Are you doing your best to live the right way? Trying to conduct yourself in a manner that is upright and commendable? Making “straight paths for your feet?”
Sometimes it seems easy to do everything the right way, fulfilling God’s plan and following Him faithfully. There are many times, however, when you and I may feel totally inadequate—when obeying God and succeeding in life seem far beyond our abilities and capacities. I have discovered a principle (which I will share in this letter) that has encouraged me in my Christian life and helped me to “make straight paths.”
Too Much to Handle
On a particular day some time ago, I was walking past the office of one of my co-workers at Derek Prince Ministries. I glanced in and saw that she was standing at her desk, weeping over the pile of paperwork heaped before her. When I asked if she was all right, she replied, “Sometimes it is just too much. It’s more than I can handle.” Do you know that feeling? I certainly have felt the same way at times.
We shouldn’t be surprised that we are often unable to get everything right. Let’s face it: we are fallible human beings. I don’t usually draw my inspiration and wisdom from secular philosophers, but every so often, secular voices are able to echo a godly truth. (No disrespect intended, but a few adages come to mind: “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.” And, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”)
A German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), whose views had an influence on western society, said this: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” Those words are not only true. They are somewhat encouraging to us.
A Biblical Command
How does this expression of human fallibility apply to the topic of this letter? I thought of it recently when I read this command in Hebrews 12:13: “…and make straight paths for your feet.” Sometimes, our understandable response to that command may be: “Lord, I am ‘crooked timber.’ You are expecting me to do something that I am incapable of doing.” Please follow my logic in the next few paragraphs.
In my years of following Jesus Christ, He has often asked me to do something that is well beyond my abilities and gifting. He knows this is true when He asks. So why does He ask it of us? Certainly not to frustrate us, but to challenge us to rely upon Him.
Two wonderful truths:
- The Lord goes before us and does what we cannot do in our human strength.
- He empowers us by His Holy Spirit to do what He asks us to do.
First, let’s look at Proverbs 3:6 (NASB):
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Jesus does for us that which we cannot do on our own.
We see the same principle in Psalm 5:8 (NASB): “O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me.” He will faithfully lead us and transform our crooked paths into straight ones. He makes straight paths.
Isaiah prayed the same way in chapter 26, verse 7 (NASB): “The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.” And Jeremiah conveys the following promise from God in chapter 31, verse 9 (NASB): “I [God] will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path.”
Our encouragement in this? What we cannot do for ourselves, He will do for us.
I made a wonderful additional discovery in the story of Elijah in 1 Kings chapter 19—the prospect of God’s supernatural help to fulfill what He asks us to accomplish. After Elijah’s profound victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the news came that Jezebel was seeking to take his life in revenge for what he had done. He fled for fear of his life to the wilderness outside Beersheba. There, the Angel of the Lord (referring to Jesus when it is a capital “A”) came to help and strengthen Elijah.
Twice, Jesus prepared food for Elijah, touching him, and encouraging him with the words, “Arise and eat.” The second time, He added these words: “…because the journey is too great for you.” Other translations say the journey is “too much for you,” or “too difficult for you.” Let me just say it again: God will often give us assignments which are far beyond us. They are His opportunities for us to rely upon His supernatural power.
Verse 8 says, “So he [Elijah] arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb [200 miles away], the mountain of God.” Our Lord touched Elijah, fed him, and empowered him in a supernatural way.
Jesus will do the same for us. By His provision, you and I can make straight paths.
Rough Places Made Smooth
Derek talks about straight paths in a powerful teaching (which has a rather long title): “To Get the Most Out of Life—Set Your Affections Above.” Here are his comments:
“In Isaiah 40:3–5, we have this prophecy—which was fulfilled in part, at least, by John the Baptist:
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight [a plain] and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed….’’
I believe that if we want the glory of the Lord revealed, we have to prepare the way of the Lord. And I believe those are the four things we have to do. 1) The valleys have to be raised up. 2) The mountains have to be brought down. Our pride and our arrogance and our self-righteousness have to come down. But our humility will be lifted up. 3) The crooked aspects of our lives have to be made straight. 4) The rough places have to be made smooth.
Then God says: ‘The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”
Acknowledging His Help
Clearly, Derek is letting us know that we play a part in bringing straight paths to our lives. Here, once again, is the pattern God uses. 1) The Lord asks us to perform a task that we can’t do in our human strength. 2) We respond, “Lord, that is beyond me.” 3) He responds, “Yes, I know. That’s why I have gone before you to make the rough places smooth, and to straighten the pathway for you. What’s more, I will empower you by My Holy Spirit to accomplish everything that I am asking you to do.”
Do you want to say YES to this process in your life? Let’s do so together right now with the following prayer, welcoming His role in making straight paths for our feet:
Now I understand, Lord, why I have been experiencing so many frustrations and questions in my life. I have been trying to obey and follow You without understanding and recognizing Your power and provision for me.
Lord Jesus, I confess that my “crooked timber” can’t accomplish anything straight or right in my life. I am looking completely to You in this process.
I offer my thanks in advance for the help You will provide. I acknowledge that You have already gone before me, making it possible for my paths to be straight. I also offer my thanks for the assurance that You will empower me by Your Spirit to do all You have called me to do—in Your name, Jesus. Amen.
I hope this very basic insight which you and I have just recognized in our prayer together will be a great encouragement to you. Isn’t it liberating to realize that we can’t do all God asks of us in our own strength? What a joy to rely solely upon Him!
Here at Derek Prince Ministries, our hope is that we can further strengthen your resolve in this matter through teaching materials (i.e. sermons, podcasts, articles, devotions, books, and more) by Derek Prince.
He Knows Our Frame
As we close this letter, please let me ask you a few pointed questions. Have you had moments like my co-worker? Times where you have stood before the Lord, weeping in frustration? Telling Jesus that you simply aren’t able to do what He is asking of you?
There is no shame in making that admission, as you and I have done in our prayer together. The Lord is gracious to us! What impresses me so much from the Elijah passage is that He did not simply issue the command, “Arise and eat.” First, He touched Elijah.
Jesus is our Advocate and our Encourager. He is with us. The Lord doesn’t just bark orders at us. He tenderly bends down, touches us, feeds us, and empowers us. He knows we are limited. So, He alone—by His Spirit—enables us to make straight paths.