What Do We Do Now?
Presented by Don Forrester at the AHS Class of 1968 October 7, 2018 Worship Service
I truly appreciate having been given the privilege of delivering the message for our AHS 50th Reunion Worship Service. I have so many wonderful memories of our high school years. I suppose that for every young student the teen years have the potential for being a lonely and frustrating experience. And when you add to the equation my issue of blindness, those high school years were certainly a formidable challenge. However, with your acceptance and friendship, those years for me are treasured memories. But with the passage of 50 years, many of us are again approaching a time in life which can be highly intimidating. Most of us would sincerely appreciate some competent guidance for the years ahead. Thus, our theme passage:
Prov. 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Ps. 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
A high school graduate taking his future very seriously applied for a summer job with an architectural firm where he had always wanted to work. The application was processed, and a job interview was scheduled. The young man arrived early at the employer’s office determined to make the best impression possible. In the ensuing conversation, the employer began to ask the young man questions about his plans and goals.
The boss casually asked, “What is it you want to do?”
The young man said, “I’ve always admired this firm for the work they do, and I would love to have a job here this summer. I would gladly do whatever needs to be done. I just want to get a feel for what it’s like to work within a business like this.”
The pleased employer asked, “What then?”
The answer came quickly, “In the fall, I am beginning my studies in college working toward an architectural degree. I hope that I could keep a part time job here, so I could keep a foot in the door for the future.”
The boss said, “What then?”
The young man eagerly replied, “When I finish my degree, I would love to go to work right here. I know I would be inexperienced, but I would count it a privilege to work with your best architects and have an opportunity to learn and help them with their projects.”
“What then?” said the employer.
“When the time is right, I would like to have my own place at the table and develop my own projects.”
“By then I ought to be making a decent living, and I certainly want to marry and begin my own family.”
“As my career progresses, I want to become your best architect. I want to design and build beautiful buildings.”
“Well, I suppose I should start preparing for future family and personal needs, lay aside something for the children to go to college, provide for a good retirement for my later years.”
“Well sir, to be honest, before I finish my most productive years, I want to build something of genuinely lasting value, a building, a complex, or a neighborhood that would be both beautiful in design and truly useful in function, a legacy to my life and work.”
“Well, I suppose there will come a time that I will retire and enjoy the fruit of my labors. I would want to spend time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. Maybe do some traveling and see the country or even the world.”
Now in unfamiliar territory the young man’s enthusiasm began to wane. “I guess at some point I will slow down and live out my years.”
The employer looked the young man straight in the eye and simply and soberly asked the question, “And, what then?”
The young man looked down at his hands and hesitantly began to answer, “Well!... well?...”
Since our graduation in 1968, we all have lived our lives fully and pursued our dreams. Our generation has lived through times that have always been interesting and often truly exciting. According to Tom Brokaw’s book, 1968 (the year of our graduation) was the year that changed the world. I’m sure we are all better and wiser for those years of experience. But, most of us are beginning to arrive at that time in life where we ask ourselves, “What do we do now? How do we constructively, confidently finish life’s journey?” We find ourselves sincerely looking for reliable guidance.
The good news is---the Bible is full of divine guidance. God gives to His children many clear expressions of His desire to guide them. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the clearest and most exciting of all these promises. Let me share three important thoughts drawn from this familiar yet precious passage.
The pathway: Each Person’s Journey
I read about a newspaper cartoon that shows an automobile balancing precariously over the edge of a cliff, with an embarrassed husband at the wheel and his disgusted wife sitting next to him. Meekly, he says to his wife, “Honey, there’s got to be a lesson here somewhere.”
There’s a lesson there, all right, and it’s this: The only way to end up at the right destination is to choose the right road. If you’ve ever made a wrong turn in a strange place and found yourself lost, then you know how important that lesson is.
The metaphor of life as a journey is a familiar one; it is found in the Bible as well as in classical literature. The Odyssey of Homer describes Ulysses’ ten-year journey from Troy to his home in Ithaca, and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an account of a Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the heavenly city. (Here’s where we discover who did their homework in high school and who did not!) The Bible frequently exhorts us to choose the right path, but the contemporary world thinks there are “many ways to God” and any path you sincerely follow will eventually take you there.
Jesus made it clear that in this life we can take only one of two ways, and each of them leads to a different destination. Everybody must choose either the crowded road that leads to destruction or the narrow road that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). There’s no middle way. The entrance to that path is none other than Jesus Christ himself. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Peter declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
In the book of Proverbs, the words “path” and “way” are found nearly one hundred times. Wisdom is portrayed not only as a person to love, but Wisdom is also pictured as a path to walk. When we put the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 into its context, we discover that Solomon’s emphasis in Proverbs chapters 2, 3, and 4 is on the blessings God’s people enjoy when they walk on Wisdom’s path.
In Proverbs 2, Wisdom protects our path. The key verse in chapter 2 is verse 8: “He keepeth (guards) the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.” The repetition of the phrases “my son” and “my children” reminds us that the book of Proverbs records a loving father’s wise counsel to his family.
In Proverbs 3, Wisdom directs our path. Of course, the key verses in this chapter are verses 5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” God’s people have often claimed this promise as they have sought the Lord’s direction for their lives.
In Proverbs 4, Wisdom perfects our path. The key verse in chapter 4 is verse 18: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” As we learn and apply God’s wisdom, our steps are taken with greater certainty. The Psalmist proclaimed, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). The lamp of the word surrounds us with a pool of light that allows us to take the next step in confidence rather than fear.
I have a bit of personal experience when it comes to rough trails and difficult pathways. My wife and I love to hike. We particularly enjoy the trails in the mountains and canyons of the national parks. In earlier years, we relished the challenge of the more difficult trails. However, things have changed in recent years. We now seek out the scenic but less strenuous paths.
A couple of years ago, we visited the Guadalupe Mountains National Park located in the Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas. Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet. I wanted to go to the top. The trail to the summit is 8.4 miles (not impossible), but the rise in elevation is 3,000 feet (more than a bit daunting). Portions of the trail are virtually straight up. If you have taken this hike after reaching age 60, I want to shake your hand! You are a true Texas hero! Shirley and I chose not to do it. We asked the park ranger to recommend a more age appropriate trail for us. She recommended the McKittrick Canyon Trail. It is 4.8 miles with only a small elevation increase. This sounded good! We took the hike. What she didn’t mention was that the small elevation increase was repeated continuously over the course of the trail. In my view, we actually climbed Guadalupe Peak!
Let me pause in my telling of the McKittrick Canyon experience to talk about the perils of hiking for me. This detour will lead to the actual point of my story.
Let’s change scenes to a beautiful, sunny fall day in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Shirley and I, with a group of friends, were climbing Mary’s Rock, a prominent peak in that area of the Blue Ridge. The elevation is 3,514 feet which seems insignificant in comparison to the Rockies, but keep in mind, that the Blue Ridge begins only a few hundred feet above sea level. It’s a nice climb. Portions are very steep with many jagged, irregular steps along the edge of the mountain. The trail was built in the 1930’s by the CCC. Because of the rigor of the climb, we were all looking forward to the trip down the mountain expecting that portion of the trail to be faster and easier. And, for some this may have been true, but for me it was just the opposite. Going up the mountain, I could plant one foot solidly where I stood and with the other find my footing and shift my weight confidently to the next rock. To my peril, coming down the mountain was just the opposite. Think this through from my point of view as a blind person! Coming down, I would begin each step with both feet planted confidently where I stood. A friend below tells me to step out about 3 feet, a little to the right, and about 18 inches to 2 feet down. The hiker on my right says to ignore that because the friend below is facing me, making the direction of travel his right but my left. The hiker to the left says that he thinks the distance should be 4 feet, that from his point of view if I step only 3 feet, I will go off the side of the mountain. Four feet! My legs aren’t that long! Honestly, I was terrified! I didn’t know where to step. I had zero confidence. My situation was dangerous and unbelievably scary. I was getting information and counsel from well intentioned people, but everyone had different advice. These were my friends, but their instructions were conflicting and even contradictory. By the time I got to the bottom of the trail, I was absolutely exhausted with the constitution of a jellyfish. There had to be a better way!
And, of course, there was a better way. Over time I learned two very important lessons. The first lesson was that in difficult hikes I did much better if I was with a strong hiker with a longer stride than mine. I learned if I simply stepped across with my trusted guide, I could confidently make the most treacherous step. As to the other lesson, we must return to McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupes.
From time to time various people had suggested that we use walking sticks when we hiked. I had always dismissed the idea considering walking sticks as an aid for old people. But, in the Guadalupes we had already conceded that we were too old for the strenuous hike to the peak. We stopped at Walmart to pick up supplies for our McKittrick Canyon excursion. We came across a display of walking sticks and bought a matching pair. Accepting this one good piece of advice changed my life! The canyon trail was not particularly difficult or dangerous with one exception. The fast creek which flowed along the canyon floor had to be crossed four times on the hike. There were no footbridges. The creek had to be crossed by stepping from one strategically placed rock to another. At the first crossing, we resorted to the old frustrating system of trying to explain where I was to step. Shirley is a very cautious person and is uncomfortable with this responsibility. But, to our delight, in the process of negotiating the first crossing, we discovered that she could simply direct the tip of my walking stick to the very point where I was supposed to step. This very simple maneuver gave me all the information I needed to step confidently, naturally, and instinctively across the rocks. I was elated! But, my joy was tempered by the realization that I had unnecessarily struggled for years and literally put myself in peril rather than heeding the advice of experienced hikers. We went on to have a wonderful day in the McKittrick Canyon, at least in my view. Shirley has always referred to it as the “death march.”
So, what’s the point? On the pathway of life we can handle the dangers and hazards we encounter along the way if we have a strong and competent guide as well as wise, accurate instructions for every area of life---guidance we can absolutely count on. And, we have both in abundance! Every Christian has the promise of Christ’s continual presence. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). And, we have the all-encompassing wisdom of the word to accurately, reliably instruct us in the details of Christian living. So, through prayer and the Word we have what we need to confidently finish our journey. James encourages, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6). God will truly order our steps.
As we shall see, these truths are clearly seen in our text.
The problem: Every Man’s Plight
Jer. 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in
man that walketh to direct his steps.
There is not greater need in life than the need for sure and safe guidance. The reason for this is that---
Life is full of choices.
At every turn we have to make a decision, and we simply do not know what is the right way to go unless we turn to the Lord and ask for his help.
We truly need God to guide us!
The Promise: Extraordinary Guidance
If you look at this promise, you will see that it is conditional. In other words, there are two parts to this promise---God’s part and our part.
God’s part is His promise of divine guidance. “He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6b). What an amazing thing it is that God Himself actually desires and offers to lead us through our lives. The promise God makes to every one of His children is that He is willing to guide them concerning every detail of their lives, and they can trust His guidance completely.
What do we have to do to secure God’s guidance? “In all thy ways acknowledge him.” What does this mean? 1. Negatively---“Lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). “Be not wise in thineown eyes” (3:7). 2. Positively---“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” (3:5). “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (16:3). Then, He will give us the needed guidance. We can live in confidence if our lives are guided by the Lord.
I draw great comfort from the poetry of this beautiful hymn:
Day by Day
Caroline V. Sandell-Berg
Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in m Fathers wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour.
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid.
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then in every tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the Promised Land.
So, what do we do now?
Let’s take stock of where we are. From my heart to yours, let me recommend a threefold attitude toward our journey.
As to the past: BE GRATEFUL. Be thankful for life, lessons learned, family, friends, victories, and troubles. Our path has brought us to where we are today. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (Phil. 1:6).
As to the present, BE FAITHFUL. Stay in the Word, pray, share, love one another. The Lord Himself will enable us. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
As to the future, BE HOPEFUL. We can be confident as to our destiny. The question is, “How do we confidently prepare for the life to come?” Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9); “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1John 5:12). “But, you may ask, “How do we trust Him and receive His gift of eternal life?”
Admit our sinfulness. On this matter the Bible and our own experience agree: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Acknowledge the consequences. Tragically, the penalty of sin is death. “… sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12); “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23b).
Appreciate Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus paid the price as our substitute. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8); “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b).
Accept Christ’s salvation. Becoming a child of God is as simple as John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God’s gift of eternal life is received by believing (trusting, accepting) what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:9,13).
Jesus stands today at the right hand of God ready to hear your prayer. If you are not certain of your destiny, consider a sincere prayer such as this: Dear Father, I know I’m a sinner. I understand that the penalty of my sin is physical and spiritual death. But, I do sincerely believe the message of the Gospel - that Jesus died in my place for my sin and You raised Him from the dead. The best I know how, I’m trusting His work on the cross for my salvation. I’m receiving your free gift of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Our salvation is the gift of God. We cannot earn it, we can only receive it.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, … That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:4,7-10).
Let’s make these next years count. Let’s use them for His purposes.