Charles Stanley - A Compass for Life's Journey
I have in my hand a compass, and I have had it for twenty-five years. It has never failed me. It's always pointed North, always pointed to the North Pole, so I can always tell by looking at this which direction I'm headed in. Now, if I put it in my pocket and I don't look at it, it doesn't do me any good. But if I will take it out and look at it, I will always know which direction I'm headed in. And I have been in some places a few times without it, I wish I'd had it because I needed it. And on one occasion when I was with a guide, I told him I thought we were heading in the wrong direction. He said, "Oh no, I've traveled this path many times and I know it's not the wrong direction". I pulled out my compass and I said, "Well, sir, either I have got to believe you or I've got to believe my compass, and I'm going to believe my compass because it never fails".
Well, finally he admitted that we were right, and so we finally got where we were going. And when I think about how many times I've pulled this out to look at it, to check up on myself to be sure I'm going the right directions, and one of the most valuable things about it to me personally for photographing is that when I want to be sure I have warm morning light when it's the most beautiful and it's side light, I can take this the night before and, okay, check out where is East? 'Cause I know the sun's coming from that direction. When I want to get a beautiful sunset, then I want to check out and see where's West because I know that's where it's going to set.
So there's some things I know for certain, not going to ever lead me wrong, always going to tell me what's right. And so when I think about this, it points in eight different directions. There's North and Northeast and East. Then there's Southeast and South. Then there's Southwest and West, and then there's Northwest. So there are eight different directions it's going to point me in. And just to know that I can trust it all the time is a great sense of security. Well, that's good for travel. There's a better compass for living. And as surely as that compass will always point, watch this, will always point to the North Pole, this compass always points upward every single time.
And what I want to do in this message is this, and I want to talk about "A Compass for Life's Journey". And what I want to do is simply this. I want to take a passage of Scripture, one of the most important passages of Scripture in the Bible to me personally, because right after I was saved, somehow by the grace of God and His goodness, I came across this passage of Scripture. And there are two verses primarily that God spoke to my heart about. And then after a few years went by, I realized that there was so much more here. And so, what I want us to do is I want us to read this passage of Scripture, and then here's what we're going to do.
I'm going to show you why this Bible and this passage of Scripture is an awesome guide for your life and mine. And this passage alone will always keep you headed in the right direction. And then when we talk about how it directs us, I want to talk about the value that following this, listen, this compass that never points us in the wrong direction, but it, listen, I want to show you the value of simply doing and following the compass. So, I want you to turn, if you will, to Proverbs chapter three, and I usually don't read a long passage of Scripture, but there are twelve verses in this passage, but it's a wonderful passage.
So beginning in verse one, "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, and Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good report," or a good reputation, "in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight," or direct your path, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine. My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights".
Now, I believe this, number one, because it is Scripture. I believe it for the second reason because I was saved when I was twelve years of age. Right after that, these two verses, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your path". Those two verses became like an anchor to my own thinking. And then as I began to read later on in life, a little later on, these other verses helped me to realize that here, in one passage, is a compass for living. And I can tell you in these sixty years that I have attempted to live by this passage of Scripture, God can be trusted to be faithful. This passage will always keep you walking in the right direction.
So, let's think about it for a moment. Let's look at the direction of this compass, the Word of God, this Bible compass. And the first thing you'll notice is that it points to the Scripture itself. Listen, "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments". Listen, this compass is our moral guide for this life. You and I live in a world that is very immoral, full of difficulties, heartache, pain, troubles, trials, and immoralities. This compass will keep you heading in the right direction all the time. And notice what he says: don't forget it. That is, don't put the compass in your pocket and head out on some trail, because remember this. If it's an overcast day and very cloudy and you're out in the woods or up in the mountains somewhere, you can't look around at the trees and the mountains and tell which way you're going.
If the sun is shining, you can, at least some people can, most people could. But you see, how many of our days are overcast in our life? How many days are there difficulties and hardships and trials in life? And we have to ask, "Oh God, which way am I going"? And there are so many things in life, listen, that cloud our thinking, so many voices we hear that would try to convince us and persuade us this is right and that's right. The Word of God, meditating upon the Word, listening to the Word, taking notes on the Word, applying the words to our heart. So he says, "My son, do not forget my teaching, let your heart keep my commandments".
Let the Word of God be uppermost in your thinking. Daily it is your compass for living. The second thing I want you to notice is this. This compass points us, listen to what he says, "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, and Write them on the tablet of your heart". Kindness, kindness, listen, this compass is always going to point us to being kind, that's considerate and thoughtful and giving and helpful and warm about our feelings toward other people. And the Bible says that kindness makes a man or a woman attractive. That is, God uses that character quality in our life to attract people to the Lord Jesus Christ who lives inside of us. And so this compass is always going to point you and me, listen, to be kind toward other people, to be helpful, to be a servant, to be giving when necessary, to be an encouragement to them in some way or the other.
And so, kindness is one direction we'll always walk in if we follow this compass. But notice, if you will, what he says also. He says: and truth. That is, when you think about truth, this compass will always lead you to truth, why? Because it is inspired by the Living God. It is the infallible, inerrant compass. It makes no mistakes. It always points, listen, it always points God-ward. Just like the physical compass always points North-ward, to the North Pole, this compass always points toward God, heavenly. And it will always lead you in the right direction, that is, to be truthful to other people, and to act in truth with integrity. Then, if you'll notice what He says. He says trust in the Lord, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not," listen, "lean not to your own understanding". Which simply means this.
This compass always, always points us to trust, to faith, that our God is trustworthy. He never makes a mistake. He will never mislead you under any condition. And sometimes we have difficulty trusting God. And sometimes a person will say, "Well, I trust Him sort of". Listen carefully. You don't trust Him sort of. You either do trust Him or you don't trust Him. You don't trust Him sort of. And oftentimes we have difficulty when God requires of us something that we see as difficult for us. And we say, "Well, God, but how"? And because we can't figure it out, we don't trust Him. And when we do not trust Him in any area of our life, we're insulting God. What we're saying and what we're implying is this: He's not trustworthy. To deny Him His rightful place in your life of trusting Him, you are saying to Him: I can't trust You. I don't believe You. Say, "Oh, I'd never tell God that". Your actions shout it to Him.
Think about here's this righteous God who never makes a mistake, who loves you unconditionally, who would never mislead you, and you're telling Him you don't believe Him. You know what it says? You've closed the compass. You've got it laying on your table beside your bed, or you have it on a desk somewhere in your house. You have the compass but you're not reading it. It's one thing to put it in your pocket, it's something else to read it. And here's what you're going to find. Every single time it's always trust, trust, trust. This compass is always going to lead you to trust Him. But I want you to notice something else about it. And that is, it will always lead you to seek His mind and His will about things. Listen to what He says. He says, now, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding". And then he says, "In all your ways acknowledge Him".
This compass is always going to point you in the direction of seeking the Lord. That is, what does God think about the question before you? How does God want to intervene in this decision to give you the right sense of direction? "In all your ways acknowledge Him," which means, listen, if I acknowledge Him, I'm recognizing Him as my Lord. I'm recognizing, listen, His infinite and perfect wisdom. I'm recognizing the fact that He will only lead me in the right direction. I'm recognizing the fact that He loves me unconditionally. I'm recognizing the fact that He only has the best for me, so therefore, "In all your ways acknowledge Him". That is, look to Him, seek Him.
Now, think about this. What is it in your life that you would say, "Now, God has nothing to do with that". Not a thing. In all your ways, in all your decisions, we're to seek Him, we're to ask Him. And you see, if you're not in to the compass daily, you can mark it down, you're going to step off the path. You're going to head in the wrong direction because there are so many pitfalls out there. What you have to do is to check the compass. You cannot name a single solitary experience in life in which this compass will not give you clear direction, if you will meditate upon it, if you will ask God to give you direction. You see, because there's no area in your life that you could exclude God. So he says, "In all your ways, in all your ways acknowledge Him". And then if you will notice, look again here in this verse. He says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and turn away from evil".
Now, this compass always points to obedience, always. There's not a single verse to be found in Scripture that would entice us to do evil. That's not who God is. This compass always points to obedience, why? Because the God who created you, created a plan for your life, you may be in the plan or not in the plan. Listen, He has a pathway for us to walk. This pathway is the pathway created by a loving God who loves us unconditionally. It's a pathway that leads to the best for our life. It's a pathway that has difficulty on it: hardship, troubles, trials, but He's going to use every single one of those to do what? To build character into our life and to make us Christ-like and to make us more useful, listen, to make us a more valuable vessel of His because the more those difficulties and hardships and trials we've been through, listen, the more capable we are of tenderly listening to others and being able to discern what's really going on in their heart and being able to identify with them and hurt with them.
And so all of those things are part of His plan. And so, when you think about, well, God, if You really love me, You'd eliminate all of these things. No, He wouldn't. It's because He loves us. And so, if you'll think about it, He would never have lead you to do anything that's disobedient. So, when you ask God to show you His will, and you deliberately, willfully, listen, step off the path, what you're saying is: I'm smarter than God. What you're saying is: God, I know that's what the compass says, but I'm going to do something different. You can pick up any compass anywhere, it's going to point to the North Pole. That's just the law of nature.
Now, there's one thing I can do to make it point in some other direction. If I took this compass and I held it up here, it's always going to point North. But if I had a piece of steel and I pulled it over like this and moved it around like this, that needle's going to move wherever that steel is because, you see, it's a magnet. Listen carefully. There are many of you who have something in your life that's drawing you off course, off the path. And soon as I said that, you already know what it is, because you know it doesn't fit who you are. It's not contributing to your life. It has you confused, frustrated, guilty, mixed up, and some of you are in depression because you've been off the path so long. You've chosen not to obey. And just like that piece of metal would cause this needle to do other than what it is created to do and point in the normal direction, it is a foreign object that should not be in the path and should not be held close to this compass.
So ask yourself the question: What is it in my life that has so attracted me that I find myself slipping over here off the path? "Oh, I know what the Word of God says, but somehow in some way", all I want to say is this. If you don't get on the right path, if you don't get back to following the leadership of the compass, you're going to make a horrible mistake. He says, "Fear the Lord and turn away from evil". The next thing I want you to know is, it points us also, listen, to financial wisdom. Look at this. He says in this eighth verse, or ninth verse, "Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; So that your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine".
What does it mean to honor the Lord? It means that I respect Him and revere Him. It means I acknowledge His lordship. And when it comes to finances, here's what it means. I honor Him as the Creator of all wealth. I honor Him as the source of all of my wealth. It may be very, very, very little, but it falls in the category of wealth. Honor the Lord with your wealth. Listen, honor the Lord from your wealth. That's very simple. Now, my wealth and your wealth is not only dollars and cents, it's your abilities, your talents, your skills, your opportunities. Honor the Lord from your wealth. Then listen to the last direction of this compass, and that is, "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof". That is, don't hate His reproof, "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights".
You know what he says? He says: here's what this compass says. This compass says, listen, accept God's reproof. Accept His discipline because it came from the Father's love. Now, all of us have had to discipline our children. And all of us have had to be disciplined by God. Why did you, if you were a godly father or mother, why did you discipline your children? You didn't discipline because you were angry, and you should not have done it then if you were angry, you should discipline them because you love them and because you want them to do what? Get on the right path to grow up to be sons and daughters with character, so that they can be used of God. So what happens? We are to accept. He says don't reject. Don't reject it. "Do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof". That is, when God comes down upon us for our disobedience, we turn with hatred, animosity, "God, why are You allowing do this to me"? And if He answered, you know what He'd say? I'm loving you.
"Well, this is not a way to love me". Wisdom says it is. "Well, God, why are You doing this to me"? "Because I have this awesome path I've created for you and I want you to get the full benefit of walking according to My will". Now, watch this. In all of these eight directions from this compass, in essence, here's what it says. Stop trying to live in this fantasy world of becoming what you want to become, doing what you want to do, being what you want to be in violation of the Word of God. That's a fantasy world. And come back to reality and look at the compass and begin to follow it. Now, I want you to see the value. He says, "So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man".
Think about this: Have you ever thought about how God smiles upon you? We think of God as this awesome something, somebody, somewhere up in Heaven who is judgmental and keeping a record of everything that I do wrong, sort of overlooking the good parts. And that He never has a happy thought. That is so absolutely unlike God. How could He love me unconditionally? How could He love you unconditionally without smiling on you? When you, listen, when He sees you face a big issue in your life, or even a small one, and He sees you wandering between the two and thinking, "Okay, God, I choose to follow You". God must smile, so to speak, upon you when you say, "Yes! I'm going to do what You say no matter what. I'm going to be obedient to You and trust You for the consequences". What is He saying? He says that you and I will find favor and we'll have a good reputation in the sight of God and man.
Think about this. Do you want the favor of God in your life personally? Do you want the favor of God upon your family? You want the favor of God in the life of your children? Do you want the favor of God bestowed upon you? When you follow the compass, as we've just mentioned here, what happens is He says, listen, we have the favor of God. That, listen, that means the good things of God: God's plan, His provision, His best comes our way. And now we can handle it, why? Because we're on the right path doing the right thing. Then if you'll notice, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, He will direct your paths".
One of the values of following the compass is He will direct your path. And He will make it straight. You know what, you can't choose a better path than God's path. There's no compass like this one. And if you take the compass and lay it down, what you're doing is you're positioning yourself to get off the path. And I want to challenge you, I want to challenge you to read the Scripture over and over again. Let it be the compass of your life to keep you on the right path so that you'll have God's absolute best blessings for your life for the future. It's a choice you make, and I trust that you'll make a wise choice.
You say, "Well, I'm not even a Christian". Well, you're on your own. You've said, "I don't fear God". So I want to encourage you to ask Him to forgive you for that sin and to tell Him that you're placing your life in His hands. Now you've messed it up, you're placing your life in His hands, and watch God work in the most awesome way in your life. It's a choice you make, and I trust you'll be wise enough to make it.
And Father, how grateful we are that You could pack so much in such a few verses, to give us a sense of direction for every aspect of our life, and just encompass us with so many blessings and the assurance and the peace that we have knowing when we follow this compass, always headed in the right direction. And know that one of these days we'll stand before You, having looked back to see when we got on Your path, it was the best part of our life, in Jesus's name, amen.