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.