The expression that heads this article is found in Psalms 37:23. We trust that we have learned by experience and revelation the truthfulness of this statement. There was a time in our sojourn here that we could not receive this as a true statement. We thought we could order, command, decree, or perform our own steps within and of ourselves. We thought this was the right way and that we possessed the ability to direct our steps aright. But, alas! We found by sad experience that this was the way that seemeth right unto man but the ends thereof are the ways of death! In our desperation we were made to cry out as the prophet, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). We did not know this until we had tried with all our might to walk aright and every trial met with defeat. All of our own devising was fruitless. Then we were made to trust no longer in ourselves for deliverance; we were forced to look to another source for salvation; we were made to cry to God; and, He heard our cry! We trust that we experienced the deliverance as recorded in Psalms 40:2, "He brought me up, also, out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
Have you ever been in an horrible pit and tried to walk when your feet were in miry clay? Your feet slip and slide so that you cannot direct your steps. Every trial leads you deeper into the mire until you are stuck. It is in this helpless condition that you pray for deliverance. When the Lord hears your cry and brings you up out of the pit and miry clay and sets your feet upon a firm foundation and directs your steps – you are, then made to agree with Proverbs 16:9, "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps."
Is it your experience that you have to be shown again and again these things? My experience is that this primitive deliverance and primary experience was not sufficient to make me to be at all times conscious of my dependence upon Him. Sometimes, it seems, that God graces me with a godly walk for a period of time and my body is kept under subjection and I begin to gloat over my steadfastness in my walk and feel that I shall never stray from the paths of righteousness. Then I am brought to my true status and made to embrace the language as expressed in Psalms 73:2, "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped." I notice in Psalms 37:24 regarding the good man of the text the psalmist says, "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand." If I know what this fall is I have experienced it many times in my pilgrimage here. I believe Peter experienced it when Satan was permitted to sift him as wheat. Jesus did not tell Peter: I have prayed that you fail not: but, "I have prayed that thy faith fail not." Peter failed to do that he avowed to do. He desperately failed, but that faith that had been given him by the Lord was not faith in Peter but faith in Jesus Christ. These falls are destined to strengthen our faith in Him who is able to deliver us from these terrible conditions. These falls enable us to rejoice in the mighty Hand of the Lord that upholds us so that we shall not be utterly cast down.
We read in Psalms 37:31 of a good man that, "The law of his God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide." None of his steps shall slide because God orders by His law; directs by His spirit; and, enables and performs for him by "working in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure." We are informed by Proverbs 16:1 that the preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is of the Lord. According to the Scriptures He takes from us the stony heart, gives us a heart of flesh, writes His law in our hearts: and, enables the heart to believe and the tongue to confess by the direct operation of His Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that none of the steps of God's children shall slide when we consider that He is so gracious to them by establishing their goings and causing them to know from whom cometh their strength!
We want to consider now some of the steps that are ordered by the Lord. The steps that God orders would not be the steps that man would voluntarily take upon his own initiative. Man would naturally try to escape the first step that we shall mention. We maintain that man is not able or desirous to take any of them.
Suffering must be a step, for we read in 1st Peter 2:21, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." This emphatically states that you are called to suffering. Suffering is necessary in order that we reign with Him according to 2 Tim. 2:12. The writer to the Hebrews in speaking concerning Jesus said, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:8,9). Suffering was necessary in order that Jesus learn obedience. Suffering is necessary for us in order that we obey. We learn obedience by the things which we suffer. Were it not for suffering we would yet be satisfied with our own righteousness and ability. Severe afflictions were blessings in disguise, causing us to realize the filthiness of ourselves and our need of Him and His guidance, love and mercy. "Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulations worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us."
Yes, sever afflictions work patience, the next step the Lord orders. We are brought into humble submission to His ruling. He causes us to be still and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10). He makes us to know that He works all things after the counsel of His own will. We are made to be content with our lot and reconciled to His will. We are blessed to endure hardships and constantly look to Him for deliverance.
Experience is the next step recorded by the apostle. After that we have been caused to suffer until we have been made to patiently wait upon Him – then we begin to experience and realize the hand of God in the matter. He comes to our rescue and begins to manifest Himself as our deliverer. We experience His grace, loving-kindness and tender mercy. We begin to look upon Him as our Rock, our Refuge, and our hiding place. He has stilled the tempest, calmed our minds, and delivered us from trusting in self and has caused us to look to the merits of the blessed Son of God for our salvation. This has worked a hope.
We are not yet delivered from sin for we find that sin is mixed with all we do and "When we would do good evil is present with us." We earnestly desire and expect some day to be delivered from the presence of sin through the merits of Jesus and the amazing grace of Almighty God. This is the hope of God's children. "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom 8:24,25). When blessed to be in the sweet embrace of His love, we realize, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil?" (Heb. 6:19). This hope maketh not ashamed.
The subjects who have been ordered to take the aforestated steps are not embraced to own Him as their total Savior. Jesus will not be ashamed of us because we are made not ashamed of Him. We are not of them that Jesus referred to as recorded in Mark 8;38, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father with the Holy angels." Do you consider it a disgrace to believe and avow that God is sovereign over all things? Do you blush in contending for the doctrine of salvation solely by grace through the merits of Jesus?
Ashamed of Jesus! Sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star;
He sheds the beams of light divine
O'er this benighted soul of mine.
Ashamed of Jesus! Yes I may,
When I've no guilt to wash away,
No tear to wipe, no good to crave,
No fears to quell, no soul to save.
Repentance is a step that is ordered by the Lord. No doubt Ephraim of old tried to repent of himself thereby ordering his own steps. He certainly was unsuccessful in the attempt and was made to cry to God, "Turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord, my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented" (Jer. 31:18,19). You see that repentance must be ordered by the Lord. When it is so ordered it is sure. It is certain because Christ gives it to spiritual Israel for it is recorded in Acts 5:31, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, the forgiveness of sins. When God revealed Himself to Job it caused him to say, I abhor myself; I repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6). We are made to hate sin and pray for deliverance from it.
Faith is a step that is ordered by the Lord. Faith is the evidence of the new birth. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:1). The faith that was once delivered to the saints is the trust in the three-one God. Do you have faith in the Father who chose His people in the Son; predestinated them unto salvation; made all the provisions for their salvation; and who is so perfect in power and wisdom that none of His decrees shall faith but all shall have the desired effects – all things were ordained by Him and for the perfecting of His grand purpose, the salvation of His people? Do you possess faith in that Son who accomplishes all the requirements of the law for you; took your sins upon Himself, paid the penalty, satisfied justice by shedding His blood for you; is now at the right hand of God's throne making intercessions for you according to he Father's will? Have you been made to feel the calming influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to you that the Father has designed and the Son has accomplished? Has the comforter ever soothed your aching heart and made you to cry with joy, "My Redeemer liveth"? This faith is the gift of God, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [faith] not of yourselves: it [faith] is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). We find by reading further that it is not of works but unto good works. So, the next step we find ordered by the Lord is good works.
These good works are the result of that faith which is a living or working faith – not the dead faith spoken of by James 2:17, "Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone." This living faith activates the subjects and causes them to "...warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men" (1 Thess. 5:14,15). When it pleases God to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure a godly walk is the result and our conversation is godly. All these good works are inspired by faith and motivated by love.
We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He did not love us because we love Him, for "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). We are not capable of loving divinely until He manifests His love toward us in giving us this divine love by the Holy Spirit. Then, we love Him and love one another. It is an order of God that we love one another and this order is effectual. He said through the mouth of the prophet, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it." Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit and is made manifest in the lives of God's children. Those who are not born of the Spirit act solely upon selfish desires in hope of reward on in fear of punishment. Those born of the Spirit are stimulated by love in their actions to one another. Love is the law He indelibly imprinted in this new heart of yours.
Many of God's children are ordered to follow their Lord in being baptized in water which is an outward manifestation and figure of being enveloped by the body of Jesus – being in Him as He accomplished the law, paid the penalty of death, and was resurrected. (See Romans 6:3). Baptism in water is an outward manifestation of being enveloped and immersed in repentance. Baptism in water is signifying a hope of the mortal body being some day baptized with immortality. As baptism into Jesus and His death by God creating them in Him was the entrance into the Church universal, so then, baptism in water is the proper entrance in to the church militant.
God orders, directs, inspires and empowers His children in the steps of singing, praying, preaching, communing, and doing all that is becoming to saints. When He says, "sing," we sing with the Spirit and understanding. When He says, "pray," we pray without ceasing. When He says, "preach," we preach the Word. When He directs us to teach we teach transgressors His ways. When He directs us to run, we are enabled to lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and run with patience the race that is set before us – looking only to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Time, space, nor ability will permit us to put in words our many thoughts upon this great subject. We have briefed the steps mentioned. Many steps that arrested our thoughts have not been written in this manuscript. Suffice it to say, we trust that God will bless these few hints to your comfort and edification. May He stir up your pure minds to recall the many steps in your experience that God has ordered. I desire to close this article on "The Steps of A Good Man Are Ordered By The Lord" by quoting Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Elder E. J. Lambert
"Tried In The Furnace."
Signs of the Times Vol. 163, No. 3 March 1995