Which Way Do You Lean?

In the earliest days of sports in America, hand-eye coordination and natural athleticism ruled the day. That does not mean that athletes did not train or prepare—competitors did that even in the ancient world—but rather that they focused solely on improving themselves. In many individualized sports, this remains the focus. However, in a number of team sports, where offense and defense struggle directly against one another, another development has gained greater prominence. As teams looked for a competitive edge, they began examining the tendencies of their opponents, both as teams and as individuals. The advent of computers only fueled this development. As a result, scouts, coaches, and players all spend time watching film to detect any tendency that will provide useful information to help them anticipate and thereby counteract their opponents’ action. This simply highlights the fact that we all have tendencies, predictable behaviors, and beliefs that have so become part of us that we “lean” that direction noticeably, just as a football player might lean a certain direction in anticipation of the next play. But Solomon provides insight into why this is significant when he wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths”  (Prov. 3:5–6). If your opponent were to study your spiritual tendencies, what would they be? Which way would you lean?

Solomon’s summation takes a threefold approach that deserves emulation even today. First, anyone claiming to love God, seek God, and serve God should lean toward faith first, and this has important ramifications. When you lean toward faith, you trust the Bible first rather than looking for reasons to discredit it, ignore it, or attack it. This does not mean that you ignore evidence; it means you look at ALL the evidence, including the evidence of God’s existence and the inspiration of scripture. Above that, this faith should be a faith directed specifically toward the LORD (Heb. 11:6), trusting Him completely rather than personal instincts or desires (Prov. 14:12) and making absolutely no exceptions. God’s Word can withstand the scrutiny, but weak faith often wilts to worldly pressure. Second, God’s people should lean towards open confession, acknowledging God and everything He has said and done openly (Rom. 10:9-10). Silent faith is no faith at all. Instead, our faith should be verbal, speaking up for the truth and for God without shame (Rom. 1:16) and living our faith before others with confidence (Gal. 2:20). Thirdly, the sincere follower leans toward full submission (Jas. 4:7)—not inconsistent consideration. The first inclination of every Christian should be submission to God’s will (Jas. 1:22). This requires ingraining humility in our very core (Jas. 4:10) and holding God in great reverence as the omnipotent Guide we need most in life (Ecc. 12:13).  Until we make obedience our first inclination whenever we hear God’s will, we are missing the point of discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 5:8-9). God’s people lean toward God in an unmistakable way, thereby providing light to a world in darkness (Phil. 2:15).

Spiritual predictability—when it follows Solomon’s advice—is a wonderful tendency. It builds relationships based in character rather than circumstances. It provides the foundation of steadfastness that makes spiritual work possible. It creates trust among people because they know where they stand. But most of all, when we lean toward faith, confession, and submission, we make every spiritual decision easier, we build a barricade against many a temptation, and we create a path toward spiritual growth. Many people spend their lives doubting God because they want an excuse to follow the world, and many children fall into this trap as they try to distinguish their own beliefs from their parents’ faith. But rather than leaning on our own understanding, we should learn to lean on the LORD.

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