Summary: Not every path will take you where you need to go. But how do you know what the "right" path is when there are so many choices?
OPEN: In the classic children’s book “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice comes to a junction in the road that leads off in different directions and seeing the Cheshire Cat she asks him for advice:
“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
APPLY: If you don’t want to go anyplace in particular any road will do.
When our family goes on vacation, there are times that we don’t care which road we take. The destination isn’t nearly as important as the fun of exploration. On our last vacation we went to St. Petersburg Florida and while there we noticed a sign pointing to “downtown” St. Petersburg. We thought – why not? So we went down that road not knowing what we’d find… but simply enjoying the adventure of discovery.
And that’s fun sometimes.
Most of the time, however, when I travel I usually want to get someplace in particular. And therefore - the road I travel becomes very important.
When it comes to religion, many people will tell you that any old road will get you to God. In fact, there is a Hindu saying that goes this way:
“There are Hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only one wasting time is the one who runs around and around the mountain, telling everyone else that his or her path is wrong”
In other words, the Hindus believe - it doesn’t matter which path you take as long as your path doesn’t involve tell others they’re wrong.
By contrast the Bible has always maintained that this mindset was wrongheaded and foolish. Repeatedly, Solomon tells his sons in Proverbs: “There is a way that seems right unto a man…”
And what’s end result of that?
There’s a way that “looks like” it’s the right way up the mountain but it’s deadly.
ILLUS: My son loves to watch a TV show (I believe it’s called “Man vs. Wild” on the Discovery Channel) about a man who gets dropped in various wilderness settings and he spends a couple of days in that setting showing his viewers how to survive.
He’ll be dropped off in the desert, in the arctic, in the jungle, in an alligator infested swamp… and he’ll make his way to civilization using only a knife and his innate knowledge of the wild.
He’ll eat native plants and grubs and raw fish… and make fire from damp firewood.
In one episode he was dropped off on the top of a mountain and had to make his way down to its base and to civilization. One of the things that stuck with me about that episode was the fact that the host explained that – in getting down the mountain – it was critical that a person be careful in the path they choose.
It was highly possible (he said) to go blithely down what you THOUGHT was the right path… only to find yourself plunging off a cliff you hadn’t seen, or being trapped on a ledge you couldn’t get off of.
He was very clear that this was a very real danger in mountain climbing… and that many mountain climbers had gone to their deaths by making a wrong choice.
There is a way that seems right unto to a man but the end thereof is death.
Now, what I found intriguing was that this observation about the wrong path is repeated several times in Scripture. Not only does Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 say this exactly the same way…
But Proverbs 12:15 says “The way of a fool seems right to him…”
And Proverbs 21:2 says “All a man’s ways seem right to him…”
And that makes sense: Why would I do something if I it didn’t seem right to me at the time?
ILLUS: I just read the story of a man whose bathtub was filthy. Apparently he was having little luck getting it clean with normal bathroom cleansers, but he had heard that gasoline was a solvent. So he took a rag with gasoline to the tub… and it worked!
Well… it worked, but it stank up the bathroom something fierce.
So, he decided he needed to do something to take care of the odor.
You’ll never guess what he did… he set out aromatic candles and he lit them.
He survived… but his apartment didn’t.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
And most our decisions are like that: they seem like a good idea until we think a little about them
Commenting on that reality, Romans 6:21 tells us: “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!”