•People who are lost never get lost on purpose. •You are lost before you know you are lost. You are never aware that you are getting lost—it dawns on you. •You always end up where the road you are on takes you.
DIRECTION, NOT INTENTION, DETERMINES DESTINATION.
You win or lose by the path you choose. It is not where you are that is the issue; it is where you are headed. Decisions, not intentions, dreams, plans, prayers, beliefs, intellect or education determine your destination. Choosing the wrong path in life can cost you precious years.
“The prudent (wise) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naïve) keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12 (NIV)
Where you intended to end up is irrelevant. Saying, “But this isn’t where I want to be” does not help. No matter how loud or often you say it. Neither does tapping your heels together. Lost people are victims of the principle of the path: you will always end up where the path you are on takes you. If you are on the wrong road, it doesn’t matter what you believe or what your intentions are. You are in trouble. We are all on a path of some kind—financially, morally, relationally, spiritually. There is often a disconnect between where we want to end up and the path we choose.
THE GREAT DISCONNECT – people don’t connect the dots between the choices they make and the outcomes they experience. They’ve come to believe the popular notion that as long as their intentions are good, as long as their hearts are in the right place, as long as they do their best and try their hardest, it doesn’t really matter which path they take. They believe somehow they will end up in a good place.
This passage written by King Solomon provides insight into our tendency to disconnect direction from destination ...
“At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: 'I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.' With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” Proverbs 7:6-27 (NIV)
The young man ignored the principle of the path. This night was not an isolated event disconnected from all the other events in this young man’s life. This night was a step down a path.
In the world of roads and trails, we understand the truth that we’ll end up where the path we’re on is taking us. We know that intentions, assumptions and motives in no way alter the direction or destination of a road, path or trail. You choose a road based on a desired destination … unless you are just joyriding. In the world of behaviors, habits, and lifestyles, we lose sight of this. People wake up far from where they intended to be. They hit 30 and 40 and their dreams aren’t coming true. And they are exactly where their feet have taken them.
EVERY PATH HAS A PREDETERMINED DESTINATION.
The path of work-a-holism has a destination. The path of impurity has a destination. The path of greed has a destination. The path of debt has a destination. The path of adultery has a destination. The path of purity … love … mercy, etc.
We ignore this in the realm of life …
•“I want God to bless me financially, so I’m not going to give Him anything.” •“I want to meet a great Christian guy who’s really got his act together, so I’m going to go out with whoever asks me if he’s cute.” •“I want a great sex life once I’m married, so I’m going to practice with the people I date until then.” •“I want my kids to respect me, so I’m going to fool around on their mom.” •“I want my kids to stay away from alcohol, so I’m going to drink— responsibly.” •“I want to grow old and invest in my grandchildren, so I’m going to neglect my health.” •“I want my children to be brought up with the same Christian values I had, so we are going to the lake on Sundays.” •“I want to lose weight, so super-size that, would you?” •“I want to have a great relationship with my husband, so I’m going to make the children a priority over him.” •“I don’t want to live with financial pressure, so I’m going to live beyond my means.” •“I want to support some charities, so I’m going to spend all my money on me.” •“I want to know God, so I’m not going to read my Bible.” • “I want our family to be a unit, everybody on the same page, looking forward to vacation together, so I’m going to work all the time.”
“I want” doesn’t get you anywhere. The path you choose to walk down determines your destination. Looking ahead we are often deceived into thinking that life is a series of unrelated decisions, and somehow we will end up where we want to be simply by force of will or luck. Just like the naïve guy in the story, we become enamored with what’s on a path and ignore the fact that we are on the wrong path. There’s always something on the wrong path that offers an immediate fix or thrill or that has a strong emotional appeal.
What gets our ATTENTION determines our direction and, ultimately, our destination.
ATTENTION, DIRECTION, DESTINATION.
What grabs or captures your attention will influence your direction. What you give your attention will also influence your direction. The things that tend to grab or capture your attention are often things you should avoid. Whereas emotion fuels the things that grab your attention, intentionality fuels your decision to give certain things your attention.
God reminds us over and over that what we give our attention to, as well as what grabs or captures our attention, will direct the course of our lives …
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers.” Deuteronomy 7:12 (NIV)
Why pay? Pay implies price. Pay implies cost. Pay implies giving away something of value. As your intention goes, so goes your life. So pay careful attention to what you are paying attention to. Pay attention to the things that are competing for your attention.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze (intentionality) directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NIV)
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Hebrews 2:1 (NIV)
OTHERS WILL HAVE MORE INSIGHT INTO WHERE OUR PATHS ARE TAKING US THAN WE DO.
They are not emotionally entangled with what’s on the path. They have age and experience. They see our weaknesses and blind spots. This is why parents always overreact. We react to where our kids are headed, not where they are. God and your mama always react to where you are headed, not to where you are.
THE GREATEST DISCONNECT IS WHEN WE MAKE GOD RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR PATH DECISIONS!
Because this is a principle, once we discover it, it can be leveraged. To leverage something is to borrow or use its power. Embracing the principle is the key to avoiding regret. To find the path that will take you where you want to go, you must break the cycle of self-deception. In other words, am I telling myself the truth about WHY I’m inclined to go in this direction and choose this option?
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.’” Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NIV)
The heart can’t be trusted. We have the ability to lie to ourselves. Every time I go into decision-making mode, I need to realize that I carry with me the potential to deceive myself. Apart from God we eventually choose a wrong path. We don’t just need information, common sense or conventional wisdom. We need God. We need a Savior. Proverbs 3:1-6 …
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge(submit to)him, and he will make your paths straight (He will make the best path obvious).
Here Solomon gives us two important imperatives: trust in and lean not. When he refers to acknowledging God, he means we are to recognize who He is and respond accordingly. What is the proper response to God? (PAUSE) Submission. We are to recognize God’s authority over every component of our lives. We are to seek and submit to His will in every area of life. We need to live with a posture of dependency!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PATH BEGINS WITH SUBMISSION, NOT INFORMATION.
Submission to the One who knows where each path leads, as well as where it doesn't lead. Submission to the One who knows what's best for you better than you know what's best for you.
“Lord, I'm leaning on You, not my experience, my insight, or my education. When conventional wisdom conflicts with what You have revealed through the Scriptures, I'll lean hard into Your revelation rather than my understanding. When my emotions are in conflict with Your law, I'll lean on Your law and harness my emotions.”
LORD, HELP ME TO SEE TROUBLE COMING LONG BEFORE IT GETS HERE, AND GIVE ME THE WISDOM TO KNOW WHAT TO DO AND THE COURAGE TO DO IT.
1. Why do you think people tend to choose paths that lead away from where they want to go?
2. How can (or has) choosing the wrong path cost you years?
3. What path have you chosen that led you away from your desired destination?
4. Where do you think the path you’re currently on will take you? Explain.
5. Describe the destination you wish to reach. Is the path you’re on likely to take you there? Explain.
6. Does your intention for your life line up with your current direction? Explain.
7. What disconnects exist in your life? What discrepancies exist between what you desire and what you are doing? Are your intentions in alignment with your direction?
8. What are the biggest problems in your life right now? How could you diminish or get rid of those problems by changing a life direction?
9. If you continue on your current course, where will you end up? Has anyone tried to warn you lately? Your conscience? Do you know anyone who has walked your path and ended up where you want to be relationally?