Biblical Productivity | In All Thy Ways
In All Thy Ways
My tendency is to charge into the day intent on getting stuff done, attacking my to‐do list motivated by self sufficiency rather than by humble dependence upon the grace of God revealed in the gospel.
And given the active presence of pride and self‐sufficiency in my life, it is imperative for me at the outset of each day to devote time to humbling myself before the Lord and acknowledging my dependence upon him for all that awaits me.
As I devote myself to this spiritual discipline, the words of Proverbs 3:5–7 frequently inform my meditation and prayer:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (ESV)
This passage is well suited for my fellow procrastinators and useful as we examine our hearts and apply the content of the verses to our hearts throughout each day.
Alongside an open Bible, I find the exposition of these verses by nineteenth‐century pastor Charles Bridges in his commentary on Proverbs to be helpful and insightful. He writes:
Let our confidence be uniform. In all thy ways acknowledge him (Proverbs 3:6). Take one step at a time, every step under divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self‐idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel.
He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by him. Be in the habit of going to him in the first place—before self‐will, self‐pleasing, self‐wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted go to God at once. Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction.
In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme.
‐Charles Bridges (1794–1869), from A Commentary on Proverbs (Banner of Truth, 1846/1968) pp. 24–25.
My study in the book of Proverbs began shortly after my conversion in 1972. And it wasn’t long after this that I began reading and learning from Dr. Derek Kidner’s little commentary. For decades now Dr. Kidner has been one of the scholars holding my hand, leading me through the book, and helping me to discover what he calls “the neglected wealth of the Proverbs” (p. 9).
One of the most distinct features of the commentary is his brief subject studies. In these summaries he covers the topics of God and man, wisdom, the fool, the sluggard, the friend, words, the family, and life and death (see pages 31–56). I wish all Christians could read these brief and pointed studies and experience the grace and wisdom I have derived from them.
When I began my Christian life, I held to a narrow and limited understanding of laziness. Then I read Kidner’s subject study on the sluggard.
I’ll never forget it.
As I began reading, I saw my face in the picture. My definition of laziness was expanded, and its subtlety was exposed. I discovered that I could be—and often was—a sluggard.
Here are the words I read:
The sluggard in Proverbs is a figure of tragi‐comedy, with his sheer animal laziness (he is more than anchored to his bed: he is hinged to it, 26:14), his preposterous excuses (“there is a lion outside!” 26:13; 22:13) and his final helplessness.
- He will not begin things. When we ask him (6:9, 10) “How long...?” “When...?”, we are being too definite for him. He doesn’t know. All he knows is his delicious drowsiness; all he asks is a little respite: “a little...a little...a little...”. He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.
- He will not finish things. The rare effort of beginning has been too much; the impulse dies. So his quarry goes bad on him (12:27) and his meal goes cold on him (19:24; 26:15).
- He will not face things. He comes to believe his own excuses (perhaps there is a lion out there, 22:13), and to rationalize his laziness; for he is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” (26:16). Because he makes a habit of the soft choice (he “will not plow by reason of the cold,” 20:4) his character suffers as much as his business, so that he is implied in 15:19 to be fundamentally dishonest...
- Consequently he is restless (13:4; 21:25, 26) with unsatisfied desire; helpless in face of the tangle of his affairs, which are like a “hedge of thorns” (15:19); and useless— expensively (18:9) and exasperatingly (10:26)—to any who must employ him...
The wise man will learn while there is time. He knows that the sluggard is no freak, but, as often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals and too many postponements. It has all been as imperceptible, and as pleasant, as falling asleep.
‐Derek Kidner, Proverbs (IVP, 1964), pp. 42–43.
To be continued...
This post is adapted from C.J. Mahaney's book Biblical Productivity which is also available as a downloadable PDF.
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