“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
We are studying Proverbs 4.20-27, and the advice it gives us for managing our attention.
The key principle: Not everything that gets your attention deserves your attention.
The essential practice: discernment and discipline.
The four parts of managing your attention:
- Listen carefully to God’s word. Pay attention to what voice you listen to. (4.20-22)
- Guard your heart. Pay attention to what you allow into your heart. (4.23)
- Stay away from corrupt speech. Pay attention to what you say. (4.24)
- Look straight ahead. Pay attention to what you are doing and where you are going. (4.25-27)
Note that the first two “attentions” are internal, and the second two are external. This is the nature of the Christian life: it is lived inside-out. If we want to be effective in our words and actions, then we must know the word of God and obey it from the heart.
We come now to #4: Pay attention to what you are doing and where you are going.
The metaphor of “the path” or “the way” or “walk” is a recurring theme in Proverbs (this is not the last time we will hear it), and it is found throughout scripture. It’s a fitting description of the life to which the Lord calls his people. There is a path — a way — that the Lord lays out for his people, and he wants us to see the path, follow the path, and stay on the path. In other words, there is a way that God wants us to live and work.
- The Lord makes it clear that there is a right path and a wrong path. I referenced this in a devotional a couple weeks ago. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7.13-14)
- The wrong path is seductive and deadly. “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
- The Lord calls us to the right path. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4.1)
- He has given us specific instructions and guidance about the right path. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
- He provides illumination so we can see the right path. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)
- He provides his power and strength so we can walk the right path. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1.3)
- If we stumble, he provides grace and forgiveness when we confess and repent, which allows us to get back on the right path. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9)
- There will be obstacles on the path. We will face adversity and difficulty. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
There is nothing more important in life than to get on path and stay on path. It is for this purpose that God created us and redeemed us. It is a daily calling, and it extends to every sphere of our lives. We must pay attention to the path and stay focused. We must not get distracted.