Last Spring Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta, preached a sermon that altogether encompassed an idea I’ve been trying and failing to articulate over the last several months. He called it the Path Principle, and the idea is simple:
Direction determines destination.
He began by explaining that if you were to get on I-95 and head North, you won’t get to Florida. No matter what your intentions may be, no matter how fast or diligently you drive, you are headed away from Florida, not towards it. With that in mind, destination is not about intentions. You can make a decision with all the good intentions in the world, but if it’s headed in the wrong direction, it won’t take you where you want to go.
Stanley based his sermon off of Proverbs 7, in which Solomon watches a young man as he foolishly steps into the house of an adulteress. In the young man’s mind, however, he thinks this is a fabulous idea! Her husband is away, she has just returned from presenting her sin offering (that is, she paid God off or “got right with God” so that she could go sin without consequences), and she had an intoxicating night of love planned just for him.
And like the “throng” of men who had gone before him, he went inside thinking how lucky he was, that he could somehow pull this off without facing any consequences. He was the “exception” to the rule, he thought.
But Solomon notes that this man is not the exception; he is the rule. And this path that he is on, it’s a highway. Countless men have gone before him thinking the exact same thing. And just like those other men, he walked into his fate as a “an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” (7:22-23)
This young man thought he was making a one-time decision. He thought there wouldn’t be consequences. But this wasn’t just a decision, it was a path, and it placed him in a direction that led toward his personal destruction.
This story, and Stanley’s application of it, have captivated me. The more I read Proverbs the more I see the analogy re-affirmed. All over the place there is language of taking the “path” or “way” of righteousness or death. It places our daily actions within a more holistic framework, giving them the appropriate weight they are due, rather than brushing them off as “not that big of a deal” or “God can use it somehow.”
As a minister to women of all ages, I can’t think of a better strategy for making life decisions. It’s applications are so incredibly far-reaching! When talking to young women about dating or sex, the conversation shouldn’t merely be about what rules they’re breaking, what they can or can’t get away with. It’s instead about the path they are taking. If you date a non-Christian, you’re walking on a path of destruction. If you’re having sex with your boyfriend, then you’re on a path of destruction. If you’re flirting with physical boundaries, or maybe you’re flirting with the attractive married man in your office–these are not isolated actions. Each one of those choices is a path in a particular direction. It doesn’t matter how noble or innocent your intentions, because intentions are irrelevant. And you are not the exception, you are the rule.
Other areas of application…
Parenting–If your destination is to raise godly children, then get off the path of over-scheduling them with so many activities that church is no longer the top priority.
Money–If your destination is to be a good steward of your money, then get off the path of living beyond your means
Healthy Body Image–If your destination is to have a healthy respect for the beauty of your body as God created it, then get off the path of constantly consuming lies about true beauty by reading the magazines and watching the t.v. shows that project them (Side Note: I’m going to write a blog about this whole air-brushing scandal very soon!)
Intimacy with God–If your destination is having a living, growing relationship with God, then get off the path of church shopping, consuming your church instead of serving it, and refusing to make a daily devotion a priority in your schedule.
And the list goes on and on. But all of that to say, examine the decisions you are making right now about your life, and do the math. What path are you on, and where is it going to take you? Not where do you hope it will take you, but where does Scripture say it will take you? That’s your answer.