How to Navigate Life
How to Navigate Life
Our last car had many scratches on both sides. I suspect (although my memory is conveniently vague about this) that I was responsible for most of them. They come as a result of the difficulty of steering through the very narrow entrance on one side of the grounds of our church.
Wisdom has been defined as ‘the art of steering’. As you go through life, you will need to navigate many tight situations that require great wisdom in order to avoid damaging yourself or others.
Avoid wrong turnsProverbs 2:12-22
Unfaithfulness (vv.16–18) is an example of a wrong turn. Wisdom will ‘keep you from making wrong turns, or following the bad directions’ (v.12, MSG). Wisdom will stop you veering off course. It will stop you ‘travelling paths that go nowhere, wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends’ (v.15, MSG). Evil may look attractive, but it is perverse and leads to darkness.
Marriage is a ‘covenant… made before God’ (v.17). ‘Covenant’ is an important word describing Israel’s relationship with God – the old covenant; and our relationship with him under the new covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement that should not be broken.
To be involved in an adulterous relationship is wrong for both parties. In this case, it is the woman who has ‘left the partner of her youth’ and thereby ‘ignored the covenant she made before God’ (v.17). The man who commits adultery with her has fallen into the temptation to be seduced off the right path onto a path that ultimately ‘leads down to death’ (v.18).
Wisdom will keep you steering along the right paths (v.16a). It will ‘keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths’ (v.20, MSG). It will keep you walking with those who ‘walk straight’ (v.21, MSG).
Lord, give me wisdom. Help me to steer my life on the straight paths that lead to life.
Choose the good pathMatthew 14:1-21
Difficult times in your life can take you off course in the wrong direction. But if you stay on the right course it will lead to greater compassion and wisdom.
The book of Proverbs presents us with a choice between the way of wisdom and the way of evil. Here, we read what these two paths look like in practice, in the lives of Jesus and Herod.
- The path of evil
Herod the Tetrarch was Herod Antipas (21 BC – AD 39). This was the man who rejected Jesus to his face (when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod), just before Jesus’ death (see Luke 23:8–12).
Herod had done what the writer of Proverbs warned against. He had committed adultery with his brother’s wife, Herodias. When confronted with his actions he had John the Baptist ‘bound… and put… in prison’ (Matthew 14:3) because of his own guilty conscience.
Herod’s life seemed to revolve around self-gratification: he had discarded one wife and acquired another. His focus was on his own personal pleasure, rather than the misery that his actions would have caused others – not least his own brother, Philip. Beware when your own pleasure matters more to you than the needs of others.
The fear of rejection can also lead us into trouble. Herod ‘was afraid of the people’ (v.5) if he were to have John put to death. And yet he was also afraid of rejection by the guests at his dinner party and therefore granted Herodias’ daughter’s request for the head of John the Baptist (vv.8–10). Make sure you do not allow what others think of you to matter more than what is right.
Because John the Baptist courageously spoke out, Herod wanted to kill him (v.4). In fact, evil seems to have run in the family: Herod’s niece, Herodias’ daughter, plotted with her mother to have John beheaded (vv.6–10). They were so hardened to evil that they were not even sickened by the sight of John the Baptist’s head brought in on a platter (v.11).
- The path of good
Jesus was clearly deeply shocked by the news of his cousin’s death (v.12). His response to bad news was to withdraw ‘privately to a solitary place’ (v.13). He needed to be alone with God.
Yet when his plans were interrupted, Jesus did not get irritated (as I often do). It is good to make plans; but also, to allow God to interrupt your plans. Because of his compassion (v.14), Jesus had the wisdom not only to ‘go with the flow’, but also to respond actively – he ‘healed their sick’ (v.14). Even after all that, he did not take the opportunity to get away from the crowds. Instead, he fed them – or rather, he taught his disciples how to feed them miraculously (vv.16,19–20). He mobilised them.
We see the extraordinary wisdom of Jesus as he navigated through this day. It was a day that started very badly, but Jesus managed to heal many sick people and miraculously feed ‘five thousand men, besides women and children’ (v.21). That day would be remembered throughout history and has affected millions of lives.
Lord, may the difficult times in my life not lead me off the right paths, but rather lead me to greater compassion and wisdom.
Navigate through the challenges of lifeGenesis 40:1-41:40
Have you ever been rejected, treated unjustly, let down by a friend or found yourself in some other frustrating situation?
‘Great faith is a product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials,’ said Smith Wigglesworth. We see this exemplified in the life of Joseph.
At the age of thirty (41:46), Joseph was put in charge of the entire country of Egypt. Pharaoh was looking for a wise and experienced person and he recognised that there was no one as qualified as Joseph (vv.33,39).
But first Joseph went through a very tough time. It was all part of his training. He had been rejected by his brothers, treated unjustly and put in prison. Yet his suffering was still not at an end.
God gave him the interpretation of the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the cupbearer and the baker. He was given a clear and accurate interpretation. The baker was executed but the chief cupbearer was released and restored to his position. All Joseph had asked of him was that when he was released, he would remember to mention him to Pharaoh and get him out of prison (40:14).
However, the chief cupbearer forgot all about Joseph (v.23). This must have been so difficult and discouraging for him. It is never easy when friends let you down. In Joseph’s case, it meant two more years languishing in a dungeon (41:1).
Prison must have been an extraordinarily frustrating place for a man of Joseph’s talents. He was in his twenties, in the prime of his life. He did not know whether he would ever be released. I am not a very patient person. I think I would have gone mad with frustration.
Yet, in fact, God was preparing Joseph for something great. It probably did not feel like that at the time. By feeding fellow prisoners in a jail, God prepared Joseph to feed the nations from a palace.
Finally, when Pharaoh had dreams that he was unable to interpret, the chief cupbearer said, ‘Today I am reminded of my shortcomings’ (v.9). Joseph was called in to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.
Joseph said, ‘I cannot do it… but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’ (v.16). We see how Joseph has grown in wisdom. The self-confidence and swagger of his youth have been replaced by a reliance on God. He acts here with an extraordinary mixture of humility and confidence (two qualities that do not often go together). This is the humility and confidence we need when faced with the challenges of life: ‘I can’t… but God can and will.’
Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams (vv.25–32), and tells him how he should respond to them (vv.33–36). Even Pharaoh recognises the great wisdom that has grown in Joseph. He asks his officials, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’ (v.38). Because he recognised that there was no one as ‘discerning’ and ‘wise’ as Joseph, Pharaoh put him in charge of his whole empire (vv.39–40).
Through all your suffering, trials and tribulations, God is also preparing you. Joseph had grown in wisdom. As a result, he came up with a plan that enabled the people to navigate through a period of great economic recession and turmoil. Many of us face all kinds of economic difficulties at the moment. God’s help and wisdom may not always change the situation, but they will help you navigate through the struggles you face.
Lord, thank you for the way in which you use the difficult times in my life. Help me to grow in wisdom, be confident in you and navigate through the challenges of life.
I’m very impressed by Joseph. Apart from being a little bumptious as a child – his father’s fault for spoiling him – Joseph doesn’t put a foot wrong. Well, maybe a little more tact needed for the baker!
Despite all the wrongs done to him by others, there is not a hint of bitterness or doubting in God. He is respectful of Pharaoh, but he makes it clear that it is God, not Joseph, who interprets dreams. His childhood bragging has gone and all the glory goes to God. He doesn’t even try to bargain for release. No wonder Pharaoh is impressed. Now Joseph stands before him humble, confident and ready to be used by God.
Verse of the Day
‘I cannot… but God will’ (Genesis 41:16).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
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