Sometime’s life’s a game. You win some. You lose some. You often want to win more than others. And sometimes you’d rather lose just so you don’t have to hear others complain about it. You keep score by how much money you have, your social or occupational status, the number of friends you have on Facebook, or how many compliments you receive. Others keep score by the number of successes they obtain or opportunities they receive or even how many material possessions they own.
Every move is potentially important. You can move either forward or backward depending on the words you say or don’t say, the friends you make or don’t make, and the opportunities that your pursue or don’t pursue. Occasionally there’s even a “go back two spaces” mark where you realize you’ve taken the wrong turn and have to go back and try again. Yes, life’s a game. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s annoying. Sometimes you just don’t really want to play.
But the one thing that we have going for us as Christians that no one else has is a free game guide. If we ask Him, He will walk us through the game, show us solutions, and give us codes. He’s even provided us with a map, if we’ll use it. Just as a game guide for your favorite board, video, and card game points you in the general direction so our heavenly Father via the Holy Spirit, points us in the right direction in the game of life.
Many have heard of Proverbs 16:9 which says, “A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs His steps.” I’ve heard that often, and often believed from it that God’s got my back. But then I recently received an email from a friend who is going through some pretty tough challenges in her life. Her current conclusion of that verse: “I might as well just do what I want to do. God will sort it all out.”
Woah! I had to step back when I read that one because this was the girl who graduated from a Christian college with a degree in youth ministry. But really, I imagine many have interpreted that verse in much the same fashion at one point or another. “I will plan my way, but God will direct how I get there” which in our minds may mean something like, “I want this job so I’m going to pursue the path to get there. The Lord’s only responsibility is to convince my boss via my outstanding work ethic and success that this is where I’m supposed to be.” But, that’s not at all what this verse is saying. Let’s take a closer look.
A man’s heart—The heart that Solomon is talking about here is the heart that, for those of us that are Christians, has turned to believe on Jesus as our Savior and Lord. It is our inner part, what we reflect on, our inclination, our character, what we believe deep down. If our heart is turned toward the Lord and constantly reflecting on His Word and His promises and His morals then our heart is going to lead us down that path. If our heart is turned toward other things, people, jobs, technological distractions, or material possessions, then our heart is going to lead us down that path. Our heart is basically what we wear on our sleeves, who we really are deep down.
Our heart devises—To devise is to make a judgment or calculation based upon our heart…what we believe. For example, “I will not do such and such because I believe it is wrong or I will go do such and such because I believe it is right.” That is the device of our heart.
A man’s heart devises his way—The choices we make in life. The course we choose for ourselves. The habits we make. The friends we choose. The jobs we pursue. The family we develop. Life itself. We make our own game board based on what we believe and choose to live by.
But the Lord—I love “buts.” I mean really, they stick out there, make you turn and take a second look. Just when you thought you’d seen it all there’s a “but.” But the Lord. Who has the final say? The Lord. Who is over all and in all and through all? The Lord.
But the Lord directs—Directs could easily have been translated as “ has prepared” or “has established” or “is ready.” The Lord is ready, prepared, and firmly established. He’s not wishy washy. His plan doesn’t change. His heart doesn’t change. It’s established. He is who He is. He doesn’t go through PMS. He doesn’t like Snickers one day and Butterfinger the next. He’s the same. Always. He’s ready to go. He’s got everything you need to get where your heart (which is hopefully drawn to the Lord if you a child of His) wants to go. He’s the guide on your whitewater rafting trip. He’s your guide through the endless jungles of life. He’s your guide who is prepared for any distraction or folly that may come up on you. He’s ready for you. He’s prepared.
But the Lord directs his—Who’s? His. The man’s. The man whose heart is guiding him. The man whose heart draws him to follow the Lord.
But the Lord directs his steps—Sometimes we see where we want to go and we want to go there now. That is my problem often. But that isn’t always how it works out. I think of my many years as a single. I was 29 when I got married and all three of my bridesmaids are still single. Each of us had a desire to be married and married a lot sooner than this. Yet, who determines our steps? The Lord. Looking back I wouldn’t trade my single years for anything. God knew what I needed. God knew where I needed to grow. God knew the experiences I needed to have to prepare me for where I am now. God knew. Yes, I could have gone and married someone right out of college, BUT the Lord guided my steps around the barrier in the road to get me back on the path of my heart’s desire.
So let’s look at this verse again, “A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs His steps.” A transliteration could have been: “What a person believes inclines him to take a certain path in life, but the Lord is the one who is prepared to take him there and guide his every step.”