Years ago I was on a tugboat with a good friend who works in a nearby port. As he piloted the boat we got into a conversation about the importance of staying on course and how being off course even by a few degrees can eventually take vessel hundreds of miles away from its original destination. As a result, the pilot must make constant course corrections in order to counter deviations produced by contrary currents or winds. Every decision the pilot makes has the potential to influence the vessel’s time of arrival. Not surprisingly, our lives are much the same way.
As a college professor, I spend the vast majority of my week instructing students between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Regardless the class, at some point during the semester I always find myself highlighting a simple yet profound point: Youth is not immortality, it is the power to make decisions. The choices you make now will set a precedence for the history of your family, thus you need to think what life will be like 20 years from now and not simply live for today.
I think the life of King Solomon illustrates this principle in a pragmatic, yet tragic way. When Solomon was a young king, God gifted him with an unparalleled wisdom. Through this gift, Solomon penned hundreds of proverbs and maxims that are studied to this day. People traveled great distances to hear the wisdom flowing from this young man. However, in his youth, Solomon choose to marry pagan women who were immersed in the worship of idols and fallen angels. Even though this action was expressly forbidden by the Lord, Solomon repeated the practice throughout his youth and compiled hundreds of foreign / pagan wives. This compromise in his youth would lead to a humiliating culmination of his reign. Worst of all, it was his son who paid the price as the kingdom would ultimately be torn asunder and divided.
I often wonder how Solomon with all that wisdom maintained such a blatant compromise and simply ignored the consequences his actions would inevitably produce. Perhaps he reasoned the Lord would make an exception for him? Maybe he thought he could rationalize to God why he had to disobey the mandate? Whatever the case, it was clear the gifting became bigger than the mission. It is frightening how susceptible we can be to idolatry – even if the idol is our own gift. It can knock us off course at any time.
Even when we make poor choices, God often gives us time to navigate towards the right choice giving us both subtle and obvious nudges along the way. Solomon had his entire life to make a course change but did not because his heart was turned away (I King 11:9). I can only think about the words written by Solomon in Proverbs 4:23-27.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life…. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you…... Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.”
The challenge this month is to examine our lives for any course changes that need to be made. Here are a few tools we can utilize to help keep us accomplish the task:
· Fast before the Lord on a regular basis (whatever form this takes for you). Self-denial weakens our propensity to idolize our own talents
· Pray in the Spirit – self-denial is only part of the equation; we have to yield to God’s spirit
· Bathe your spirit in praise and worship music – even playing it softly in the background can keep your mind and heart focused in the right direction.