care what act you take, whether it's driving the car, washing the clothes, telephoning your friends, writing a letter, preaching a sermon, teaching a Sunday school class, walking down the street. You and I are to relate everything to him. "In all thy ways acknowledge him." Knowing the presence of Christ daily.
But it means something even deeper. It means seeking the pleasure of Christ daily. Where it says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him," do you know what that word really means in the Hebrew? "In all thy ways acknowledge him" in the sense in which you want him to be pleased. That will change your life radically. So many people are Christians in church but demons in the kitchen. You'll come and sit like a wonderful saint when we open the Bible and read it here, but you're not giving anybody a hint that most of your time at home is spent watching pornography on television.
Knowing the presence of Christ must be matched by seeking the pleasure of Christ in everything. As a boy, Jesus looked into his parents' faces (that is to say, his earthly parents by the ordination of God) and said, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" We read that in all things he pleased his Father. He pleased not himself. "I must do the things of him that sent me," he said. "My meat and drink is to do the will of my Father and to finish his work."
Am I pleasing him right now? Are you pleasing him right now? "In all thy ways acknowledge him." Knowing the presence of Christ day by day, seeking the pleasure of Christ day by day. That's the meaning of that text.
A trusting heart has direction.
Finally, "He shall direct thy paths." That is the direction of a trusting heart.
When we know the decision of a trusting heart and the devotion of a trusting heart, we shall know the direction of a trusting heart. In other words, God will give us guidance to see the pathway that we should walk. "He shall direct thy paths."
Now that word direct is an interesting one in the Hebrew. It's found once in the Book of Isaiah, where it says that the Lord shall make a highway.
Young people come to me sometimes and say, "Does God guide?"as if God was a great bully in heaven and somehow or other makes the place so confusing and the path so absolutely bewildering and the door so well nigh closed that you couldn't possibly get guidance. When God is leading your life and there is a decision and a devotion of a trusting heart, there is a direction of a trusting heart. And God doesn't just give you a little glimmer. He makes a highway. The word actually means "he cuts a highway."
Fourteen years I was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, and I thank God for every year and for the joy of preaching two to three times, 500 Sundays out of 600 Sundays in those 14 years. But there came a moment where God made it very clear that for a number of reasons I needn't enumerate that it was time to step into a complete new chapter of the ministry. It's a thrilling experience, but it's a total act of faith. I hadn't a clue what was going to happen in three months time, not one single clue. I had bookings. I had engagements. But I didn't know where the Lord was going to lead or how he was going to lead.
In some ways, we start an Abraham life, and we've got a text, and we've got an altar. That's all that matters. Somewhere to live; somewhere to pray. And as long as heaven is open and we're walking under an uncloudy heaven, he shall direct our path. In one way it's a thrilling life. Fancy doing that at 73 as I am. He shall direct thy paths. It's absolutely thrilling to see guidance, to see the pathway of guidance. And I am pressing hard that word direct, cut a highway, because God gives us guidance to see the pathway.
But you know what else is in this text? God not only gives us guidance to see the pathway, God gives us grace to walk the pathway. The verb here is an interesting one. He shall actually push you along the cut highway. Isn't that tremendous? He shall drive you. He shall take you along the pathway. That's why our Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life." That's why the Lord Jesus said when you go out into evangelism, to disciple all nations, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." That's why even when you become very lonely you know that the Lord my God has said, "I will never leave thee or forsake thee."
So, young people, older ones, if you really committed your lives to the Lord, you have nothing to fear, providing you are practicing the presence of Christ, knowing the presence of Christ every day, and seeking the pleasure of Christ every day. Because if there is a devotion of heart trust, there will be a direction for your life. You'll see the pathway, and you'll walk the pathway. Why? Because he gives the guidance to see and the grace to walk, and you can't get lost that way.
That day you'll be able to say, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness"what does it say?"for his name's sake." His very name is at stake. His glory is at stake. His nature is at stake. And because he's made you his sheep, he's going to see that he's going to bring you home. That's why Psalm 23 ends in "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
And he has two watchdogs to see that we don't go astray; they bark as soon as we go astray: "Goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life." Isn't that something? Isn't that tremendous? And if I go this way, whoa!and I'm back to center. If I go this way, whoa!and I'm back to center. And they've got such beautiful namesgoodness and mercy. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Forever.
I wouldn't exchange my life for yours for anything if I'm living in that experience. And I'm sorry for anyone who can't say, "Those two verses are mine tonight."
I want to close by asking, do you know this trusting heart? Have you exercised the decision of trust, a devotion of trust? Have you experienced the direction of trust? Can you say, "Proverbs 3:56 are the polestar of my Christian life"?
That decision of trust means a total capitulation to God. No exists. No escape bridges. A total renunciation of self. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Lean not unto thine own understanding." Will you make that decision and then go through with devotion and direction?