STEP THREE, IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

A few months ago, while packing boxes, I was standing in a room full of books and items trying to determine what I needed to keep, and what could be given away or trashed.  There were things which, at one time, had been necessary for the moment but were no longer worth keeping.  I was trying to be very discerning as to what was most important; what was of great value to me; and what was of utmost importance to store.  If you’re like me, boxes of things you’ve forgotten about tend to follow you from one move to another.  It wasn’t an easy process, and at times it was emotional, but it was necessary in order not to waste storage space with things that I really didn’t need.  

Recently I was unpacking a box, and came across something my mom had kept and given to me years ago.  It was a sweatshirt from when I was in Kindergarten at Carnell Elementary; the Carnell Colts.  For those who know me, I can hear you joking about how I could probably still wear it.  Maybe I can, and maybe I can’t.  Nonetheless, I didn’t need it and it was just another thing to store somewhere that would continue to follow me, in a box, from one place to another.  Don’t get me wrong, just looking at it brought up some great memories.  It was the sweatshirt that made me run faster when I wore it, and gave me special skills when I was playing football at recess.  But it was time to part with the sweatshirt.  “Kenny, give me the woobie.”  (Those who know great lines from great classic movies will get that reference.)    

Here’s the point:  It is hard to store what is most valuable, necessary, and important when there are lesser things taking up space.  I’m speaking of something of much greater worth and significance than the things of this world that get lost, are stolen, fade away, become destroyed, or rust.    

The Psalmist writes,“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

To “store” something means that I not only keep it, but in this context in the Hebrew writings it means to “hide away,” because it is like treasure.  In other words, the writer of this psalm is saying that God’s word is of such great value in showing me how to navigate life so that I take steps in the right direction, that its counsel, comfort, and truths are worth treasuring in the place where my emotions are stirred.  God’s word is of great worth because it becomes guardrails to my affections and emotions, pointing them in a Godward direction.  As well, it speaks truth to the thoughts in my mind that so often can become conflicting.   

CLEAN OUT THE CLUTTER . . .

There was a popular show a few years ago, Hoarders, that shed light on compulsive behavior revealed to hoarding items within a home: food, trash, books, toys, clothes, and other things piled up to the ceiling, blocking the hallways, filling up rooms,  thus making it impossible for healthy and safe living conditions. There were some episodes that were hard to watch.  To see what some people had become trapped in due to trauma or a tragedy in their lives was heartbreaking to say the least.  The purpose of the show was to bring in help by way of therapists and professional organizers to assist in the physical clean up, as well as ongoing counseling for those suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder.  Some were success stories; others were not.  

When I think about what I’ve stored in my heart, and what I still have a tendency to hoard, they are certainly not things that keeping me from sinning against God, but rather keep me in sin against God:  anger, jealousy, envy, pride, unforgiveness, and the list could go on.  Some of these are blatantly obvious; you can see them clearly.  But there are, perhaps, those feelings and thoughts that have been tucked away deep in the recesses of your heart and mind, that you have kept so long, yet give no thought to, that are negatively affecting your life in ways you haven’t really considered.  All of these take up space that crowds out our heart, and leaves no room for the true treasure we need to store.  When God shows me what I need to rid my heart of, as I confess those things as sin, I begin to experience and enjoy the freedom found in treasuring Him.      

King David, prayed this in Psalm 139:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  In other words, David was acknowledging, “God you know my heart.  You know what hurts me, and grieves You!  Show me and lead me in how to really live life well!”   

I’ve found that asking God to show me what is in me, that I’m not even aware of, is a healthy spiritual discipline that eliminates the clutter and creates space for the true treasure God has for me.  It believe it will be for you, as it is for me, a daily discipline that will help you take steps in the right direction.   

KEEP THE TREASURE . . .

There is a state park not too far from where I live that is known for digging for diamonds.  People will come from all over the country to explore the 900-plus acres in hopes of unearthing diamonds.  Just a few years ago, there was an 8-carat diamond found that was worth close to $500,000.  That’s crazy.  I really do need to get a shovel.  

Can you imagine digging up a diamond that’s worth half a million dollars?  Talk about finding treasure.  But there’s a different kind of treasure in God’s word that is lasting; it’s eternal; and it is much more valuable than an 8-carat diamond.  I can hear some saying I’ll take the $500K . . . in cash, please.  Money isn’t evil, but the love of it sure is.  I don’t have time to tell you the countless stories of people who thought they had true treasure after winning a lottery, only to later declare for bankruptcy. 

When your soul lives lavishly on the riches of God’s word you have stored in your heart, you recognize more clearly the worthless trinkets the world seeks to sell you as treasure.  I’ve come to realize that when a heart is void of the authentic treasure of God’s word, it will easily pursue what deceptively sparkles like diamonds.  

To begin a day without storing up the life-sustaining and life-protecting treasure of God’s word, is like waking up and deciding to walk across the Sahara Desert with no water or food.  You will not make it far.  So, I strive to begin each day digging into the Scriptures.  And daily, I always come away with treasure that enriches my life, and helps me take one more step in the right direction.

As you think on this, ask yourself, What do I need to rid my heart of that is keeping me from storing up true treasure and taking one more step in the right direction?  

STEP TWO, IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

In my last blog, I shared with you that the first step in moving in the right direction is that I must daily surrender the thought that my way is better than God’s.

That’s not an easy thing to do unless you’ve come to the end of yourself.  In other words, it means that you have given up trying to figure out life on your own, and charting your own course.  Going it on your own never ends up leading to a good place physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  

As long as we are full of ourselves, and often are, we leave no room for God in the every day moments of our life.  Daily there is the subtle questioning, “Why would I need God’s direction when I feel like I’m doing just fine figuring it out on my own?  I don’t need God’s instruction.  I don’t need to listen to His voice.  I’ve got this.”   

Right.

Like the time, when I was in middle school, I decided to ask my dad for the keys to the car during a moment when he was distracted.  There wasn’t even a hint of the thought going through his mind, “Oh, Shawn needs the keys to the car because he wants to back the car out of the parking space and pull the car up to the front door so that he can show me that he really does know how to drive.”  But that was going through my mind.  I had this driving thing figured out.  I mean, after all, I had driven down our street at 10mph numerous times (at least 3 or 4).  No more need for instructions, or driving lessons.  I was pretty much a pro at this.  

So, after hitting the car in the parking spot next to me while trying to back out, and continuing to accelerate out of the parking spot, the debris of bumper parts, trim, and paint chips made two things very clear:  I didn’t have it figured out, and I would be forever grounded with no hope of early release.  

I made a wreck of what I thought I ruled over.  Chaos overtook what I thought I had mastered.  Had I asked my dad if I could have backed the car out, he more than likely would’ve said “yes,” but not without him being in the seat next to me giving me instruction so I wouldn’t wander into the parking space that was occupied next to me.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rushed ahead, seeking to impress God and others, and even myself, with my prideful “I’ve-got-this” mentality.  And each time I’ve gone it alone, without seeking God’s wisdom and counsel, I’ve found myself wandering from His commands and into places that have wrecked me (sometimes a fender-bender; other times a collision), and left a trail of varying debris. 

But thankfully, God reminds us in Psalm 119 of the second step we can take in moving the right direction so that we avoid wandering from His commands.

STEP TWO:  I MUST SEEK GOD’S INSTRUCTION WHOLE-HEARTEDLY.

When we have surrendered the thought that our way is better than God’s way, the next step is to seek God and discover what His instructions are in navigating every day life.  He hasn’t left us to try and figure it out on our own because He knows that our hearts are prone to wander.  That is the honest confession of the psalmist when he says, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from Your commandments!” Psalm 119:10.  His plea seems desperate because he knows the tendency of his own spiritual drift.  It’s our tendency as well.  

The instruction of God’s word keeps our heart in the right lane.  Without it, and our acknowledgment of his counsel, we drift dangerously into the wrong lane.  It is nothing less than distracted living, and nothing good comes from a distracted heart.  Just ask King David.  He should have been at war, but he wasn’t. He should have turned his eyes away from Bathsheba, but he didn’t.  Distracted living.  Just ask Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples.  He should have trusted Jesus, but he was distracted by the waves.  He should have stood up for Jesus rather than fold like a lawn chair, but he didn’t.  Distracted living.  The Bible is full of stories of men and women who thought it best to go their own way, and not one of them fared well.   

Before we are too quick to point out their distracted lives, we need to add our names to the story as well.  When I look back at the debris left in the wake of my moments of spiritual drift, it’s easy to see (if I’m honest with myself and God) the times where I did not seek or heed God’s instruction.  I can look back and see moments where I was only half-heartedly seeking God; like driving down the highway paying no attention to the instruction of the warning sign that reads, “Bridge out ahead.”  Half-hearted seeking leads to wholehearted distraction; and wholehearted distraction can lead to a whole lot of damage and debris.  

But life’s landscape does not have to be littered with the debris of our self-seeking ways.  So how do we navigate life well so as to take steps in the right direction by wholeheartedly seeking God? 

READ the Scriptures daily; they always point you in the right direction.  

TRUST completely that the Scriptures are God’s word to us for our good.  His way may not be the way we would choose, but it’s always the best and right way.  He knows life’s terrain infinitely better than us.  

CHOOSE to follow His ways.  To know the right way to go and not to is foolish.

ENJOY the path He has you on because it leads you to the life you really desire, not the life you think you do.  

This life we travel is marked by steps, and depending on the steps you take will determine the joy or sorrow of your journey, and ultimately your destination.  So, let today be a day you choose to take another step in the right direction.