Faithlife Sermons

Like a Rolling Stone

Sophia Street  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We live in this incredibly ego-centric time, particularly in the west. It is ingrained in our psyches that happiness is a right, and it is something pursued and achieved. By this understanding, each person therefore has a mandate to carefully, painstakingly arrange his or her life however he or she sees fit, so that happiness may be found. We set our own agenda, fight our own battles, mete out our own expectations, and merit our own achievements. Throughout all this, we assume naturally that our own wisdom and knowledge are sufficient and best.
And yet, Jesus prays in the Garden at Gethsemane, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Here lies the tension at hand: our natural, human inclination is to bend the will of the world to ourselves, while in reality all of creation is gradually and consummately bending toward God and his will (Col. 1:20). Ultimately, the Bible tells us that we need to trust in the best laid plans of God over the however well-intentioned plans of our own.
That’s the command. But it goes against every human instinct we have. And when we are faced with stuff like “trust in God” and follow God’s will,” I think there is a fair question we need to ask.
Why should we conform to the will of God? Can’t we just “follow our hearts” and make our own way?
We’re going to jump into Proverbs 16:1-3 today, and I want you to take this time to decide for yourself whether or not you can and should trust someone other than yourself to achieve the plans you have made.
Proverbs 16:1–3 CSB
1 The reflections of the heart belong to mankind, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 2 All a person’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs motives. 3 Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Notice what Sophia says at the end here: Commit your activities to the YHWH, and your plans will be established. Is this a good idea, however? Can God truly be trusted with our plans? Let’s pray and back up to the beginning and see what the sage has to say.

You Ask, God Answers

Let’s start with verse 1:
Proverbs 16:1 CSB
1 The reflections of the heart belong to mankind, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
That word “reflections” is interesting here. It’s the word ma-arak, meaning “to lay out” or “set into rows.” Whenever it is used in the Hebrew Bible (the OT), it is always used to refer to setting things up for a desired outcome;
1 Samuel 17:21 (CSB)
21 Israel and the Philistines lined up in battle formation facing each other.
Here, Israel “ma-arak” their armies to defeat their enemies.
Job 13:18 (CSB)
18 Now then, I have prepared my case; I know that I am right.
In this one, Job ma-araks his case before his “friends” to show them that he is morally righteous and underserving of the rough things that are happing to him. It’s a legal defense.
Psalm 23:5 (CSB)
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Ma-arak is about arranging table settings so that you can enjoy your food.
Now, when proverbs talks about the ma-arak of your heart, that’s something different, right? What Sophia says here is that you are indeed free to carve out your own path to happiness and fulfillment. You can line it up however you want. You may choose to traverse the well-worn, reliable road, or you can forge your own way. You can build upon the carefully laid foundations of generations past, or you can raze to the ground and start over, if you think you can do better.
Now at this point, you may be thinking, “Is this not wise? If I agonize over my career goals, or if I am meticulously outlining a timeline for college, or marriage, or children, or trips overseas, even for ministry pursuits, what could be wrong with that? Should not God bless me as long as I am not foolish with my arrangements?”
Here’s the point: I am not saying that plans are bad; Proverbs says they are yours to make! However, it also says that these are “arrangements of the heart.” This means two things.
First, when your heart makes plans, they are born out of your very identity, the core of who you are deep within, the unconscious driving force behind every conscious thought and act.
Second, these plans are internal, silent, and have yet to be accomplished. If they had, they would be more then plans, but actions.
And here’s the reality: when the rubber meets the road, despite all the preparations and plans and arrangements you have made, however well intentioned, however carefully organized and stressed over, you cannot guarantee the outcome. You cannot control what will happen, whether you will be successful or a failure.
But there is one who can. You see, while all of your arrangements amount to little more than a petition in need of approval, God produces the result.

Truth #1: You ask, God answers.

“To a man belongs the arrangements of the heart, but from the Lord is the answer of the tongue.” When the sage says God has a tongue, he doesn’t mean that God has a physical appendage; rather, he means that, very simply, God speaks. And what we find in the Old Testament is that when God speaks, things happen. His spoken word is often accompanied by his creative force, bringing about rescue (Ps. 65:5;118:5), protection (Ps. 20:1-2), victory over enemies (1 Sam. 7:9-10), or cleansing fire (Gen. 41:16).
While man’s preparations are internal, silent, and yet to be made manifest, God’s response is articulated externally, brought to fruition, incarnate in creation. Your plans are yours to make, you can craft your own little world and pretend to be god, but it is YHWH who renders the final verdict, the good and right response that will ultimately shape your future according to his will, not yours.
QUESTION FOR DNA GROUPS: what goal and pursuits have you agonized and stressed over lately? What is it that your heart most desires at this moment? Are you determined to make your way “the way,” no matter what? Or, are you willing to accept the answer that God gives, and to rest in that?
You can ask, just know that God will answer.

You Assume, God Knows

Proverbs 16:2 CSB
2 All a person’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs motives.
“All of the ways of a man are pure in his [own] eyes, but the LORD measures the spirit.” From a human perspective, we see our actions as validated, even righteous. The paths we have chosen are clean and undefiled (זַ֣ךְ). But there’s a caveat here; the ways are pure, but only “in the eyes” of a man. That phrase can be translated “opinion” or “judgment;” it’s the imagery of a limited point of view, like blinders on a horse. For a man, what comes into his field of vision—the present time, in his state of emotions—is how judges the world around him. The phrase is mentioned eleven times in the book of Proverbs, and most of the time, it’s about the fool: “a fool’s way is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 12:15); “Answer a fool according to his own folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5); elsewhere, it is associated with rich (Prov. 28:11).
What’s the common thread? The person who judges himself according to his opinion deceives himself. This limited sight and self-deception is a sign of immaturity in a man. It’s like the politician who sees a world he does not like and then declares “only I can fix it!” It’s like a four year old who struggles to understand why she can’t stay up past her bedtime or yell at her mother without consequences. She can’t see beyond how her actions affect herself, nor can she accept the life experience of her father and mother. Her worldview is narrowed, and without instruction or consequence, she will continue to deceive herself. What’s hope as parents? That the child will grow iup, begin to empathize in a greater way, and broaden her scope of the world in a wise way. But until then, she will be self-deceived.
You may think you know that your life choices are right and well and good, but do you really know? Or do you only assume?

Truth #2: You assume, God knows.

God does not deal in opinions. He weighs evidence. God measures the motivations of the inner man, so he can accurately and justly weigh the actions of the outer man. Your ability to assess the moral uprightness of your own lifestyle choices is far inferior to God’s ability to measure your motivations according to his divine, perfect standard of righteous. “All of the ways of a man are pure in his [own] eyes, but the LORD measures the spirit.” The verb “to measure” in the Old Testament is about justice and accuracy. See, you and I are limited in our perception—we can only observe the external world—God is infinitely perceptive; he can penetrate the façade and accurately and fairly gauge our inner desires.
Again, you may be asking, “Wait; am I not wise for trying to observe and make right decisions based on my observations? At least I am not wandering aimlessly through life!” That’s great, brownies points for you, but hear the warning: don’t trust your scales of justice more than God’s. No human being is immune to mistakes, except one. No human being is infallible, except one.
QUESTION DNA GROUPS: There was one human being who could accurately claim infallibility throughout the entire scope of history. And yet, Jesus was so finely tuned to the will of God, so resigned to the will of his Father, that his path was God’s path, and so his path was pure. Can you say the same about your own life? Can you claim infallibility without deceiving yourself?
You assume, but God knows.

If You Commit, God Will Work

Alright, so if all this is true, that you are not as “in control” as you thought you were, that you do not know as much as you thought you did, then is there really any hope for you? Is there any point in dreaming, or planning, or desiring for something to work out in your life?
I say there is, and that hope is found in verse 3.
Proverbs 16:3 CSB
3 Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
I think the word “commit” has developed a negative connotation in today’s culture; for many, it prompts the idea of a dead-end job, a loveless marriage, obligation, legalism, or disappointment. For many, it means giving up that thing you really wanted or desired, and doing what you have to do or are supposed to do. I want you to understand that there is so much more to this concept of commitment; it can be a beautifully freeing action. In Hebrew the verb gol means, literally, “to roll away.” This verb generally refers to the movement of a stone, but here in Proverbs, it refers the rolling away of hardship, burdens, or “works” away from oneself and toward God, who is able to aptly handle the troubles of man.
Commentator Bruce Waltke says this: “Roll it to the Lord and leave it there…. The faithful must not fret or worry about their effectiveness, or even their purity, for that assessment and their achievement depend on God, not the doer. Secular man, who feels so self-confident, paradoxically is plagued with fear. Pious people, who know God’s sovereignty and their limitations, live in prayer and peace.”
Why are these works/activities so fear-inducing, so soul crushing? If you were reading this at the time, you would understand “works” to be about your salvation. If the work is accomplished, you would be justified; if it fails, you would be condemned.
Now, you probably don’t link your work to your spiritual salvation, right? But have you ever put a lot of your identity into your work? If you can only get that degree, that promotion, if only your parents/spouse/children would be proud of you, your existence would be justified. I know many people who struggle greatly with depression because some ailment or disability has dampened their ability to provide for their families, or to earn the respect of colleagues, or even just to prove useful. Maybe you have a title like “director” or “manager” or “pastor” or something that is so you that without that title, you would be lost. You may not always tie your work to your spiritual salvation, but more often then not, the underlying hope is that your work will redeem you; that it make you more valuable in the eyes of your friends, your family, your own standards, even God. That is a massive burden to bear on your own.
But here is the good news: God does not want you to bear it on your own. He wants you to roll it toward himself, because he can handle it.

Truth #3: If you commit, God will work.

If you are faithful to commit your works to the Lord, and not relying only on yourself, then your “plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3b). Sophia says that when your plans are about you, they fail, but when those plans start with the fear of the Lord, they often work out! They are seen as just (Prov. 12:5) and effective (Prov. 21:5). But again, it’s about about you and your identity in you; it cannot be where you are the hope of your salvation.
But the best part is how these plans are established: When you hand over your plans, you are not the primary agent in bringing them about—God is! In the Old Testament, when God “establishes” something on the earth, it is generally associated with his role as sovereign king (Ps. 48:8-9; 87:5; 119:90) and with his creative force that forms the formless (Prov. 8:27) and brings that which formerly was not into present existence (Isa. 45:18). In addition, whatever God brings about will not fail, nor fade; it is eternal (Ps. 9:7; 74:16).
God will not only make the plans of a man successful, he will take that which is committed to him—the immaterial hopes and desires of a man—and bring them into material existence, as plans that are real, tangible, and enduring. The result of commitment to God is not a loss of identity, nor a relegation of hopeful plans and dreams, but a secured and eternal identity in him, and the joyous fulfillment. This does not mean that you get everything you want of course, but that you trust in God’s greater understanding of what will be best and greatest for your life. That may not be the career you always wanted, or the perfect marriage, but you will be satisfied regardless, and your perspective will be changed and shaped and recalibrated to see what God sees and what he wants for you.


So, why should you commit? Why submit to the will of God, and not to your own?
First, all of your plans will never perfectly succeed, but God’s plans never fail; thus, it is good and wise to commit to God’s spiritual direction.
Second, you will deceive yourself when you trust in your own judgment, but God’s ways are rooted in the objective truth of his perfect knowledge; thus, it is good and wise to commit to God’s understanding.
Finally, you will constantly be stressed out and anxious when you trust in yourself to fulfill your hopes and dreams, but you can rest assured that God will bring about your plans—when it is also God’s plan—to fruition; thus it is good and wise to “roll away” your burdens to God.
Is there something that is holding you back from freeing yourself from your relentless pursuits and resting in the power and work of God? Roll it to God, commit your identity and your redemption to him, and let him justify you based on his works and in his strength. You will not regret it.
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