IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: THE STEPS OF A GOOD MAN ARE ORDERED BY THE LORD.
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”
Before we begin I want to acknowledge that the Bible states “… there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18).
We understand that all men are born sinners and that we need the forgiveness of God and his shed blood to redeem our souls from hell. Because of this there are no “good” men in and of themselves before the thrice Holy God.
But, when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Saviour, they are clothed in a “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) and God no longer sees their sinfulness; all he sees is Jesus. As such we find that this verse is directed to the Children of God. In this verse we find two important attributes of a Christian’s walk with God: 1) His steps are directed and 2) God delights in this person’s walk.
David, whom God called “a man after mine own heart” (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), had seen God’s direction in his life. This does not mean that God dictates our way, as we see David veers a few times from the path.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” show us that God has given directions as to the way his people should walk (i.e., live) in this world. God’s Word is our road map for the Christian life. Everything God wants us to know is found within its covers. Every situation you can think of God has given direction as to how we should respond and deal with them. All we have to do is read and study God’s Word!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). If we will follow the Scriptures we will then allow God to order our steps, and this is the testimony of a “good man.”
A man does not become good just because he does not use drugs, get drunk on alcohol, or chase women. A man does not become a good man just because he got money in the bank, or he has lots of degrees behind his name. That is a man does not become good by his own goodness because Isaiah 64:6 says that our “own goodness or our own righteousness is nothing but a filthy rag before the Lord.”
So the question is still being asked: “How does a man becomes a good man?”
Psalm 100:5 says, “For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Since the Lord is good all the time, and all the time The Lord is good, then it is the Lord that makes a man a good man. And the Lord makes a man to become a good man when the man believes and receives Jesus Christ as His personal Lord and Savior.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
And in II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
You see when a man gives his life to Jesus Christ, trusting in Him for His salvation, he becomes a new man in Christ. And a new man in Christ is also a good man.
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with His Hand (this Passage tells us that what God is promising is not an uneventful life; there will be difficulties along the way; in fact, at times the Believer looks as though he will be defeated and ‘utterly cast down’; but we have the Promise of the Lord that He will pick us up and start us again on our way).
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
(What a Promise! God’s Word is true. If our steps are ‘ordered by the Lord,’ we will never be forsaken, nor will we suffer want. Such will be until the Lord calls us home [Heb. 11:35-40].)”
The word “steps” means “one’s going,” “the way one goes,” “one’s direction.” All of these meanings portray to us the Path of Life. The idea is that when one gives their heart to the Lord, they embark on a journey that is planned, willed, and Ordained by the Lord. The Lord has a specific Plan for every one of His Children. We were not Saved to wander aimlessly in life, but to do and to be what the Lord has planned for us. Never forget that the Lord is the Great Shepherd and we are His Sheep, and as the True Shepherd, He desires that His Sheep be taken care of and protected.
OF A GOOD MAN
The “good man” is the person whose sins have been cleansed by the Lord and whose Faith is solely placed in Who Christ is and what Christ has done for us on Calvary’s Cross. However, the statement really goes further than one may see. The True “Good Man” is the Lord Jesus Christ. In reality, there is no good whatsoever in any of us. Romans 3:10 plainly states, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” The goodness or righteousness the Believer has is imputed to him by the Lord through Faith.
The word “ordered” means “established,” which in the Hebrew means “to decree,” “to make good,” “to ordain,” “to succeed,” “to raise up.” The Holy Spirit through David is stating that the journey of our lives has been “decreed,” “ordered,” “ordained” by the Creator of the World. That’s how much He loves us. He loves us enough to plan out every step of our life. That doesn’t mean there will never be trials and tribulations for just as a natural sheep at times strays from his shepherd, so do we as Spiritual Sheep stray from our Heavenly Shepherd. But in spite of our failures and shortcomings, the Lord will not cast us aside.
HE DELIGHTS IN HIS WAY
To one who allows the Lord to order his life, the Lord delights in him and won’t leave him. One day, when we stand in Heaven and we hear the Words of the Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” then we will truly see and feel the Love the Lord has for us. We will see how He delights in His Children.
THOUGH HE FALL
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “though” as “in spite of the fact,” or “even if.” This tells us that sometimes the way is dark and we falter and fail, but the Holy Spirit says, “in spite of,” “even if” you fall, “you shall not be utterly cast down.” That’s Justification by Faith. We are going to fail, but there is a great difference in us failing and one’s faith failing. True Faith gets up off the ground and continues on the journey the Lord has prepared.
Psalms 37:1-5 A Psalm of David. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. (2) For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. (3) Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (4) Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (5) Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
In Psalm 37:16 we find “a righteous man”, in Psalm 37:23 we find “a good man”, and in Psalm 37:37 we find “the perfect man”. If we were to argue this from a New Testament viewpoint we might say that the “righteous man” (Psalm 37:16) is a man that is has been saved and has the righteousness of Christ. We would say that the “good man” (Psalm 37:23) is not only a man who has been saved, but he is a man who allows the Lord to lead and direct him through life. As to the “perfect man” (Psalm 37:37), we would have to say that this is a man who not only has the righteousness of God, not only does he allow the Lord to lead him and guide him, but he has reached a level of maturity in the Christian life so that things that might offend the righteous man and the good man will not even phase his fellowship with the Lord. The perfect man is unmovable.
So let’s all strive to get to that level of a perfect man.
You Can Stumble But You Won’t Fall
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV).
One particular word in our text stands out in my mind. It’s the word “though” that stands at the beginning of verse 24: “Though he fall.” Some translations say, “When he falls.” Note that it does not say, “If he falls.” There is a big difference between “when” and “if.” The latter states a probability; the former declares a certainty. David understood that all believers fall eventually. We stumble, we lose our way, we struggle, and sometimes we trip and fall on our journey. No one is exempt. We all fall sooner or later. It’s what happens when we fall that makes all the difference.
God ordains every step we take—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative.
The verb “ordered” is very strong in the original Hebrew. It means to establish something so that it has a strong foundation. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that “in his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Same idea as our text. Most of us know that God “directs” our steps (Proverbs 3:6). But this verb is even stronger. God not only “directs” our steps, he also “determines” or “orders” or “ordains” our steps. This includes our going out and our coming in, our lying down and our getting up, our waking and our sleeping, our buying and our selling, our talking and our listening, and our walking and our driving. Because he is God, there are no accidents with him. Nothing ever happens to the child of God by luck, chance or fate. No circumstance—whether good or bad—can come to us apart from God’s determined purpose for us.
God promises that when we fall, we will not be utterly destroyed.
Some versions say, “Though he stumbles, he will not fall.” Picture a trail that winds through a dense forest. As the pilgrim walks forward, he doesn’t see the rock buried just beneath the surface, and so he trips and falls to the ground. Or he trips over a root or he doesn’t see a sudden dip in the trail. When the path is narrow and winding, it’s hard not to fall sometimes. Life is like that. We all stumble in many ways. The word translated “utterly destroyed” means to be cast headlong into a deep pit. It’s what happens when you stand at the Grand Canyon peering over the edge, looking down 3,000 feet, when someone pushes you from behind. When you finally hit bottom, you won’t dust yourself off and keep on going. You’ve been “utterly destroyed.” God promises that won’t happen to you and me. Though we may face desperate, life-changing circumstances, God will not allow us to be utterly destroyed. Nothing can happen that will sever our relationship with him.
The reason is clear. He upholds us with his mighty hand. Think of a father walking along with his young son by his side. There are two ways father and son might hold hands. The young boy may reach up with his tiny hand to grasp his father’s huge hand. That works until the child stumbles and he is forced to let go of his father’s hand. But if the father places his huge hand around his son’s tiny hand, the boy is safe no matter what happens because his father’s hand holds him up. He may stumble but the father’s hand “upholds” him.
Note that the “fall” may be a fall into trouble, calamity or catastrophe or it may be a fall into serious moral sin. The fall might be occasioned by the loss of a job, a health problem, the breakup of a marriage, the end of a friendship, bankruptcy, or any sort of personal crisis that causes the loss of your reputation. Or it could be moral sin, a series of foolish choices that led you in a wrong direction so that you hurt your walk with God and hurt those around you as well. Sometimes the “fall” of circumstances causes a “fall” into bitterness, substance abuse, anger, rage, abusive speech, foolish decisions, lust, adultery, or other sinful action.
The Bible repeatedly shows how easily this can happen to even the best people. The Bible tells us the whole truth about human nature. We see men and women who are faithful one day and fickle the next. We see Peter boasting, and then he is busted by his own sin. We see worship mixed with worry, courage followed by cowardice, faith matched with doubt, generosity followed by greed, kindness overcome by arrogance. We learn that strong people sometimes do very stupid things. Saints often act like sinners.
Thus Noah built an ark to save his family, and when the flood was over, he got drunk and exposed himself to his sons. By faith Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, following God’s call to the Promised Land. When he got there, he lied about his wife Sarah—not once, but twice! Before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, he killed an Egyptian and tried to cover up the evidence. After David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd,” he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah the Hittite murdered in a vain attempt to cover his sin. Then there is Peter, the man with the “foot-shaped mouth.” On one hand, he has the courage to declare to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But how little he knows himself. In the Upper Room, he boastfully declares that even if everyone else falls away, he will never fall away. But the bold apostle soon turned to butter. When confronted by a teenage girl around a campfire, he lost his nerve, began to swear like the fisherman he was, and three times denied the Lord.
These stories are in the Bible both to instruct us and to encourage us. They teach us that even the best men under pressure can do very foolish things. No one is beyond the reach of temptation. Very godly people can make some very wrong choices—and suffer greatly as a result. And cause others to suffer with them. It’s good that the Bible shows this to us—or we would be tempted to deny this reality. We like to think, “I’m beyond that temptation.” Don’t ever say that. You don’t know what you’re “beyond.” Today’s “victory” may actually set you up for tomorrow’s “defeat.” Satan roams the world like a mighty lion, looking for overconfident Christians he can devour (I Peter 5:8).
Here are two other verses we should consider. “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16). We may fall again and again, trouble may come again and again, we may struggle again and again—and again! But it is the Lord’s purpose that we should rise—again and again and again. Psalm 145:14 declares that, “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” When you fall, remember this: God never intends you to stay down forever. He intends for you to “rise up” and keep on walking with him.
Every detail of life is under God’s control.
Intellectually we know this is true. If God is God, then he must know about all the things that happen to us, and in some sense we can’t fully understand, that “all things” includes both the best and the worst that comes our way. After preaching this sermon, a friend asked if even our sins are “ordered” by the Lord. We have to think carefully in answering a question like this. God is never the author or instigator of sin. Never. He does not sin and he does not tempt anyone to sin. Sin is always our own responsibility. But that does not fully answer the question. If our sin can somehow exist independently of God so that our sin (and indeed, all the sin and misery of the universe) can somehow exist outside of God’s eternal plan, then God cannot truly be sovereign over all parts of the universe. We might ask the question this way: Is God sovereign over Satan? The answer must be yes. When you come all the way to the bottom line, the answer goes something like this: God reigns over all parts of the universe all the time, and he does it in such a way that all things must fit into his eternal plan. This even includes the reality of sin itself. For reasons that we only partly understand, God decreed to permit sin to enter the universe (primarily to display his glory through the grace that would be shown in redeeming sinners through the death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ). When we sin, we remain fully accountable for the wrong choices we make—and the negative consequences we must face. But if God did not allow it to happen, it would not happen. Thus in the broadest sense of God’s sovereignty, even our sin cannot take place apart from God’s divine decree. Is there a mystery here? Absolutely, and it is a mystery so enormous that we will spend eternity learning more about it, and marveling at the riches of God’s grace and the wisdom of his plan. But if this is not true, then God is not truly God at all, and we are (to borrow a Pauline phrase) of all men most miserable. But it is true, and therefore we rejoice to serve a God whose ways are far beyond our limited minds to understand. He can make the wrath of man praise him.
And there is an important personal application to be made at this point. Since every detail of life comes under God’s control, we can remain confident and peaceful even when life itself seems to spin out of control.
For the Christian the path of life is never an unbroken straight line to heaven. We all go through “many dangers, toils and snares” on our way to the Heavenly City. How good to know that our God ordains both the steps and stops of life.
God takes pleasure in our struggle to walk in holiness.
The last part of verse 23 says, “And he delights in his way.” The “he” refers to God and the “his” refers to the individual believer.” Spurgeon says it very nicely, “As parents are pleased with the tottering footsteps of their babes. All that concerns a saint is interesting to his heavenly Father. God loves to view the holy strivings of a soul pressing forward to the skies.” Consider a father and his young daughter who is just learning how to walk. For months she has been crawling; recently she has learned how to pull herself up and stand on her wobbling legs while holding her father’s hand. One day she pulls her hand free, wobbles for a moment, tries to take a step forward, and falls down. Does her father spank her for falling down? Of course not. He smiles a bit at her tears, and then he helps her back up. Good parents know that falling is a necessary part of learning how to walk. If you never fall, you’ll never learn how to walk. And parents do their children no favors by being so protective that their children never fall down. Better that a child should fall a hundred times than never to learn how to walk at all. Falling isn’t fun for the child, but a wise parent knows that falling always comes before walking. It’s not that the father enjoys seeing his little girl fall and shed tears each time. But he rejoices to see her growing and straining to learn something new.
This applies directly to the “falls” we take spiritually. Our struggles are necessary even though they are not pleasant or easy to endure. Sometimes (often!) we bring trouble on ourselves by the foolish choices we make. And sometimes we end up hurting ourselves and those around us very greatly by repeating those bad choices over and over again. Marriages end, friendships are broken, churches split, our children suffer, and the cause of Christ is hurt by the things we say and do. Sin is serious business, and we never sin without hurting ourselves, and very often, those around us.
I do not mean to suggest that God takes pleasure in our sin or that our sin does not bring punishment. But when we sin, we sometimes wrongly conclude that “God must hate me now.” And in our despair we want to hide in a closet and never come out. How could God ever take us back after what we did?
The answer is, God loves his children with an everlasting love. Nothing we say or do can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). We are joined to our Father with bands of eternal love stronger than steel. He loves us too much to let us go on in sin forever. And when we turn back to him, with trembling lip, deeply guilty, fearing the worst, thinking all hope is lost, we discover the good news that he waits with open arms for us to come home to him. When the Prodigal Son finally came to his senses in the “far country,” having wasted his inheritance on riotous living so that he ended up eating with the pigs, having rehearsed what he would say, feeling no longer worthy to be called his father’s son, in the midst of his shame and despair, trudging down the long road home, after all that, when he was “yet a long way off,” his father ran to meet him, hugged him, and smothered him with kisses.
When your children disobey and you punish them, do you hate them or do you love them? You punish them because you love them and because your heart is broken over their disobedience. The same is true a million times more of our heavenly Father. The things we suffer because of our disobedience prove that God still loves us. He waits anxiously for the slightest turn in his direction. No matter what we have done, if we will return to the Lord, he will abundantly pardon us.
One other point and we will move on. God “permits” us to fall when he could stop it. If he permits it, then what he permits must ultimately be for our spiritual benefit. Not the fall itself, but what we will eventually learn from it. God “allows” us to suffer when he could stop it. Not that suffering itself is good, but it is often the pathway to enormous blessing for us.
God designs our trials so they will not destroy us.
This follows from all that I have said. Verse 24 assures us that though we may “stumble” or “fall” temporarily, we will not be utterly destroyed. God will not allow anything to permanently destroy our relationship with him. Not even death itself can sever our strong connection with God. “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). When you are “in the furnace,” it is hard to believe that any good could result from the fiery trial, but God says, “Wait for a while and you will see pure gold.” During the worst moments, we take this by faith and hang on to God, believing that better days must eventually come. Thus it is that Job lost everything, Joseph was cast into prison on a phony rape charge, and Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish. Jonah was a very reluctant prophet whose final words are both angry and accusing. But still he was God’s man for Nineveh. God said, “I’m going to send you to the belly of a fish so you can think about things for a while.” He did, and eventually he was puked out on the beach (not a very pleasant experience). Job lost everything and gained back more than he lost. Joseph ended up the second most powerful man in Egypt. Sometimes our trials lead to a promotion; other times we feel like we’ve been puked up on the beach. God does it both ways—and we’ll probably experience both if we live long enough. But God had bigger things in mind in all three cases. He wasn’t through with Job or Joseph or Jonah. Nor is he through with us just because we stumble and fall.
Consider what Jesus said to Peter in the Upper Room on the night before he was crucified: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). This statement deserves special notice because Jesus said it before Peter’s threefold denial. In fact, Jesus said it just before Peter made his boastful promise of unending faithfulness. The point is, Jesus saw it all coming, knew everything before it took place:
The teenage girl around the fire,
The repeated denials,
The bitter tears,
He knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He knew the “steps” Peter was about to take in the wrong direction. In a sense, he had more genuine confidence in Peter than Peter had in himself. By himself, Peter was just a braggart. But Jesus said, “I have prayed for you.” He didn’t stop Peter from boasting or from denying. He let matters take their natural course, but he prayed for Peter, knowing that Peter at heart was a good man who loved him, and knowing that his denial was not the “real” Peter. The “real” Peter was the man who declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus allowed Peter to fall away, knowing that through his prayers, Peter would eventually return, and when he did, he would be a better, stronger man, humbled by his failure, ready to serve the Lord with a humility born of painful failure.
We will not utterly fall because God will not let go.
Theologians call this the doctrine of eternal security. It simply means that those whom God saves, he saves forever. Though we stumble and fall a thousand times, God’s love is firm because his purposes are eternal. Our salvation rests not on our performance but on God’s unchanging character. “No saint shall fall finally or fatally. Sorrow may bring us to the earth, and death may bring us to the grave, but lower we cannot sink, and out of the lowest of all we shall arise to the highest of all” (Charles Spurgeon).
Martin Luther said that it takes three things to make a man of God—meditation, prayer and temptation. We’re fine with the first two because we know we need to read the Bible and pray. But most of us would not add “temptation” to the list. Luther meant that godly character can only be developed in the crucible of life where we fight many battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The temptation to quit, to despair, to give in to bitterness, to flee the struggle, to yield to lust, to give in to greed, to indulge ourselves, to walk in pride, these things either destroy us or they make us stronger. Prayer and Bible reading alone cannot make us godly. We need the struggles of life to make us strong.
We do not pretend that our trials never happened or that Christians never suffer. We suffer just like everyone else on this sin-cursed planet. Nor is it good when we fall into sin. Just ask any Christian who fell into serious moral sin how “good” it was. Sin only delights “for a season.” All Satan’s apples have worms. But there is an important truth in our passage that we need to understand: God is at work in our trials and in our falls in a way we never dreamed, never knew, and never saw at the time. Nothing is wasted with God. All things truly do “work together” for our good and for God’s glory—even though we rarely see that in advance.
As I prepared this message, I made a list of people I know who are struggling in one way or another. If you think about it long enough, virtually everyone you know could be put on a list like that because we all struggle in many ways, and no one gets an easy road to glory. Here’s a thought that may encourage you: If it is possible, God loves you even more when you struggle because that’s when you need him most. When is a father most honored? When his children are in trouble and turn to him for help. Even so, our God is honored and shows his special care for his children when they go through struggles on earth.
Three Simple Statements
Let’s sum up the application of this message with three simple statements:
1) Your struggles are necessary – fight on!
2) Your Father has not forgotten you – hang on!
3) Your future is assured – walk on!
Here are three good mottoes: Fight on! Hang on! Walk on!
If you are tired of your sin, run to the cross.
If you want a new start in life, run to the cross.
If you feel like a failure, run to the cross.
If you fear the future, run to the cross.
If you need hope and encouragement, run to the cross.
If you want to meet Jesus, run to the cross.
For those who don’t know the Lord, the Bible says there is only one step between you and destruction. But there is also only one step between you and Jesus. It’s the step of faith. Reach out to Jesus as Lord and Savior. He will come to you and your life will never be the same.
Be encouraged, child of God. The future rests in the good hands of a God who loves you more than you can imagine. You may stumble, but you won’t completely fall. This is God’s promise to you. Amen.
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