What Determines the Course of Your Life?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Vikki Burke


        Although all the blessings of God belong to every one of His children, many Christians continue to live defeated lives, never receiving what He has promised them. Why is this? Because they haven’t made God’s Word the final authority in their lives. If they had, they would keep the Word before their eyes and in their ears until it became firmly rooted in their hearts. Only when the Word is anchored in their hearts will God’s people develop the capacity to receive His blessings.

 Along this line, Proverbs 4:20-24 tells each of us what we must do. 

“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don't lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.”

Did you catch it? The course of our lives is determined by whatever penetrates our hearts! It’s no wonder God instructs us “above all else” to guard what our hearts are exposed to. Whatever we expose our hearts to will either direct us toward or detour us from God’s plan for our lives. Even our health is determined by what fills our hearts. If we want our lives to reflect everything God has promised us, we must purposefully and diligently expose our hearts to His promises. On the other hand, if we allow things to fill our hearts that are contrary to God’s Word, those things will detour us from the course He has planned for us.

 Verse 24 tells us how to avoid detours and remain on course with God’s plan: We must watch our tongues! However, that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to continually bite our tongues to avoid saying something negative. Avoiding negative words isn’t the goal. When we say things like, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…,” it reveals our confusion about the real purpose behind God’s command to watch our words. That purpose is only realized when we fill our hearts with God’s Word until we believe it more than outward circumstances. Then, despite circumstances, we will automatically speak from the reservoir that fills our hearts— and our words will always be in compliance with God’s plan.

 James tells us what a controlled tongue will achieve: “…Those who control their tongue can also control themselves in every other way” (James 3:2). Notice the picture James paints: “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth” (v. 3).

 This analogy hits home for me because my horse weighs about 1,200 pounds, which is more than a thousand pounds heavier than I am. She clearly overpowers me in both weight and size—but when I put a small bit in that powerful animal’s mouth, I make her go wherever I desire. Even though I weigh significantly less than my horse does, the bit empowers me to determine my direction.

 On the other hand, an uncontrolled horse can run away with its rider, taking the rider wherever it wants to go. In the same way, an unrestrained tongue will produce an out-of-control life.

 James continues his illustration, saying: “And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong” (James 3:4). If you have ever been on a ship, you understand just how huge it is. Yet a very small part of the ship—the rudder—steers and turns the ship wherever the pilot desires. The similarity is clear: The tongue is a small part of your body. But when it is controlled by God’s Word, you can direct your life wherever you desire—even though the opposing winds are strong.

 There are dangerously strong winds blowing these days! Winds that threaten our economic stability. Winds predicting epidemic diseases. Winds of rising unemployment, extreme debt, and runaway federal spending. But we don’t ever have to be swept off course by any contrary wind as long as we maintain a fixed setting, anchored in God’s Word.

 If we go through life unanchored, those powerful winds will push us far off course until shipwreck looks unavoidable. Venting our feelings when a strong wind is blowing is one example of a dangerous habit that can pull us off course. Another is watching hours of bad news, which only serves to contaminate us with the world’s hopeless perspective. Eventually the gloom and doom that enters our hearts will mold and shape our perspectives. Spending an hour or two with God on Sunday morning cannot neutralize the effect of so much bad news.

 Jesus rebuked one of His closest disciples for having the wrong perspective, saying, “…Out of my way, Satan! You stand right in my path, Peter, when you look at things from man’s point of view and not from God’s” (Matthew 16:23 Phillips). We will only see from God’s perspective when our hearts are filled with His Word. Then His thoughts will become our thoughts, and His ways will become our ways. We’ll use our voices to declare what God has promised instead of what the media or politicians predict. With the Word controlling our tongues, the direction and pathway to our destiny will become as clear to us as it is to the Lord! As the psalmist declared: “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalm 77:19).

 This simple poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox further describes the significant role our tongues play in reaching our destination:

One ship sails East, and another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

'Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale,

that tells the way we go.   

            Like the bit and the rudder James talked about, the set of our sail (our tongue) governs the course of our lives, not the gale-force winds that blow. We set our sail by proclaiming the promises of God that will carry us to our destination. 

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Word should steer each of us as we navigate our course through life: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for resetting the direction of a man’s life…” (2 Timothy 3:16 Phillips). This unfailing navigational tool will ensure that we reach our destination. And if we do get off course, our route can be reset. We just have to allow God’s Word to act as our personal “GPS” (Global Positioning System), giving us the wisdom we need to make adjustments and get ourselves back on course. 

Much like a pilot sets the instruments of his aircraft to maintain a designated course, so we set our course in life by speaking God-inspired Scriptures. Throughout the flight, a pilot must make adjustments as unexpected winds blow the aircraft slightly off course. Should he fail to make those necessary adjustments throughout the flight, he won’t arrive at his intended destination. Instead, the wind will continue to push him further and further off course throughout the journey until he loses his way. In the same way, when our tongues are set on the God’s promises, we may encounter unexpected winds that blow us slightly off course, but we can get right back on course by making adjustments as the Word directs.         

When we use our tongues to set our life’s course, we begin to live offensively rather than defensively. What does this mean? It means we can stop many attacks before they ever get to us, instead of reacting to every attack that comes our way. Rather than getting sick and then desperately praying for healing, we can spend time every day building up our spiritual immune system by declaring what God says about divine health. Before getting in financial trouble and crying out to God for a miracle, we can build a reserve account in Heaven by giving tithes and offerings and then declaring that God rebukes the devourer on our behalf and that we reap a harvest from our giving. We can experience this pattern of victory in every area of our lives as we live in compliance with God’s Word and avoid the costly price of defensive living. 

I’ve purchased products from a company that has shown me what it means to be compliant. This company is required to abide by the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration regarding the claims they make about their products. Consequently, the company has a staff of attorneys who review every piece of written material, every DVD, CD, or news briefing that the company releases to make absolutely sure every word is in compliance with the FDA requirements. Anything that is not in compliance with the FDA regulations must be removed—period!  

This explanation of compliance is an excellent illustration to help us learn how to control our tongues. If what we say isn’t in compliance with God’s Word, we should cut it out of our vocabularyperiod! When we make a steady daily habit of speaking only words that are in agreement with God, our lives will begin to reflect His blessings. We are responsible for enforcing this discipline upon our tongues ─ keeping our words in compliance with God. David made this decision when he said: “…I am determined not to sin in what I say” (Psalm 17:3).

 Changing lifelong habits are not always easy and they certainly don’t happen overnight. Yet it is a process that the Holy Spirit is willing and able to help us with. We can invite Him to prompt us whenever we’re about to say something that is “out of compliance.” He is our Helper, and He lives within us to help us in any areas in which we are weak (Romans 8:26). We can call on the Lord just as the psalmist did, who said, “Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 Message). Notice he didn’t put this guard at the door of his lips only during his prayer time; he did it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 Speaking the Word is not something we do only during prayer. If we are to live in continual blessing, our conversation must comply with the Word continually. When we speak God’s Word during prayer but talk about our problems the rest of the time, the seed we planted during prayer will be uprooted.

 Many people are speaking about their mountain instead of to their mountain! But that isn’t what Jesus said would get results. He said, “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23 NKJV).

 As we use God’s Word to speak to our mountains, we must not get discouraged if our lives don’t turn around overnight. Too often we expect problems that have been brewing for twenty years to turn around in twenty minutes. Yet Jesus said the Word will produce change in our lives the same way a seed grows: “…first a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens” (Mark 4:28).

 As you sow God’s Word with the words of your mouth, you are planting seeds for a later harvest of His blessings. So begin speaking in compliance with God’s promises throughout the day, and let the process of change begin!



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