Faithlife Sermons

The Path You Take

Proverbs and Parables  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Scripture Readings:
Proverbs 3:5–6 ESV
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.
Proverbs 4:1–6 ESV
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
Luke 15:11–32 ESV
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
Invite the congregation to pray.

Have you ever been lost?

How many of you have ever been lost?
Sometimes we lose our way and we don’t know where we are and we’re lost and need to ask for directions (unless your a guy - then you just stay lost). Other times we know exactly where we are, but we’re still lost - we can’t figure out how to get to where we want to be, or if we can we realize that we can’t get there from here on our own.
Several years ago a good friend and I as experienced outdoorsman decided to make a winter ascent of Mt. Adams. The weather forecast, such as it was, was to be favorable as no precipitation was expected in the area. Ah, but this is the Pacific Northwest, and if we know anything about our weather, it is that it can be less than predictable. Especially in and around the mountains.
As we approached Mt. Adams for the South Climb from Trout Lake, it began to snow. Mountains can make their own weather, so we were not necessarily surprised. Our plan was to make the trailhead that night and to sleep in the truck and begin our ascent in the morning.
The trouble is, as we know around here - our weather can be unpredictable and mountains can make their own weather. Well it started snowing.
As the snow began coming down heavier we agreed to stop for the night the next place where the road was reasonably level. So, that’s what we did. The next morning we opened up the canopy of our truck to discover it had snowed a little over 2 feet during the night. “Well, I guess our climbs over, there’s about two feet of snow out here, I told my friend.
“That’s no problem, I’ve driven through that lots of times,” Eric said very confident that his lifted Toyota truck would easily be able to get us home. With no where to climb we decided we could sleep in a bit longer.
An hour later and nature was calling. I opened the hatch - “Um…Eric? There’s about another foot of snow out here! All the trees are bowed over.” It didn’t take much discussion, it was time to get up and to go.
For the next 14 hours we dug and drove, dug and drove, dug and drove, until we were exhausted. For our 14 hours of effort we’d made it only about 1/2 a mile back down from where we’d camped the night before.
Well, we’ve got plenty of food, people know where we are, and we’re safe we thought. And so we decided to call it a night. The next morning we opened the canopy only to see an additional 2 feet behind our vehicle. The snow at the front of our truck was now up to the hood.
Knowing where you are doesn’t mean you’re not lost. We knew exactly where we were on the map…and yet…and yet, we were not getting out of there without some help. Eventually we were put in touch with some guys to come plow the road so that we could drive out.
Here’s my point - despite knowing exactly where we were - we could not rescue ourselves. We had to rely on others that were not anywhere nearby to come and get us.

Knowing where you are doesn’t mean you’re not lost!

In our readings today - both the excerpts from Proverbs 3 and Proverbs 4, as well as the story of the lost sons we learn some wisdom for finding our way home. Funny thing, it doesn’t really rely on our wisdom.
We read that very familiar passage in Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3:5–6 ESV
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.
Trusting in anyone is difficult. As a teen we all rebelled against our parents in one way or another, not trusting that they really knew what was best for us. This is a part of growing up.
And part of growing up is beginning to recognize there was wisdom there as well, as we learned from Proverbs 4. Over and over the author reminds us to hold on to instruction.
Proverbs 4:20–23 ESV
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:20–23 The Message
Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health. Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.
We know the story of the lost son. It is perhaps the most beautiful of any of the parables because of the details, the emotion conveyed from all three characters, and it is just a gem of story telling. We can all relate to it in one way or another. I’ve preached on it and actually done a series where each Sunday we look at one of the characters within the story.
But who is it that is really lost? Is it the younger son? Or the older son? When we study the story we can make a case for both. The younger wanders away, squanders his wealth, and finally coming to his senses vows to return home as a servant and his welcomed home as a son. The older remains home but sees himself as a servant, and he too is welcomed into the party as a son.
We sing Amazing Grace

I once was lost but now am found...

Yet while living in this world we still face our fallenness and struggle with the sin in our lives.

"For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” (Romans 7:15).

We all claim to have belief in Christ, yet when it comes down to it we still struggle with that belief. We doubt. Some don’t want to admit it, but that too is a part of our journey. In this world this isn’t “I’ve got it all figured out, just ask me.” No, it’s more like, “I don’t have it all figured out, so don’t ask me.”
We’re always somewhere on that spectrum between belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, and in this world that is where we live. We are like the father who brought his son to Jesus hoping he could be healed and he says, “If you can do something...”
Mark 9:23 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
Watch the reaction now...
Mark 9:24 ESV
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Or perhaps more in our daily vernacular as Eugene Peterson translated it in the Message:
Mark 9:24 The Message
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”
We sing songs and hymns, and we quote Scriptures that speak solidly to our faith - but what about our doubts.
Do you doubt?
I do.

Doubt/Faith

Do you doubt and run? OR do you doubt and give it back to God?
You and are are what they’d call a conundrum. We have faith and doubt at the same time. We’re both lost and found.
You might feel like the younger brother who thought he’d done everything wrong and was lost. Yet the father continued to eagerly search and wait for him.
You might feel like the older brother who thought he’d done everything right serving his father trying so hard to do everything his father had asked. Again the father searches for him, and brings him too into the party.

Faith/Doubt

This past week at Triennium we had a theme of “Here’s My Heart,” and a hymn that inspired that theme, “Come Thou Fount,” by Robert Robinson. As a teen he was part of a gang in London. He attended a church meeting of George Whitefield with the intent of heckling him but instead ended up converting to Christ. He himself became a well known preacher and at one point had a church of over 1000 (this is in the 1700’s!). It was in that successful time that he lost faith and fell away.
Years later he would meet a young Christian while sharing a carriage who was enamored by the words of the hymn, Come Thou Fount, and shared the words he’d written that would remind him of God’s grace.
Here these words from the third verse of that great hymn:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter
Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart Lord take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Friends, our God is bigger than your doubts, better than your blunders, and able to love you whether you feel lost or found. This is the wisdom of God, this is the insight. Let us not forget.
Amen.
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