14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
15 Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. ~Proverbs 4:14-15
If you find yourself in trouble one of three things is usually true:
- You were doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
- You were hanging around someone you shouldn’t have been.
- You were some place you shouldn’t be.
If we were to actively avoid each of those instances we would eliminate 90% of the trouble we get into. To be honest the first point would be enough to keep out of most trouble, but failing the other two usually sets us up for the devil to knock us down. The lie of the moment is always, “I won’t get caught.,” but we should live our lives from the assumption that we will be. So what do you want to be caught doing? I for one would like to be caught saving babies from burning buildings or something else equally awesome, but seriously I want to be seen loving my wife well, spending money wisely, working hard, and parenting with a kind and patient hand. Simply put, I want to represent Christ well in every venue of life.
I think most people desire to live well, and I hope all Christians desire to communicate and depict a clear picture of Jesus to those around them. But good intentions can be crushed by bad practices which lead us into situations where moral failures will corrupt our witness. Let’s face it, we will fall and fail and come up short enough without orchestrating our own demise. Today’s passage gives us some sound guidelines on how to avoid major failures in our Christian walk.
First, it says to avoid sin. This should be a no brain-er, but too often we can’t see much further than the end of our own nose. Sin is never an one time proposition and it is always a big deal. There is an old saying: “Sin will always take you deeper than you planned to go, and keep you longer than you planned to stay.” We fail to recognize sin for what it is-a path. Sin is more than a deed, but it is an entire path of wrong thinking and that is not something you can simply dabble in and get right back out. Our mind doesn’t work like that. Your heart and mind doesn’t turn on a dime. There is a whole path of wrong thinking, cultivated desires, and justified compromises that lead to the actual deed of sin. Our avoidance of sin must go so deep that it is embedded in how we choose to think and what and who we allow our desires to become ensnared with.
Secondly, “pass not by it.” This goes back to the third point at the beginning and should bring us to the question, “Where do I spend my time?” and “Is this a good place to be?” Too many times we set our self up for failure. We get so close to the ragged edge of compromise, whether it is playing games with the truth, or mild flirting, or something else that runs close by the sin we are tempted to do without actually doing it. The fact is, if we are close enough to take a good look at temptation we are only a small hop away from a path that will lead to destruction, if we are not already on that path.
Thirdly, “turn from it.” This means we actively avoid temptation. We go in the opposite direction, maybe even to an extreme. We talked about setting our self up to fail, but we can also make good plans. We can make plans to succeed. Got a problem with alcohol, avoid places that serve it and people that are drinking it. Got someone who is flirting with you, avoid them like the plague. Got an issue with truthfulness speak slower and deliberately. Insert whatever your issue is and formulate a strategy for success remembering to seek God in prayer for wisdom. God has promised wisdom to those who ask. The person who is asking out of a sincere desire to do the will of God is going to get what they need.
Finally, “pass it by.” Let’s face it, we live in the real world and we will not be able to control our environment to such a degree that we are able to avoid every temptation. This is not an excuse to put ourselves purposely or even carelessly in situations in which temptation is likely, but there is going to be times when temptation find you. When dealing with temptation it is never a good time to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, it is more like stopping to smell the dung hill. We need to have a fixed goal, a vision of who we want to be in Christ, and a firm grasp of the character we want to have and keep our self zeroed in on the prize, not allowing our self to be lured away. Constantly, we should be asking God for strength and equipping our self with Bible to resist temptation. The Psalmist wrote, :Thy word I have hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
Even if you sin, fail, fall flat on your face, this is no excuse to stay there. Get up, move on, pass it by. It is better not to fall in the mud, but it is just tragic to stay wallowing in the mud just because you slipped. Take it to God. He has promised if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all iniquity. Get forgiveness and examine our self asking, :Where did I go wrong?” and “How can I do better?” We have a powerful ally in this, the Holy Spirit of God. And we have a promise: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Seek God in prayer in your examination and ask yourself if your prayer life, your relationship with the Bible, and your involvement with the church are where they need to be. We as Christians are called to live beyond the strength of merger mortals, but we are called, and invited “to know Him in the power of His resurrection.”
God Bless You,