Three Ways We Can Acknowledge God in All Our Ways

Path

I was thinking about Proverbs 3:6 as I was running (not a common occurrence, the running) earlier today. It’s a verse that’s been constant on my mind as I approach graduation from college here in about four months.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

For so long, I thought it was the idea that, if I follow God, He’ll show me what I should do with my future. That is still true, I believe, but it’s much broader than that.

What does it mean to “acknowledge God” in “all your ways”? The Hebrew for “acknowledge” – “yada” – is also used in 1 Chronicles 28:9, when David encourages Solomon to “know (yada) the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind.” Knowing God, acknowledging Him, leads to service with whole heart and mind.

The other question from that first phrase of Proverbs 3:6: what are the “ways” in which we can “acknowledge” God? The No. 1 definition of “acknowledge” in Webster’s dictionary is “to recognize the rights, authority or status of.”

As I was walking after my run, I thought of three ways we can acknowledge God and recognize his authority and how that makes “straight our paths.”

1. Acknowledge His existence.

This is the most simple way we can acknowledge God. Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe the he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Simple belief in His existence as revealed in Scripture is a vital part of “draw(ing) near” to Him, Hebrews says. This belief must be a belief in everything about God as revealed in Scripture. It’s impossible to believe just one thing about God and not all things.

I can’t look at Peyton Manning and say, “I believe he plays for the Denver Broncos, but I don’t believe he ever played for the Indianapolis Colts,” when in fact he was on the Colts for 14 seasons. It’s a part of his career, a part of who he is.

God is perfectly loving and perfectly just; it makes no sense to believe just one part and not the other. Those two attributes, along with many others, add to the sum total of who God is. If we desire to know about God, we’ll go to the Bible objectively and see what it has to say about Him, because it speaks loud and clear about His existence.

How do we practically live this out? Putting our faith in Him is the most important reaction, and really the only reaction worth anything. I’ll get more into that later. As Christians, if we live believing God as revealed in Scripture exists, that should change everything about us. It means we live differently because God as revealed in Scripture has called us to a higher standard. We live like He’s looking over our shoulder, because He is; not in fear, but we live with a confident responsibility to keep His laws and live for His glory.

2. Acknowledge His glory by your life.

Part of acknowledging God in all your ways is conforming your ways so that they bring glory to God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Bringing glory to God means making Him greater than everything else, giving Him praise and attention by what we do every day. Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this verse, wrote, “The great end of all practical religion must direct us where particular and express rules are wanting. Nothing must be done against the glory of God.” Nothing should be done, even our eating and drinking, against the glory of God.

Paul adds in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What does it mean to do something “in the name of” someone? If I’m going to do something “in the name of Elon University” (where I go to school), I am going to representing Elon in what I’m doing. I’m saying, whether I mean it or not, that I am acting as a representative of Elon, meaning that this is how Elon would react. I could reflect well on the university or reflect badly.

As Christians, if we claim Christ, everything we do reflects how we view God. If we live for God’s glory, His praise, we’re going to live in a way that makes God look preeminent and glorious to us. We’re going to obey Him and make His law something attractive to follow (which it is without us, by the way). In that way, we acknowledge Him and His presence in our lives.

3. Acknowledge your death and Christ’s life in you – in short, your new identity.

This is probably the best part of acknowledging God in all your ways. Galatians 2:20 says,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is a total identity change when we become believers. The old self is dead, the old ways are to be put to death. “I” no longer live, it’s Christ who is living in me. We begin to live by faith in Christ when that happens. On Galatians 2:20, Henry comments, “Those who have true faith live by that faith; and the great thing which faith fastens upon is Christ’s loving us and giving himself for us. The great evidence of Christ’s loving us is his giving himself for us; and this is that which we are chiefly concerned to mix faith with, in order to our living with him.”

This identity change has massive implications. We must turn our ways from serving the self to dying to self. One way to do that is to not live for pleasing the flesh. Romans 8:6 says, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.” We seek to keep our minds on the Spirit because that brings true “life and peace,” and that can only work if we come to Christ.

That’s where the practical application comes in. This only applies if we believe in Jesus and give our lives to Him. If we do not give our lives to Him, there’s no way we can have that true life and true peace. Later, in Romans 8:11, Paul writes, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Becoming a Christian, seeking forgiveness of your sins and trusting Him by turning to live for Him is the only way to “in all your ways acknowledge him.” It’s not possible without that change. It has to come from a heart of submission to God and His will and His plan.

Finding True Life

So acknowledging God in everything leads to straight paths. If we seek to acknowledge God in these ways, we will see how to walk. We need straight paths in our lives, and God is the only one who will give us a straight path. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life.”

Since living by the Spirit leads to life, and God makes known to us the true path of life, acknowledging His presence, His glory and His ownership of us are three ways we can see how it is we are to walk.

It all goes back to the Word and seeing God in His Word as who He truly is. Only then can we truly learn how to live for God.

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What Good is Waiting Without Obedience?

waiting

Being a single, currently-jobless senior in college means I’m waiting on a lot of things. Let me list some of them for you:

  1. Graduation
  2. Spring semester to begin and end
  3. Getting a job after college
  4. Finding a girlfriend, then fiancée, then wife
  5. Having kids
  6. Developing a career
  7. Settling down in a town/city
  8. Reaching heaven to be with Jesus forever

But I’ve learned this: to follow Christ, waiting is obedience. Waiting on the Lord, that is.

We would be foolish to think that waiting on marriage if you’re single or waiting on a job if you’re unemployed won’t get you very far if that’s all it is, especially if you think about what waiting is. Waiting is sitting and being patient. A waiting room in a doctor’s office or corporate building is simply a place to sit and wait for your name to be called or something big to go down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, or at least what I’m thinking:

But the great part about waiting on the Lord is that it gives us an opportunity to be obedient to our Father in heaven, if we’re waiting on Him.

Waiting is Obedience

There’s simple obedience in the fact that we’re waiting on Him. In Psalm 37:34, David instructs, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.” There is benefit to us in waiting for the Lord, waiting on His plan and His purpose.

That’s the whole crux of what it means to be waiting “on” or “for” the Lord. We’re waiting “on” the Lord to do what He must do or waiting “for” the Lord to accomplish what He must. In that same chapter of the Psalms, David writes, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way” (v. 23). When we actively seek and delight in God’s way, which is “the path of life” (Psalm 16:11), God will be the one establishing our steps. He’ll be the one plotting out our way.

God is sovereign over all, but I’d be willing to bet that He never desires us to sin, never directs us in that way. He might let our hearts wander that way, our minds think those things, but that is never His ultimate purpose. It might be His will that we fall into patterns of sin so that we might grow to understand the error of our ways and the goodness of Jesus, but He never desires that we sin, I think.

I think of Romans 1, where Paul writes of men who, “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). The chapter later goes on to say that God “gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24). He “gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v. 26). He “gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (v. 28). And why? Verse 28 reveals: “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God.”

Our ultimate heart’s direction must be waiting on God and His purposes. We must not be like those who do not honor God or thank Him. We must not be futile in our thinking and give ourselves to sin. We must be patient and trusting in God and His plan. That is obedience in itself.

But waiting on God doesn’t mean we sit around and do nothing but avoid sin. We must also be faithful to seek the Lord in obedience while we’re waiting.

Obedience While Waiting

There’s a strong connection between waiting and “keeping” the way of God. Matthew Henry describes it this way in his commentary on Psalm 37:34 —

Duty is ours, and we must mind it and make conscience of it, keep God’s way and never turn out of it nor loiter in it, keep close, keep going; but events are God’s and we must refer ourselves to him for the disposal of them; we must wait on the Lord, attend the motions of his providence, carefully observe them, and conscientiously accommodate ourselves to them.

We are called to be living our whole lives, every piece, to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). That means being obedient to His law, His way, found in the Word of God. It is not a law of drudgery and no fun. In fact, God’s law brings life! In Psalm 119, the writer cries out, with joy it seems, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” (v. 97-98).

While we wait on whatever it is that we are waiting for, we would be foolish to stand around and do nothing. We must press forward in our obedience of the Scriptures. And there is no lack of joy in it! Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So not only does keeping the way of God while waiting fulfill the command to serve God, but it also brings joy! When we obey God, we draw closer to Him because we’re actively seeking to live the way He commands us to.

Nowhere does it say that this is easy. That’s another thing I’ve been learning a lot about recently: the Christian life is not easy. It’s hard to deny the flesh and live for Christ. It’s counter-cultural. One of my favorite Bible teachers, Mark Driscoll out of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, said this in a sermon:

Everyone is sinning, so it’s no longer rebellious to sin. You’re just a conformist if you’re drunk; and naked; driving around in a loud motorcycle; smoking cigarettes; breaking commandments; getting pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone’s done that. That’s so tired!…If you really want to be a rebel get a job, cut your grass, read your Bible, and shut up. Because no one is doing that.

Cultural rebellion is now following Jesus. Obedience while waiting is hard because it’s human nature to freak out and worry while waiting, or simply turn to sin while we’re waiting for something. God is glorified in our lives when we say, “No, God is worth trusting while I’m waiting, so I’m going to be obedient and live for Christ while I wait.”

While I’m Waiting

Perhaps the best picture I’ve seen of this was in the film Fireproof. The main character Caleb, played by Kirk Cameron, and his wife Catherine, played by Erin Bethea, had been on the verge of divorce when Caleb accepted Christ. He began living his life for two purposes: 1) live for God and His glory, and 2) love his wife and pray that she would believe in Jesus. There’s a montage in the movie where you see Caleb doing things that show his love for his wife, who wanted the divorce in the first place, and his newfound faith.

The song played during that scene is “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller:

You see even in those brief clips from the music video what Caleb does for Catherine while he’s waiting for her. He washes the dishes, he takes care of her while she’s sick, he buys her beautiful flowers. He also continues with his job as a firefighter.

I won’t tell you how she responds, but it’s a great movie you should see.

The point is this: no matter what the outcome of our waiting is, our responsibility is to be obedient in our waiting and while we’re waiting. We must simply take God as our refuge:

The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD, he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)