Most of us walk some form of "path". A path is some course of action - the way we conduct ourselves - which gets us from point "A" to point "B". Ever get lost? You think it simple going from where you are right now - but in the complexity of today, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and the muddle of yesterday, the path can get a little twisted! By the very definition of a path, it some way which is trodden so frequently it becomes "worn" with the continual "passing". Walk once over a spot and it shows evidence of you being there, but it soon fades with the next cycle of growth or cleaning cycle. Walk often enough over the same spot and it shows signs of the frequent passing!
When a person’s path draws favor from the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them. People plan their path, but the Lord secures their steps. (Proverbs 16:7, 9 CEB)
I chose two verses from this proverb this morning. One speaks of the path which "draws favor" from the Lord and the path which man "plans". Let's begin with the latter. Man does a whole lot of planning - reworking the plans to fit the present circumstances. If you don't believe me, think about how often you have reworked your budget to fit your present earnings! Solomon begins this proverb with the words: "Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word." (vs. 1 MSG) Yep, we make all kind of elaborate plans - but no one has the last word until God speaks! You know the colloquialism, "It isn't over until the fat lady sings"? Well, I am not saying God is "the fat lady", but you get my drift!
A plan lays out our way of acting when certain things occur. It is a kind of "cause & effect" diagram. This presents itself, we respond this way. We see this item on sale, we purchase it. We hear a freight train blow its whistle as we approach the crossing, we stop while it passes. We get hit with hostility when we approach a subject, we respond in hurt and anger. One action leads to another. Now, some of these occur by careful planning - such as waiting for the store to put the item on sale at a price closer to what we are willing and able to pay. The others don't require such carefulness. Some responses come by "learning" - such as knowing freight trains cross the tracks and cars don't do well if they don't heed the warning of the whistle. Others come by stumbling into them - such as when we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of an argument.
There can be degrees of "rigidity" in our planning. For some of us, we are "planners par-excellence" - practiced in planning out each detail down to the little stuff. For some of us, we are constantly reminding these folks to "lighten up" and "take a chill pill" because their "planned existence" is just too rigid for us. The opposite is true of some - taking life as it comes - not really planning ahead in any real sense of the word. These individuals like to call themselves "spontaneous". I think this may just be a big word for impulsiveness! If the opportunity presents, these people jump on it and follow the path wherever it takes them. Don't get me wrong, spontaneity is important, but it is not a way of life.
Look again at our scriptures - man plans, God determines the game! He knows the "players" better than we do - we need his "coaching" skills to give us insight into the plan which will cause us to have both a good defense and a strong offense. Sandwiched right in the middle of our passage we find the word "secures". Man plans - God secures. Man may set out not to fail - only God has the ability to keep us from failing!
When our path is marked by the "security" God provides, it makes our steps firm. Where God directs, failure is less likely - simply because the steps are in his keeping. Let me just say, God is not in the business of being our personal body-guard when we trudge ahead without any concern toward getting his insight into our plans. He might keep us from being totally lost in the end, but remember the principles of sowing and reaping. We sow - we reap. We might not always find our plans producing what we hoped for.
God's plans for our lives are not "liable" to fail. In other words, our steps are not subject to the same twists and turns as when we trudge out on our own. There are a lot of pitfalls we are susceptible to in life. We fall into them because we do little "pre-planning" to understand how to recognize them. To avoid them, we first have to recognize them! No one walks into quicksand if they actually know how quicksand appears when they come upon it. How do we get to the place of recognizing pitfalls in our lives? I think it comes a variety of ways, but the most important way is through the Word of God. As we learn more about God's ways and his intention for our lives, we often see choices before us as either lining up with these or not. Even the "bad examples" we have in scripture - those who chose to go their own way and reap what they sowed - serve as examples!
We also have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is there as a constant companion - guiding us in our planning. If we actually begin to obey the "nudging" of his influence in our lives, we might make fewer missteps along the way. Obedience is deliberate, not accidental! Just sayin!