Riverside Community Church

Your Heart Matters

Many years ago our family took a trip out west and while we were in Alberta we wanted to take a trail ride with horses in the foothills of the Rockies. My horse, I recall, was as stubborn as a mule. I couldn’t steer it at all –it would just go in whatever direction it wanted, usually just following the trail. I couldn’t speed it up or slow it down.  I couldn’t make it pass the horse in front. And if it wanted to stop and eat a few blades of grass, then it stopped and ate and I sat and watched.


In a way, that horse, is like many of us. But we two-legged horses are just more subtle about our rebellion. Here’s what we do sometimes. We come to a fork in the road and weigh our options. Then, we choose the road that feels the best to us at the moment. That path may not be the best path for us, so as soon as we figure out what we want to do, we put our minds to work figuring out reasons that justify our decision. We rationalize our choices and paths, we justify often our choice of direction.

Illustrations of this rationalizing:

1)  “We traded in our old car because it was a gas guzzler,” we say. “We couldn’t afford it,” but we laid down $20,000 after the trade-in, and if we drove our new, more efficient model 35 years, the difference in gas consumption would still not add up to $20,000. We rationalize, but the stated reason for our choice (can’t afford the gas) isn’t the real reason. Nay, nay. We just wanted a new car. Truth.


2)  Or the battery on our cellphone no longer lasts a full day. So we decide to pick up an iPhone, even though the iPhone costs $600 and a new battery would have cost $100. “It just made sense,” we say. What kind of sense? “Cents” or “sense”? Truth is we wanted a new iPhone.


More and more these days, we hear from people who ask, “How did I end up on this path? How did I get here? Why did God let me get into this situation in the first place?” Our problem rarely stems from a lack of information or insight. It’s something else. Something we don’t outgrow. Something that another academic degree won’t resolve. Our problem stems from the fact that we are not on a truth quest. That is, we don’t wake up every morning with a desire to know what’s true, what’s right, what’s honorable. We are on a happiness quest. We want to be – as in feel – happy. And our quest for happiness often trumps our appreciation for and pursuit of what’s true.”


Why Do We Find Ourselves on the Wrong Path?

Two reasons:

1. Our heart is on a happiness quest, not a truth quest.

2. Our heart chooses the happy-now rather than the happy-later path. Almost every time.  Isn’t that true? Now I understand why you may take exception to that. But stay with me while I make my case.

Let’s start with coffee drinkers. What is that all about? My coffee of choice is a doppio espresso or a grand latte Americano from Starbucks and costs about four bucks a cup. That’s ridiculous. That’s eighty dollars a month if I skip weekends. I could sponsor 1 ½ children in Guatemala every month. What’s wrong with me? Well, I’m on a happiness quest. And espressos and lattes contribute to my happiness. In fact, as I learned a few years ago that when I didn’t get my espresso, people would invite me to go and get a coffee. That’s all the excuse I needed.


That’s a small thing but I had to course correct and moderate my coffee happiness path. As smart as we are and as aware as we are that life is connected and that decisions today shape the experiences of tomorrow, we still don’t wake up in the morning in search of truth, insight, and enlightenment. We get up and do the things that make us happy. We are all on a happiness quest. And I don’t think that’s necessarily totally wrong. Fortunately, there is a great deal of overlap between doing what’s right and wise and doing what makes us happy.

For example, my wife loves to walk. And that makes her and me happy. But that’s not really the point, is it? Walking, something that is good for my wife’s current and future health, is the point, truth.

It is something she enjoys. So in that case, pursuing something that makes her happy is a good thing.

But she would be quick to tell you that rhubarb/strawberry pie makes her happy as well. Happier than walking. Pursuing that happy-path every day would not be a good thing.


It’s these forks in the road – or for our purposes – forks in the path – that make things complicated. When happiness points in one direction while wisdom, truth, integrity and common sense point in another. That’s when the happiness quest becomes dangerous. That is the underlying reason we intentionally choose paths that will not take us to where we ultimately want to go, regardless of our SAT scores.


Two weeks ago when we started this series, The Path, we said there is an unbreakable principle in the universe:

1)   Your direction determines your destination.

This principle trumps just about every other natural principle in the universe. Last week, we said that

2)   prudent people switch paths when they see trouble coming. They make course corrections, even though that requires more energy and determination than almost anything else on earth.

The prudent see danger and take refuge, while the simple keep going and pay the penalty.


Solomon diagnosed this problem 3,000 years ago, right along with the problem we’re looking at today. Apparently, people back then weren’t too different from people today. In Proverbs 3. Solomon gave a solution to the happiness quest in what may be the most famous section of the book of Proverbs. Some of you who’ve been in church a long time may have a portion of this memorized. What you may not have seen before is its relationship to The Path.


Proverbs 3:5-12

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

8 This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.

9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,

with the first fruits of all your crops;

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline

and do not resent his rebuke,

12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father the son he delights in.


How do I get on the Straight Path, the right path? According to Solomon, God will make your paths straight if you do three things:

1. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

2. Lean not on your own understanding.

3. Acknowledge Him in all your ways.


Some of you have never heard this before and some of you are almost too familiar with this verse, and so I want you to see it as if for the first time. The starting place for a straight path is just what it says on all American money, “In God we trust.” This is somewhat ironic, because, in my experience, money is often the last thing that Americans or Canadians trust God with.


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” In every arena of life, in every possible path, in every category of path, “trust” God. The answer to choosing the right path is to choose God, to trust God, to go where he asks you to go, do what he asks you to do, and to do it every day. This is not a one-time thing. It’s a path. Place all your confidence, all your faith, all your hope, all your plans in God.


The challenge is to not lean on what your heart says is right, not on what your heart wants to do, not on your understanding of how much you need a new car, a new job, a different spouse, more income, a mate. How many times have you said to someone, “Just go with what your heart is telling you”? Or “Follow your heart.” We’ve all said that, haven’t we? That might be bad advice, friends, because the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” (Jeremiah 17:9)


Do you know what he meant by that? He meant sometimes our hearts lie to us. Almost every time we want to do something that feels good short term that we intuitively know is not good for us long term, our hearts come up with reasons to do the thing we want to do rather than the thing that’s best for us over the longer term. Say this to yourself, “My heart lies to me!”

The heart is deceitful above all things.


So Solomon says, “When you find yourself at a fork in the road – and every decision we make is a fork in the road – when you find yourself at a fork in the road, don’t trust your heart – trust God. Don’t lean on your own understanding, lean on God. Don’t acknowledge your motivations, your intentions, your ambitions but rather acknowledge God’s.” If you do this, he will make your paths straight.


Jesus said something similar thing in his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Acknowledge God and his ways, and he will make your paths straight. He’ll direct you in the way you should go. He’ll protect you when evil and junk try to crowd in on you.


5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.


Has there ever been a time when you acknowledged God in all your ways? Many of you have trusted him for salvation which is kind of like inviting God into your living room. “Here, Lord, come into my life.” But then that’s as far as you let him go. Have you invited him into your bedroom, where all your private thoughts are? Have you invited him onto your computer, where all your access to the world is? Have you invited him into the kitchen, where he can see what and how much you eat? Have you invited him into your closet, where all your secret things are?


Seek first the kingdom of God and he’ll take care of the rest. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, acknowledge him in all your ways, and he’ll steer your ship in the right direction, your car onto the right path, your life into the right places, plans and priorities. This is the path, friends.


Recently, Marilyn and I went on a trip down to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It looked pretty straightforward on a map. Go south. But we fired up our GPS anyways and started out. We didn’t see it coming, the construction along the way, the detours, the rain that didn’t let us read all the signs along the way. But good ole Penny,the name for our GPS, kept saying in 400 meters turn right or turn left in 200 meters. She kept us on the right path until we reached our intended destination.


Wouldn’t it be nice if getting on and staying on your path was just that simple? A life path GPS!! Well, it almost is. The only trick to it is to override the happiness quest now bias in your brain, which really comes from the deceitfulness of your heart. Override it with the perfect wisdom that God gives from his word and his spirit.



Solomon continues his thought about getting on God’s path with some further

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the first fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Solomon suggests three action steps to take in order to trust God fully and acknowledge him in everything.

Three Action Steps:

1. Don’t be wise in your own eyes.

Don’t think, “I don’t need to consult God on this one, after all, I’m an expert at it. I’ve taken classes in it. I’ve taught others about it. I’ve done this type of thing a thousand times before.” Every decision, every fork in the road is a new fork, friends. Wherever you are today, you’ve never been there before. So resist the temptation to think you know it all. That’s when you get into trouble. Consult God in all your ways, with all your forks in the road.


2. Honor God’s provision for you.

Honor the LORD with your wealth,

with the first fruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine.


After all, it all came from him. If you want him to direct your paths, first, let him direct your wallet. For most of us, our wallets are somehow connected to our hearts, aren’t they? God says, “Hey, if you want my input, trust me with your output. I gave it all to you anyway. If you trust me, give.”  And something mysterious happens when you give.

Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

(Matthew 6:21),

“If you want my direction for your life, if you want me to guide you, honor me with the first fruits of all your crops, the first of everything you earn for whatever kind of work you do.” Then I’ll be able to fill your barns to overflowing.”


Personally, I dare you to trust God with your money, to give to God a portion of all your income. See his blessings fall on you, not always financial, but it often is.

Commit to God with the full tithe for the next three months. If, after those three months, you’re not satisfied with God’s blessing on you ask for a refund.


Solomon says, “If you’re going to acknowledge God in all your ways, one of them is your financial ways.”


3. Don’t blame God for your pain.

11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline

and do not resent his rebuke,

12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father the son he delights in.


Sometimes you caused what is happening to you. And sometimes God knows you need some correction, which he provides like every loving father does.

I’ve heard many people say, “Why did God let this happen to me?” Usually, they’re in too much pain to hear the truth at that moment. But the truth is, in most cases, God didn’t let that happen to them. God didn’t want that to happen to them.

God tried to prevent it from happening to them. He tried to stop it, but he couldn’t stop them. You have free will.

 Sometimes God is redirecting our priorities, our paths and it’s painful.

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, like a father does with a son he delights in.”


Do you want to be on the right path? In every area of your life? Do you need a course correction?


Here’s what God is saying to you right now.



Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Honor MY provision for you. Don’t blame ME for your pain.

 Course Correction 101 He will make paths straight.