Have you wrestled with the significance of the following verse? Because if you have given any consideration to it at all, given human nature, it is certain that it has engendered some wrestling. Blessed is the believer who has confronted the truth it announces and has yielded to it. However, the one who has not bowed to its implications or who hasn’t truly weighed those implications is following a path that will end in abject disappointment, if not utter destruction. What is the verse? “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).
Jeremiah declares this universal truth: no man (or woman) is naturally qualified to make the right life choices. That includes the person with a genius IQ, the person brandishing a Ph.D. in physics, the person with a broad range of experience in many fields, the person who seeks multiple worldly-wise counsellors, the person who seems to be particularly lucky, and even the person who combines all of those advantages. Furthermore, the same is true of a genuine believer. More than a century ago, Lewis Sperry Chafer observed that “Nothing could be more misdirected than a self-directed life. In our creation God has purposely omitted any faculty, or power, of self-direction.” Certainly, we are capable of making decisions—and do so, perhaps hundreds of times daily when we take into account all the little choices we make moment-by-moment. But the ability to make a decision and the ability to make the right decision are two different things. And if God is true—and He is—the person who makes decisions without consulting the Lord is making the wrong decision.
It goes without saying that an unbeliever is capable of making only self-willed choices about the major issues of his life and that those choices, left uncorrected, will lead him inevitably to hell. While for some, the road will be filled with potholes, snowdrifts, and other miserable hazards, admittedly, for others, the road will follow a scenic route with pleasant vistas, fun, and excitement along the entire journey. But the destination is the same for both—hell—because “a man’s way is not in himself.”
But how many of us who claim to know the Lord, make life choices based solely on what seems prudent, expedient, comfortable, or enjoyable for us? What believer will not admit to making a significant decision based on criteria not suggested by the truth of our text? In some cases, those choices may have seemed to turn out well, in others, the disasters they created were obvious. But did the instances where self-made choices seemed to work out well—at least in the short term—abrogate the truth that God breathed through the mind and pen of Jeremiah?
The iron-clad truth is that failing to consult the Lord’s will through His Word and prayer guarantees that the decision we come to will be devoid of God’s blessing. Doing the right thing, making the right decision, entails a search for the will of God. We should never be deceived because things appear to work out that choices made independent of a true desire to know and do God’s will are acceptable.
You may dive off a cruise ship into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and gambol in the waves for a few heady minutes. But the end of those pleasant moments is sure. Choices made that fail to observe the truth God has graciously given us through Jeremiah are doomed to failure—whether or not we recognize it at the time. The best that a self-made choice offers is temporal benefit because man is incapable of making a decision that will bring eternal blessing apart from humbling himself before the Lord.
In unequivocal but altogether gracious terms, God has warned us not to choose our own path. He is delighted to show the way of blessing to those who know and seek His will, and He will always point us in the right direction. Will we rebelliously think that what we desire or what pleases us will prove a better choice? Jeremiah assures us that such is not the case.
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