Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. (Psalm 25:12)
We’ve all used the expression ‘the journey of life,’ and are familiar with the concept that it’s a journey that takes us along various paths towards some ultimate destination. Some of wander aimlessly along and see where the path takes us. Others may agonise over which path is the right one and how to best prepare for it. Through it all, though, whatever our inclination or attitude to our path through this world, there is one common denominator. We choose a particular path. It’s a handy misconception that paths are thrust upon us by circumstances. Believing this provides a neat cop out when it comes to taking ownership of our own errors and wrong choices.
While it is true that situations and events may restrict our choices or move us in a particular direction, as Christians, we are never ‘compelled’ to a particular path. It’s so easy to use the ‘I had no choice’ mantra which readily absolves us of all responsibility. It’s the complacent acceptance that someone or something else is to blame for where we ended up – unless it’s in a really good place, of course, in which case we pat ourselves on the back and happily assume responsibility for our good choices. The real truth is that in Christ we always have a choice. Free will is fundamental to being in Christ.
Fear of the Lord is the ultimate act of free will.
Today’s verse highlights this in a wonderfully simple way with the challenge to identify with the man who fears the Lord. Reverence and awe for the sovereign will of God is the immediate focus. There are no ifs, buts, or maybes. Things will happen, circumstances will come and go, situations will arise to confuse and confound us, and we’ll be constantly confronted with choices every step of the way. There are any number of possible paths we can follow through life. Whichever we choose will determine where we go and how we get there. Today’s verse takes our attention off the paths and places it on God.
This challenge reminds me of a book I once read in which two little moles took a journey and lost their way. The younger panicked and lamented their plight, but the older simply planted his four feet very firmly on the ground and said, “We are not lost. We are here.” This speaks to me so clearly of our positional security in Christ. In making choices, it’s absolutely critical that we are firmly grounded, that we identify at the outset with the man who fears the Lord – loves Him, serves Him, worships Him, and is in surrender to Him. This is the ultimate expession of free will – that we choose God first and above all else.
It’s fascinating to delve into the Bible and find all references to paths, roads, and ways. These dozens of references remind us of just how significant our choices are, but also how imperative it is that we embark on any ‘journey’ in Christ. We must always go as the man who fears the Lord. It is for this man that ‘God will make a way where there seems to be no way.’ Only in Christ – in the reverential fear of the Lord – can we access the truth that in Him, we always have a choice. We are no longer ‘victims’ of life, circumstance, and situations, and even the whims of others. In Christ, we have options that non-believers do not have.
The reason for this is simple, and it is the direct result of a life surrendered in worship to God. In Him, our lives have a purpose. We are called to something specific, something God has put in place for each of us. We’re not in the world to wander along in search of our own destinies which may or may not be altered and affected by the choices we make or don’t make. Our path in Him is never random. It has purpose, and God has already effected that purpose by determining how to use all things to the good of those who love Him.
In Him, then, we not only have ‘other’ choices and ‘better’ choices, we have ‘right’ choices – those that exist within the will and workings of God. But we have so much more, too. If we are firmly grounded in Him, we have the assurance that He will teach us in the way He chooses. What a wonderful two-fold assurance! We can be confident that He will not only teach us which one to choose, but will also teach us along the way. He reveals the right path, and then walks it with us to bring us safely to our destination.
So often, we miss this truth and the grace it affords us. One of our greatest enemies is, of course, impatience. We don’t want to muck about. We want to make a decision and get on with it. Waiting seems foolish, a waste of time, a luxury we can’t afford. We convince ourselves that sitting around is avoidance, and so we ‘pick one’ simply because it’s something we’ve got to do – rather like eenie-meenie-minee-mo. Impatience pushes us into things and out of the grounding in Christ. What we should do is dig in and focus on God.
Fearing the Lord is a very practical place to be. It’s acknowledging that He can see the bigger picture, and so see a way we cannot. It’s acknowledging that His will is sovereign and that He may have a way we wouldn’t immediately see or readily choose. It’s acknowledging His greater wisdom, His plan and purpose for our lives, and His ability to lead, guide, and teach us as He protects us along the way. It’s acknowledging that, in all things, His ways are higher than ours.
The fear of the Lord, for us, is like the solid earth beneath the four paws of that little mole. It’s the place where we know that we know that we know we are in Christ. What a relief it is to know that we don’t have to be driven by the pressures and difficulties in the world. We don’t have to totter along in ignorance, victims of everything imaginable. We have free will, the gift of grace that enables us to choose not the ‘best’ way but the right way – God’s way, which He will reveal to us if we wait on Him.
This is the practical dimension of the fear of the Lord. Waiting on Him. For many of us, wait feels rather like a four-letter word. It rubs against our instinct, our impatience, our need to ‘do something’ that drives us into wrong decisions. It appears, on the surface, to be the very essence of inaction, yet it is actually the ultimate form of action. Surrender to God’s will and wisdom is never passive. It’s a complete, consuming act of worship, and it’s the determining factor in where we walk, how we walk, and when we walk.
This is the challenge before us every day in our Christian walk: To be the one who fears the Lord, who waits in reverence and awe for Him to reveal His ways, and who freely chooses to surrender and take the path that God has made, rather than our own.
Lord, we come before Your throne of grace, rejoicing in the assurance that in Christ, we have access to Your ways and Your paths through this life. Thank You that You have already made ways, even though we cannot see them, and that You have promised to teach us, to guide us, to reveal them to us, and to walk with us as we focus on You.