A look at Proverbs 4:20-27
Have you ever set a goal and before you know it, you realize you have wandered way off course and are nowhere near accomplishing your goal? On your way to achieving your goal, have different things popped up that have seemed more important, blurred your focus, or made you forget your original plan altogether? Whether it’s a goal for your family, career advancement, health, etc., setting the goal is the easy part. Staying the course and achieving the goal is the difficult task.
Let’s say we’ve set a goal for spending more time in Bible study and prayer, strengthening our walk with the Lord. We want to grow in our relationship with Him; we want to grow closer to Him in our personal walk. Let’s look at Proverbs 4:25-27 as we claim our goal and determine how we intend to accomplish it:
26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
27 Don’t get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.
Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)
Our instructions are clear. We are to map out a plan for achieving our goal and then we are to follow it. We are not to go off “chasing squirrels” that Satan puts in our path. Some of the stumbling blocks he might put in our way might be to get us overloaded with things people ask us to do and, because we don’t stand firm to our cause, we don’t say “no.” Before you know it, you are taking on extra duties at church, home, and work that you really don’t need to be doing. Or maybe you are tired of focusing on your goal all the time and, feeling a bit sorry for yourself, you decide to take a few days off from Bible study, skip a church function here or there, and postpone or even change your goal because it is “just too hard.”
On the road of life, Satan’s seeds can wriggle into tiny cracks and crevices that we aren’t even aware that we have. #fightingdistractions
— Barbara (@JournalingBee) February 23, 2017
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, Satan can decide he wants to thwart it. If it’s strengthening your relationship with the Lord, you might find yourself teaching a kid’s class, when that really is not your calling, but you couldn’t say no because no one else stood up to the plate. Or you might keep hitting “snooze” when your alarm goes off in the morning, causing you to be behind your entire day and allowing you no time to set aside for “alone” time with God. Or you have that obnoxious, needy friend or acquaintance who thinks the world should revolve solely around them and they are demanding you meet their needs instead of your own.
If exercising more is your goal, the weather may suddenly become too rainy, windy, hot, etc. News flash—a little rain and sweat won’t hurt you. If your goal is healthy eating, your mother-in-law will suddenly start inviting you to Sunday dinner with all the fattening, unhealthy foods you love and at least two delicious desserts to tempt you. And you can’t hurt her feelings by eating more than your share—after all she’s cooked all that food because she loves you! Satan’s interruptions are everywhere and he will use them to his best advantage, causing you to fail miserably, and leave you wondering what in the world happened.
Keep in mind all detours might not be from Satan. Illness, loss of loved ones or friends, or inclement weather might just be times you need to seek guidance and strength from the Lord. Or it could be the goal you set was not a goal the Lord feels you need tho focus on. Did you seek His will for how you might best serve His kingdom when you determined your goal? Bottom line is that you need to seek His guidance in all you decide to do if you intend to bring Him honor and glory.
You’ve set your goal and you feel led by the Spirit to complete it. How does one go about achieving a goal successfully? Let’s look at the previous verses in Proverbs 4, verses 20-24.
20 My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
21 Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
22 for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.
23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
24 Avoid all perverse talk;
stay away from corrupt speech.
Proverbs 4:20-24 (NLT)
These verses plainly state how we are to remain on the path the Lord has set before us. We must take heed to what the Spirit has led us to do. We must listen carefully and memorize it so we do not forget it. We are to be on guard for any disturbances Satan might send our way to get us off track. We are to watch how we talk, avoiding “careless banter, white lies and gossip (the Message Bible).” These actions can prevent us from keeping our paths straight. We can get sidetracked easily and veer off-course.
In our prayer group this weekend, a fellow prayer warrior shared an analogy he had come up with while jogging recently. As he was jogging along, looking down at the asphalt, he noticed the hairline cracks in the roadway. These cracks reminded him of how easy it is for Satan to infiltrate our lives. If the tiniest seed gets in that crack, weeds or grass spring up before you know it. It doesn’t matter where the crack is, the tiniest seed can infiltrate it. If perchance the seed gets in a crack close to edge of the road, as the weeds or grass grow, the crack will grow bigger, eventually causing the roadway to break-off or wash out, damaging the road in the process.
On the road of life, Satan’s seeds can wriggle into tiny cracks and crevices that we aren’t even aware that we have. Therefore, it is important to stay in His word, learning it and memorizing it, so that we can fill up these cracks before, during and after Satan tries squeeze his way in. This then, is how we can stay on the straight path.
In closing, a retired pastor in our group, shared how these verses and our discussion reminded him of the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” I think that is the perfect way to end this blog. Let’s review the words to that hymn and put them into practice so that we might keep true to the writer’s verses in Proverbs: (1) Pay attention and listen to what God is trying to tell you. (2) Focus on what He is telling you to do. (3) Memorize His words so that you can recall them when necessary. (4) Protect yourself from Satan’s attacks by fortifying yourself with the Lord’s words. (5) Stay away from unhealthy talk—towards others and towards yourself. Don’t let others tear you down, and don’t tear down others. Encourage each other in doing God’s work. (6) Plan your strategy for meeting your goal. Let God guide you. Ask for help if your need it. (7) Stay on course.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
Copyright status is Pubic Domain
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more had dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shat not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!