“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly, and don’t let your lips talk deviously. Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.” – Proverbs 4:23-28
There is so much wisdom in this short passage, it’s nearly impossible to digest it all at once. Initially, my focus is drawn to the opening verse about the heart being the source of life, for out of the overflow of our heart come our thoughts, actions and words. In other words, where our heart is, so are we…who we are and all that we do are a direct reflection of what we invest our heart in.
Upon a second reading, though, the Spirit reveals another wisdom that is just as important. Have you ever been driving down the interstate, and while passing a tractor-trailer you glance over at it as you pass…and as you do, your vehicle starts drifting toward it? Been driving on a two lane highway at night and as an oncoming car approaches, you find yourself looking at its headlights…as your car drifts closer and closer toward center line…which causes you to jerk the wheel back to keep you in your lane? Hey, even walking in a straight line can be a challenge when we’re looking to our left or right…or down at our phone, something I’ve been guilty of on more than one occasion. 🙂 All evidence that we instinctively move in the direction our eyes are looking.
As Christ-followers, our goal is to be like Christ in all we do…and in keeping our eyes looking forward – more specifically, upward- we keep our focus on God. Oh, how easy it is, though, to take our eyes off of Christ and drift from the path He has for us. I mean really…can you walk through the mall without glancing into the stores? Or drive through a scenic area without looking at the scenery as you pass by? The world has so many attractive and alluring things to offer us…things that we don’t have to wait for. And the instant gratification, no wait, no delay, that the world offers can be seductive can’t it? We can easily wander from the path and be immersed in pleasure and instant satisfaction…without realizing how misleading that path really is on its way to our destruction.
And the devil has perfected his craft, hasn’t he? He knows just how to lure and deceive us…makes it so easy to let our glance slip to the left or right at the things of the world. Because he knows that once we start to drift, it’s easy to end up way off course. It starts with a glance…a little dip in a seemingly “small” sin here…another glance there…a dibble here and another dabble there. And before we know it, we’ve taken the next step, and the next, and the next…until we’re so far away from who we were back at that first glance that we don’t recognize ourselves anymore…or know how to get back on track.
What’s even more worthy of note is that when verse 26 is telling us that when we “carefully consider where we place our feet, our way is established”, I realize that the path I’m on is not a firm, concrete path with an even slope like a sidewalk. No, the path we’re on is a narrow path like what we’d find when trying to scale a mountainous, cliff-side slope.
It’s unsteady and treacherous. It has potholes waiting to ensare us…tree roots waiting to trip us…shifting dirt that causes us to slip and fall…rocks that cause us to be unsteady in our footing…treacherous slopes that throw us off balance…snakes and spiders that can reach out and bite us…low hanging tree branches smacking us in the face. To traverse that path, we have to constantly be alert to the dangers around us…be vigilant in where we step…be purposeful in how we proceed.
The path we’re on in our walk of faith is much the same. There are so many hazards waiting to derail our progress that if we don’t carefully consider every move we take – every decision we make – we can be caught in the dangers of a seductive and misleading culture and be diverted from the path that Christ has laid out for us. The devil is out there waiting to trip us up…to draw our attention away from the path before us…the path that leads to all the blessings God has in store for us. The key to keeping our footing firm and our eyes fixed forward is to walk daily with God…to pray constantly in all things and to be in His Word. Because when we’re walking in His will – not our own – with prayer and guidance through the Word, we have a firm hold on the solid walking staff that the power of the Spirit provides for us to use on that path.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and narrow the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14