I have to admit, I love the logic behind Preventology.
I love the idea of giving people the tools, the mindset, and the spirit to prevent crises rather than manage them.
I love a series from Proverbs.
I love giving the people our Preventology Guide — 31 Days To Preventing Crises. I love that guide especially because its authors are the people of Good Shepherd — young, old, in-between, African, Anglo, Latino, African-American, Asian, Moss Road and Zoar Road. What a crew!
And maybe most of all I love the fact that an eight-year-old girl named Shea was listening so closely she jotted yesterday’s Scripture and bottom line on the edges of her bible: Proverbs 3:5-6 and You never have to get out of what you don’t get into.
Here’s the sermon itself:
Have you ever gotten in something and discovered that it was almost impossible to get out? Like, stuck in quicksand (AV)? Car stuck in a ditch (AV)? You’re in it and the possibility of getting out of it seems almost beyond the realm of possibility? You’ve made a decision, you’ve started a process, you’ve uttered a phrase, you made a turn and there you are? In it? And most of the time, admit it, getting into something is more your own doing . . . you’re not exactly an innocent bystander but you’re an active participant?
Like the kid in school who was in a bit of trouble and the teacher pointed a ruler at him and declared, “The person at the end of this ruler is acting like a fool.” And the student asks back, “Which end?” And all of a sudden he was IN IT. You’ve done that. Said the wrong thing to the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Alienated the wrong person at work. Got caught with the wrong . . . medicine! . . . in your pocket or in your glove compartment. Got caught with the wrong “friends” on your computer or mobile device. Found yourself with some thoughts that are dangerously self-destructive. Lord, I’ve made 2-3 major decisions over my time here and each time felt like “OMG, I am in it; how will ever get out of it?” Maybe you’ve wondered that same thing, today. You just found out you’re pregnant. Or she is. You just got an eviction notice. You just found out your mate filed for divorce. And maybe you’re even like the guy who got in an inappropriate relationship and when it all came out he told me, “I just kept praying for a way to get out of it.”
Because that’s what we want, right? We’re in a fix, stuck in a jam, and we want to get OUT OF IT. Truthfully, that’s when many of us get the most religious! It’s when we GET RELIGION! And fast! We weren’t all that faithful before the crisis hit but then when it does so often we sense the voice of God prompting us: “This is where you got without me; how about turning to me now? And fast?” And one of those places we turn to get fast religion is Proverbs 3:5-6, which goes like this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Think of him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight.
Now: these are the first bible verses I ever memorized. I was a brand new Xn, my sister gave it to me and for me, like a whole lot of other people (maybe you), it clicked. REPEAT it. Show motion to it from VBS. And you read it, motion it, memorize it, love it, and it seems like a great couple of verses to use in getting out of what you’ve gotten into. Crisis hits, problems happen, trust in the Lord with you all your heart and BAM! Deliverance. I remember in this big event called a March For Jesus that I hosted back in 95 – details, throngs, pressure – I just kept repeating it over & over & over. Nothing like a big, unwieldly event to give me religion & give it to me fast. REPEAT Proverbs 3:5-6.
Of course, the problem with all that is that it is a mis-reading and more critically a mis-application of Proverbs 3:5-6. It’s not about fast religion. It’s about slow faith. It’s not meant to help you deal with a crisis. It’s all about preventing them. It’s not designed to be used like a trick play in football, where you have it in your hip pockete and then bring it out as a miracle when the chips are down (Miami hook & ladder v. San Diego?) to rescue you. It is instead designed to be used in the calm, when you’re not in a jam or a fix; it’s a strategic decision that says, “I am ordering my life based on his truths and wisdom and principles and not what I can figure out.” Why do I say that? Because of that phrase “lean not on your own understanding.” See, your own understanding fundamentally misunderstands how life really works. Your own understanding is clouded by sin, self-deception, and an unparalleled ability to rationalize every wrong thing you do and every bone-headed plan you have. Get this: your understanding of how life works is likely what got you in a fix to begin with!!
And then that phrase he will make your paths straight. He won’t make the path easy. Just straight. But get this: it’s not your path. It’s his. His path has already been cleared. He invites all of us regardless of age or even length of faith to align with the decisions and directions he’s already made. Because the writers of Scripture almost never ask for your agreement before they expect your allegiance. God doesn’t need to MAKE A WAY for us out of a jam because he’s already MADE A WAY that if we simply followed it never would have landed us there to begin with!
Because this whole series is not called Rescue. It’s not called Get Me Out Of It!. It’s called Preventology. Because I have this crazy yet persistent dream for the people of Good Shepherd: that you would not need so much help getting OUT of crisis because you got in fewer of them to begin with. That you’d realize that God is less about crisis intervention and more about crisis prevention. That you’d live drama free and regret free living. That MY JOB WOULD BECOME UNNECESSARY! Because regardless of your age or stage in life – and especially as many of you are headed for educational transitions in the coming month – here’s what Proverbs 3:5-6 is REALLY teaching us in Week 1 of Preventology: You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.
Yes! Trusting God is not about rescue. It’s about prevention. It’s not done in a panic. It’s part of a plan. It’s not a prayer. It’s a lifestyle. A decision made, in advance, when things are calm, that says, “This is who I am and what I’m about. He knows what is best for me way better than I do and so I’m going to line my life up with his word. I’m going to follow even where I don’t agree or even if I don’t fully understand.” And the glorious result is fewer crises! Less careening from one broken relationship to another, from one blow up to another, from one meltdown to another. See, what I’m talking about is so much like the SS teacher who needed some supplies and the cupboard was secured with a lock. So she asked the pastor to open the lock – except he dint know the combination. So he places his fingers on the lock’s dial and looked up to heaven for a moment, as if in prayer & trust. The he spun the dial w/ confidence and opened the lock. The SS teacher was so impressed and said, “Oh, I wish I could trust God like that & he’d speak to me.” And the pastor answered: “The numbers are written on the ceiling.”
And for most of us in most situations, God’s will has already been written & revealed. It is so much more a matter of lining up with what God’s already said than hearing an audible voice re something new. Like don’t know whether to move in together for a practice marriage before the real thing? Hebrews 13:4:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Go public on Facebook with some gossip & revenge mixed together: Proverbs itself in 20:19:
A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much.
Money you’ve come into? Right here in Proverbs 3:9:
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
(Macedo insight on tithing as obedience, drama free). Me and how I prefer to avoid rather than confront? (THE CONFRONT ONE ANOTHER). Even this one that I love from Proverbs 15:31:
Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.
READ. So counter-intuitive! To welcome rebukes! See, when you yield yourself to these and other truths that sometimes go against what you desire and even contrary to what you see, that’s trust the Lord w/ all your heart. It leads to stability & strength, if not always blessing. For so long we have thought Prov 3:5-6 were words about GET ME OUT OF THIS! but now you and I and all of us know they’re about You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into..
See, it’s a bit like the true story of how NASA developed a gun to shoot dead chickens 19000 mph at the windshields of space shuttles to test their strength. Isn’t that awesome! Anyway, Great Britain heard about the gun and borrowed it to test it on their high speed trains. But when they fired it, the chicken smashed the windshield, ripped off the engineer’s backrest and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin. The Brits went to the Americans and asked, “what went wrong?” The NASA scientists replied simply: “thaw the chicken.”
When we don’t know where to turn, it’s much the same. The word is so often clear; the instructions are true. We embrace that life, that truth – REFRAIN – and stability & security are the result. NOW: not all the bible is this way. The bible is not an instruction manual – I hate that comparison. Much of it is wild, adventuresome, poetic, and very messy. But some is quite direct & clear and full of answers for the majority of dilemmas. And you decide, in advance, when things are calm, when you’re headed off to college, to line your life up with it and the result? You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.
Now: please do not hear what I am not saying. I’m not saying that if you adopt this way of living that no crises will come. They will. Cancer. Sadness. Forces beyond your control. What I very much AM SAYING is this: fewer self-inflicted ones. Because here’s what I know is true: most of what you get into, the devil did not make you do it. You didn’t need a bit of supernatural help to blow that marriage, lose that job, fail that drug test. Not a bit. And here’s what’s even more true: some of you are so used to crises (and mis-using Proverbs) that if you’re not in one, you’ll go find one. You are so desperate for drama that you’ll make what is NOT YOUR BUSINESS into your business, you’ll personalize something that actually has nothing to do with you, you’ll see something on TV and decide that’s your next crusade and BAM! Back in crisis mode. Which is secretly, subconsciously, where you love it. It’s like the friend I told about Preventology & he said, “No! Don’t preach that! Most of us LIKE OUR CRISES!” Yep. You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.
This all stems from that shocking realization that the commands in Scripture which seem the most severe are in fact the most loving. Like any good teacher you ever had – the ones who challenged you blessed you. Whether dealing with money, sex, or even the source of your value, the “strictest” commands are the ones filled with the most love and protection. A decision, in advance, that “he knows more and he knows best.” Like the pastor who was speaking w/ a well-dressed, put together middle aged woman about her sex life: “has sex outside of marriage made your life simpler or more complicated?” The torrent of tears was all the answer either one of them needed. You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.
So: young people. You may not be in a crisis now. Burn Prov 3:5-6 into your mind IN THE CALM. Soak up its preventative medicine. Dig into the rest of Proverbs (Preventology guide!) and let its counter-intuitive thinking shape your attitudes from this moment on.
Middle agers, many of whom have already blown it, resolve today: My understanding MISUNDERSTANDS! I’ve played games with Scripture; now I’m going to dig in, reading for both information and transformation. I’m going to surrender to the parts I used to scoff at. You do that, people-near-my-age, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you odd. Praise God. You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.
And seasoned folks: you look back on your life and you know how right all this is. You’ve lived it. You know what I have for you? Who are you going to take under your wing? Who will you show by your experience just how authentic & awesome is the path of God? It’s how you in your stage of life invite all people. You’ll be like that Miss Riverboat pilot applying for a job who was asked, “Do you know where all the rocks are?” His answer? “No sir. But I know where they aren’t.” He got the job. And so will you. You never have to get out of what you didn’t get into.