Well, this is what I believe will be the last week of our series on the subject of WISDOM, and I hope that you all have gleaned things that will greatly enhance your lives.
We have seen just how important wisdom is in our lives. We have learned that it is indeed the principal thing - that is, the top, first and best thing that we can acquire in our lives. The problem is, however, that many people do not see wisdom this way. They believe that all of these other things are what we need to “get” but they miss the fact that when we get wisdom, all of these other things that our hearts desire come as a by-product of obtaining God’s wisdom.
So, we have learned what wisdom is, what some of her primary characteristics are, and then we moved into many of the various practical areas that we desperately need His wisdom in. We looked at:
Then most recently, we have moved into talking about Wisdom in Relationships, and we have learned both how to build and how to maintain the relationships in our lives. Because I do not want to re-preach these last two teachings, I will simply encourage you (highly encourage you, I might add), to go back and listen to both of these teachings - particularly, the last one on how to maintain these relationships. The reason is because the devil and his cohorts devote their time to dividing God’s people. They are constantly trying to destroy our marriages, split our churches and divide Christ’s body in order to render us completely ineffective. So, I went into a lot of practical principles from the Book of Proverbs that show us exactly what to do when we are tempted to be offended by our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is not one person who cannot be ministered to in a great way from the things we learned last week. So, either go to our website and listen to the message or get a hold of my notes that I sent out this week.
COME AND GET IT!
Now, while we have certainly not gleaned all there is to know about wisdom during the past 10 weeks, I felt like the Lord was ready to transition us into a new focus in the weeks ahead. But before we do, I want us to conclude our series on WISDOM this week by answering the question we all should have by now - How do we grow in it? How do we get it?
Now we have certainly dabbled in some of the “How To’s” throughout this series, but let’s give a week’s worth of attention to this wise question - HOW DO WE GET WISDOM?
Let’s look again at our golden text for this series in Proverbs chapter 4: Proverbs 4:5-8 says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
So, we can clearly see that we are encouraged (even commanded) by the Lord to GET wisdom, right? So, let’s wind this series up by talking about how we get it.
Now the first thing we need to understand is this - when the Word of God tells us to get something, what can we conclude? We can conclude that it can be “gotten.” You see, the Lord is not going to tell us to get something and not make it available to us. No, in fact, we see here in the Book of Proverbs that wisdom is on every street corner, crying out for you to come get her. So, wisdom is available to come and get it.
For example, when a mother yells out the door to the children at supper time, saying, “Come and get it!”- what do the kids know? They know that dinner is on the table and they are about to eat. Likewise, when the Holy Spirit says, “Get wisdom!” we know that wisdom is on the table and available to whosoever will. Amen!
No, it doesn’t matter how educated you are. There are no disqualifications. The Lord says, “If you want it, you can have it!”
You see, the Hebrew word for “Get & Getting” here in these verses literally means “to buy.” Therefore, we can see that in order to “Get wisdom,” we will need to “pay the price” for it. What does this mean? It means it might cost us something. We might have to lose our dignity and pride. We might have to throw some things on the altar that stand between us and our apprehension of wisdom. The bottom line is that we generally get the things that we desire with all of our hearts.
GETTING WISDOM VS. GETTING OLDER
Now it stands to note here that we do not simply “get wisdom” by “getting older” either; no, we get it by paying the price for it. Many people believe that wisdom simply comes with age, but that is simply not true. Wisdom is earned! I know a lot of old people who are fools. (They don’t go to church, of course😊).
Now it is true that getting older certainly gives one more of an opportunity to gain wisdom. And why? Because of the accumulation of experiences that we will have through time. But my point is that if we do not ever learn from those experiences, we will not grow in wisdom. Therefore, while most people learn from some of their mistakes, they never truly acquire all of the wisdom that they can because they don’t learn from all of their experiences.
Isn’t this the epitome of foolishness, church? To continue doing the same things and hoping for different results! No, if we want to get different results in our life, we cannot continue to act, think, respond, react, etc., the same way that we have been! Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” So, what does a wise person do? He learns from his mistakes and stops doing it.
But here is another very important point - Most Christians get precious little wisdom in their lives because they are only drawing from their own experiences. I want to encourage you today not to just learn from your own experiences; learn from other’s experiences. My father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, says it this way: “You don’t have to learn from hard knocks.” Wisdom will not only learn from her own hard knocks; she will learn from others failures and shortcomings as well. Amen! (We will delve into this more in a moment)
OUR NEED FOR WISDOM
Now let’s turn over to the Book of James and take a look at a passage of Scripture that will explain this very thing about just how easily accessible wisdom is.
If I could summarize how we get wisdom, the key is found in one very simple word - ASK! Yes, wisdom comes simply by asking for it.
In James 1:5, after he encourages his readers to count it all joy when they fall into various trials, he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
So, the context of this verse is the need for wisdom in the particular trial you have fallen into. In other words, the need to know what to do when you are in the midst of tribulation. But let’s not just limit it to the trials we go through; let’s view this as how we get wisdom in general.
The first and most important part of this verse is the first thing James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom…” What if one does not realize that they lack wisdom? Then they won’t ask for it. In other words, if we are deceived into thinking that everything is okay or we are just satisfied with what we currently know, we won’t seek something more.
And this is more of a problem than most realize: They don’t see how much wisdom they lack. Therefore, they do not hunger and desire more of it. In their pride, they are wise in their opinion and are “know it all’s” in so many ways. That, my friends, is the number one hindrance to getting wisdom in our lives; the deception that we don’t lack it - for we will not seek for something that we do not realize that we are missing.
But, church, when one does realize that they lack something, then the desire for it can enter in.
So, that leads me to another step to obtaining wisdom in our lives: The first key to getting wisdom is that we have to want her! Now this desire to get her first comes by realizing our need for her.
Now I say “her” because, if you noticed, wisdom is referred to throughout the Book of Proverbs in the feminine like it is an actual female entity.
So, men, how did we “get” our wives? In most cases, we had to pursue them. We courted them and won them over by various expressions of love and honor. We took them to nice restaurants. We bought them flowers, jewelry, etc. We did these things to win over their heart and to gain their love and trust.
And to all of you single ladies out there, let me give you a good word of wisdom: Do not pursue the man; let him pursue you - because if he is not willing to court you, then he is not worth having. Amen?
But my point is that wisdom is gained in the same way. We have to court her - showing her that she is the most precious and valuable thing to us. We pursue her until we obtain her, and then we marry her.
What this means is that valuing wisdom is vital. This requires a heart that esteems her, truly seeing her as the “principal” thing - that is, the first, best, and top thing in our lives. For until we place the appropriate value on her, we will not gain her. Amen?
ASK OF GOD
So, once we realize that we lack wisdom in our lives and have a need for more of it in various areas, what are we to do? James says that we are to “ask of God!”
While the Greek word used for “ask” here does simply describe a petition; it also denotes to “desire, crave and to beg.” So, the kind of asking that is being described here is a wholehearted kind of petition, not just some passing, flippant request that is half-hearted. This is important.
But notice that James said that we are to ask of God. The word that is used for “of” here is the Greek word para and means “to come alongside of.” So, this describes the proximity of our request from God, which is right by His side. Therefore, it denotes that we have drawn near to God and ask.
This has so many shades of meaning, all of which are vitally important to understand: The truth is many are asking amiss. They are doing things independent from God (i.e. doing their own thing) and they have not come alongside of Him. This is the best way to receive from God, church - learning to draw near to Him and walk with Him on a regular basis. Entering into His presence through worship to where He is near and you have His ear! This is coming boldly to Him in the full assurance of faith!
And James goes on to explain to his readers why that is - to be completely persuaded that when they ask they will receive: It is because our God “gives liberally and without reproach.”
But what if the God that we come to is not the God who gives liberally and without reproach? In other words, what if we are making this request of a God that we are not convinced will give (number one) to all (number two) liberally and (number three) without reproach? Then the last part of James 1:5 might not happen for you (i.e. “it will be given to you”). In other words, your lack of understanding of who He is might impede your receiving from Him.
You see, when we come to God, our view of Him does impact how we receive from Him. If we see Him as a harsh, critical and condemning Judge, it will be impossible for us to approach Him in the full assurance of faith because we won’t be sure of what He will do or say. But if we see Him as a good, liberal, and non-condemning God, there will be confidence that when we ask, we will receive.
God desires to give us wisdom, church! But we must ask for it from Him! As James goes on to say in his letter, we have not because we ask not (James 4:2).
But we have to ask. We have to have enough spiritual where-with-all to ask Him for counsel, direction, and understanding when the various situations come up in our lives. Let me give you a few examples:
But there is something oh so important to do after we have asked Him for wisdom; we have to then listen for the wisdom.
Many fail to do this – no, not only because they are not open to God speaking directly to them the things they want to hear, but because they are not open to how He might answer their cry for wisdom.
Again, we might ask God for wisdom regarding these mountains we seem to keep going around and then we get prompted to turn the television on and we are watching some preacher who is dealing with a certain issue that we see in our lives. That might be just how the Lord gives us the wisdom we have asked for.
This is why James goes on to say in James 1:6-8- “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Now in the context here, the thing that is to be asked for in faith is the wisdom (see vs. 5). So, when we ask for wisdom in this double-minded, doubtful fashion, we are not to suppose that we will receive it from Him. Why? Because we can only see the Lord communicating to us in a certain way and we miss that He might decide to respond to you through another person.
Now that leads me to another point about how to get wisdom: It is not just going to come directly from God to you. Yes, asking God is important in its own right. However, getting wisdom does not only come from asking God; it also comes from asking others. In other words, we get any and all kinds of wisdom by both asking and observing those who have it.
We can see from the Book of Proverbs that those who walk with wise men will be wise and that those who listen to counsel and receive instruction from wise people will be wise in their latter days (see Proverbs 13:20 & 19:20). Therefore, surrounding ourselves with wise people is a big part of us becoming wiser.
Now this will require humility on our part- because one of the major reasons why so many do not grow in wisdom is because of their pride. People’s pride does not like to admit it doesn’t know something that someone else does. Pride chokes on those three words, “I don’t know.” But wisdom confesses it freely. Therefore, humility is a big key to acquiring wisdom. (I will include a listing of the proverbs that talk about pride vs. humility at the end of this article)
And really, who cares what people think? But we should care about what people know - So, pick their minds and learn from their expertise and experience, and don’t worry about what they might think about you by your questions.
You see, even the Master Himself listened and asked questions during His life and this resulted in Him increasing in wisdom (Luke 2:46,52). So, if Jesus needed to both listen and ask questions of others who had some wisdom, then you can bet the bank you and I need to do that too!
Proverbs 11:2 teaches us this when it says, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 26:12 also says, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” In other words, the guy or gal that thinks they are wise already is more hopeless than a fool because at least a fool, in many cases, knows their stupid! It is the same with a religious person: there are not many others who are harder to convert than them because at least the grossest of sinners know they are a sinner. A person who is “religious” (from the negative sense of the word) thinks they are alright. Therefore, the need for salvation is not as apparent to them.
This is why Proverbs 3:34 says, “Surely He scorns the scornful but gives grace to the humble.” Of course, this Scripture is quoted by James in James chapter 4 in relation to God resisting the proud and how we submit and draw near to God. But I want you to notice how being given even wisdom comes through our humility.
But not only can we ask others; we can simply observe them, considering their ways.
CONSIDER THEIR WAYS
So, let’s look at this other way to get wisdom in our lives through other people and things: It is simply by opening our eyes and considering them.
In Proverbs 6:6-8, Solomon gives us an interesting tip: He says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”
So, Solomon shows us that one way to become wiser is by simply considering something even as minuscule as the activity of ants. Isn’t that amazing how the Lord has dropped just enough wisdom is those little insects that has them store up their food in just the right season?
This teaches us that we can get wisdom simply by observing the things of nature. But do you know what else we can get wisdom from considering? Other people! Yes, being wise comes from considering others - simply sitting there and watching what something or someone else does.
People that become “experts” at things or “skillful” in others (Both good one-word definitions for wisdom) generally become this way through observing and considering others. In other words, they become skilled in that particular trade by sitting under someone like a trainer or mentor.
For example, one way in which we can do this in our lives is say, we want to become more skilled in plumbing: What’s the best way to become a good plumber? It is by observing one who has been there and done that in the area of plumbing - to ask them questions, watch how they come to conclusions, etc. Some who simply desire to become more skilled in fixing their computer might simply watch a “How To” video that walks you step by step through how to fix the issue.
Now, what does the fool do? They might have been having engine problems with their car, yet without any understanding, experience or observation of what it takes to fix engines, they just blare on, saying “I’ll do it myself.” What happens more than half the time that someone decides that they are going to just learn on the fly? They usually spend much more time than they would have if they would have just “considered” what they were doing first by maybe “googling” it or calling an expert.
But us guys are notorious for this kind of foolishness; am I wrong? We don’t ask for directions, bless God! And we spend a half an hour driving around, trying to find the place that was just 10 minutes away. When if we would have just taken two minutes to stop and ask someone, we could have gotten there in 15 minutes. I say this to our shame, gentleman! LOL!
Have you ever heard the quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Benjamin Franklin)? What that means is that it is better and easier to stop a problem from happening than to stop or correct it after it has started. That is so true, isn’t it? Oh, how much time and money has been wasted simply by not giving some forethought before action.
But, again, learning by considering other people and things is a critical part of obtaining wisdom. In short, you could say that wisdom comes by simply using our head for more than a hat rack! It is thinking before speaking. It is considering before doing. It is meditating before acting. It is judging before deciding. It is ASKING! Amen!
Verily, verily, I say to you - when we seek, we find. When we knock, it is opened up to us. When we ask, we receive.
THE WORD OF WISDOM
Now that leads me to another very important part of acquiring wisdom: I just made the point of how important considering others is to becoming wise. Well, do you know who some of the best people are for us to consider, observe and, therefore, learn from? The people in the WORD!
Yes, the Bible teaches us that it itself was written for our learning (Romans 15:4) and gives us these various stories as examples (1 Corinthians 10:11). That means that the triumphs and failures of these men and woman of God in the Bible were recorded for us to learn by.
Again, we don’t have to have a bunch of unnecessary trials and tribulations to learn to be holy, to look to God, etc. Many would have you believe that! There are people who get up and even “testify” that God put them in their wheelchair because they weren’t living for Him. Church, that’s a horrible testimony. A good testimony is this - I read the Word and saw how I needed to be living my life. Then I applied its principles and look what the Lord has done! Glory to God!
I repeat - He does not want His children learning through hard knocks; He wants us learning from all of these stories in the Bible, through their hard knocks. No, I do not have to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years to learn to trust in God’s Word. Nor do I have to fall into sexual sin like Samson or David to find out that obeying God’s Word is better in the long run. Amen?
So, considering the examples in the Word of men who failed and succeeded. This is one of the ways which His Word makes us wise. But His Word has the power to make us wise in various ways.
In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul told his son in the faith that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation. And, oh, how we need wisdom in the area of salvation, church! It’s found in God’s Word!
This is why we have learned in this series that if you want to be a wise person, then it is imperative that we become “Word people”- that is, making His Word the priority in our life by reading, meditating and studying it regularly and then purposing in our heart to be doers of the Word that we are hearing.
Now let me interject this one point, however: Just don’t spend time in the subjects that your heart is already geared towards: Study the whole counsel of God! Sure, you might need to focus on healing because of your need for it, but just know that if you ignore other areas of God’s Word, you won’t be feeding your faith in that area, and will be deficient in it. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16); not just our pet parts of the Bible.
Now we have learned already that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so this is a very important part of growing in wisdom; it is growing in the fear of God - that is, learning to truly respect in our hearts what He has said and His perspective concerning things. Therefore, if we truly “fear” God, then we will respect what He has said in His Word. This is why things like obedience are inexplicably intertwined with the fear of the Lord - because if you truly honor someone, you will respect and revere what they have said and hold dear.
So, these are very simple and basic ways to get more wisdom in our lives:
Church, if we will do just these things right here, we will begin to grow in wisdom and see God’s blessings poured out in our life in abundance. Wisdom is for all of us! So, let’s go GET it!
PROVERBS ABOUT HUMILITY VS. PRIDE
Proverbs 3:34 - “Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 11:2 - “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”
Proverbs 13:10 – “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”
Proverbs 14:3 - “In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.”
Proverbs 15:25 – “The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.”
Proverbs 15:33 - “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 16:5 – “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:18-19 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Proverbs 18:2 – “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” (“but delights in airing his own opinions”
Proverbs 18:12 – “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 21:4 - “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin.”
Proverbs 21:24 – “A proud and haughty man- “Scoffer” is his name; He acts with arrogant pride.”
Proverbs 22:4 – “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”
Proverbs 25:6-7 – “Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great; For it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.”
Proverbs 25:27 – “It is not good to eat much honey; So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.”
Proverbs 26:12 – “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:2 – let another praise you)
Proverbs 28:25 – “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.”
Proverbs 29:23 – “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
Proverbs 30:32 - “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth.”
Wisdom, The Principal Thing - Part 10: HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS (WISDOM IN RELATIONSHIPS)
So, last week, we continued our series on the subject of wisdom by looking at another practical area that we need God’s wisdom in - the arena of relationships: We looked at how important it is that we learn how to build relationships.
We learned that our being in fellowship with one another is extremely important to God and to us. We saw from Proverbs 14:4 that in our relationships with others is where more strength comes to see increase in our lives. However, with the strength the ox provides, it also provides more mess. So, while there will always be “poop” we have to deal with in relationships, we need to esteem the good that comes from our connection with people more than the problems they bring with them.
Then, we learned the importance of choosing our friends wisely. We saw that we should not be deceived into thinking that we are strong enough to have a good influence on people without them having a bad influence on us. The Bible teaches us that “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
So, who should we be hanging out with? The Bible says, the wise. Yes, he who walks with the wise will himself be wise (Proverbs 13:20). Therefore, we need to find people to associate with who will provoke us unto love and good works, enabling us to become sharper in character, rather than duller. We looked at various things that we should be looking for in friends and also what kind of people we should not be associating with.
We then looked at how to make friends by looking at things that we can implement into our lives that will make us more desirable fellowship for others. We also looked at a lot of “don’t do’s” that might irritate people we would like friendship with.
So, as promised this week, I want us to move on into looking at how we maintain / keep these relationships we have built. This is going to be a very practical message on how to resolve the conflicts that come up in even our God-ordained relationships.
So, as I mentioned last week, relationships must be built. They do not necessarily build themselves. In other words, you will have to work at making them all they can be. We looked at Proverbs 24:3-4 which says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” and we saw that you do not build a home by just haphazardly beginning the building process. No, you sit down first and draw out the plans, right?
Well, did you know that just as many people build relationships, there are also those who destroy them. And how do they do this? Through a lack of wisdom.
Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” How many of you know that this is the epitome of foolishness – to build something, and then turn around and tear it down with your own hands. But people do this all of the time in the area of relationships: They spend time working on a particular relationship and invest a lot of time, effort and energy into it, and then they turn around and pull the whole thing down through fights, quarrels and contentions. This is unwise.
So, that is exactly what I want us to look at this week - how to not do this, how to not only build good, healthy relationships, but also how to keep them in that same condition.
Now we talked last week about just how important relationships are in everyone’s life, particularly the life of a member of Christ’s body. So, if that is so (and it is!), then don’t you suppose that the enemy of our souls is going to do his best to destroy those relationships? You can bet the bank he will! Therefore, we need to always remain cognizant of the fact that we are going to have even more opportunities in a church setting like ours to have relationships grow sour and to have division. And why? Again, it is because we have an enemy who wants us separated from each other.
WHY STRIFE IS SO BAD
So, let’s begin by talking about why strife, contentions and quarrels are so bad in the first place:
We’ve just seen that one major reason is because they divide us from other parts of the Body that we need to be joined to. And that is reason enough to resist contentions itself, but here are some other reasons why strife is such a bad thing. Strife is bad…
One major reason we should avoid strife like the plague it is, is because God considers it an abomination. Now that is some pretty strong language, isn’t it? He hates it! It is abominable to him! Therefore, if we love God, we should hate it too! Amen?
You see, the things we esteem like eating good food or living in a comfortable home are fine and all, but if strife and contention are present, those natural things are just not worth it. In other words, we would be better off to have less than desirable food to eat or to live on the corner of a rooftop than to have a spirit of strife in our home. And why?
So, all of this is plenty enough reason to keep our relationships free from strife, quarrels and contentions. Amen?
Now let’s move on and talk about what actually stirs up strife because in diagnosing it, we can help find the cure for it:
WHAT STIRS UP STRIFE?
You see, there are several proverbs that talk about certain things that “stir up” strife. So, let’s look at them. What stirs up strife? First of all, Proverbs 28:25 says, “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.” Proverbs 13:10 teaches us, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Let’s look at a couple of other translations of this nugget of wisdom:
So, the first thing we need to understand is that any and all strife comes by pride - meaning, if there is strife present, I can guarantee you that there is some pride present. Yes, when two individuals get into strife, there has to be pride present in at least one of the individuals, but in my experience, it is usually in both. Why? Because very rarely do you see one of the parties humbling themselves and admitting things they did wrong in the situation that caused the conflict.
But the main reason that all strife is a result of pride is because usually the contentions and quarrels that arise are based on hurt feelings. “I am just so angry because they did such and such to me,” they say. Well, why are they so angry? It is because someone did something to them. That is pride because the root of pride is self-centeredness: It’s all about what they did to us.
Now this is important to understand when it comes to us being the one who is tempted to be contentious with others: We need to check our own hearts and see where any pride is resident that would cause the strife in us. Then, we ought to be the “big boy or girl” in the situation and take the high road of love by humbling ourselves in the quarrel.
Regarding the other person in the conflict, the Book of Proverbs gives us some specific things that show how strife is stirred up around us:
So, we can see here that it is a wrathful, hateful, angry person that generates strife! In other words, it is a man or woman who has been poisoned and is full of hate and anger that tends towards stirring up strife! Therefore, this helps in how we respond to others who are contentious against us.
You see, anytime a person is ugly towards us it for this very reason: because they are currently, at that moment, not knowing how loved they are by God. Yes, hurting people hurt people! God did not create us to be mean-spirited, angry and hateful. So, when we are, it is because we are operating outside of our God-created value. Therefore, when someone else is hurting us know this - that is not who God created them to be, and all they are doing is hurting themselves, and they are doing it because they are already hurting themselves. This will help us to be more compassionate towards them and to more readily forgive them.
WHAT COVERS STRIFE
Now staying along the same lines, let’s talk about some truths that the Book of Wisdom gives us that squelches the strife that tries to be stirred up:
Either way you look at it – whether this describes you yourself avoiding strife or you being a peacemaker and actively helping other people’s contentions to cease – extinguishing strife is a mark of honor in God’s eyes.
So, if I am loving others what am I not doing? I am not telling others about what the person did. And what am I doing? I am making it a point to cover their transgression (not covering up sin so that it cannot be appropriately dealt with, but covering up just the simple embarrassments and unnecessary awareness of it).
Consider the example of Noah’s children, with one of them dishonoring him in in Genesis 9:20-23. The dishonorable son, Ham, saw his nakedness and “threw him under the bus,” telling his brothers about it, while the more honorable sons, Shem and Japheth, went in to his tent backwards and covered him with a blanket, not even looking upon his nakedness.
Proverbs 11:12-13 says, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace. A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”
Proverbs 12:20 says that “counselors of peace have joy.” So, church, this is a sure-fire way to live a blessed, joyful life; it is to be a faithful person who conceals a matter and holds his or her peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Why is that? It is because our Heavenly Father is a peacemaker and we are imitating Him!
HOW TO REACT TO OFFENSES
So, now let’s look at some specific ways in which we are told to react when it comes to those who irritate, hurt or anger us:
Many do not like these words because they fear being taken advantage of. Regarding this, Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” When we take matters into our own hands, we take them out of God’s hands. Friends, He can justify and defend us far better than we can on our own. Therefore…
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BROTHER OFFENDS YOU
Now while these are practical, wise steps of how to react and how not to react, we need to look ahead at the New Testament and see what the Lord Jesus told us to do when our brother offends us:
Did you know that the Bible gives you and I some practical steps of what to do when a fellow believer sins against us and offends us? It sure does! In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus gave His disciples the steps to reconciliation when one of His sheep offends another. So, let’s take a look at what the Holy Scriptures have to say so that we can learn how to properly handle these times of being hurt and disappointed by our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
First of all, notice that Jesus began in verse 15 by saying, “Moreover.” The reason Jesus started off with this word was because He had just taught the Parable of the Lost Sheep which emphasized the importance of restoring someone who had left the sheepfold, seeking to reconcile the wandering Christian. Understanding the context here will make clearer what He went on to say in these verses we will be covering:
Jesus then says, “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This is the first step we are to take when someone sins against us - we are to confront them about it. And it is important to see that Jesus said that you are to do this between you and them alone. Oh, how many offenses would be averted if people would just put into practice this one simple step!
You see, most Christians do the exact opposite when someone hurts them: They will either internalize it - never dealing with the hurt - or they will go to someone else about it saying something like - “Guess what so and so did to me!” You see, the first and best rule to go by when someone hurts us is to confront them about it without ever mentioning it to anybody else. This is so important to do because, as I am sure many of us have learned, many times when someone has done something to hurt us they did not even realize what they did, much less intend to do it. Therefore, if we would just confront the person who hurt us, then many perceived hurts and offenses would be resolved immediately. But how many people have held on to their hurts for years when the person that hurt them was oblivious to the fact of what they did simply because this offended person never followed this first step? When, if they would just have gone to the person, they could have resolved the issue on the spot instead of holding on to it for years.
On top of that, many times the things that people do to offend us are so small and petty that if we would be forced to deal with those things in this way (by confronting them), we would be too embarrassed to mention to them what hurt our feelings. What I am saying is that oftentimes the things that we get hurt over are really just silly. They are not big enough to even be worth confronting someone over. And let me tell you: if someone does something that upsets us and the prospect of confronting them about it seems ridiculous, then I can assure you that the fact that we are offended is indeed ridiculous.
For example, say someone in our church does not acknowledge you before or after the service, looking right at them and does not say hello, good morning, etc. What have we seen these Christians do? Well, certainly they do not go to them and say, “You know, you looked right at me this morning and did not say anything to me and I was wondering why…” Why would this layperson not do this? It is because they do not want their fellow church member to know that they were so sensitive and easily offended by something so petty. No, what usually happens is they internalize their hurt feelings and allow the devil to cause them to speculate as to why they did not say anything to them. They start thinking things like “they must not like, respect, or value me”- speculating as to why they didn’t give them what they felt was their due attention. On top of that, they then go to others and begin to defame that person, saying things like he does not care about them, etc. Maybe (just maybe😊) they were not intentionally ignoring them. Perhaps they had something on their mind and did not consciously shun them.
But what if we, first of all, began giving our brothers and sisters in Christ the benefit of the doubt instead of having a speculative imagination and judging their motives? And then, if we are either certain that what they did was intentional and/or we cannot get past the hurt we experienced, what if we just confronted them about it? I can guarantee you that just putting into practice this first step would solve most of the issues we have with other Christians.
Then Jesus said that step number two is, if they will not listen to you and you cannot resolve it with them by yourself, you are to take one or two more and let them, in a sense, act as arbitrators between you and the one who hurt you.
Now this does not mean that we go to one or two of our brothers and sisters in Christ just to tell them what a low down dirty scoundrel the person who hurt us is. This getting others involved is strictly for the purpose of having someone come in who will have an objective viewpoint of the situation. In other words, bringing others into the quarrel is not to get somebody else offended and upset with the person who offended you; it is for the purpose of having someone else hopefully resolve the dispute.
You see, sometimes when we have a dispute with someone else, we might think they have done us wrong, but they might disagree with our viewpoint. This is when a third or fourth party might be necessary to be an objective judge in our dispute. But, again, this is only for the purpose of seeking reconciliation with our sinning brother or sister.
But then, there might be situations where the sinning brother will not hear the arbitrators either. This is when Jesus said that we are to take it to the church that both parties of the dispute attend and let them hear the situation in order to make a judgment.
The important point is that we see the order here? First, we go (by ourselves) to one who sinned against us. Second, we let one or two know for the sole purpose of helping to resolve the situation. Thirdly, we take it to the church and let those who are spiritual authorities in our life make a judgment in the dispute.
But do you know what most people do? They do the exact opposite! They take it to the others in the church first and do not even consider confronting the other believer. According to Jesus’ teaching, this is the wrong process.
You see, we need to understand that when we are offended, the first thing the flesh wants to do is tell someone else. Our flesh just loves to “vent” by telling our friends the sins of others - especially when that sin affected us personally. But love does not do this: As we have seen, love seeks to cover sins, not expose them. Love will only inform someone else of the sins of another when it is genuinely seeking the restoration of the sinner.
But so many err in this way as well: They will go to others and start off by saying, “I am only telling you this so that you can pray for them, but…” Now, while this can be done out of genuine love for someone, my experience is that it usually is not. These are not gossiping about the sins and shortcomings of others because they love them so much, but because their flesh just loves to uncover and expose the sins of other people. We need to be very careful about this. Whether we are a witness to or a victim of the sins of another, we should more often than not, keep it to ourselves and pray for that individual.
But I want us to now turn our attention to what Jesus said to do if that offender will not repent after all three of these steps have been taken. He said, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
What does this mean? Well, first of all, notice that Jesus said “let him be to you”… This basically implies to “let them be that way.” In other words, it means just to let it go - to forgive them and forget about it. We know this because just a few verses later, when Jesus concluded His teaching on what to do when our brother sins against us, Peter immediately asks the question, “Well, how many times do I have to forgive my brother?”
But what did Jesus mean by saying that you are to let him be to you “like a heathen and a tax collector?” Well, it is important to understand that this does not mean, “Fine, if you want to be that way, then you just gained an enemy, buddy!” No, letting them be like a heathen or a tax collector to us does not mean that we treat them like an enemy as some have mistaken this statement to mean. We are called to love our enemies and Jesus Himself was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners. So, it should be fairly obvious that this statement is not a license to be unloving towards the one who sinned against us. What this statement means is that we need to treat them like we would a lost person - forgiving them for their sin against us and seeking to see him or her reconciled into right relationship with God. It means to let the problem go and continue to seek the restoration of our brother.
You see, we are commanded, if it is at all possible, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). So, if we have done our best to seek reconciliation with someone and they still will not repent, the only thing left to do is to forgive them and forget about what they did to you - especially another Christian.
I can assure you that it is not worth holding on to, my brothers and sisters! It is not worth becoming embittered and resentful. This only keeps you in bondage and hinders God’s best from being accomplished in your life. So just let them be that way! Let them act like they are! If they have taken something from you, give them a little extra! This is what Jesus taught us to do, is it not? It is just not worth it, and I can assure you, God is able to add it back to you in fullness and abundance when you walk in His ways - which are love and forgiveness. Amen!?!
THE REMEDY FOR STRIFE IN US
Now there will invariably be times where we do not head off strife at the door. So, what do we do if one of those arrows have penetrated our heart and the angry emotions are rising up? Here are some good words of wisdom from Proverbs:
Proverbs 15:18 says, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays (i.e. to diminish & put at rest) contention.” So, this proverb simply states that being slow to let ourselves get angry and getting control of those unruly emotions will actually diminish contentions in our life.
This is an important way to squelch anger - Operating in that last fruit of the Spirit called “self-control.” You see, impulsive people tend to open the door to strife quicker than others, and the Book of Proverbs has much to say on this:
Proverbs 17:14 also says, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts.” How? By checking those emotions at the door and taking control of our actions. Someone will say? “Yeah, but I cannot do that! It just comes all over me and cannot control it.” That is simply not true because if it is you, you can control it. If you truly cannot control it, then it is demonic and not you. Demons control people; Christians control themselves. But in most cases, those who say they cannot control it in the case of going off on another believer in church, on the other hand can control it with their boss at work. Why? Because people do what they think they can get away with.
But there are some good and practical ways that we can be “slow to anger”:
One of them is found in Proverbs 19:11 which says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” In some translations of the Bible, anger is often spoken of as “being kindled” as though anger can be compared to fire. I believe the example of anger as fire is the most accurate because anger, if not dealt with when it is small, can get out of control and not only burn the one who is angry but also others in their vicinity. We must learn to control the anger that is kindled in us from time to time and not let it get out of control. And in this proverb, we are told a very practical way to quench this anger that comes from time to time in our life. When you stop telling others how someone else upset you, you are being discreet about the hurt. When you practice this discretion, Proverbs 19:11 says, that it “makes you slow to anger.” In other words, it will quench that emotional slide of anger. If we compare this proverb to the example of a fire being kindled, then James 3:5 will mean a little more to us. It says, speaking of the tongue, “...See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” The tongue is the fire-starter of anger. If we can control our mouth, we will control our anger!
Proverbs 15:1 teaches us that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Simply knowing how to say things is a key to extinguishing strife. Many have unnecessary points of contention because of how they have responded. So, the lesson here is - don’t just blurt out the first emotional response you have but think about what you are about to say and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Another important factor is when to approach someone about an offense. It’s good to find a time that is appropriate for bringing up the matter. Ecclesiastes 8:5 says that a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgement. Now these are not fail-proof ways to avoid angering someone, because some will simply not like what you are saying to them even though you package it perfectly. But this will extinguish many contentions before they are even kindled.
Along these same lines, Proverbs 30:33 says, “For as the churning of milk produces butter, and wringing the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife.” Many times, strife is produced by someone “forcing” their wrath and anger. In other words, if we keep forcing the issue – not letting up – and keep bringing it up, we are going to produce strife unless we are dealing with a very spiritual person.
THE REMEDY FOR STRIFE IN OTHERS
But there are other times where someone else comes to us about another issue between them and another person. So, how do you deal with that?
First of all, know this: Proverbs 17:4 teaches us that “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.” If we listen eagerly to one with a “spiteful tongue” the Bible calls us a liar. So, we don’t want to be labeled as a “can” that people feel they can dump their trash in. Why? Because that makes us a “trash can.” It’s tight but it’s right!
But someone will say, “Well, how I can keep someone else from telling me these things?” Here is a good way: Either stop them and say something to the effect of, “Okay, let’s stop right here and pray for them, because if what you are saying is correct, they need prayer.” And then take that person by the hand and start praying for the other person. Another thing you can do is stop them in “mid-slanderous sentence” and say, “Well, if you feel this way, we need to go to that person right now and confront them.” Usually those people will not want to do either one of these two things and they will not see you as a good sounding board any longer.
Another good word of wisdom regarding someone coming to you with their issue is this: Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Why? It is because as Proverbs 18:17 goes on to say, “The first one to plead his cause seems right…”
So, what this means is that there are always two sides to every story, and if we only hear one person’s side (particularly when they are worked up emotionally over it), it is easy to get sold on their viewpoint. Therefore, we need to be truly objective and not let the first word be the last word and get swayed.
But be careful about getting in the middle of someone else’s quarrel unless you are invited to be the peacemaker in the situation because as Proverbs 26:17 says, “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” Church, this is how you get bit!
Now while I see God’s best solution to any rift in relationships as at least one of the parties simply deciding to give the other party the “better land” as Abram did with his nephew Lot when they had strife between their herdsman (In other words, one of the parties deciding to just “eat it” and agreeing to be wrong in order to keep the peace), the fact is very few people will actually do this because, bless God, they are going be right!
But what do we do if we reach this impasse? What if there does not seem to be any possible resolution?
WHAT IF THERE IS NO POSSIBLE RESOLUTION?
In some situations, like say a marriage where you are covenanted to be together, it is good to call some sort of cease fire: Proverbs 18:18 says, “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart.” Some other translations describe this “casting of lots” as flipping a coin or drawing straws. In many cases, it might be best for the two parties that cannot come to an agreement to simply flip and coin and let “fate” decide, both parties being resolved to let the “casting of lots” determine what they will do.
In other situations, where something has to be done to deal with the contention, you might have to “cast out the bondwoman”: Proverbs 26:20-21 says, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”
Do you remember the story of Hagar & Ishmael? There was contention there between Hagar & Sarah, so what did Abraham do? He cast out the bondwoman! Proverbs 22:10 says to “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease.” So, I say that to say if there is no possible reconciliation, that sometimes someone has to go. But if that is the case, both parties should attempt to do so peacefully and graciously.
So, what you have just learned are some very practical ways to deal with contentions. Church, do understand that it is impossible that offenses will not come. The Master taught us this. We live in these fleshly bodies and, therefore, will have “feelings” that will come up that are contrary to the truth. This is when it is important for us to apply these truths and keep ourselves in love and out of strife. Amen!
So, let’s continue looking today at the Wisdom of God with part 9 of our series entitled, “Wisdom - the Principal Thing.”
We have learned the value that wisdom has, and looked at all of the benefits that she brings when we obtain her. We have learned what wisdom is and what it is not, seeing that wisdom is not “knowledge” or “understanding.” Rather, we saw that wisdom is being skilled in the arena of life. We have studied what I consider to be wisdom’s primary characteristic - that it always looks ahead - and how one can become wise.
Then, we started looking at various practical areas and have studied how the wisdom that descends from above teaches us to be wise in these areas:
So now this week, I would like us to move on to another practical area that we need God’s wisdom in – the area of relationships:
Did you know that the Book of Proverbs has a lot of good, sound wisdom about how to both build and maintain good, healthy relationships? It absolutely does! So, I believe both this week and the next we are going to look at the myriad of Scriptures that teach us how to have a better relationship with our spouse, with our friends, with our children/parents, and with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So, there is no one here that will not benefit from the wisdom we will hear over the course of these two weeks.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Now I want to begin by us looking at Proverbs 14:4, where we see a very comical truth about how important relationships are to our lives:
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
You see, we need the ox to carry the load. The farmer cannot till the ground himself. He needs the oxen’s strength to get the job done. However, along with the oxen comes some messiness. Now the word “trough” here describes a manger or a feeding trough, but this word can also be used to describe the stall or the stable that the animal is kept in. So, in other words, with the oxen comes the oxen’s mess (i.e. poop).
So, yes, with people come problems, and the more people we have in our church family, the more potential for problems we will have. However, the more people we have, the more strength and ability to increase we will have.
So my point is - we need each other! While we might be tempted to think that we would be better off not having any relationships because of the chance of getting hurt, we cannot live isolated lifestyles.
The Bible teaches us that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9), that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), and that we are the body of Christ and as a body we need to be connected to each other (Ephesians 4:16). Some have strayed from the truth in thinking that they are okay if they just worship on their own. That’s a lie, saints! Never is it okay for us to isolate ourselves.
In fact, Proverbs 18:1 tells us that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” That makes it pretty simple, doesn’t it? When someone isolates themselves, it is because they are being self-centered - only thinking about themselves - because if they were thinking of others, they would be inspired to get out and be a blessing in other people’s lives. Also, we need to understand that this isolation also opens us up to be devoured by the devil because, as 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us, he is like a roaring lion that is seeking to pick off his prey that has left the pack. So, never is it wise to withdraw from the fellowship of others – it is us going down the path of becoming easy prey for the devourer and is also us openly defying the Master’s commandment to love one another. Amen or “Oh, me”!?!
But one of the main reasons why people do not heed these sound, biblical instructions is because they have been so hurt by people. They have had other believers treat them wrong, disappoint them, and not meet their expectations. But what they have experienced is the mess that it is in the stable, which is unfortunately part of what comes with the things each person has to contribute to the strength of the church. My former pastor used to say that if you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it will not be perfect any longer😊 However, a wise farmer just learns to live with the stink that comes with the livestock because he or she knows that the benefits they bring to the body far outweigh the “stank” they bring.
Likewise, we must learn that we need each other. I might do things that stink to you, and you might do things that stink to me, but there is something good that we all can bring to the table and an increase in the body that we have to offer. Amen?
So, turn to your neighbor on your right and tell them, “I need you.” Then turn to your neighbor on the left and tell them, “And you need me - all the ‘stank’ and all!”
So, understanding how important relationships are to all of our lives, let’s begin this week delving into this subject and learn “How to Build Healthy Relationships.”
Now one thing is apparent regarding relationships: they must be built. They don’t always just happen automatically. They must be cultivated and worked at. Even in the marriage relationship, you have to work at it. Very rarely, does a couple come together and have no problems in their relationship.
But here is the key point: it is worth the work. And not just in our marriage relationships, but in every relationship of life. They are worth working for.
But where many fail is in how they try and build relationships because they do not properly cultivate them. In other words, they do not use godly wisdom in this area.
Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
How do you build a home? Do you just haphazardly begin the building process, or do you sit down first and draw out the plans? You see, this principle can be applied to many areas, but think about it regarding building relationships. Relationships must be built through wisdom. They have to be established by understanding. They are furnished and decorated by knowledge.
So, yes, good and healthy relationships are built by wisdom, knowledge and understanding. So, let’s look at some of the knowledge, understanding and wisdom available to us in the Book of Proverbs that will help us build good friendships:
The first principle of relationships that needs to be addressed is in the choosing of relationships. You see, many people – even born again, Spirit-filled believers – make unwise decision on who they associate with.
Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
We don’t ever need to be naïve in thinking that we will change those we hang around with. Many have been deceived into thinking that they can marry an unbeliever and they will convert them. No, it doesn’t work that way. This Scripture tells us that the way of the wicked will lead us astray, not we will lead them aright.
No, this Proverb is telling us that what is most likely to happen is they will change you. You see, the Bible tells us not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Why? It is because “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:33 begins by telling us not to be deceived about this either.
You know, whenever the Bible tells us not to be deceived or ignorant concerning something, that is exactly what we see most people tend to have the least amount of light concerning. For example, Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:1 that he did not want us to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts. Well, guess what most of the Body of Christ is ignorant concerning today? You got it - the gifts of the Spirit! James also said in James 1:16-17 not to be deceived because every good and perfect gift comes down from our good God. Well, guess what most of the church today is deceived about? Right again: Most are ignorant in what God is the author of and in what His true nature is.
Well, here in 1 Corinthians 15:33, the Apostle Paul said not to be ignorant about the fact that having fellowship with evil people will corrupt our walks. So, don’t be so arrogant that you think you are the exception to this rule.
Now does this mean that we are to withdraw from the world and live like a “monk?” Of course, it doesn’t! The salt is meant to get out of the salt-shaker and the light is meant to be seen by the world. But simply letting our good works being seen by all men is a far-cry from us spending time with the ungodly for pleasures sake. In other words, being around people for the true purpose of discipling them is different than hanging out with them just for fellowship. That is where we need to make a distinction.
And I am not just talking here about the “Christian” versus the “unbeliever.” We even need to choose wisely what “believers” (I use that term loosely) we associate with. Did you know that the Bible teaches us to not even keep company with anyone named a brother or sister who is sexually immoral, covetous, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner? (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Therefore, we need to follow this word of wisdom by choosing our friends carefully. We need to find other believers that we are currently evenly yoked with where we are, or ones we would like to be at the place where they are. Why? Because just as it is true that a little leaven leavens the whole lump from a negative sense (1 Corinthians 5:6), if we desire to become wiser and to grow from those who are ahead of us in the Lord, we can be positively affected by our fellowship with them. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.”
ASSOCIATE WITH WHO?
So, what kind of friends should we be looking for? First of all, and as I just said, we should look for those that we are evenly yoked with. That is the first and most important part of those you befriend. I believe, as a general rule, you will feel closer to your spiritual family than even your natural family if your blood & kin do not believe like you do. And our brothers and sisters in Christ are those who become these friends that stick closer than our natural brothers and sisters.
But the Book of Proverbs gives us some other qualities we should be looking for in friends:
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
So, look for people who truly will love you all the time - in the good times but also in the bad times. In other words, look for people who do love well. Not only will they love you, but you can learn from them how to love better yourself.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Look for those who will truly be a friend to you, not just flatter you and tell you what you want to hear. No, find those who will tell you the truth and tell you what you need to hear, not just what you would like to hear.
Verse 5 said that “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” In other words, it is better to have a friend that will call you out on something you are doing wrong than one who will love you but not tell you what you need to hear.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Look for those who will make you a better person, who will challenge you to be all that you can be in the Lord. Don’t “play” with those who do not provoke you to be a better person than you currently are. You know, it works that way in sports - you become better as you play with and against those who do well themselves. Likewise, it is that way in life: We need to associate with “iron” in order to provoke ourselves unto love and good works.
Now here are some other Proverbs that talk about who we are not to associate with:
Proverbs 14:7 in the CEV says, “Stay away from fools, or you won't learn a thing.”
In other words, don’t hang out with foolish people. Why? Because they will not add to you. I know we are reiterating this point - but we need to have friends that will sharpen us, not make us duller.
Proverbs 24:21 – “My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those given to change.”
The CEV says it this way - “My children, you must respect the Lord and the king, and you must not make friends with anyone who rebels against either of them.” In other words, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect the Lord. That is the spiritual side of it. But also, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect our leaders.
You see, it is one thing to not agree with the things our leaders do, but it is another thing to disrespect their office and position. The Bible specifically tells us to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) And you can still honor those in leadership even if you know they are doing wrong things. You do this by simply respecting the position they hold.
So, in short, we need to have “honorable” friends - that is, those who are respectable and treat others with dignity and respect. Honor is a lost art in our modern-day society.
Proverbs 20:19 in the NASB says, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore, do not associate with a gossip.”
This Proverb expressly says, “Do not associate with a gossiper.” And as we have seen, there are a lot of negative things said about the “talebearer.” But the truth is - one reason we do not want to associate with gossipers and slanderers is because those that gossip to you will most likely gossip about you. Therefore, it is simply unwise to fellowship with a gossiper. Slanderers are not good friends to make.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Now someone will say, “I need friends, but haven’t been able to make many.” Well, if that’s you, then you need to apply the following principles of wisdom into your life:
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
This proverb seems to say that in order to have friends, you yourself must be friendly. In other words, don’t just sit there waiting on someone to befriend you. You see, we like people to approach us and make us feel welcome, loved and appreciated, but if we are not doing the same ourselves, then we have no right to get upset that others are doing that to us. “Well, they are a ‘so and so’ and they should be doing that,” someone will say. But we cannot afford to live our lives expecting people to do things for us. And do you know why? Because people will disappoint you and you will, therefore, live in constant offense living like that.
A good rule to live by is this: when it comes to people, expect nothing and appreciate everything. In other words, don’t expect people to treat you a certain way. Just be thankful when they do. That way they can be gracious to you and are not doing things out of some debt you perceive they have.
I once heard of an elderly woman who got offended with her children and grandchildren for never calling her. Well, my question is, did she ever call them? No, of course, she didn’t! That’s just fleshly self-centeredness, saints, and it is foolish (i.e. unwise)!
No, we ought to aggressively be friendly to others. How? By loving people - being a good listener, being helpful, being caring and compassionate. Fulfill others needs and see your needs fulfilled as a result. This is the law of sowing and reaping.
But, as Proverbs 18:24 went on to say, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and His name is Jesus! So, even if we have done everything we can to make friends, know that He is the only friend you and I truly need! Sure, as we are making the point of, it is good to have other people in our lives and there certainly are benefits to being surrounded by fellowship, but He is all we really need, and He is the best friend you and I could ever truly have.
Proverbs 22:11 says, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” The CEV says, “The king is the friend of all who are sincere and speak with kindness.”
So, this Proverb shows us how to have friends that we want to have: We need to be sincere and transparent, and also let our words add to people. You do understand that very few people do this, don’t you? Very few are actually pure of heart and are void of pretense and ulterior motives. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be either. Also, we need to use our words to edify others, to encourage and build them up.
Proverbs 25:25 says, “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Trey’s Translation would say, “Good news from an unexpected place is awesome!” You see, what people desire is good news, not bad news. But so many are quick to share all of the bad news. If we want to be desired, we need to be a refreshing cup of cold water by exceeding people’s expectations with good, kind and gracious words. Amen?
But the fact is, what most do is build themselves up. Almost all of their conversations revolve around themselves. Let’s not be that way, church! Again, let’s swim upstream and be kind, gracious and considerate. This is how we build good relationships.
The first half of Proverbs 19:22 says, “What is desired in a man is kindness…” This is what people truly want from others - love. They desire people who are loving, faithful, kind, etc.
Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
So, what is your gift? What is something that God has put in you or something you have cultivated in your life that blesses people? Use it to bless them. But be cognizant of whether what you are doing or saying is truly “blessing” others. I say this because many people think that they are “blessing” with their stories, jokes, or their own presence, but people are just tolerating them. We need to have “room awareness”, church - knowing what truly is or would be blessing others.
Now we are not talking about “buying friends” here. I am simply talking about implementing new character in your life to be more of a loving, caring, kind person. If you are this way, you will have more friends than you can handle. I guarantee you.
Now here are some other “Don’t Do’s” if you want more friends:
What these proverbs are saying is - Don’t be annoying and obnoxious. Don’t wear out your welcome. In other words, be considerate. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and not just look at things through your own filter. To everything, there is a time and a season, so know how to discern both time and judgment. In short, don’t be Job’s friends!
Some people need to simply learn when to be quiet and stop talking. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” That means that we need to be quicker to listen to what’s on someone else’s heart than we are to share what’s on our heart. Amen? This is loving our neighbor as ourself and it is also what will make our neighbor love us in return.
Jesus set a good example for relationships: He had the 70, His outer group; He had the 12, His apostles whom He spent three years teaching and training; and He had His inner 3, the ones He spent the most time with and included in the most important parts of His life.
Church, relationships are important, and there is wisdom in how to build better ones in our lives. There is wisdom for our marriage relationship, for our friendships, for our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. So, let’s put these things into practice and build better relationships. Amen.
So, let’s continue our series on “Wisdom - The Principal Thing.” Today is part eight in this series, and I hope that you have been growing in this area because, as we have learned, wisdom is described by the Bible as the “first, top and best” virtue that we could ever possess. But it is our responsibility to get it. It is not going to just fall on us like an apple out of a tree. No, we are told in the Word of God to “get” it. Therefore, we cannot say, “Well, God just sovereignly decided to endow that person with wisdom and that is just not my gift.” No, any one of us can apprehend as much of the wisdom of God that we want. So, let’s get it!
Let’s first of all read the Book of Proverbs on our own, personal time and spend some of our prayer time inquiring of the Lord for His wisdom. Then, let’s be open to the instruction that the Lord is giving us here on Sunday mornings and do more than just listen to the sermon and not give it any more consideration. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them so that your progress in wisdom is evident to all (1 Timothy 4:15)!
Well, most recently, we have been getting into more of the practical areas of wisdom, talking about wisdom for holiness, wisdom in the Word of God, wisdom is our words, and last week, we talked about wisdom for the body:
We began by looking at both Romans 12:1 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, learning that our bodies are considered to be living sacrifices and the temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what we do in our bodies and with our bodies is important to God. We saw that we are all called to glorify God in our bodies, which obviously is first loving God and then loving others with all of our strength. But we can also glorify God in these temples by having them adorned properly. So, we looked at some ways to do this:
One very general way that we talked about doing this is by simply asking the Lord - “How can I better glorify you through this, Your temple?” And then we listen to what He might tell us. For some of us, He might say, “Set your alarm a little earlier and get up and spend some time with Me.” To others, He might say, “Stop drinking as much coffee.” Still others, He might encourage to start back going to the gym and exercising. There are various things He might tell us if we simply ask Him, but the main point I left you with last week was to just ask. Learn to live a Spirit-led life, not just in the spiritual things, but even in the natural things. This way the Holy Spirit is calling the shots with what we do with these temples.
But what we spent most of last week’s message emphasizing is what He has already told us in His Word. In other words, we looked at the Holy Scriptures and gleaned from the wisdom that God has already given us.
The first thing we learned is that the condition of our outward man reflects the condition of the inward man. What I meant by this is that a healthy life internally tends towards a healthy life externally.
We looked at 3 John 2 and saw that our physical health is oftentimes determined by how healthy we are on the inside. We looked at Proverbs 14:30 and saw that just as a healthy physical heart produces life to the body, likewise a healthy spiritual heart will produce health in the body. We saw that things like envy, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. are rottenness to the bones, but not because God is punishing us - rather because it is just a spiritual law that out of the heart flow the issues of life. In other words, when we are not taking care of our heart, it will produce death in our lives.
We looked at a couple of other proverbs and saw that a broken spirit produces death in our bodies. However, having a strong, fighting spirit can actually sustain our lives (Proverbs 18:14). Even having a happy heart can produce health in our bodies like medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength, but if the enemy can get us sick on the inside, he will have no problem destroying our temples.
So, we learned some of the ways that the Bible teaches us to keep our spirits strong and healthy: We looked at 1 Timothy 4:6-8 and saw that just as eating healthy and exercising regularly yields life to our mortal bodies, being nourished by God’s Word and being a doer of it produces life both on the inside and on the outside.
We saw that God’s Word works like medicine in our bodies, producing life to all of our flesh (see Proverbs 4:20-23). But just like it is in the world today, it isn’t our Heavenly Father’s fault if we don’t take the medicine He has provided us with in the prescribed way He told us to, right? He has already told us what to do and now it is our responsibility to do what our good and great Physician has prescribed for us. Therefore, God’s Word works both like eating good, healthy food and also like taking potent, beneficial medicine.
But we ended last week talking about the importance of “exercising” the Word that we are partaking of. This too is extremely important. And we saw how the Book of Wisdom describes the effect it has on our physical health.
We saw how the fear of the Lord and departing from evil is mentioned as a catalyst for living healthy (see Proverbs 3:7-8 & 10:27): We have seen that the fear of the Lord is simply us respecting and reverencing Him, His people and His things which results in us departing from evil. Again, if we honor the Lord, we will not yield to the things that He says are wrong. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is essentially us honoring the things He has said and applying them to our lives. No, not when we feel like it either; this is how we live our life because of our respect for Him. So, it’s a lot like exercise. Our flesh might not want to do it, but hey, does our flesh like to exercise either? Usually not.
And finally, we saw that one of the other ways in which we “exercise” the Word that we are feeding on is by speaking it (see Proverbs 12:18)! And make no mistake about it - this is one of the primary ways that we walk in the health God has for us to walk in. So, as we learn to speak what God says, declaring out of our mouth God’s medicine, it will both promote and bring healing in our bodies! Amen!
So, we saw that God certainly wants us to live long and healthy lives. I am a firm believer that if we cooperate with both the natural laws of physically eating right and exercising as we are led by the Spirit of God and also eat right and exercise in these spiritual ways, then we will walk in the physical health that God says is ours and accomplish glorifying God in our temples in another way. This is wisdom for our bodies. Amen.
So, this week, I want us to look at wisdom in our finances: Now this topic of how we handle our money has many great examples of wisdom contained in it. So, let’s look into this subject and find out what God’s Book of Wisdom has to say about this area of our lives:
THE BLESSING OF THE LORD
Let’s begin in Proverbs 10:22: Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”
This is an area that the church as a whole needs to have some mind-renewal on. You see, many in the church today believe that poverty is a blessing, but that is simply not true. In the Bible (which is what we are to base our beliefs on), poverty is described as a curse, not a blessing. We see this in Deuteronomy 28:15-68, where the curse of disobeying God’s commandments and not obeying His voice is vividly described.
In fact, as this verse says, God’s blessing on Abraham and His descendants always produced financial prosperity. That’s right - you can look at biblical accounts of those who walked with God and are, today, heroes of the faith, and they were multi-millionaires. Go study the lives of Abraham, David, Solomon, etc. and you will find that these guys were super wealthy but, most importantly, for the majority of their lives, they were super godly too. So, for us to think that prosperity is evil in and of itself is just simply untrue. Money is a tool, saints! It is as simple as that! It is only the misuse of it that is evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Amen!
No, it’s the decisions that one makes in whatever financial and material state they are in that yields godliness. This is what the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 4:11 as learning contentment. But contentment does not mean that we are ok with whatever our state is in regard to not wanting to prosper. Contentment simply describes being independent of circumstances to where we have learned to walk in peace and joy in both the barren times and the prosperous times. So, no, just being poor does not make us more spiritual and having an abundance does not automatically cripple our walk with God.
But the fact is that God wants us blessed in every area of our life, which also includes our finances. But here is the great part: Not only does God’s blessing make one rich, but He also adds no sorrow with it!
The Hebrew word used for “sorrow” here describes “pain, hurt, toil, labor and hardship.” The NIV says, “without painful toil for it.” The CSB says, “and He adds no painful effort to it.” So, in essence, God’s blessing will make a man or woman rich, minus all of the hardships, toils and labor. Glory to God!
You know, there are many people on the planet that have “stuff” but also have “sorrows.” In other words, they lack peace, joy, happiness, contentment, etc. They work tirelessly for their money and do not ever enjoy the fruit of their labor. This is not wise.
In fact, in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Solomon said, “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
He said in Proverbs 23:4-5 - “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” In other words, it is unwise to spend all of our days trying to simply accumulate more wealth because the day will come when all of our natural resources will cease – some simply through this ever-changing world and the rest through death.
But this is what God’s blessing will do for us: It will cause us to see even our businesses, finances, etc. blessed! The Lord will bring the increase. No, not just that we can drive bigger cars, live in bigger homes, etc.; but so that we can have more resources to be a blessing to others and establish His covenant here on the earth (see Genesis 12:2 & Deuteronomy 8:18). Amen!
But this needs to be said here: Possessing great wealth does not make one truly prosperous. Like we said last week, true prosperity starts on the inside. It begins with having a heart that is full, that loves God and is abounding in the fruits of righteousness. That is true prosperity, church!
Let’s look at a few verses from Proverbs that reiterates this truth:
However, this blessing of the Lord is not just an automatic thing or else we would all be blessed in our finances. The fact is, many born-again, Spirit-filled Christians struggle in the financial arena. And the reason for this is they have not learned how to cooperate with both God’s spiritual laws that govern prosperity and the natural laws that work together with it.
Like we made the point of last week – there is a natural side to walking in divine health. Of course, the spiritual things are the most important, but that does not mean that nutrition and exercise don’t play a part in being physically prosperous. Likewise, there is both a spiritual side and a natural side to seeing God’s blessing on our finances.
So, let’s look at these principles that govern us receiving God’s best in our finances from the Book of Proverbs. We will do so by first looking at the spiritual side:
Now I would assume that all of us are educated on the importance of putting the Lord first in our finances, and one of the primary ways in which we do this is through giving to the Lord tithes, offerings, etc. But what I want to emphasize to you today is not what we give, but how we give it.
You see, the Bible gives us a lot of wisdom regarding the heart behind our financial giving. It stresses to us the importance of giving willingly, with the purpose and intent on being a blessing, as an act of worship, etc. Therefore, it is not just about plunking some dollars in the offering; our heart motivation is key. Let’s look at a couple of Scriptures from the Book of Proverbs that address this:
Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Now that’s a pretty awesome promise, isn’t it? Now our “barn” might be our bank accounts and our “vats” are synonymous with our businesses. So, how many of you would like to see your bank accounts filled with plenty and your businesses overflowing with new business, ideas, etc.? I’m sure we all would!
Well, these verses teach us how to do this, and it is not through just simple giving. Verse 9 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” The key word in this verse is found in the word “honor.” In other words, we are to value, esteem, and respect Him, first, with our possessions. That means that when we give something to Him, we don’t do it half-heartedly. We give our highest and our best to Him. Just as the Lord had to correct the children of Israel - don’t give sacrifices that are not really sacrifices. Why? Because that is dishonorable! A verse that speaks to this is 2 Chronicles 16:9, which says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
One of my favorite examples of honorable giving is in the story of Cain and Abel: We all know the story of how God respected Abel’s offering and did not respect Cain’s offering and much debate has been made as to why. Well, I believe that Hebrews 11:4 tells us the reason why: it was because Abel gave his offering in faith. Genesis 4:4 says that Abel gave the firstborn of his flock (i.e. the first and, therefore, the best) and of their fat (i.e. their richest parts), but Genesis 4:3 said that Cain “in the process of time” gave of the fruit of the ground. The phrase “in the process of time” literally meant “at the end of days.” So, I believe the problem with Cain’s sacrifice was that it was not a sacrifice at all. He came to sacrifice to God when it was convenient for him. I believe he offered to God what he had left over and what he could spare, unlike Abel who gave the first and the best. You could put it this way: Abel gave sacrificially and honorably, while Cain gave conveniently and dishonorably. This was the big difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering.
But Solomon didn’t just say to honor the Lord with our possessions; he also said to honor Him with the first-fruits of all our increase:
This giving of “first-fruits” is generally used interchangeably with the tithe, but this could not be totally true because there was a distinction made between them under the Old Covenant. You see, the tithe is just “the tenth” of all our increase wherein the first-fruits is the giving of the first harvest totally. When you tithe you are giving ten percent of every bit of increase that you get - whether that be the first, second, third or last harvest - but with your first fruits, you are giving the first lump sum of increase that you have.
Let me explain: A good example of what the Bible means by “first-fruits” would be say for instance I was unemployed and then God gave me an awesome job. Well, in our day and time, since most of us are not farmers, the salary that I receive from that job would be my increase from the Lord. So, the “first-fruit” of my increase would be my first paycheck, right? So how could I honor the Lord through the principle of first fruits? It would be by me giving my first whole paycheck to the Lord. Tithing would just be giving of ten percent of that paycheck.
You see, tithing and first-fruits are similar but they are not the same: First-fruits can almost be best described as “the annual tithe.” It is first of the year, month, season, etc. as opposed to the first 10% of every single increase.
Let me give you another couple of examples of first fruits: Say I had asked the Lord to help me eliminate any and all debt in my life, and then a brother or sister in Christ approached me and said that the Lord told them to give me $500 a month until I paid off all my debts. My “first fruit” of that would be the initial gift of $500. Say that I was believing the Lord for the money to buy a new car and someone sent me a check out of the blue for $250. What would my “first-fruit” be of what I was believing the Lord for? Of course, it would have been the first harvest of $250. Do you understand what I mean by first-fruits? It is simply defined as the first, and consequently, the best harvest!
The Bible has much to say about the giving of first-fruits. It was instituted in the law as a commandment but, just as we said about the tithe, it is not a commandment anymore. It is now a principle that we should willingly abide by in order to honor the Lord. And do not allow your heart to condemn you through this either. This is, again, not anything that we have to do now. It is simply a principle of giving that honors the Lord and releases even a greater harvest in our lives.
So why do you think that God has given us the principle of giving our first-fruits? It is because God wants us to recognize where the harvests come from. He wants us to be thankful for what He has given us and for us to show Him that our hope and trust is fully in Him. You see, this type of giving requires a lot of faith - especially when you need that initial harvest to meet your needs. But as the old saying goes - “You can’t out-give God!” He will make sure you have all the grace you need when you put that kind of faith in Him.
Now Proverbs 11:24-26 says this - “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.”
Isn’t this interesting? Verse 24 indicates that there is one who scatters and see increase in their lives, but then there is another who withholds more than is right, and it leads to poverty. In other words, just because one sows does not automatically mean they will reap. Sure, some do, but this verse says that there are others who withhold more than is right. Now that doesn’t mean that they didn’t give at all; what it indicates however is that they didn’t do the right thing in their giving. So, what is right? It is to give honorably, and as verse 25 goes on to say, to be “generous.”
Generosity is the key, saints! That is why 2 Corinthians 9:6 encourages us to sow “bountifully” (i.e. with the purpose of being a blessing) as opposed to “sparingly” (i.e. stingily).
LENDING TO THE LORD
So how do we honor the Lord with our giving? One of the best ways that the Book of Proverbs says that we can give to the Lord is by giving to the poor:
Proverbs 14:31 teaches us this when it says, “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.” So, we see in this verse that one who honors the Lord will have mercy on the needy.
Some question this, saying, how is giving to the poor giving to the Lord? Well, didn’t Jesus say that whatever you have done to the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40-45)? Therefore, we don’t just give to the Lord by giving to the church or to other ministries; we also give to the Lord by giving to the needy. In fact, we are told in Proverbs 19:17 that, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” So, again, we see the way the Lord takes personally how we treat the poor.
Therefore, it is unwise to forget the poor, but rather, they should be our focus. Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” A “generous eye” describes someone who is focused on being generous. Their whole mindset is - “how can I bless someone today that needs it?” In this proverb, Solomon says that this person will be blessed.
So many think that if they give alms like this that they are losing their money, but we need to renew our minds to this truth: If we give to those in need then God will not allow us to run out! Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” It is just this simple! If we give to the poor there is no way we will lack! But, on the other hand, this proverb says that if we hide our eyes (i.e. “are not focused on being a blessing to those in need”) we will have many curses. One of those negative consequences is this: Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
So not having this generous eye has consequences that we do not want. God is very serious about this! He has compassion on those who are in need and He uses His body to meet those needs. We need to get our focus off ourselves and onto those that have it worse than us. This will not only cause our needs to be met, but it will also create in our hearts joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Now if all there was to prospering financially was giving, then many of us in here would be millionaires by now. But the fact is - we live in this world and there are rules to prospering in this world too. So, let’s now look at some of the natural principles of wisdom that will help us in our finances.
DILIGENCE VERSUS LAZINESS
Now this first one might be too simple for some of you, but I guarantee you that it is extremely important in the whole grand scheme of things. The reason I believe this is mainly due to the fact that there is so much in the Book of Wisdom about the importance of hard work. In studying Proverbs, you will find many Scriptures that talk about the fruit of laziness.
In fact, you will find one word that Solomon uses as the antonym for laziness: it is diligence. Let’s look at a few of these Scriptures that differentiate between being diligent and being lazy:
So, evidently “diligence” is a vital key to seeing success in the financial arena. So, what is it? A dear friend of mine once had the Lord give him His definition of “diligence.” The Holy Spirit said, “Diligence is an energetic drive to achieve by action what you believe.” Did you hear that? It all spawns from faith. What do we really believe in? And, therefore, what are energetically pursuing as a result of what we believe. Say, if I truly believe that exercise is important, I will, in fact, exercise. In other words, it will produce action, diligent corresponding actions. Amen?
And this works in all aspects of life. I once had the Lord show me why some experience God’s blessings more than others:
It was very early in my Christian walk and I was noticing how I was experiencing much more of God’s promises in my life than others that had been in this walk longer than I. So, this propelled me to ask Him why. I had learned that God was no respecter of persons, so what He would do for one, He would do for another. But as I made that point to Him, He said to me, “I am not a respecter of persons, but I am a respecter of faith and diligence.”
It took me years to realize why He had used those two specific virtues, but I saw that they described Hebrews 11:6 to a “T” which says, “But without faith it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
You see, God is seeking a people who believe Him and will seek Him diligently with their whole heart. This kind of heart is what positions one into the place of reward after reward.
So, my point is that it works that way spiritually, but it works this way in other things as well – for when we truly believe in something, our heart is inclined towards it, and we are diligent in our pursuance of it, we will be blessed in it.
I have noticed how the people whose hearts are inclined towards finances like this are generally the ones who do well financially. It is because they truly respect it, and there is a spiritual law that we will attract what we respect. But the opposite is true as well: what we disrespect, devalue and are not diligent concerning, we will repel.
It works this way in our vocation as well: If we are not diligent in doing our work as unto the Lord, our laziness can stunt the favor, promotions, etc. that God has promised us. How do I know this, you ask? Because I used to do it! For years in the secular world, I just showed up, did an adequate job and stayed exactly in the position that I was at. Then, through a chain of circumstances, I was put into the position where I needed to start “busting my tail” to prove that I was a worthy hire for a local bank here in Macon. Well, guess what this did? It created promotion in my life! I was promoted twice in 6 months without ever having to apply for the positions I was promoted to.
Then the Lord showed me that when he told Israel that He would “bless the work of their hands” (see Deuteronomy 15:10 & 28:12) that this implied that their hands were actually being set to something and they were working heartily as unto the Lord. Amen! You see, if our hands are not being set to something and we are not working with the utmost integrity, God has nothing to bless. So, if our hands are not working, He has nothing to increase. A hundred times nothing is nothing! But a hundred times something is a lot. Just like it was with the miracle of the feeding of the thousands: Jesus had to break the bread with His hands before it multiplied. His Father blessed the work of His hands. Amen!
Here are some more proverbs on the subject of laziness with other translations:
MORE WISDOM FOR FINANCES
Now here is another practical area of prospering in our finances that likewise revolves around diligence: Proverbs 27:23-27 says, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds; For riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field; You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household, and the nourishment of your maidservants.”
So, according to this proverb, we should be diligent to know what is going on in our finances - that is, knowing the state of our affairs. This is the first step in regards to learning to “handle” our finances; it is really “getting a handle” on our finances. And the only way to really do that is to write everything down. Therefore, when it comes to getting a handle on your finances, the key is in, first, writing down what you have coming in versus what you have going out and then disciplining yourself to make the adjustments you can clearly see you need to make to turn things around. Amen?
And one really important way of getting a handle on our finances is to, first, before we do anything else, start saving in order to have a reserve for those rainy days when unexpected expenses come up. Having a savings account is crucial for one to get out of the financial mess they are in because:
No, the Bible actually backs saving: Proverbs 21:20 says, "There is desirable treasure. And oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man squanders it." The NIV says, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” The CEV says, “Be sensible and store up precious treasures--don't waste them like a fool.” So, wisdom is saying to us here that it is foolish to use up all of our income. Rather, we need to learn to set aside some of it if at all possible in order to save for a rainy day. Why? Because as Proverbs 22:3 says- "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself: but the simple pass on and are punished." For example, a wise person recognizes that they are going to have some major, unexpected expenses coming up, so they prepare ahead of time, saving the dollars for those “budget busters.” This is them “hiding” themselves from the “evil” day.
Of course, some will hear this and say, “But I simply just don’t have any extra to save! I am living paycheck to paycheck!” This is when we need to evaluate our lifestyle and determine one of two things: How can we increase our income or how can we decrease our expenses. For example, we can increase our income by maybe humbling ourselves and start mowing lawns on Saturday. Pray about that and see if the Lord has another avenue of income for you. However, avoid the “get rich quick” scheme. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.” God is not in to get rich quick schemes. Beware of promises that involve this. The flesh loves these things because they don’t take time and they don’t involve diligence. God will rarely lead us this way. We can also get rid of some expenses that simply aren’t necessary like maybe your cable bill, that fancy cell phone, the extra vehicle, etc. This would be us decreasing the expenses in our life.
The point is that we learn to live on the margin: Proverbs 21:17 says, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” The Good News Translation says, “Indulging in luxuries, wine, and rich food will never make you wealthy.” In other words, living a luxurious lifestyle does not tend towards prosperity.
Here is the lesson here: live within your means. Don’t overspend; rather use your money wisely. Learn contentment. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’. You are where you are. As I said, stay far away from just trying to break even.
Here is another good word of wisdom regarding finances: Stay away from debt at all costs!
You see, borrowing for a house or car is one thing but taking on financial obligations one can't keep - buying beyond the ability to pay - is another. The minute a person goes into debt, he loses a portion of his freedom. As Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Far too many people think you can buy now and pay later. That isn't true. I have found that easy credit now makes people uneasy later. Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, One of those who is surety for debts; If you have nothing with which to pay, Why should he take away your bed from under you?” It is proven that a person pays more for the use of borrowed money than he or she gets in interest for saving it. Therefore, debt is a foolish thing to get into.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE LORD IN ALL OUR FINANCES
So finally, a good word of wisdom regarding our finances is this: just ask! Ask the Lord what you are to do with the rest of your money that you have not purposed to give. You see, the truth is - everything we possess is God’s and we are simply just stewards over His things. Therefore, the answer to every question we have regarding our finances is simply “be led.” In other words, the answer to every question that arises like “what should I do with this?” or “what do I do here?” is - be led by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
But I would venture to say that very few of us that even tithe and give offerings, actually ask the Lord what we should do with the rest of our income. And the God’s honest truth is - the reason why we do not ask Him things like “Lord, should I buy this TV?” or “Father, do I switch to this company for my telephone service?” is because we still view it as our money to do with it what we please. But even if we viewed it as ours, wisdom would still ask the One who knows all things what we should do with it, right?
You see, most Christians lean to their own understanding and intellect on every decision they make. This is why we get that important nugget of wisdom from one of the wealthiest men who ever lived on this planet taught us- King Solomon: He said in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Notice the first phrase in these verses - “Trust in the Lord.” Proverbs 11:28 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.” So, we don’t want to trust in our riches, nor do we want to trust in our own understanding of what we do with our finances. What do we want to do? We want to trust in the Lord. And how do we do this? By acknowledging Him in all our ways! You see, one of the ways in which we trust in the Lord with all of our heart is by learning to acknowledge the Lord’s wisdom in every decision we make in our finances.
But this is not our tendency: We tend to not do what Solomon says in the second half of Proverbs 3:5- “and lean not to your own understanding.” The word “lean” denotes putting all your weight on something or relying on something else for support. You see, God gave us a brain to use but here, He is simply telling us not to put our total confidence in our own understanding. We are to use our head but we are to put our ultimate trust in His understanding and not our own.
When he says, “In all your ways” this denotes not in just what we consider the important “ways” but in all our ways. Regarding financial stewardship, this would be including the Lord in every financial decision we make.
By using the terminology “Acknowledge Him” we can see that the Holy Spirit desires to be acknowledged in every decision we make and every direction we take. The word “acknowledge” here was used in Genesis when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. So, this word describes a closeness and an intimacy. This is what the Spirit of God desires to have with us.
And, last but not least, we have the promise of when we trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all of our ways. It says, “And He shall direct your paths”- not He might direct your paths, but He shall direct our paths when we trust Him and acknowledge Him. The word “direct” means “to make smooth or straight.” You see, if we were led by the Spirit of God 100% of the time we would never get food poisoning, we would never make a bad investment, we would never get ripped off, etc. When we learn how to develop that close relationship with the Holy Spirit and are aware of Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths smooth and straight as opposed to hard and difficult.
So, my point is that all of these other practical guidelines I have given you throughout this series on wisdom are not something to legalistically observe. They are just general guidelines. What is important is that you inquire of the Lord with how you need to do it personally. And this both requires and promotes personal relationship with God and communion with the Holy Spirit - which is our primary purpose and calling. Amen!
So, we have been learning about the wisdom that descends from above over the past couple of months. We have learned that God’s wisdom is the principal thing. This means that it is the top thing, the first thing, and, therefore, the best thing. So, we’ve learned that wisdom is “higher” than even some of those other virtues that we know are so vitally important to our lives. Therefore, wisdom is to be at the top of man’s desires and what we should strive to get more than anything else. Amen!
And we’ve seen several reasons why wisdom should be the most prized virtue that we acquire in our lives:
The first thing we looked at were all the myriad of benefits that wisdom yields in our lives. And, church, there are a lot of them! Then we began to define wisdom and saw various definitions such as that it is being “skilled” or an “expert” in life. In other words, wisdom is knowing how to live rightly according to God’s perspective. Then we began to look at one of wisdom’s primary characteristics, which the Scriptures call the beginning of wisdom - the fear of the Lord. In essence, the fear of the Lord is respecting and reverencing the Lord, which also includes respecting and reverencing His things and His people. So, as we begin to respect the things of God more and more, our wisdom begins to increase more and more.
Then we began looking at some of the practical elements of wisdom: First, we looked at “wisdom for holiness” by looking at the passages in Proverbs that talk about the utter foolishness of sin and how to overcome the “seductresses’” temptations. Then we looked at “wisdom in the Word” by looking at all of the proverbs that talk about the absolute importance of listening to our Heavenly Father’s instructions. Now at the casual observance of these verses, one could simply read them as Solomon talking to his physical children, but we know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Therefore, these are appeals given to us – God’s children – by our Father in heaven.
Then, last week, we talked about the “wisdom of our own words.” We learned that there are so many verses in the Book of wisdom that talk about the importance of our mouth, tongue and words:
We began by looking at Proverbs 18:20-21 which says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
So, since there is both “death” and “life” in the power of our tongues, we looked at some of the specific examples contained in the Book of Proverbs. We saw that some of the ways that our tongue has the power to bring “death” is through lying – which we saw is one of those abominations in the sight of God, gossiping – which Proverbs describes as being a “talebearer,” and through simply talking too much – which ends up resulting in an abundance of sin as Proverbs
So, we saw that the saying that we’ve all heard – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” – is totally false! Words do hurt, and they do cause great damage!
But on the flipside, we saw how there is also “life” in the power of the tongue! We can actually minister life, health, light, etc. to others and to our own selves.
We saw that in Proverbs 18:20-21 that the other saying the world has – “You will eat your words” – is actually true! Yes, we actually are satisfied and filled by the fruit of our lips according to several Scriptures in the Book of Wisdom.
So, we learned that when things get tough and our flesh wants to say, “Oh, it’s just so hard! I can’t do it!” we need to not say what we feel; we need to say what heals! In other words, when things aren’t going well, do not speak how unhappy and dissatisfied you are! Why? Because you will not “eat good” that way! It will only produce death in your soul and will attract more of that discontentment. Rather, what should you say when you are tempted to get down in the “mully-grubs”? Say, “I am an overcomer! Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! My God will satisfy me! He satisfies my mouth with good things! Etc., etc., etc.” In other words, don’t talk about what you can’t do, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have. This will only minister darkness to your heart! Reverse what you feel like saying by saying - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I have the Anointing and I know all things! I have the mind of Christ! In Christ, I have everything I need! I am blessed, I am anointed, I am strong! Amen!” Yes, when you are feeling weak in a particular area, don’t say, “Oh, I am just so weak!” Rather say, “I am strong!” (see Joel 3:10).
Church, our words are indeed powerful! They can build up and they can tear down - both others and our own selves. Therefore, wisdom will love this power that is in the tongue - that is, it will respect it and utilize it the appropriate way. So, let’s appropriate this wisdom pertaining to our words today and become wise in our words. Yes, as James said, our words have the power to start a fire and destroy things around us, but they also have the power to start the good kind of fire too! Let’s use our tongue wisely, church!
So, this week, I want us to move into another practical area of wisdom. Today, I want us to look at “Wisdom in our Bodies.” In other words, I want us to look at what both the Book of Proverbs and the Bible itself has to say about what God’s will is concerning our physical bodies.
So, let’s begin by looking over at Romans chapter 12:
THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Romans 12:1 teaches us the following – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Now when most read this, they automatically apply this presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice to putting the flesh under in regards to holiness and righteousness. But I also believe that one of the ways in which we are called to offer up our bodies unto Him is in the simple, everyday putting under of the flesh and its appetites.
You know, our flesh has a voice and its own cravings, and I believe that we are to let our spirit man run the show, not letting our body get everything it wants. But what we need to be mindful of is that our bodies are living sacrifices, not dead ones. That means it is going to try and get off that altar and will kick and scream if you try to keep it there.
Have you ever noticed this when you have decided to fast? Man, our flesh will throw a fit and throw up a big fuss when the term “fast” is even used. Well, that is because our flesh has a voice and it does not want to be crucified. However, if we want to truly live in the spirit, then we are going to need to die in the flesh. It is that simple.
But many in our circles devalue the importance of our body, thinking that the only thing that is important is the spirit-man. We emphasize the importance of being born again and place all of the importance on who we have become spiritually. But the body is evidently important to God too, or else He would not have made provision for the redemption and glorification of our bodies, right?
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians chapter 6: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
You know, a temple does not do its own thing, does it? It was built simply for the use of the one who built it. Well, our body here is called the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our body is not our own any longer. We were bought at a price - the high price of the precious blood of the Lamb! So, we ought to glorify God in both our spirit and our body because they are both His purchased possession!
In 1 Corinthians 10:23, the Apostle Paul, in reference to eating meat that is sacrificed to idols, made the following statements: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify…” In 1 Corinthians 6:12, he made reference to “not being brought under the power of any.” What this means is that there is nothing that is “unlawful” for us to eat any longer. So, we can have all the bacon & pork chops we want now, praise God! 😊 But is it helpful to our bodies to eat just anything our flesh wants? Of course not. Not everything will build our bodies up. Not everything helps our bodies. Our bodies should not be under the power of having to fulfill cravings or addictions. Therefore, while we are not bound to any dietary laws, we also must consider this: are the things we are putting in our body helping us or hurting us, are they contributing towards building our bodies up or tearing them down? Now I understand that the primary focus in these statements is us helping and edifying others through our actions, but I believe we can apply them to our own physical health as well. We see this in the following verses:
Notice verse 31: He goes on to say, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So here is just a great summarization of the matter, which also answers a lot of other doctrinal questions: Whatever we do – including what we eat and drink – we are to do it all to the glory of God. In other words, everything we do with our body needs to be done to glorify the Lord. And as Warren Wiersbe once was quoted as saying - “If something cannot be done for the glory of God, then you can be sure it is not the will of God.”
You see, the bottom line is - are we glorifying the Lord in our actions and our decisions? This is the real question, and this certainly applies to the decisions we make concerning our bodies. Are we glorifying God in our bodies? So, a good question that we should all ask the Lord is - Lord, how can I better glorify you through this, Your temple? - and then listen to what He might tell you. For some of us, He might say, “Get up a little earlier and worship me for bit.” To others, He might say, “Miss a couple of meals this week.” Still others, He might encourage us to start walking a couple of miles a day. The possibilities are endless, but I believe this what we are all called to do: live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered and Spirit-led life, to where the Holy Ghost is calling the shots with what we do with these temples. (We will get more into this in a moment)
So now, let’s look at some things that He has already told us. In other words, let’s look in the Scriptures and see where He has already given us God’s wisdom regarding our bodies. In doing so, we will learn how He has instructed us to truly glorify God in our temples. Amen?
FROM THE INSIDE TO THE OUTSIDE
I believe that one of the most important aspects of wisdom concerning our physical bodies is that the condition of the outward man is reflected by the condition of the inward man. What I mean by this is that a healthy life internally tends towards a healthy life externally.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible teaches us this. So, let’s look at 3 John 2: It says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
This is a verse that I include on my signature, but what I want you to see is that this verse does not just express my will for you, nor does it just refer to the Apostle John’s will for his original recipient of this letter that we call “Third John”; this passage expresses God’s will for all of our lives!
Let me explain: Some have commented on this verse, saying that the truth contained in it was simply the Apostle John’s desire for Gaius, to whom this short letter was written. Therefore, they say that this verse does not express the will of the Lord for all believers for all time, but this is simply incorrect. For who are we to determine what parts of the Bible are intended only for the original recipients of the letters and what parts are applicable to us? If this were so, how would we know if what was written to the Romans were just promises applicable to the believers in Rome? Or how would we know if what was written to the Ephesians was just meant for the select church in Ephesus? How then would we know what parts of the Holy Scriptures were written to us?
The truth is that all of the Bible was written for our admonition and instruction! All Scripture is given by inspiration of God - being God-breathed so that we can know and understand God’s will for all of our lives. He is no respecter of persons! Therefore, what He moved the Apostle John to say to Gaius is what God wills for all of His children along with Gaius to receive and embrace. So, 3 John 2 is God’s will for all of His children, for all time!
So, what is God’s will for us: Notice that divine “health” is specifically mentioned here. Therefore, this verse alone should dispel the popular Christian doctrine that sometimes God sends sickness into our lives to teach us something. No, God’s will is that we are healthy, not sick. To live in sickness, disease, and infirmity is no more God’s will for our lives than for us to live in sin, transgression, and iniquity! And this is exactly what you see in Jesus’ ministry, which was a perfect reflection of God’s will (see John 14:7&9 and Hebrews 1:3)! Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil! Why did He go about doing good and healing everyone who responded to Him in faith? It was because this was (and always will be) God’s will!
But as great as healing is, I want you to notice that 3 John 2 does not say that God wants us to prosper in all things and be “healed”; it says that God wills that we be in “health!” In other words, this verse tells us that God not only wills that we experience healing, but that we experience divine health. For example, God’s perfect will is for our bodies to be so charged with His resurrection power that when germs or viruses touch our bodies, they die immediately. His perfect plan for our lives is that everything from our eyesight, hearing, and overall health is strong and living well above the norm.
And this not only includes wholeness in our physical bodies but also health in our mind and emotions. The prophet Isaiah said that the chastisement needful to obtain our peace was laid upon Him. The Apostle Paul said that the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can have a “sound mind.” This describes a soul that is whole, not weak and sick. Jesus purchased not only wholeness in our bodies, but also wholeness in our mind, will, and emotions! He wants us sharp and strong in our soul too. Thank you, Jesus!
So, God evidently has a greater vision for our lives than most people do themselves. He wants us to be whole and strong in every area of our bodies as well - which includes being healthy physically, healthy mentally, and healthy emotionally!
Someone then might say, “Trey, if this is truly God’s will for everyone’s life, then why do we see so little of it fulfilled in our lives?” That is a good question; I’m glad you asked: The reason God’s will is not automatically experienced in a person’s life is because we have a part to play in God’s will coming to pass! It is true! Contrary to popular belief, just because something is God’s will doesn’t mean that it automatically will come to pass.
For instance, it is God’s will to save everyone, is it not? Sure, God wills that none perish but all be saved and come into the knowledge of His Beloved Son (see 2 Peter 3:9). But not everyone gets saved, do they? Why? It is because each and every person born on this earth must respond in faith to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, the grace needful to obtain God’s will has already been provided, but in order for us to obtain this grace, we must receive God’s will by faith! This is the only way to salvation! Likewise, the only way to receive every other part of God’s will - which is briefly listed here in 3 John 2 - is also by faith.
And this is exactly what the Apostle John said at the very end of this powerful verse: 3 John 2 ends by saying that God wants you to prosper in all things and be in health “just as your soul prospers.”
Now, first of all, we don’t have any problem believing that God wills for our soul to prosper, right? Sure, we all believe God wants us to grow up spiritually, for our hearts to be clean and hungry for God, and for our minds to be filled with thoughts of good and not of evil. We have no problem believing that do we? Well, if we believe that, we also need to believe that God wills for us to prosper in all things and be in health as well, based on this Scripture. Amen?
Now the two words “just as” are extremely important because they show us how God’s will of health is going to come to pass in our lives: These two words literally mean “according to”, or better yet “in proportion to.” So, what the Holy Spirit was saying was that our health is “in proportion” to our soul prospering. In other words, our health outwardly is in proportion to our health inwardly!
So, I suppose we better find out what it means for our soul to prosper if every other area of our prosperity is tied to that, don’t you? In other words, if our experiencing God’s will for living in divine health is according to our soul thriving and flourishing, then I for one want to discover how my soul can prosper!
Let’s look at a couple of Proverbs that describe this “prosperous soul” and see how this truth from 3 John 2 is reflected in the Book of Wisdom:
Proverbs 14:30 says that “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”
The Hebrew word that is used for “sound” here literally describes “healthy.” So, a “sound heart” would describe a healthy and whole heart within us, correct? Therefore, what the Holy Spirit is telling us here is that a healthy heart within us is what gives life to our physical bodies. In other words, sometimes when our physical bodies are not experiencing the life that they should, it is a result of an unhealthy heart. Of course, this is true naturally, but it is also true spiritually.
We see an example of this in the second half of this proverb when Solomon goes on to say that envy is rottenness to the bones. In other words, when one allows envy in their heart, it yields death and decay in their bones. Now to be envious or jealous is an indication that one’s heart is not whole, that it is discontent and incomplete. This is why things like unforgiveness, bitterness, etc. open us up to illness.
Therefore, we see the absolute importance of having a heart that is whole, complete, satisfied and in good health. This goes a long way in producing life, health and wholeness in our bodies.
In fact, we see that it is the strong and healthy spirit within us that will actually sustain one through and fight off sickness in our bodies, but if we have a “broken spirit”… (Well, you know the rest)
Look over at Proverbs 18:14. In this verse, we are told, The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?
The Good News Translation says, “Your will to live can sustain you when you are sick, but if you lose it, your last hope is gone.” I also like the Contemporary English Version here. It says, “Being cheerful helps when you are sick, but nothing helps when you give up.” In other words, when one quits on the inside, it’s over. But having resolve and being strong on the inside can bring you through. And this positive attitude is a part of having a prosperous soul. Amen?
You see, the condition of our inner man has so much to do with the condition of the outer man. Many of us are familiar with Proverbs 17:22. It says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” What this proverb is saying is that being happy, joyful and light-hearted works good in our bodies like medicine does.
You see, we need to lighten up and not be so stuffy. We need to learn to enjoy life, being happy and joyful in our salvation. Simply laughing will add so many years to our lives. I have heard testimonies of people who had cancer and had been written off as good as dead. Then they got a hold of this principle and were completely healed. In one situation, I heard of a woman who had stage-4 cancer. Then she and her husband got some Three Stooges videos and watched them for several hours a day and she ended up getting completely healed. Now how many of you know that this was not a “spiritual” thing she did? But she did operate according to this natural law that says laughing works like medicine in our bodies. It has been well said that if the devil can’t steal your joy, he can’t steal your goods.
Notice that a “merry heart” is differentiated by a “broken spirit” here, and it is a broken spirit that dries up the bones. Again, we see our physical bodies affected by the condition of the inward man.
Saints, Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. And, as we have seen, rejoicing and having a happy heart goes a long way in experiencing life in our body. This is wisdom for the body!
But do you know what else goes a long way to bringing health to the body and acts as medicine to all of our flesh? The Word of God! Let’s go over to Proverbs chapter 4:
Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
Now, again, the words “My son” should be read as our Heavenly Father giving instructions to His children. So, let’s read this that way - not just as black letters on white pages but as it is in truth, God speaking to us His sons and daughters.
Now exhortations like these to give attention to His Words, incline our ears to His saying, etc., are done solely in love just like we tell our children things like, “Now make sure you brush your teeth, take your vitamins, etc.” Now why do you tell them things like that? Because you understand things they don’t yet - that doing certain things are for their own good and you are trying to help them not get sick, have cavities, etc. Amen? Well, this is why God tells you and I things too. Jesus said that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts (including instruction) to our children, how much more does our Father in heaven know how to give good gifts (including instruction) to His children? Amen! Yes, saints, God is not trying to get something through you; He is trying to get something to you. He loves you so much that He gives you specific instructions like this to make your life better. Thank you, Lord!
So, again, what did He say to us, His children? Verse 22 specifically tells us what His Words and His Sayings will do for us when it says, “For they (They what? They - His Words and His Sayings) are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
But notice that the latter part of verse 22 does not say that God’s Word is “healing” for all our flesh. No, it says that His Words are “health” for all our flesh. Again, while healing is certainly good to experience, it is actually better to live in divine health because if we are not ever having to focus on our own healing and getting ourselves well, we can devote more of our focus and energies on others on the outside who need healing. We need to be so crammed full of the Word that it expels any sickness out of us. God’s Word is preventive medicine, Hallelujah!
Now, of course, this does not mean that we won’t ever need healing or have something try to come against us. But it does mean that we can hear God’s Word to the point where our body will actually repel many of the things that plague this world. But the truth is, so many Christians are trying to live off miracles and supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Again, don’t get me wrong; we certainly need to see signs and wonders following us wherever we go, but these miracles are mainly to be for the world we come in contact with, not for God’s children to constantly be depending on.
You see, why does God manifest these various gifts of the Spirit like gifts of healings and working of miracles and then only a few out of many receive? It’s to get our attention and to get us in His Word for ourselves. We cannot determine when God’s power gifts operate. Gifts of the Spirit like the gift of special faith, gifts of healings and working of miracles are given as the Spirit wills, but God’s Word is always present and available. Therefore, we don’t have to wait for one of these manifestations of the Spirit to get healed; we can give attention to His Words and incline our ears to His sayings anytime we want, as much as we want, and receive God’s healing power in our bodies by faith! Amen!
Now if you look in the margin of your Bible, you will likely see that the word “health” literally describes “medicine.” This word comes from the Hebrew word marpe which is defined as “restoration of health, remedy, cure, medicine.” This word occurs 13 times in the Old Testament, coming from the verb rapha which means to heal, cure, or repair. This is obviously the word where we get God’s name “Jehovah Raphe” from, meaning the Lord who heals. (We will see this in a moment) So, God’s Word is medicine, a remedy and a cure to all of our flesh! Amen! This is why Psalm 107:20 says that He sent His Word and healed us.
We see this principle of God’s Word working like medicine in our bodies in a couple of other places in the Book of Wisdom. Let’s quickly look at them:
Proverbs 15:30 says, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.”
Notice that this proverb says that a “good report” makes the bones healthy. Well, the Gospel is the good report! The Prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:1, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.” Then he goes on to describe what Jesus would accomplish on the Cross! Amen.
So, while I am sure there is truth that any good report can tend towards a healthy life, there is no greater “good report” than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s Word concerning it! Therefore, what part of God’s Word that we hear plays an important factor in healing, because we need to hear the good news of what Jesus did for us on Cross when He Himself bore all of our sicknesses and carried our pains! We need to hear the gospel that by His stripes we are and were healed! We need to hear the Gospel of our Salvation! According to this Scripture, it makes our bones healthy!
Then, in Proverbs 16:24 we are told, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”
As we learned last week, these “pleasant” words describe beautiful, kind, and gracious words. And while this can certainly describe any pleasant words that are spoken, are there any more beautiful, kind and gracious words than the Words that have proceeded from the mouth of God? I think not! So, if our words hold this kind of power – sweetness to our souls and health to our bones – then what do you imagine God’s Words would do for one’s soul and body!?!
And one major point we can see from this truth is that if God’s Words and Sayings will heal you and bring health to your body, then how could it not be God’s will for everyone to be healed? Let me ask it this way, if God told us here how to get health to all our flesh (and He did), then shouldn’t this be clear that God’s will is to heal?
Someone will say, “How does this prove to us that it is God’s will to heal, Trey?” Well, aren’t God’s Words for everybody? Would you say that it is not God’s will for you receive any of His Words? Of course not! What if a preacher told you, “Sure, the Book of Romans is for you. You can follow that Roman’s road, but the road ends there. Ephesians is not for you, Colossians is not for you, etc.” If anyone said that, you would call them a heretic, right? No, church, God tells us how to receive health and healing to all our flesh and it is through receiving His Words. So, if His Words are for everyone, then healing and health must be for everyone, for His Words are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh. Amen! On top of that, why would God tell you how to get something like life and health and it not be His will for you? No, if He tells you how to get it, then it most certainly is available to be “gotten.” Amen?
Now medicine does not always produce an instant cure, right? Sometimes you have to take it for days before it takes effect. Take antibiotics, for instance: They tell you to take them for 10 days and make sure you finish the full prescription even if you start feeling better before that. Well, God’s Word is a lot like that. But here is the great part: It will work every time because it is a spiritual law and His Word is packed full of life and healing remedies like a capsule or pill has contained within it what you need to be healed.
So, if God’s Words and Sayings are medicine to all our flesh, then do you reckon God has a prescribed formula of how to take His medicine? In other words, if His Word is our medicine, then does God’s Word also give us directions on how to take it?
You see, our Great Physician has given us a prescription - which is an instruction written that authorizes us to be provided a medicine or treatment. Well, that would most certainly be God’s Word - It contains the prescription that authorizes you and I to obtain His medicine. Hallelujah! So, we already have the prescription! It’s waiting at the pharmacy, with our name on it! Our health insurance - the stripes of Jesus - have already paid for our prescription. Amen! No, in God’s kingdom, there is no co-pay. There is no deductible that needs to be met. It’s already been paid for 100% by our Great Physician!
So, it’s not God’s fault if we aren’t taking our medicine - He’s already made available what to take and He’s already paid for it! Therefore, there are no more excuses. We don’t have to wait for the gifts of the Spirit to be in operation to receive healing and health. C’mon somebody! All we have to do is follow His directions for taking His medicine, and those directions are listed right here, in Proverbs 4:20-21. Yes, God’s directions for taking His medicine - which is health to all our flesh- is listed here in Proverbs 4:20-21. Amen!
THE PRESCRIPTION FROM OUR PHYSICIAN
So, let’s look at these verses in more detail: He begins instructing us, His children, by saying, “My Son, give attention to my words.”
Now these instructions of “giving attention” describes the giving of one’s undivided attention to something. Another way of saying this is that you are honoring and respecting God’s Words through paying attention and listening attentively.
Next he says, “incline your ear to my sayings.” This phrase describes putting yourself in a better position to hear like tilting your head towards the one speaking. Do you know what this phrase denotes? It denotes that there must be distractions present because if we have to put ourselves in a better position to hear, there must be a lot of commotion going on around us. And this commotion comes from the world:
You know, in our society today, this is a bigger problem than it ever has been before now… We are a generation that is inundated with all kinds of things that vie for our attention - cell phones, tablets, television, radio, music, etc. We are the information age. Well, while many of these things are good and helpful for promoting God’s kingdom, they can also be a vice, because too much information can be a distraction.
So, in the world that we live in, there are many things that will vie for our attention. Therefore, we have to discipline ourselves to shut out the distractions - give attention to God’s Word and put ourselves in a better position to hear what the voice of truth is saying. Yes, we must train ourselves to give full attention to God’s Word and incline ourselves to hear His Sayings.
Then, in verse 21, He says, “Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart…”
So, we must first give attention to His Words and incline our ears to His sayings, but then we must not let them (His Words and His Sayings) depart from our eyes. Let’s look at an example from the Scriptures: In both Joshua 1 & Psalm 1, we are told to meditate on His Word day and night.
Now most would see that as an impossible admonition. How can one meditate on God’s Word all day and all night? Well, again, he is not talking about physically keeping the Bible in front of your eyes 24/7. No, he is talking about constantly seeing it on the inside.
You see, you are meditating on something constantly - whether you know it or not. Your mind is constantly thinking on something. If I were to tell you not to think on anything for a minute, you couldn’t do it because then you would be thinking about not thinking anything. No, all the Lord is saying in these two Scriptures is for us to put our focus - our mind’s eye - on the things of God. This is not letting God’s Word depart from your eyes! He’s talking about the eyes of your heart.
So, Solomon is not talking about not letting God’s Words and Sayings depart from our physical eyes. That would be an impossible admonition. We have daily responsibilities and activities that would keep us from being able to keep our nose in this book 24/7. But the truth is that you can keep God’s Words and Sayings ever before the eyes of your heart. And you do this by keeping the things of God as your constant spiritual focus.
But, again, let me remind you of the order in which the Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to write this: First, He said “give attention to My words.” Second, He said, “incline your ears to My sayings.” And, third, He said, “Do not let them depart from your eyes.” So, the first admonition was to pay attention - which would involve both the ears and the eyes - for if you are not both inclining your ear to listen and focusing on someone with your eyes, you are not really giving them your full attention. That’s just the way it is.
I know we like to think we are good multitaskers but we will never fully assimilate God’s Words if we are not fully attentive, fully inclined and fully looking at His Words.
The order here is so important to understand because it leads into Solomon giving us the last and final direction for how to take God’s medicine where he says, “Keep them in the midst of your heart.”
Now someone might ask, “Why is it important to understand the order in verses 20-21?” It is important for us to recognize the order God gives us in these directions because, in order to get God’s Words in the midst of our heart where it can do its work, we must first receive God’s Word in through our ear gate and through our eye gate. This is how you take God’s medicine - through the ears and the eyes - because this is the mouth to our heart which is where His medicine can truly take effect. Amen!
But in order for God’s Words and His Sayings to get in the midst of your heart, you must follow the directions preceding. This is how you get the medicine into the midst (or, middle) of your heart - that is, the central place of priority and importance in our lives. This is why “the midst of your heart” is so important. Just like with some medicines, in order for them to take effect, the medicine must go directly into the blood stream through the heart. Why is this so important? It is because the heart is where the blood flows from and throughout the whole body.
So, these are the directions for taking God’s medicine so that it can take full effect in our body: We, first, need to give our full attention to His Words - that is, using both our ears and our eyes. Secondly, we need to incline our ears to His Words - that is, putting ourselves in the best position to hear. Thirdly, we need to keep God’s Word ever before our eyes by meditating on them day and night. And, last but not least, by following these first three directions - His Words will enter into the midst of our heart. Then it is our job to keep them there. And we do this through giving even the more earnest heed to the things we have heard. Amen!
If you follow these four directions that are on God’s medicine bottle, it will be impossible for any sickness, weakness, disease, etc. to remain in your body - because this is some potent medicine! It will work for everyone, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done. Amen! If you, following these specific directions, will take enough of God’s Word for long enough, you will be healed! Amen and amen!
And this is why Solomon went on to say in verse 23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” In other words, “above all, keeping” (lit. “with all diligence”), we need to keep our heart! Why? Because out of it spring the issues of life. In other words, just like the heart is the well spring of blood for the whole body and the blood is the life of the body, likewise the spiritual heart pumps the life to the rest our spiritual body. Amen! Therefore, out of the heart spring the issues of life!
NOURISHED IN THE WORDS OF FAITH
So, evidently learning to guard our hearts is very important. So, how do we do this? The answer is simple: we guard our spiritual hearts, the same way we guard our physical hearts:
We see this specifically referred to in 1 Timothy 4:6-8 which teaches us, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
In these verses, Paul shows us the two keys to developing a strong spirit - nourishment and exercise. These are the two keys, as well, to developing a strong physical body. So, let’s talk about the first key mentioned - nourishment.
An important truth that we need to understand is that your inner man needs nourishment just as your outer man needs nourishment. In other words, your spirit has an appetite and needs to be fed constantly just like your body does. The reason this is so important to understand is because, just as in the natural, if you don’t eat every day, you will get weaker. This is what Paul actually implied when he used the word “nourished” here in 1 Timothy 4:6: The New American Standard more correctly translates the word “nourished” as “constantly nourished.” You see, we have to be constantly nourished spiritually just as we have to be constantly nourished physically. In other words, our spirits must be fed healthy spiritual food everyday so that we can be spiritually nourished.
So, the question now is: What is healthy spiritual food?
Paul specifically said in this passage of Scripture that we are to be “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.” You see, the Word of God is our healthy spiritual food! Let me put it this way… The Word of God is to our spirit what meat, milk, potatoes, and green beans are to our physical bodies. The Word of God is the only real “soul food.”
Let me give you a few Scriptures that further verify this:
Through these verses we can see how the Word of God is likened to “food” but notice again what Paul specifically told Timothy will “nourish” us in the Word of God: It is constantly indulging our spirits “in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.”
Let’s look at what Paul mentioned first: “the words of faith.” This would be better translated “the words of the faith” because there is a definite article in front of the word “faith” in the original text. “What’s the difference?” someone might ask. Well, while “faith” by itself would be referring to the subject of “faith” alone, “the faith” refers to the Christian faith altogether. And “the faith” can be summed up best as “the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of the kingdom of God.” So what Paul was basically describing was being constantly nourished in the New Testament teachings.
The second thing that Paul said would nourish us is, “the good doctrine.” The word “good” means “what is right and correct” and the word “doctrine” simply means “teaching.” So “good doctrine” literally means “correct and right teaching.”
So according to Paul, there are two ways to get nourished through the Word of God:
1. through the written Word of God (primarily the New Testament)
2. through teaching of the Word of God that is good and right.
I want to talk a little further about these words - “good doctrine.” You see, we can hear teaching of the Word of God and not necessarily be nourished. The reasons can be similar to the reasons we aren’t nourished in the natural…
Like for instance, one reason can be how it is prepared. That is how preachers put together their messages. If it is not prepared well it won’t taste too good. Some preachers need to learn how to cook! Another example could be what it is served with. If a preacher always puts a little condemnation in with the Word of God then it won’t be too tasty.
Then, on the other hand, some preachers only serve up desserts. 2 Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.” The word for “sound” is the same Greek word that is translated “health” in 3 John 2. These believers that Paul describes in 2 Timothy 4:3 are like little kids who only want to eat the “sweets.” They only want to hear the preachers that will give them what they want to hear and what makes their flesh comfortable. I call these kinds of sermons “cotton candy sermons.” That’s because they seem great, they are colorful, and they will make people swing from the chandeliers from a temporary “sugar high,” but there is no substance or nourishment in them.
I have heard it said that it would be great if teaching tapes, Christian books, and even preachers themselves would have nutrition labels attached to them. Just think about it: What if there were these labels that said things like, “10 grams of faith, 60% hype, 2 grams of filler, 100% love, 2,000 milligrams of grace, etc.”? 😊 Although this is not possible, there is one thing you can be assured of… The Word of God in itself has no added preservatives and no artificial additives. That’s why “the words of the faith” was mentioned first because the first and foremost way we are to be nourished is straight from the Word of God itself. You see, while we all need to listen to good doctrine (i.e. correct teaching), and God gave the Body of Christ these teachers for the purpose of nourishing us, they are not to be a substitute for our personal time in “the words of the faith.” We are not supposed to completely live off “vitamin supplements” and I can assure you all teaching tapes, Christian books, and preachers have at least a little bit of preservatives and artificial additives contained in them. The key is found in the word “balance”- add some good teaching together with your personal study time in God’s Word.
So, remember, every day - try and make time to nourish your spirit through the Word of God. Take some time to get quiet, pull out your Bible and feed on some “Matthew” and then have “Philippians” for dessert. This is how we become spiritually nourished. His Words are indeed medicine to all of our flesh!
EXERCISING OURSELF TOWARD GODLINESS
Then in this passage of Scripture, Paul doesn’t just refer to nourishing ourselves with God’s Word; He then refers to the importance of exercise in the following verses:
Notice again, verses 7-8: “But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
First of all, notice that in verse 8, he makes a comparison between exercising physically and exercising spiritually. Now I want to make a quick point about what Paul did not say here: He did not say that physical exercise is non-important and profits nothing. The point he was making was that, in comparison to the exercise and condition of our inner-man, the exercise and condition of our outer-man profits little. In other words, our spiritual well-being is by far more important than our physical well-being.
So how do we exercise ourselves towards godliness? The same way we exercise ourselves physically! You see, our spirit is complete with nothing missing and nothing broken. It is born (again) with all that it will ever need like a baby is born with every bone, muscle, and organ that it will ever need, but there is a growth and development that needs to take place. And this growth and development is accomplished, number one, through grace. You see, we do not know why the body grows and changes like it does. This is a product of the grace of God working in us. But in order for the body to reach its full potential, exercise must accompany that grace.
Early in my Christian life I was on a fast and the Lord asked me a question: He asked me, “Do you want to know what the muscles of your spirit are?” Of course, I said “yes.” Then He told me that our spiritual muscles are the fruit of the Spirit. You see, our fruit is the indication of how strong and in-shape we are spiritually. And after He gave me the answer, He gave me the Scripture “you will know them by their fruit.” You see, just as we can recognize people by their physical shape, we can recognize the godliness of people by their spiritual fruit.
So how do we exercise these spiritual muscles that we have? The answer is - the same way we exercise the physical muscles we have - through using them! Hebrews 5:14 verifies this by saying, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age (i.e. grown up), that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Notice that it is by doing what we hear that we are exercising ourselves.
Now we know that we can exercise with no weights at all, but the best way to develop our physical muscles is through weight training. It is no different in our spiritual exercise. But what are the spiritual weights? They are the adverse circumstances that come into our lives. Let me explain… When we have trials and tribulations come into our lives, aren’t those the hardest times to walk in peace, love, patience, and faith? Of course, they are! It is easy to love people when there are no enemies coming against you. It is easy to have peace when there are no waves of life crashing against your boat. It is easy to have faith in God when you are not walking through a trial of your faith. You see, it is easy to walk in the fruit of the Spirit when your fruit is not being squeezed, but squeezing is the real test to find out what your fruit is made of. It has been well said that you will find out what your fruit is made of when it gets squeezed.
But, you see, we should actually view these weights (i.e. trials and tribulations) as opportunities and not just as obstacles. The reason is because they are opportunities to exercise our spiritual muscles. As a matter of fact, the word “tribulation” that is used oftentimes in the Bible literally describes a heavy, tight, and pressure situation. You see, these “tribulations” are our spiritual weights! When these circumstances come up that tempt us to become unloving, impatient, or not so joyful, this is when we should make the most of the opportunity and resist those temptations - thus exercising ourselves to develop the love, patience, and joy on the inside of us. I guarantee you that, just as it is with natural exercise, when you start off “lifting those spiritual weights” it will be hard at the beginning, but if you keep at it those spiritual muscles will begin to develop and it will become easier and easier as you resist those temptations. So, in short, use those weights the enemy deals you and don’t become bitter, become better! Exercise yourself!
But I believe that the Book of Proverbs gives us some good practical wisdom on how we “exercise” in the spirit:
Proverbs 3:7-8 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”
Notice the phrase “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” I think sometimes we err in this respect regarding our physical health. So many “lean” to this diet and that exercise plan and totally rely on their own understanding. But what does wisdom say concerning this? Do not lean to your own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all your heart. This certainly pertains to our health - for our health ultimately comes from the Lord. You can tell what you have more trust in by how much time you spend either in the Word and prayer or in researching and pursuing healthy living. Now it’s okay to do the various diets that are out there and to do various exercise routines, just be Spirit-led. Make Him your “personal trainer.” If He tells you put down certain foods, then by all means, do it! If He leads you to exercise a little every day, then follow His guidance. This is how one puts their trust for their own physical health in the Lord.
But then notice that these verses go on to describe the importance of “fear(ing) the Lord and depart(ing) from evil” in regard to us having health in our flesh and strength to our bones. Now as we’ve seen, the fear of the Lord is simply us respecting and reverencing Him, His people and His things, which results in us departing from evil. Again, if we honor the Lord, we will not yield to the things that He says are wrong. It is that simple.
And the fruit of this healthy, reverential fear of the Lord is what? Proverbs 10:27 says it this way - “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.” Well, in order for us to have our days prolonged as opposed to shortened, we are going to have to walk in some semblance of health and healing, amen?
So what I see here is this: As we are both being nourished by God’s Word and are taking it like medicine, then it is imperative that we take the truth we are learning and apply it to our lives out of respect for the Lord. So, it is like exercise! As we do what is right in God’s sight even when we do not feel like it, it is “fearing” the Lord. Our flesh might not want to do it, but hey, does our flesh like to exercise either? I think not!
Well, one of the other ways in which we “exercise” the Word that we are feeding on is by speaking it! And make no mistake about it - this is one of the primary ways that we walk in the health God has for us to walk in. Again, Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” In the original language, the latter half of this proverb simply says that the tongue of the wise is or brings health. So, as we learn to speak what God says, declaring out of our mouth God’s medicine, it will both promote and bring healing in our bodies! Amen!
This is why Proverbs 13:17 says, “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful ambassador brings health.”
We are called “ambassadors” for Christ, aren’t we? So, a faithful ambassador for Him will do what? He or she will bring health! And an ambassador does this through his or her words, amen?
So, what we can see is that God certainly wants us to live long and healthy lives. He has sent His Word to both serve as nourishment for our souls and medicine to our flesh! So, just as it is important that we eat good, healthy food in the natural, it is also important for us to eat good, healthy food in the spiritual as well.
But, as it is in the natural, there is more to living a healthy and whole life than just eating right. We must also exercise. Yes, we need to cooperate with these natural laws by doing certain cardiovascular and physical exercises, but there are ways in which we are to exercise ourselves toward godliness - that is, by truly “fearing the Lord” which is actually doing the things that He says in His Word. We also exercise the Word by speaking it. Amen.
I am a firm believer that if we cooperate with both the natural laws of physically eating right and exercising as we are led by the Spirit of God, and also eat right and exercise in these spiritual ways, then we will walk in the physical health that God says is ours and accomplish glorifying God in our temples in another way. This is wisdom for our bodies. Amen.
Well, we have been learning about the wisdom of God over the past several weeks and we have found out that this wisdom that descends from above is the principal thing. That means it is the “top, first and best” thing. Yes, even above some of those other virtues that we know are so vitally important to our lives. So, evidently, wisdom should be at the top of man’s desires.
And we’ve seen two reasons why wisdom should be the most prized virtue that we acquire in our lives: because, number one, the benefits that she yields in our lives, and, number two, because she teaches us how to live rightly. So, we’ve both defined wisdom and talked about her proceeds.
We then spent the next couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom – which is things that pertain to the spiritual, eternal realm. So, we talked about how the fear of the Lord is how wisdom begins in our lives and how this reverence and respect for the things of God is the very heart of wisdom. We talked about the utter foolishness of sin and how to overcome this seductresses’ temptations in order to walk in the wisdom of holiness. Both of these spiritual elements of wisdom look ahead into eternity and beyond the natural, carnal elements of this world. Yes, they live for what is not seen and for “spiritual investments” as opposed to a life of “spiritual debt.”
Then, last week, we talked about the important role that the Word of God plays in our lives. I made the statement that there is no wise person who is not a “Word person,” and we saw how this is obviously true by the myriad of instructions given to us in the Book of Proverbs to heed our Father’s instructions.
Yes, we went through all of these verses and learned how listening to the words of our parents is, naturally speaking, the first opportunity we should have to gain wisdom in our lives. But if we either did not have parents who poured wisdom into our lives or ignored the wise counsel they gave us, we can still become wise today by heeding the Words of our Heavenly Father.
That’s right- we need to take all these passages in Proverbs that begin with “My son,” and not read them as just Solomon’s words to his children. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, we need to read these passages of Scripture as they are in truth, God speaking to you, His child, pleading with you to listen to Him.
But oh, how so many of God’s children fail to do this. They forget the Word of God and move on to the deeper, “spiritual” things. Yes, they turn away from His Word and put their attention on natural, carnal things that appeal to the senses. Saints, this is foolish! God’s Word should not be disesteemed or disrespected. We should place the utmost value on the Holy Scriptures - knowing that they are what are able to make us wise and to fully equip us for whatever God has called us to walk into.
But we did learn that, like the Book of Proverbs has much to say about correction, this is one very important attitude that we must hear God with - a spirit of meekness. But the truth is that many Christians are foolish in this respect in that they do not let God’s Word get in the way of what they believe. They only use the Word to read what they believe instead of believing what they read. Church, this should not be so! We need to be willing to be corrected, and if God’s Word says something that rubs us cross-wise, we receive it as it is in truth, the Word of our Wise Father.
Now since this week we are celebrating Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to thank our Heavenly Father for being the “best daddy” one could ever have and for giving us all this opportunity to acquire His wisdom through His wonderful Words. Amen?
So, since we covered “Wisdom in the Word” last week, it seems good to me and the Holy Spirit to look this week at the “Wisdom in our Words.” Amen?
THE POWER OF THE TONGUE
As you study the Book of Proverbs, you will find that there is a lot in this book of wisdom on our mouths, the tongue and the power of words. Yes, Proverbs has a lot to say about the words of the wise versus the words of the foolish, the words of the righteous versus the words of the wicked, etc. In fact, throughout the Bible, we have Scripture after Scripture that teaches us the importance and power of our tongue. So, that is why we are going to camp on the subject of our words - because evidently our mouth and tongue have much to do with walking in the wisdom of God. Amen?
So, let’s begin in Proverbs 18:20-21 because it is likely the most popular passage in Proverbs on the power of our tongue: Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
First of all, notice that this verse specifically says that those who love it will eat of its fruit. Love what? Well, this could refer to the power that is in the tongue or the life that our tongue has the power to produce. Either way, embracing this truth that our words are powerful is an important part of seeing the fruit of it.
You see, some who have gotten a revelation on the power of words have gotten what I call “spiritually superstitious” regarding them. But it is not just the frivolous words that come up from time to time that hold the power; it is the words that we really mean and that come out of our hearts (i.e. love) that hold the power of life and death. It is those words that we “love” that we will eat the fruit of.
But the truth is, our tongues hold more power than most realize - the power to produce both life and death. No, not just life and not just death; our tongues hold the power to accomplish both.
I had the Lord correct me one time on this because when I first got the revelation of the power of our words, I only gravitated to the negative. It set in me a holy fear of not saying anything that I did not want to see in my life. I would avoid saying anything about how I felt in my body, what I was experiencing negatively in my life, etc. I knew that I did not want to say what I didn’t want to see. And while there is certainly truth to this, there was something I had not put into practice yet:
You see, although I knew that there was death in the power of the tongue, I had not put as much importance on the fact that there is also life in the power of the tongue. Therefore, I needed to adopt the principal of calling things that be not as though they were instead of just not calling things that be as though they were not. Both are truths that we need to learn, church - because words can be both extremely destructive and extremely constructive.
So, let’s begin to go through some proverbs and see the power that our tongue has. And since Proverbs 18:21 begins with the death that the tongue has the power to yield, I want us to begin by looking at it first (Not to mention, there is far more on the death our words can produce in this Book than there is on the life part).
THE ABOMINATION OF THE MOUTH
Let’s begin in Proverbs chapter 6: Proverbs 6:16-19 - These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
Now this is a very sobering passage of Scripture in that it shows us seven things that the Lord said are “abominable” to Him. Now that is a strong word, church. These are not just things that He “dislikes” or are “displeasing” to Him. These are things that He “abhors.”
You see, when we think of things that would be “abominations” to God, we would think of “wicked” things such as idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, etc. But here in this passage, we see that three out of the four abominations that are mentioned revolve around things we say. For example, the very last “abomination” listed is sowing discord among the brethren. In other words, this describes the person who runs around the church speaking things that promote disunity (i.e. gossiping, slandering, etc.). But notice that Solomon chose to put lying in this list twice! Now that is something we should take heed of, saints! Lying is evidently big on God’s naughty list! In fact, Solomon reiterates this in Proverbs 12:22 by saying, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Now we don’t talk too much about this in church because we assume everyone knows this. But why did the Apostle Paul have to write to the Church of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:25 to put away lying? It is because that even in a Spirit-filled, tongue-talking church, there will still be folks who are going around lying. But it should not be this way! Lying should be one of those things that we absolutely do not tolerate! Yes, we should have zero tolerance for lying, first in ourselves - meaning, we do not ever tolerate telling a lie ourselves. Why? Because we see how God evidently feels about it! It is an abomination to Him!
And do you know why He is so serious about lying? It is because He AM the Truth! He cannot lie! All of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen!” On the contrary, Satan is called the father of all lies. Therefore, for us to lie is to imitate, not our Heavenly Father, but the devil himself. It is a serious thing, saints!
Here are some other references to “lying” in the Book of Proverbs:
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
Now “lying” is not always done overtly or maliciously. Sometimes we fail to speak the truth by not being a person of our word. For example, didn’t Jesus warn us to simply let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (see Matthew 5:37)? This means that if you say you are going to do something, bless God, you are going to do it - even if it turns out to be inconvenient, even if a better opportunity comes along, etc. This is called “swearing to our own hurt” (see Psalm 15:4) - meaning that we do what we say we are going to do even if it hurts to do so.
For example, if I say, “I’ll be there at eight in the morning,” I shouldn’t show up at 8:30, right? How many of you are thankful that God is always on time, that He’s never late? What if you needed Him there to help at a certain time and He said, “Oh, I’ll be there by then” but what He meant was He wasn’t going to leave until then. Simply stated - be faithful! And part of being a faithful person is being a person of your word.
But do you know why most people fall short at doing what they say they are going to do? It is because of a lack of wisdom. That’s right - they commit to doing things without ever thinking about what they are committing to, whether or not they can actually do what they are saying they will do. For example, they say they will help with such and such, but they never thought that they had already committed to do something else, and it was going to really push them to do both. That’s where wisdom comes in - because we should think about things before we say, “Yes, we will do it.” And for some of us, we should simply know ourselves, knowing what our own tendencies are and making provision for that. Like for instance, if we tend to be late to things, start getting ready earlier than your tendency. This is wisdom.
Proverbs 6:2 says, that we “are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.” This is why it is so important that we think before making commitments, saying what we are going to do. It is because if we live according to this standard of truth, we are obligating ourselves to keep our word.
Now we don’t need to become legalistic about these things and start being the Holy Ghost police every time someone doesn’t do what they say they are going to do. We all have fallen short of this. All I believe the Lord wants us to be cognizant of is that we need to be more aware of what we are committing to and then doing all that we should to be faithful to our words. Amen?
THE WICKED MOUTH
Well, the perverse, wicked and foolish mouth goes well beyond lying though. There are many other ways in which our tongue can be “wicked.” So, let’s look at some of them:
Proverbs 10:19 says, In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
What these verses are saying is that the one who is always talking, is always sinning. But what does wisdom do? It restrains its lips. In other words, a wise person is “slow to speak” (Seems like that’s in the Bible somewhere😊).
You know, when people run their mouth all the time they are usually either:
Therefore, we can see how Proverbs 10:19 is true - because if this is what dominates the conversations of those who are extremely talkative, then sin is certainly “not lacking.”
We will get more into the pride aspect of this in future weeks but let me camp on this subject of gossip for a moment: You know the Bible has a lot of negative things about the “talebearer.” In fact, several of them are listed in Proverbs. Let’s look at a couple of them:
Proverbs 11:13 - A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.
Wouldn’t we all want to be considered someone with a “faithful spirit?” Well, this Scripture tells us that one with a faithful spirit is one who “conceals a matter.” In other words, they are not one who is quick to reveal secrets that people confided in them. If we want to be considered a faithful person, it begins with our tongue.
Just look at this from the opposite point of view: if you told someone that you were struggling in a particular area and confided that potentially embarrassing information to them, and then they went and told someone else, would you consider that “friend,” a faithful friend? Even if they told the other person under the guise of “prayer” (i.e. “Please pray for so and so, they are struggling with…”)? No, that would still be considered a betrayal to most of us.
Proverbs 18:6-8 says, A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. (i.e. the mouth of a fool loves to enter into strife, and when he opens his mouth, he calls out for punishment) A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Also, Proverbs 26:22)
Let’s look at a couple of other versions of Proverbs 18:8:
Have you ever noticed how our flesh just loves to both be the bearer of gossip, and also a hearer of it? It is, like this verse says, like the tastiest of foods - like your favorite sweet. But the truth is - gossip is even more deadly than your favorite dessert. It has killed more people than sugar!
But the fact is - in many words, sin is likely present. Let’s look at another verse:
Proverbs 14:33 echoes this truth. It says, Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known. In other words, the fool’s heart will always be revealed. By what? By what comes out of his or her mouth. In other words, a characteristic of an unwise person is they verbally divulge everything that is in their heart. Evidently, wisdom doesn’t say everything that it knows and operates in both humility and self-control.
Proverbs 17:27-28 says, He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. A “calm spirit” is a person who keeps their cool. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. In other words, if we didn’t always run our mouth, people wouldn’t know how ignorant we are! How many of you have ever been in a group and someone just had to contribute, and it made them look really stupid? If they would just have shut their mouth, no one would have known how ignorant they really were. Amen?
But the fact is, we shouldn’t just spare our words, hold our peace, and shut our lips in order to not air our foolishness; we should be slow to speak and also quick to hear. In other words, this is a great way to become wiser than we are: just be a listener. I mean, you already know what you know, right? So, if you just listen to others, you might learn something. Amen?
As you can see, there is a lot in the Book of Wisdom about the tongue of the foolish & wicked versus the mouth of the wise. Here are some more verses that we won’t take time to cover:
WORDS OF DEATH VERSUS WORDS OF LIFE
So, yes, there is a lot in Proverbs of foolishness as it pertains to words, and we need to understand that these “wicked words” are extremely harmful. Many do not understand this; they do not see how words can do so much damage. We say things like, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is so untrue, church! The truth is - words can hurt!
Proverbs 12:18 says, There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword… In other places, words are described as swords, arrows, snake bites, fire (see Psalm 57:4, 64:3, 120:2-4, 140:3; Proverbs 16:27, 25:18, 26:21 & James 3:2-12). So, yes, words can be used as weapons!
But as Proverbs 12:18 goes on to say, words are not just instruments of death, they are also instruments of life. Notice what the 2nd half of this Proverb says, …but the tongue of the wise promotes health.
So, just as our words can be weapons and be used to hurt people and things, our words can also be agents of healing and health! Amen! We are God’s healing technicians! We are not called to go around talking “sickness”- how “sick” the church is, how “unhealthy” that person is, or even how we ourselves are not “whole.” We are to promote health and healing, talking about what the church excels in, what God has created that other person to be, and what God’s Word says about us. Don’t “preach” what you don’t want to see; major on “preaching” what you do want to see.
Let’s look at some other Proverbs that talk about the important effects of our words:
Here are some more Proverbs that talk about the life and death that our tongue has the power to produce:
EATING YOUR WORDS
Finally, I want to draw our attention back to the last half of Proverbs 18:21, which says, “and those who love it shall eat the fruit of it.”
What fruit do you want in your life? What do you desire to partake of? Well, according to Proverbs 18:21, we see that we will eat the fruit of the words that we speak. “Eating our words” is a much truer statement than we realized, huh?
Well, we have three verses in Proverbs that speak along these same lines. Let’s look at one of them that is coincidently located one verse before Proverbs 18:21. Quickly, the other two say:
Notice now that Proverbs 18:20 says, A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
So, this is three witnesses that establish us in the importance of only speaking of the fruit we desire to partake of. But what is the temptation that we all have? It is to speak the negative - how we currently feel, what we are now seeing, the fears, the death, etc., etc., etc.
For example, when things get tough, our flesh likes to say, “Oh, it’s just so hard! I can’t do it!” No, when things are at their worst, don’t say what you feel; say what heals! In other words, when things aren’t going well, do not speak how unhappy and dissatisfied you are! Why? Because you will not “eat good” that way! It will only produce death in your soul and will attract more of that discontentment. Rather, what should you say when you are tempted to get down in the “mully-grubs”? Say, “I am an overcomer! Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! My God will satisfy me! He satisfies my mouth with good things! Etc., etc., etc.” In other words, don’t talk about what you can’t do, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have. This will only minister darkness to your heart! Reverse what you feel like saying by saying - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I have the Anointing and I know all things! I have the mind of Christ! In Christ, I have everything I need! I am blessed, I am anointed, I am strong! Amen!” You see, the Bible doesn’t say, “Let the weak say, ‘Oh, I’m just so weak!’” No, it says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong!’” (see Joel 3:10)
THE KEY TO STAYING FULL
But I want you to notice that in Proverbs 18:20, it specifically refers to our stomach being filled by our words. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that we physically are eating what we are saying. What it is saying, however, is that our words are one of the vital keys to experiencing God’s fullness in your belly where the Holy Spirit resides - like being fulfilled and even filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 4: Ephesians 4:29-31 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Now the word “corrupt” in verse 29 describes words that are “rotten, decayed, bad, worthless, unfit for use, and of poor quality”- kind of like fruit that is rotten. It was actually used that way in Matthew 7:17-18, 12:33, & Luke 6:43. In Luke 6:43 Jesus used this Greek word sapros to describe the “bad” tree that produces “bad” fruit. But then He goes on to describe the fruit as being our words! He says at the end of verse 45, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So we can learn from this passage of Scripture that “corrupt words” come out of the abundance of “corrupt hearts.”
But then Paul says, “but” which denotes, “Now, don’t just quit the corrupt talk, but start to speak healthy words because death is not the only power in the tongue; life is in it as well!” (Proverbs 18:21). Then he goes on to describe words that are both “good” and which produce “edification.” The word “edification” literally means “building up” or “developing.”
But Paul said that these edifying words are “for necessary edification.” The word “necessary” denotes “in respect to the need.” This means that our good and edifying words should be in conjunction to the need that is present. Sometimes we can speak words with the purpose of benefiting the person but they are spoken at the wrong time. When that happens we can be doing more harm than good. The key is being led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and just using our head by thinking before we speak. Colossians 4:6 says that our words should be “seasoned with salt.” I believe this means that our words should be flavored in a way that would be most appealing to the taste of the hearers. For example, if I am ministering to a teenager it would be “necessary” for me to season my words with what they could relate to in order to reach them more affectively.
Then he goes on to say, “that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Our words are to impart grace to the hearers! Grace means unmerited favor or free blessings. Sometimes people try and edify another individual and they do it without grace. In other words, they are very insensitive and condemning. Our words should not be like that. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace…” Our words should always be with an attitude of grace - that is, that they are considerate, sympathetic, and life-giving. Our words should be free, life-giving words.
We must understand that words are what our souls feed on. So when we let rotten and decaying words come out of our mouth in the presence of others we are feeding them bad food, but when we let wholesome and nutritious words come out of our mouth we are feeding them good and healthy food that will nourish and build them up. If the good words are words that build up and impart grace, then the corrupt words must be words that tear down and impart death.
Then, notice in verse 32, that he continues with the subject of corrupt words by telling us to put away all these wrong attitudes (that are most often manifested in our mouths) like “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking.” So, is it a coincidence that “grieving the Holy Spirit” is sandwiched in between verses 29&31 - verses that speak of heart attitudes that are manifested in our words? I think not!
Church, the words we speak greatly determine how much of the Holy Spirit we are experientially full of. Yes, He is grieved and quenched when we speak words that are unbecoming. Therefore, our stomachs are filled by the produce of our lips! Someone will say, “Oh, I want more of you Holy Spirit! Fill me up!” And He says, “Fix that leak beneath your nose!” Amen!
Church, our words are indeed powerful! They can build up and they can tear down - both others and our own selves. Therefore, wisdom will love this power that is in the tongue - that is, it will respect it and utilize it the appropriate way.
So, let’s appropriate this wisdom pertaining to our words today and become wise in our words. Yes, as James said, our words have the power to start a fire and destroy things around us, but they also have the power to start the good kind of fire too! Let’s use our tongue wisely, church!
So, our series on wisdom began several weeks ago, and we have learned many important truths:
We began by looking at what the benefits of wisdom are, and we saw that with wisdom comes life, honor, riches, favor, promotion, long life, etc. Therefore, we saw that if all of these blessings come with wisdom then we all must still have a need for more wisdom in our lives.
Then, we began defining wisdom by both looking at what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. We saw that wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. In other words, it is the ability to use knowledge and understanding in order to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. So, we learned that a good definition of wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life.
So, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom – that it is about living rightly, based on God’s perspective and His standards. It is love! It is faith! It is hope! Wisdom looks at things from His perspective and acts accordingly.
Therefore, we looked at the heart of wisdom, which is that wisdom always looks ahead. It lives for its “retirement” in eternity and does not spend all of its time, energy and resources on today. This is called living for spiritual and eternal “investments” as opposed to living in spiritual, eternal “debt.”
Now we are going to get into many of the different practical things of this life, but it would be irresponsible of me to not spend some time on the spiritual, eternal things - for this is the epitome of wisdom. So, last week, we looked at something that you will find threaded throughout the Book of Wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) – the subject of foolishness.
You know, if you have become more familiar with the Book of Proverbs recently, you will see that the Holy Spirit likes to differentiate between the wise person and the fool. In other words, a fool is the exact opposite of a wise person according to the Scriptures.
And without going into a lot of detail of how a fool is described in the Bible, if there was one way to summarize foolishness according to Solomon is would be that a fool SINS. That’s right! The most foolish thing one could do according to the Bible is SIN! My friends, sin is stupid! Yes, sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and pay you what you definitely don’t want to be paid. You will live bankrupt of the life of God!
So, this is what we looked at last week, and we delved into several Scriptures in the Book of Proverbs that describe the “harlot” or the “seductress.” But we saw that even though the specific reference to sexual sin is used, the Holy Spirit was giving us the ways that sin in general tempts everyone.
We looked at James chapter one and saw how the same analogy is used in the New Testament to describe the process of temptation. We learned from these verses that temptation does not occur because “the devil made me do it.” No, temptation only occurs as we have a “desire” for that wrong thing. In other words, if we did not have the desire within us, then there would be no chance for us being tempted. But we also learned that just because we are tempted, does not mean that we have sinned. No, we only sin when the desire conceives in our heart.
So, we learned how to use spiritual “birth control” and take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. But we also learned that the best form of birth control is “abstinence”- that is, steering clear of what would cause one to even have the chance of conceiving sin. We looked at several examples of this in the Scriptures: namely, David & Bathsheba and righteous Lot. We saw how not being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not playing around the mud puddle is what will keep us in the place of holiness.
So, this week, I want us to move on into a subject regarding wisdom that is very near and dear to my heart - for we all have the tendency to “magnify our ministry.”
OUR FIRST OPPORTUNITY FOR WISDOM
I want you to first notice that after Solomon begins his Book of Proverbs by explaining the book’s intent (see verses 1-6), he says in verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
So, do you see the one of the primary characteristics of a foolish person is that they “despise wisdom and instruction.” In others words, they are foolish and remain foolish because they do not esteem wisdom nor do they appreciate instruction.
Notice we see back in verse 5 that a wise person hears, increases learning and attains wise counsel, but a fool despises this wisdom and instruction. Being a teacher, I’ve seen this far too often. While they will not necessarily say it, so many people feel like they don’t need to be taught and that it’s time to move on from sound biblical teaching. Church, that is foolishness. No, wisdom is always a student. Never does true, unadulterated wisdom stop learning. The moment it does, it has begun its journey towards being a fool. That is the simple truth!
And do you know when this despising of wisdom and instruction usually starts? Just look down at the next two verses and you will get your answer:
Proverbs 1:8-9 say, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck.”
I want you to notice that one of the first things that Solomon exhorts us with in Proverbs is for the children to listen to their parents. And why do you suppose that this is at the beginning of the Book of Wisdom? It is because this is generally the first opportunity that we have to acquire wisdom - from our parents at a young age. Now I know that some of our experiences might be different, but the bottom line is that this should be every child’s first opportunity to get wisdom - from parents who train their children well, both loving and disciplining them.
But what do most sons and daughter who were exposed to parents who desired to instruct their children do? They reject it! They think, “Aw, pops don’t know what he’s talking about!”- and they go ahead and do what they want.
How many of us did this with our parents? And how many of us wish we would have listened to some of that counsel they gave us?
Well, if you did not have parents who imparted wisdom into you, or are a part of the majority of us who did not heed the wisdom of our parents when we were younger, I have good news for you today: You have a Heavenly Father who is crying out to you like Solomon obviously was to his children here, and He desires for you to listen to His words, counsel and instruction!
So, let’s go back over to our golden text in Proverbs 4:5-9 and I want you to notice one statement that Solomon made in these verses. Again, he said, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
Notice that he said after he told us to “Get wisdom!” and “Get understanding” to specifically “…not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” So, this shows us one of the ways in which we “get wisdom” - by not forgetting what wisdom has said to us and not turning away from the words of her mouth.
Now as we’ve already made the point of - one can read this literally as Solomon exhorting his children to not forget the instructions he has given to them and for them not to turn away from His instructions. But it can also be the inspired words of our Heavenly Father exhorting us not to forget nor turn away from the Words He has spoken to us.
So, like I told you last week, don’t read the portions of Proverbs that begin with “My Son…” as just Solomon’s words to his kids; Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, read these passages of Scripture as they are in truth, God speaking to you, His child, pleading with you to listen to Him.
So, let’s look at these Scriptures today and see what our Heavenly Father is saying to us in this Book of Wisdom. First of all, let’s back up to the beginning of this chapter and see one of these exhortations:
Proverbs 4:1-4 says, Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.’”
You see, this describes the process of wisdom - to pass on what you have learned. This is God’s best! For one generation to teach another generation, and every time we do this, we are always increasing - line upon line, precept upon precept.
For example, did you know that today we are benefiting from some great teaching that has been imparted to us over the past Century? Yes, revelation has been coming fast in the Church and now we are blessed to have heard so many wonderful truths from God’s Word! Thank God for the teaching we have received in the Body of Christ!
Let’s look down at another section of Scriptures here in Proverbs chapter 4: Proverbs 4:10-13 says, “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.”
Isn’t it interesting that the first commandment with promise is to honor your father and mother that it might be well with you and you will live long on the earth? Well, how does one honor his or her father and mother? It begins with heeding their instructions.
Well, here we see the same promises given to those who honor the Words of their parents - “and the years of your life will be many.” This is where life is, and this is where it is good with us! And I can guarantee you that this also applies to our Heavenly Father’s words and sayings too!
On down in Proverbs chapter 4, we have another more familiar passage: Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
Here, we see the prescribed formula for receiving the words of the wise - by giving attention to them (refusing to be distracted), inclining our ear to hear them (being intently focused on what is being said), not letting them depart from our eyes (continuing to focus on them), and keeping them in the middle of our heart (valuing them). When we follow these directions for “taking” God’s Word, it’s acts as medicine in our lives and makes us full of life and health. Amen!
Now let’s skip back to Proverbs chapter 2 and look another powerful passage in Proverbs: Proverbs 2:1-6 says, “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding…”
These verses show us how we receive this wisdom from the Father: it is by truly cherishing and valuing His words and commands.
In Proverbs chapter 3, Solomon gives us even more benefits to receiving His words of wisdom: Proverbs 3:1-4 says, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”
On an interesting side note - we see even the Master Himself heeding the promises contained in these verses: Again, they encourage us not to forget His law but let our heart keep His commandments so that (for one) we can “find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” Well, if you look at Luke 2:41-51, you will see how the Lord Jesus, when He was a boy, lingered behind in Jerusalem. What was He doing? He was in the midst of the teachers in the Temple both “listening to them and asking them questions.”
Isn’t that amazing that the Word Himself was not teaching them Himself, but was listening and asking questions? But as you are learning today, this is how wisdom comes, amen?
But notice what Luke 2:52 immediately says on the heels of Jesus’ humble desire to learn His Father’s law and commandments. It says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” So, He increased in wisdom, right? But notice what else He increased in: in favor with God and man. Sounds a lot like Proverbs 3:4, doesn’t it?
So, my question then is this: if the Lord needed to listen and ask questions, if the Lord desired the Words of His Father like this, if the Lord needs to increase in wisdom, what makes you and I feel like we don’t need to? Amen?
On another side note, obeying what you agree with is not submitting - that is called doing. Submitting is obeying when you DON’T agree with what is being taught or said - choosing to do it even when you don’t agree with it or don’t like it.
Moving on in Proverbs: Proverbs 6:20-23 says, “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life…”
Proverbs 7:1-5 says, “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.”
Notice in this passage that keeping God’s words and His law as the apple of your eye is what will keep you from the seductress of sin. The Scriptures actually teach us that about themselves. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Here are a few more passages in Proverbs that talk about the importance of God’s Word in our lives:
Proverbs 13:13-14 says, “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 16:20 says, “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”
Proverbs 22:17-21 says, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise and apply your heart to my knowledge; For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; Let them all be fixed upon your lips, so that your trust may be in the Lord; I have instructed you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, that I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?”
But oh how so many of God’s children fail to do this. They forget the Word of God and move on to the deeper, “spiritual” things. Yes, they turn away from His Word and put their attention on natural, carnal things that appeal to the senses. Saints, this is foolish! The truth is, there is no wise person who is not a Word person!
WHAT MAKES ONE WISE
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, we have an important section of Scriptures that teach us the importance of God’s Word in our lives:
2 Timothy 3:13-17 says, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
First of all, notice that the Apostle Paul states that evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Now Paul had just made the point in the beginning of this chapter that in the last days perilous times will come and then he goes on to describe the characteristics of these last of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
So, what keeps us from these deceptive and evil times and these deceptive and evil people? Notice verse 14: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” Sounds a lot like that phrase we just looked at in Proverbs 4:5, doesn’t it?
Then he goes on to say in verse 14: “…knowing from whom you have learned them.” Well, this is likely a reference to Paul himself as he described in verses 10-11 how Timothy had carefully followed his doctrine, manner of life, etc. Did you know that this is not just applicable to Timothy? We too can “carefully follow the Apostle Paul’s doctrine too! How? By esteeming the truths contained in his epistles! Amen!
But Paul goes on to say in verse 15: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures…” You see, Timothy was also raised well. He was at least a 3rd generation believer in that both His grandmother and mother had strong faith (see 2 Timothy 1:5). So not only did Timothy have the good instruction given to him by his parents, but his father in the faith imparted even more wisdom into his life.
But again, do not despair if you didn’t have the spiritual guidance of your parents or if you have not had a spiritual mentor; you have the WORD of your Heavenly Father, and that is more than enough to make you WISE!
Notice what Paul said in verse 15: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” So, what makes you and I wise? It’s the Holy Scriptures! You see, it is the Word that imparts God’s wisdom to us, and this is how we get wisdom - through the Holy Scriptures!
THE PROFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES
Notice that Paul then goes on to give us the many wonderful benefits of the Word of God: He says in verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”
First of all, notice that these benefits come from “all Scripture”- not just the portions of Scripture that you like the best or the Books of the Bible that you think are the most beneficial. No, all Scripture is profitable and necessary for us to be completely wise.
For example, there are those who think that the Pauline Epistles (i.e. the letters Paul wrote) are really all that is profitable. Well, there are certainly things that the Apostle Paul wrote that you will not find elsewhere in Scripture and it is vital that we glean from His wisdom. However, if that is all of the Scriptures that you feed on, you will be malnourished spiritually.
Deuteronomy 8:3 said, as Jesus quoted in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Therefore, in order for us to truly “live” in sound wisdom, we must feed on every word that has come out of God’s mouth. Amen?
You see, we need all 66 books of the Bible in order to truly be wise in every area of life. Now there are some Books that I haven’t discovered the true purpose of yet, just like I haven’t discovered the purpose of some foods available to us, but that doesn’t mean there is not some profit that comes from them. Wisdom will acknowledge that.
But Paul said that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is “profitable” for four things: “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”
Now “doctrine” is not necessarily a bad thing. It just simply means “teaching” or you could say “instruction.” So, God’s Word is profitable for teaching and instruction. What a novel idea! To actually use God’s Word when one teaches and instructs others. Sadly, this is not practiced from many pulpits, but it should be. We should “preach the Word” (see 2 Timothy 4:2).
Next, God’s Word is profitable for “reproof.” While the translators used this word that describes being rebuked or corrected, this word literally describes “proof or evidence.” Did you know God’s Word is to be the only evidence you need? Many err in seeking after signs instead of simply taking God at His Word. Wisdom does not do that. Wisdom believes God and takes His Word at face value. It doesn’t need to see signs and wonders or to have any other emotional stimulation; God’s Word is all the evidence wisdom needs!
Paul goes on to say that God’s Word is profitable for “correction and instruction in righteousness.” This word “correction” describes being restored to an upright, correct or right state. In other words, God’s Word will set you straight again. It will also instruct you in the ways of righteousness. In other words, it will teach you what is right and how to stay on the right path. What wonderful benefits of God’s Word - to offer us correction, to set us straight, and to instruct us in what is right.
Now many do not embrace correction and instruction. We will receive God’s Word alright - at least the parts of it that don’t mess with our lives too much and don’t mess with our little pet doctrines. But saints, one of the most important parts of acquiring wisdom is learning to receive correction and instruction. In fact, there are a lot of Scriptures in the Book of Proverbs that talk about the importance of receiving correction and how this is what a wise person does. Let’s look at a few of them:
Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Now you don’t get any more in your face than that, do you? So, if we do not love instruction and correction, then we do not love knowledge and we are stupid.
Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” So, if we are a wise son or daughter of God, what will we do? We will listen to our Heavenly Father’s instruction. And if we do not listen to “rebuke” then we are what the Bible calls a “scoffer.”
Proverbs 15:5 says something similar: It says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent.” To “despise” something doesn’t necessarily mean that we hate something outwardly. It can simply mean that we don’t value or esteem it. Church, we need to esteem our Heavenly Father’s instruction and readily receive correction. It shows we are wise, because true wisdom knows how much more it has to learn.
Proverbs 19:27 says, “Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” However, if we stop listening to instruction, we will stray from the words of knowledge, and by default, will turn to other things that are “foolish.”
So, yes, there are many references to receiving correction and instruction in Proverbs. Others are: 13:19, 15:10, 15:12, 15:31-32, 21:11, & 22:15.
HOW TO BE THOROUGHLY WISE
But the bottom line is that God’s Word is what offers us all of these opportunities to become wise. And we are “fooling” ourselves if we think that we are going to be a mature, complete and fully equipped Christian without it. In fact, this is exactly what the Apostle Paul went on to say in 2 Timothy 3:17. He said, “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The word “complete” describes something or someone who has come to perfection or you could say maturity. So, how is a child of God going to grow up and become mature? Not apart from the Word of God, we won’t. The Holy Scriptures alone can make us mature.
Not only that, but the Word of God is what will thoroughly equip us for every good work. So, if we want to be completely equipped, totally prepared and thoroughly armed for every good work the Lord has called us to do, then we need God’s Word.
So, saints, I hope you can now see just how important the Bible is to our lives! Without the truth of God’s Word, we cannot be made free. Without the way of God’s Word, we will stray from the way of righteousness. Without the life of God’s Word, we will never reach our full potential. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and Jesus is the Word. Apart from Him and it, we can do nothing. This is the voice of wisdom. Amen.
So, we started our series on wisdom a few weeks back, and we have learned some good, foundational things:
We began by looking at what the benefits of wisdom are, and we saw that with wisdom comes life, honor, riches, favor, promotion, long life, etc. Therefore, we saw that if all of these blessings come with wisdom then we all must still have a need for more wisdom in our lives.
Then, we began defining wisdom by both looking at what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. We saw that wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. In other words, it is the ability to use knowledge and understanding in order to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. So, we learned that a good definition of wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life.
So, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom - that it is about living rightly, based on God’s perspective and His standards. It is love! It is faith! It is hope! Wisdom looks at things from His perspective and acts accordingly.
Therefore, we looked at the heart of wisdom last week, which is this: wisdom always looks ahead. It lives for its “retirement” in eternity and does not spend all of its time, energy and resources on today. This is called living for spiritual and eternal “investments” as opposed to living in spiritual, eternal “debt.”
Now we are going to get into many of the different practical things of this life, but it would be irresponsible of me to not spend some time on the spiritual, eternal things - for this is the epitome of wisdom.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF SIN
So, this week, I would like for us to look at something that you will find threaded throughout the Book of Wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) – the subject of foolishness.
You know, if you have become more familiar with the Book of Proverbs recently, you will see that the Holy Spirit likes to differentiate between the wise person and the fool. In other words, a fool is the exact opposite of a wise person according to the Scriptures.
And without going into a lot of detail of how a fool is described in the Bible, if there was one way to summarize foolishness according to Solomon is would be that a fool SINS. That’s right! The most foolish thing one could do according to the Bible is SIN! My friends, sin is stupid!
Indulging in sin is one of the most stupid things one could do! How can I say this so pointedly? It is because the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). It takes the life of its owners. Yes, sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and pay you what you definitely don’t want to be paid. You will live bankrupt of the life of God!
Now, yes, the Lord has paid the price for us to be free from sin. Yes, He is a loving and forgiving God. And, yes, thank God, we do not get what we deserve! But that does not mean that we persist to live sinful lifestyles. I mean, why would we continue to live in the thing that cost Jesus so much? I like to say it this way: for a Christian to willingly continue in sin would be like us proudly displaying the weapon on our mantle that a serial killer used to murder someone we loved! Now that is foolish, amen?
So, no, even though God’s grace has made provision for the sin problem, that doesn’t mean we should not abhor it! In fact, God’s grace has not only freed us from the penalty of sin, it has also freed us from the dominion of sin. So, we don’t have to live in it, any longer! We are freed from sin - past, present and future!
But the fact is, sin is still very enticing, and even the best of us have succumbed to its allurement from time to time. There is a reason it is characterized by “temptation.”
WISDOM FOR TEMPTATION
So, let’s look over at the Book of Proverbs and see how we have several sections of this Book of Wisdom that are devoted to this “seductress” called sin.
Now in these passages, you will see a certain reoccurring analogy - a seductress and a foolish boy.
However, even though we will see the sin of adultery and fornication often being used in these passages of Scripture, this is simply the common analogy that the Bible uses to describe the temptation to sin in general. So, don’t just read these literally; read them as symbolic of how any sin seduces man. Amen?
Now this needs to be said as well, but when we talk about “sin,” please understand that we are not just talking about that category of sins that most people think are the “big sins.” Sin can certainly be the analogy that is commonly being used here in these Scriptures we have just looked at like sexual sins, but it can also be the temptation to fear or worry, to gossip and slander, to be offended and unforgiving. Sin is sin, saints! And there is no such thing as different degrees of sin.
Let’s first look at Proverbs 1:10-19: In it, Solomon says, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse”- My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Notice in these verses that we see the power of “peer-pressure” when it comes to temptation and sin. Church, this is one avenue the enemy loves to use to sway us away from the path God has for us - through the pressures of other people. He will use every trick in the book to pressure you into making poor choices. Don’t do it! Slow down! Don’t act hastily. Consider the ramifications of what you’re being tempted to do. Think it through. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.” Again, know that yielding to the temptation to live selfishly and to run rough-shod over others only takes your life away. You will be empty. You will not have peace. Joy only comes when you live like so: Jesus, Others and then yourself.
Proverbs 2:10-22 says, “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths; to deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words… Notice that sin likes to flatter - feeding the pride that is in us. “You deserve better,” she says. “This is your right. You’ve worked hard and they shouldn’t take advantage of you like that.” I’m reminded of how Satan tried to use Peter to tempt Jesus to think of Himself when the Cross was coming. He said, “Be it far from you Lord. This shall not be.” (Matthew 16:22) What Satan was trying to do here is get Jesus to start considering Himself. But He, being aware of it, immediately responded with - Get behind me, Satan!...” And these “flattering words” will not always come out of people’s mouths. Sometimes those words will come in our heads. So, we have to be sober and vigilant to know when these words are temptations.), who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life- Oh, how this has happened to so many! They have yielded to the temptations and have forfeited the grace and anointing. Sure, the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Therefore, we can regain the path of life if we truly repent, but the fact is, most never recover from their mistakes. Don’t be one of these. Stay on the path of life by never overstepping your conscience. So you may walk in the way of goodness and keep to the paths of righteousness. For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.”
Proverbs 5:1-20 says, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder her path of life-- Her ways are unstable; you do not know them. The Bible speaks of “the passing pleasures of sin” (i.e. that sin has pleasure for a season). Always know that it might be fun today but notice how you will feel tomorrow. Therefore hear me now, my children, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one; lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner; and you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed, and say: "How I have hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, In the midst of the assembly and congregation." Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?”
Proverbs 6:24-29 says, “… To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? This is a word of wisdom to those who think, “Oh, I’ll be alright” or “Oh, it won’t hurt to just have a little.” The truth I,- playing around the mud puddle will get you dirty and getting too close to the fire will burn you. So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent.”
Proverbs 7:6-27 says, “For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner; and he took the path to her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night. And there a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. She was loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home. At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner. So she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him: “I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows. So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day.” With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life. Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.”
And finally, Proverbs 9:13-18 says, “A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.”
Now that is lot of Scripture that is devoted to the subject of sin and temptation, is it not!?! And again, when you see so many references to the same subject, you do well to take heed to it – particularly when it is repeated so many times in the Book of Wisdom itself. That teaches us that a big part of walking in wisdom is walking, with our eyes open, cognizant of this seductress called sin.
WHEN IS EACH ONE TEMPTED?
Let’s look at a New Testament passage of Scripture that describes this same process:
James 1:14-15- “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Now we know that satan is the one doing the tempting and enticing. Of this, we have no doubt. But does this mean that satan is the source of temptation? No, he is not!
You know, we like to say things like, “The devil made me do it!” Have you ever heard that? Well, the devil can’t make you do anything. The truth is - you and I choose to take the bait that he sends our way.
Friends, in regard to temptation, we have adopted a lot of the same mentality that the world has - I call it “no fault religion.” What do I mean by this? I mean that just as modern-day psychology teaches - we are a product of our environment - the church has a similar philosophy that does not take responsibility for anything. They say it is either God doing everything - sovereignly causing every circumstance and situation in our lives to work His will - or they say it is the devil - doing whatever he wants - and therefore they are blaming him for everything.
Friends, there is so much wrong with that philosophy. No, we live broken down, defeated lives because we choose to! Now, of course, that does not mean that we wish bad things will happen to us, but we choose how we let these bad things affect us and dictate our lives. No, contrary to popular opinion, you are not a product of your circumstances, situations, or environment; you are a product of how you choose to respond to these things. We choose whether we are going to be “bitter” or “better.”
So, no, the devil is not the source of all temptation. Even though the devil is called “the tempter,” this passage here in James chapter 1 teaches us that it is not really him that causes us to be tempted.
Notice that James says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires. So, what can we conclude from this? It is that while satan is the tempter; he is not the source of the temptation; we are! What do I mean by that? Just look at this Scripture - it says that we are only drawn away because of our own desires. In other words, if we did not desire it in the first place, it would not be a temptation to us. For instance, I am not tempted to eat too much chocolate because chocolate is not a big temptation for me. Now it is for others, and that would make them easier to be enticed. And it works this way for all of us. Some of us are tempted with certain things and others are tempted with other things. It is all based on our own desires.
And these desires of the heart and flesh are the root cause of every temptation. Temptation for what? To be “drawn away.” So, a good question here would be: Drawn away from what? Drawn away from the ways of the kingdom. Romans 14:17 says that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. So, to be drawn away from the kingdom of God would be to be drawn away from righteousness, peace, and joy. So, when we are tempted to practice unrighteousness - which could be any moral failure, etc. - we are being drawn away from the kingdom. When we are tempted to lose our peace, we are being drawn away from the kingdom. When we are tempted to lose our joy, we are being drawn away from the kingdom.
TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN
Then notice what happens next in this process that James describes: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…”
There is an extremely important lesson we can learn through this statement, and it is this - Temptation is not sin. Why do I say this? Consider that many Christians have a thought pass through our mind that is impure and then they let the enemy plague them with the accusation that either they have sinned by that thought or something is wrong with them because they had that thought.
Let me tell you something: Just because you are tempted by wrong desires and unholy thoughts that pass through your mind does not mean you have sinned. It has been well said that you cannot keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there. And that nest is what James was referring to here when he said, “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”
Notice the terminology James is using here - referring to conception and then to giving birth. What James is doing here is likening the process that sin takes in our lives to the process of the conception and birth of human life. In other words, the way that life is formed within a woman and then how she gives birth to that baby is how sin begins in our lives.
Notice, first of all, that James refers to those desires conceiving within us. This is a reference to our own desires that he just mentioned.
You see, the issue is not that we have these desires for wrong things that would draw us away from the Lord and His kingdom. The issue is when we allow those desires of the flesh to “conceive” in our heart.
This is why the Scriptures teach about the importance of guarding our heart with all diligence. It is because out of the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, the heart is the well-spring of life and our life is a product of what we have treasured up in our heart. Therefore, what we allow to conceive in our heart is the direction our life will try to go.
Just as it is with the conception of life in the natural, sin is given birth to in the same way. The lusts of our flesh must be conceived in our heart. This happens as we think on those lusts - constantly pondering, considering, and visualizing those things in our minds. If you mull those things over in your mind enough, it will conceive in your heart. And that is when the acting on those lusts becomes very likely. This is why James says that when those desires have conceived, they give birth to sin. That is the manifestation of those sins of the heart. This is why Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount that to lust in your heart is equal to following through with the lust. It is because the conception almost assures the action.
SPIRITUAL BIRTH CONTROL
Well, let us consider this illustration further: If giving birth to sin is a similar process to giving birth in the natural, then couldn’t we learn from how we prevent having babies in the natural? We sure can! Let’s look at it:
First of all, what do the majority of people do to avoid conceiving children? They use birth control. Well, how would this apply to the conception of sin in our hearts? There are certain things that we can practice to keep those temptations that come into our minds from conceiving in our hearts. For example, 2 Corinthians chapter 10 teaches us to cast down imaginations and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. So, when we have those haughty thoughts come into our head we must use the “weapons of our warfare”, namely the Word of God, to bring our thoughts back in line with God’s thoughts. For example, if you have a subtle temptation to pass through your mind then you need to immediately speak to that thought (out of your mouth) what God’s Word says concerning that situation.
You see, the phrase “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” describes how we cast down these imaginations, arguments, etc. It describes us putting a spear in the back of these renegade thoughts and leading them into a place of control to our will and His Word. The decision that we make to “pull down strongholds” and “cast down imaginations” must be made with aggressive authority. We must understand that we are the possessor of our minds and, therefore, are the authority over all thoughts that enter it. So, when unwanted thoughts enter we are to exert that authority over them aggressively. Therefore, the primary way we keep sin from conceiving within us is by speaking the Word of God.
You know, we can’t do any better than the Master who, when He was tempted in the wilderness, simply spoke the Word saying, “It is written, It is written, It is written…” This is what resists the devil, and this is what resists the temptation and causes it to flee from you!
But let me ask you this: What is the best form of birth control? Abstinence! Simply not having the relations is a 100% guaranteed way of not conceiving, right? Well, what if we practiced “spiritual abstinence”?
Did you know that the Bible does not really emphasize overcoming temptations? It doesn’t! What the Bible actually teaches us is to not even enter into temptations (see Matthew 26:14)! For example, in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13), Jesus taught us to pray that we would not enter into temptation. What Jesus is describing here is not even putting ourselves in the position to conceive sin in our hearts, or you could say, “abstinence.” What a radical concept!
Did you know that there are many believers who commit abortion every day? Now I am obviously not talking about physical abortion; I am talking about spiritual abortion. What I mean is that they live their life having intimacy with the ungodliness on television, the internet, etc., and then - when they are confronted with a temptation - they have to “white knuckle it” to keep themselves from giving in to that desire. Of course, there are certain temptations that are unavoidable because we live in an ungodly society, but the truth is that there are many temptations that can simply be avoided by living holy lifestyles. And what I mean by “holy lifestyles” is living separate from the ways of the world.
It is sad to say, but you could not tell most professing Christians from “Joe-blow sinner” down the road. In other words, if they did not tell you that they were a Christian, you likely would never presume that they are. And then these same Christians do not understand why they struggle with a lust for sin in their hearts.
Saints, that is really no different than the female who goes around being intimate with boys, keeps getting pregnant, and then has to keep getting abortions to keep from having a bunch of babies. How would you admonish that girl who continuously slept around and kept getting pregnant? Of course, you would tell her to stop sleeping around, wouldn’t you? Well, that is exactly what the Bible teaches us about temptations: quit being intimate with the temptation! Or, as we would say in the natural, quit putting yourself in the position to get pregnant!
The Apostle Peter makes my point best when he says, “…Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) You see, the best form of birth control from those fleshly lusts is spiritual abstinence - that is, keeping away from the ungodliness that you do not want to conceive in your heart.
Do you remember what the Bible says about Lot regarding his time in Sodom & Gomorrah - how it says that when he departed from his uncle Abram that he “pitched his tent towards Sodom” (see Genesis 13:12)? Well, 2 Peter 2:7-8 teaches us that this vexed righteous Lot’s soul by hearing and seeing their lawless deeds. So, do you see 1 Peter 2:11 being fulfilled in Lot’s life? Because he didn’t “abstain” from Sodom, the sin warred against his soul.
I believe Romans 13:14 gives us a great example of how we avoid temptation: In this verse, the Apostle Paul gives a wonderful cure for the lusts of the flesh and of the eyes when he says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”
The word “provision” here comes from the Greek word pronoia - the word pro meaning “before” and the word noeo describing the mind, our thoughts, etc. So, when you combine these words together, you get the word pronoia which means “premeditate or forethought.” But actually, the Greek sentence structure is somewhat different: This word for “provision”, pronoia, comes before the word “make.” Now what is interesting about this is the word “make” comes from the Greek word poeio and means to create or produce something. It is where we get our words “poet, poem, or poetry” from. So, with the sentence structure here, it should read - “premeditation produces into lusts.” In other words, to give forethought to the things of the flesh will create the lusts for the things of the flesh. So, what can we learn from this? Our thinking will result in what we desire. This is why my father in the faith likes to say that you cannot be tempted by what you don’t think on.
Let’s look at Hebrews 11:15: It says, “And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” This is such a powerful verse! It is telling us that if those like Abraham would have recalled in their thinking the country that they came from, they would have had a chance of going back - indicating that because they never let their mind go there, they did not have the opportunity of going there in person. Wow!
Saints, you cannot physically go somewhere you did not mentally go first. Likewise, you cannot physically do something that you have not thought on first. I don’t know if you understand just how powerful that is! That means that all temptation is tied to thought!
You see, our thinking is what generates our feelings. This is why in Romans chapter 8 (the solution to Romans chapter 7), Paul exhorts us not to be carnally minded, but to be spiritually minded. For to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Yes, you become what you behold. Where the mind goes, the man will follow. Therefore, your thought life is super important towards living the God kind of life.
HOW TO NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION
And back to Romans 13:14, what did the verse begin with? It exhorted us to first “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ. The questions that should be raised then are: What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and How do we put Him on?
Well, in short, to put on Christ and all of His virtues means to exemplify and act like who you already are and what you already have been given. The words “put on” actually mean to wear or be dressed in clothing. So, it means to wear the clothes that you already possess by acting like who we already are.
But as we have been saying, what determines those actions? What dictates our behavior? We choose what we “put on” by choosing our attitude and mindset! Therefore, we put on Christ by choosing to think and focus on the things of Christ! Glory!
But I think it is of extreme significance that Paul first said that we are to put on Christ before he said to not make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Why? Because it is not just about trying to quit thinking on the wrong thing. The best way to overcome wrong thinking is by exchanging our thoughts for God’s thoughts - letting the light drive out the darkness. I am a strong proponent that the best way to get rid of darkness is by letting light in - not trying to shovel out darkness.
We can do this by claiming and walking in the armor of God and all of the “I am” promises in His Word. Galatians 5: 16 says, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (It really says you will ABSOLUTELY not fulfill the lust of the flesh) The key is relationship with God, in communion with the Holy Spirit. We need to cultivate our desires to look on Christ rather than the things of the world. In Romans chapters 1 thru 7 the Holy Spirit is only mentioned a few times; in Romans 8, He is mentioned over a dozen times. This is the chapter where Paul definitively shows that the Christian life is to be lived in the Spirit. Seek the Lord, seek fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Focus on the Lord and build up your inner man so that it is stronger than the flesh by praying in the Spirit!
We see this in the original temptation of man in the Garden of Eden:
Let me ask you a question: What would have been the cure for this whole temptation in the Garden? Well, the problem was that they were even over there considering the tree in the first place. Where should they have been? How about walking with the Lord? It says right after they partook of the fruit of the tree that the Lord was walking through the Garden, ready for His time to walk with them in the cool of the day.
You see, the best way to avoid temptation altogether is to not hang out too close to the line. In other words, we shouldn’t spend our time looking at and feeding ourselves on the things that will fuel those desires. If we would just walk with God - that is, enjoy our personal relationship with Him and spend our day in constant communication with Him - we would not leave a lot of room for temptation.
This is why I whole-heartedly believe that one of the benefits of seeking first the kingdom of God and putting our hand to the plow doing God’s will is that we will keep ourselves from falling into most temptations.
Case in point- King David… Do you remember the account with Bathsheba where David went out on the roof of his house and saw her, which caused a terrible series of circumstances in his life? Well, it is important to notice in 2 Samuel 11:1-2 the details of this situation that led to his demise.
Notice, first of all, in verse 1 how we are told that it happened during the spring of the year, at the time when the kings go out to battle, that David stayed in Jerusalem. Now who was the king of Israel? David! So why was he not out at the battle like the rest of the kings? Well, I think we get a clue in verse 2:
Notice how verse 2 says that David arose from his bed one “evening”… Now while naps are sometimes necessary, I think we have a picture painted here of why David fell like he did... You see, he was not where he should have been.
I have seen countless times where people are tempted to not go to a meeting, whether it be at church or Bible study, and they come anyway and it was exactly what they needed. God had an answer for them at that specific time and place. Well, don’t you think the devil knows these times and places of provision? So, don’t you think he might tempt us to miss those times and places? I guarantee you he will.
For instance, on a particular time I have taught on this very subject of temptation, an individual who was supposed to be there wasn’t. And guess what happened? They fell into temptation! Do you think perhaps if we would be faithful to where God wants us to be and with what he wants us to be doing that we could avoid a lot of unnecessary temptations? Sure!
This is why the Lord taught us to pray that we would be led out of temptation - that is, to be led by the Holy Spirit, around the temptations and traps that the enemy has laid for us. This is going to happen as we are led and are faithful to where God has placed us and with what He has told us to be doing. So, the lesson we should learn from this is - if we are not where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing, we are all the more in danger of falling into temptation.
What if we began to exchange our thoughts for God’s thoughts? What if we simply fasted the things that we are looking at, watching, reading, etc., that fuel the tempting thoughts?
You see, I would hope that we could all agree that abortion is not an acceptable form of birth control. Consider a young woman who just laid with every man she wanted to and then every time she conceived, she just had an abortion. How many of you know that is completely unacceptable? But how many Christians do that with temptation? They feed those desires and they fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness - not giving any heed to what they hear and what they see. And then when their flesh is ready to give birth to that sin - meaning, they are being severely tempted to act on those temptations - they just try to abort it.
How many of you know this is not the best way to live? No, we should practice spiritual abstinence and not fuel the temptations by watching what we watch and listening to what we listen to! In fact, I would take this a step further and say, What if we reversed this whole process altogether?!?! What if we began to desire the things of God like our flesh desires wrong things? What if we began to desire God? You can!
You can begin to desire God more and more! How? By relationship with Him. As you begin to spend intimate time with Him through prayer and the Word, you can begin to conceive truth, righteousness, light, etc. in your heart. And as this occurs, the next step in James chapter 1 occurs: Just as sin (when it is full grown) brings forth death, righteousness (when it is full grown) brings forth life!
Saints, you can give birth to righteousness, and then when it comes to maturity, it produces the God kind of life! Amen! So why don’t we just start seeking God so much that the temptations are not as loud and strong? This is the quickest and best way to stifle temptations! Amen!
So, we began a new series a couple of weeks ago on the subject of WISDOM. I am calling this series Wisdom - The Principal Thing. I am calling it this because the Bible says that Wisdom is the principal thing - that is, the top, first and best thing.
Someone might be thinking - “What about love? Isn’t it the greatest virtue of the Christian life?” or either “What about faith? Isn’t it impossible to please God without faith?” Both of those questions are legitimate but the fact is, the Bible says that wisdom is the principal thing and does not say this about any other virtue. However, through my studies on the subject of wisdom I have found that the wisdom that descends from above is, in fact, walking in love (compare James 3:17) and believing in God (compare Proverbs 9:10). In other words, you cannot separate godly wisdom from faith and love anyway. They are all woven together to create the first fruits of a pure and undefiled religion that God has called us unto. Amen?
So, let’s look again at Proverbs 4:5-8: It says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
So, we can see just through this one passage of Scripture that there is indeed great value and worth in obtaining wisdom from God, amen? And that is what we spent part one of this series looking at. We looked at many of the different by-products of acquiring wisdom. We saw that with wisdom comes “honor, promotion, favor from God, wealth & riches, length of days, life, happiness, blessings, etc.”
So, we need to honestly ask ourselves the question - Am I experiencing an abundance of all of these blessings in my life? If not, then based on this Scripture, I need to start loving wisdom and embracing her. I need to exalt and honor her. To most believers, this is not on their radar to do this. But should it be? If we desire these things in our life, it should!
Therefore, we learned that this is the first thing we need to do - begin to exalt and embrace her. This describes simply just holding her in higher esteem than we currently do. And the awesome thing is by us simply valuing wisdom in our hearts, we begin to attract her. And then when we obtain her, she brings with her all manner of good things in our life.
Now it stands to mention again that the tell-tale sign that you and I truly know and understand these things is by how excited and enthusiastic we get about hearing it. In other words, if we are truly exalting, embracing and loving wisdom, she will have our hearts. So, if the preciousness of wisdom does not stir something up on the inside of us, then it is not real to us. It is that simple!
So, last week, we began defining wisdom. We first of all looked at what wisdom is not. And we saw that wisdom is not knowledge or understanding.
Yes, wisdom is not simply accumulating more information than others. You can accumulate a vast amount of knowledge and still be void of wisdom. I received the following statement when studying this: you can have a cap and a gown or a robe and a crown and still be a fool. In other words, you can have several degrees or hold a prestigious title or position and still be unwise.
We saw how many of these highly intellectual people in the world are lauded for their “wisdom,” but in many of these cases, they claim to be atheists. And the Bible says, regarding this, that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God (see Psalm 53:1). So, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge and understanding one seems to have, if they do not believe there is a Creator, then they are a fool.
So, we endeavored to define wisdom, and we saw that while possessing knowledge or understanding is not the same as having wisdom, they both work together with wisdom. Regarding this - one definition of wisdom is as follows: Wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. Therefore, knowledge can exist without wisdom; but wisdom cannot exist without knowledge.
I used a physical example to define wisdom and show the difference between wisdom, knowledge and understanding - the example of automobile mechanics:
We saw that knowledge could be described as being able to look under the hood of a car and tell which parts are the engine, the transmission, the radiator, the battery, the alternator, etc. Understanding would be the ability to know what each of these parts do and what their function is regarding the vehicle running correctly. But how many of you know that just because you can lift the hood on your car and have the “knowledge” of which part is the alternator, and just because you have the “understanding” of what the alternator does, does not mean that if your alternator goes out that you yourself will know how to fix it. That is where wisdom ties in.
So, we then saw that a couple of good one-word definitions that I have been able to find for “wisdom” are “skillful” and “expert.” In other words, having wisdom in an area is being skilled and an expert in that area.
So, regarding our example of auto mechanics - a good, skilled auto mechanic not only “knows” what every part of the car is, not only do they “understand” what they do and why they do it, but they know how each of these parts work together. Yes, one who is “skilled” or an “expert” in auto mechanics could take the vehicle apart and put it back together again. In other words, the one who is “skilled” and an “expert” in fixing cars knows the correct application of all of that knowledge they have.
Therefore, that is why I like to define wisdom like so: wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life - because as important as being skilled in the arena of auto mechanics is, what we really want to become an expert at is life. Amen?
You see, this is the wisdom that you and I truly are looking for! Not just the earthly wisdom that will only help in things that pertain to this temporal life. Sure, there are benefits to having wisdom in regard to the things of life, but the wisdom that comes from above (i.e. God) contains the skill and expertise that will not only help us in this life but has the promise of the life that is to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
We saw that one way you could answer the question, “What is wisdom?” is with one word - GOD! That’s right: God is wisdom! In fact, the Bible actually teaches us in three places (Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17 and Jude 25) that God alone is wise. That means that just as there is none good but God (not meaning that there is no one else who ever does any good things, but simply that God is the only One who is purely good and has this as an unchanging part of His nature), likewise there is none wise but God, which means the same thing: that while we might only scratch the surface of wisdom that descends from above, no one else can ever compare to God’s wisdom.
So, we went over to the Book of James because it gives us the primary difference between God’s wisdom and this world’s wisdom. We looked at James 3:13-17 which says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
We saw how in verse 13, James asks a rhetorical question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” – indicating that there was evidently a group of individuals in this church he was writing to who claimed to have all of this wisdom and understanding (Probably that same group who wanted to become teachers that James warned in 3:1). So, James answers this question by saying that if you really have true wisdom, it will be displayed in your life by how you conduct yourself. In other words, wisdom is not just knowing something and having all the answers. Wisdom is simply living rightly. In other words, wisdom is not us being able to win a debate; wisdom is us having the common sense to make good decisions in life and actually doing so.
Therefore, wisdom is more than just being able to quote a bunch of Bible verses about a topic, such as love; it is knowing how to apply these truths about love to your life and actually being a doer of these verses that you know. So, knowledge would be us learning the truth. Understanding would be us learning how to apply the truth. But wisdom would be us actually living the truth.
This is why we looked at verse 17 – which is where James defines the God kind of wisdom - that all of these traits and characteristics of wisdom are good and loving behaviors. No, not just theories or philosophies; true wisdom is the applied knowledge from God. So, in essence, God’s wisdom is pure and without hypocrisy. It is a peacemaker. It is considerate and non-contentious. It is open to reason. It is merciful and produces all manner of good fruits.
Finally, we looked at Matthew 10:16 and brought a good balance to what wisdom truly is. Matthew 10:16 says, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We saw that godly wisdom uses good, common sense and makes strategic, thoughtful decisions, but not for selfish, harmful motives. All that it does is righteous and good. Yes, we certainly want to be “harmless” in our dealings - meaning, we are not to violate the love command. This is at the top of our priority list - doing good, being kind, showing mercy, etc. Therefore, we are gentle in our dealings, not harmful and not self-seeking. However, we are also to be wise as serpents - meaning, we do not naively put ourselves in the position of being hurt, or doing foolish things that lead to loss in our lives. Like a serpent, we make small, calculated movements in our dealings with people and things in this world. Yes, our aim is to imitate Love Himself and be good and gracious in our interactions with people, but we do things wisely - that is, in a slow, systematic fashion, being led by the Spirit of wisdom. Amen!
THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM
This week, I would like to continue looking at what wisdom is by looking at one of wisdom’s primary characteristics. So, I am titling today’s message, “The Heart of Wisdom.”
So, let’s begin by going back to Proverbs 9:1 and looking at what is at the very core of wisdom. This proverb says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Now, the fear of the Lord is not being “afraid” of God; it is the reverence, respect or you could say, placing the appropriate value upon God and the things that He values. Let me give you a good example of this:
Say, someone that is held in high esteem were coming to your house like a king, queen, the president or a spiritual leader. Did you know that many of you would do a thorough house cleaning, put it in order and then would likely change many of the things that you normally would do if those distinguished guests were not coming? Do you know what that is? It is the “fear” of that person. Now obviously, you are not afraid or terrified of them; but because you respect the position that they hold, you behave in a certain way and do certain things out of respect for their position.
This is why I love statement the Lord gave me regarding our two primary, most common exhortations - Loving God and Fearing God: He told me that we “love” His person; we “fear” His position. In other words, He is both our God and our Father. He holds the position of God, Lord and Sovereign, but He also is our Father, Brother and Husband. Therefore, we “love” His personality based on our relationship with Him, but “fear” His position as the Lord God Almighty.
So, the very heart and foundation of wisdom is recognizing that there is indeed a God, and living a life of respect and reverence for Him. If one does not have this basic understanding, they are unwise. I don’t care how many degrees they have, how many letters they have at the end of their name, or what position and title they hold, if they do not recognize and respect the One True and Living God, they are a fool. On the other hand, if we have this reverential awe and respect for the Lord God, then we will behave in such a way that prepares us for standing before Him one day. Therefore, the beginning of wisdom, in essence, is that it looks at the things it cannot see and makes decisions based upon that unseen, eternal realm.
Let’s look at this from a natural perspective to help us grasp this core characteristic of wisdom. We will do so by looking at the heart of wisdom in regards to our physical bodies and our finances:
First of all, one very obvious example of the heart of wisdom would be taking care of our bodies:
You see, wisdom will suppress the cravings of the flesh to eat fast food every day and just “veg-out” on the couch 24/7. Of course, that is an extreme example that hopefully none of us are practicing today, but it is an obvious example of foolishness. Saints, we need to walk in wisdom with our eating and exercising habits and not just live to gratify our flesh.
You see, our flesh is bent on gratifying itself today! In other words, it wants whatever it feels like right now. For example, a good sign that your flesh is trying to take control of the show is when you feel like you just have to have that candy bar at that moment. That is the time to suppress your flesh and treat it like you would a child and say, “You know what? If you are going to pitch a fit about it, you aren’t getting anything!”
You will experience this the most when you go on a fast. Your flesh will kick and scream and tell you that you are going to just die if you don’t eat something right now! Of course, this is not true because the truth is your body can go days without eating and be totally fine. But our flesh is just like a spoiled little kid though - totally irrational and selfish! But wisdom will discipline those physical cravings of the flesh because it will first consider how those eating, drinking, and exercising habits will affect it in the future.
This is just one example of how the heart of wisdom can be applied to our everyday lives. So, let’s look at another natural aspect of the heart of wisdom…
Another matter that we simply cannot avoid in regards to the heart of wisdom is the area of finances. Let’s look at an example of this that we can all relate to - credit cards (I’m sure everyone will like this one)…
When dealing with credit cards, many Americans have the mindset that they are a means of getting what they want today even though they do not currently have the money. For instance, many of us will say things like, “I can put this new flat screen, high definition television on my credit card and then I’ll own it.” But the reality is, we don’t really own it because we are going to have to pay for it down the road, plus some!
You see, wisdom will not do this. The reason why is because wisdom will consider what something is going to cost down the road before acting on the impulses of the flesh to purchase it now.
Now don’t get me wrong - I am not saying that using credit cards is unwise (Sorry Dave Ramsey😊); it just becomes unwise when we do not handle them correctly. This occurs as we spend money on our credit card knowing that we will not be able pay it back immediately, thus incurring those high interest rates. But if we use a credit card with the mentality that we will make it a priority to pay it back at our first opportunity, then there is nothing wrong with them.
However, my point is that it is unwise to simply gratify the flesh and not consider the repercussions of those decisions. So, in regards to this, we should do our best to avoid using credit as a means to get what we want today at the cost of tomorrow.
Now we can flip this principle of wisdom regarding credit cards because, did you know, you can actually use credit cards to your benefit? For example, Shannon and I have used credit cards for some time now that earn us cash back. Of course, that is not a tremendous amount but when you charge everything you can on it (while deducting those payments out of your checkbook register as if you were using a check or a debit card), then it can add up.
For instance, when we have to make a major purchase, we use the credit card even though we might have the money sitting in our checking account. Why? Because we want to earn the rewards with the credit card company on that purchase and then we will turn around and pay it back before the interest sets in. There are some credit cards that earn travel rewards and I know a man who earned a free trip to Hawaii for himself and 3 other family members after just a few years of charging everything he could on that credit card while paying the bill in full every month! This is how credit cards can actually benefit us.
So, I am not saying that using credit cards is wrong; what I am saying, however, is it is just how most Americans use them that is wrong.
As I was writing this about the misuse of credit cards, a particular scripture was ringing in my heart: “The law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8)
You see, in the circles that I have run in, most people have this negative perception of the Mosaic and Levitical Laws. We understand that the law was given by God strictly to show us His unattainable righteous requirements - all with the hope of us throwing our hands in the air and asking for mercy. In this case, God sent the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law for us so that when we responded in this manner, He would save us by grace. This is using the law “lawfully.”
On the other hand, to use the law “unlawfully” would be to try and fulfill the righteous requirements of the law while rejecting the sacrifice offered through the blood and body of the Lord Jesus. In other words, using the law “unlawfully” would be us using the law as a means of justification before God. So, you see, the law is not bad in and of itself; it is just how people have used it that is bad.
Likewise, credit cards are good, if people would use them “lawfully.” But the problem is many use credit cards as a way of gratifying their flesh today without giving any real thought to what it will cost them tomorrow.
But, on the other hand, wisdom will make financial decisions today that will be beneficial tomorrow. In other words, wisdom will invest as opposed to incurring debt! This is the heart of wisdom in regards to the financial arena.
THE HEART OF WISDOM
You see, this is one of the reasons why I call this the “heart of wisdom.” It is because at its very heart, wisdom considers the future in all of its current decisions. In other words, the heart of wisdom is that it always looks ahead and always considers the future when making current decisions.
But isn’t this just a common characteristic of a wise person? Through the knowledge and experiences of life, a wise person who chose to learn from their life-lessons, will make adjustments the next go around. In other words, because of what they learned will happen when they do certain things, they consider the outcome of their current decisions. This is wisdom, and this is exactly the opposite of what a fool does…
You see, a fool is always surprised by what ends up happening in the future. “Wow! I didn’t know that was going to happen!” they say, or, “Oops, if I would have known that was going to happen, I wouldn’t have done that.” So, a fool is shortsighted and blind and doesn’t consider the outcome of their current decisions. A wise person always thinks ahead.
For instance, a fool will speak without thinking - never considering how what he is about to say will affect him or those hearing him. In regards to this, a fool will vent all his feelings. Yes, what is in his heart will become obvious because he will always let you know what he is thinking no matter how inappropriate it might be. A fool will also just blare on without giving any thought to his destination. He will rarely consider how what he is about to do will affect him down the road. So, you see, a fool conducts himself in the exact opposite manner of the wise.
On the other hand, those with the heart of wisdom will not vent all of their feelings. They will consider the effect that their words will have before they speak them - and in many respects, godly wisdom will restrain any words that would be hurtful and harmful to the hearers. The wise will also consider where what they are about to do will take them before they move forward - thinking ahead as to whether or not their current decision will lead them away from God’s perfect plan for their life. To put it simply - the heart of wisdom is that it looks ahead and considers where it is going.
So, as I have stated thus far, a foolish person will just blare on without ever giving any forethought to the implications of his or her decisions. But a wise person will first consider how what they are about to do to, for example, their body and how they are about to spend their money will affect them in the future. But, you see, this principle of wisdom that we have been talking about is something that reaches well beyond just simple credit card debt as well as any other worldly examples. This is also how most people live their lives spiritually…
For example, in regard to sin, fools will succumb to temptation because they will not consider the future ramifications of their sin - how it will affect them spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc. So, giving in to temptation is, in essence, a failure to walk in the wisdom of God.
What will wisdom do in regards to temptation? It will do everything it can to not even enter into the tempting circumstances. In other words, it will think ahead and do whatever it can to abstain from the fleshly lusts that war against the soul (see 2 Peter 2:11).
The Cross of Christ is a great example of this heart of wisdom that we are talking about… In Hebrews 12:2 the author tells us that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the Cross despising the shame.” In other words, Jesus looked beyond the temporal pain and suffering of the Cross and unto the joy that would come as a result of His obedience. Aren’t you glad Jesus had the heart of wisdom at that time? And the author used this example to motivate his readers to take up their Cross and continue to strive against sin (see verses 3&4).
Saints, as long as we are living on this earth we will always have this option before us - Will we resist temptation now for the joy set before us or will we fulfill the lust of the flesh and sacrifice the long-term rewards?
One passage of scripture stands out as an example. In Matthew 7:24-27, we are told that a wise man hears and does the sayings of Jesus. A foolish man hears, but does not do, the sayings of Jesus. The storms of life COME AGAINST BOTH OF THEM, but the wise man uses what he has been learning and doing to weather these storms, whereas the fool is ruined by them.
SPIRITUAL DEBT vs. SPIRITUAL INVESTMENT
You see, there is such a thing as “spiritual debt” as well as financial debt. It is sad to say, but the truth is that the vast majority of people that have ever walked on this planet lived their life with this debt mentality.
What do I mean by “debt mentality?” I mean that they lived solely for their earthly life - fulfilling their own selfish, carnal desires - and they are paying for it right now in eternity. Some gave their heart to God but still lived conformed to this world - that is, they were born again believers, but they went through life only living for themselves and did not lay their treasures up in heaven. While these will still live in the presence of God for eternity, they will not receive the great rewards that they were capable of receiving. On the other hand, most people that have lived on the earth never even acknowledged the existence of God and lived totally ungodly and carnal lifestyles, having never received the salvation that was offered through Jesus Christ. These will experience spiritual “bankruptcy”- having their part in the lake of fire for eternity where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.
Both of these examples are the bookends of what it is like to live in spiritual debt. But, on the other hand, there are the few that find the path of life and live a life of consecration to God - putting their flesh under and sowing themselves towards their eternal harvest. These are the spiritually wise - the ones that have invested their life for their glorious future!
Let’s look over at a verse in the 90th Psalm that I see as culminating everything we have been saying through this teaching (This Psalm was actually a prayer that Moses prayed during the time Israel was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years):
In this Psalm, Moses prayed for something that I believe we should all pray for consistently for our own lives and the lives of others. In this awesome prayer, Moses shows us how the heart of wisdom applies to our life on this earth versus our life in eternity.
So, what was it that Moses specifically prayed for that will enable us to gain a heart of wisdom? In verse 12, he asked the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” What a powerful verse this is!
What Moses was asking Yahweh was to teach them to count the number of days that they had. What does this mean? Just think about it: The carnal human tendency is to suppose that we will live on this earth forever. Most people (particularly young people) just float through life never considering that their life may end soon. Since this life is all that we have ever known, we just live life never really considering what happens after we die. But life after death is a reality that we must consider! As a matter of fact, eternity is something that we better consider because how we live our life now will determine where and how we will spend eternity.
Do you see how vague this is to most people, even Christians? But this is exactly why Moses prayed this for Israel… He prayed that God would teach them to calculate and evaluate their days on this earth so that they would be ready for the next life. So I pray now for us… “Lord, teach us to number our days as well - to see how short this life really is so that we would make the most of our time here on the earth. Lord, give unto us this heart of wisdom.” Amen!
In the 90th Psalm as well as several other places in Scripture we are reminded of our human frailty. The Scriptures that are ringing in my ears even as I am writing this describe mankind as grass (see Isaiah 40:6-8 & James 1:9-11). And the point of emphasis in these Scriptures is that we are like grass in that we grow up one day and are cut down the next. Some of us are beautiful, glamorous, and successful like the flower of the grass, but we all will suffer the same fate of death regardless of what we accomplish here on the earth. We are all but a vapor.
I know that many Christians like to rest on a misinterpretation of Romans 8:28, thinking that all things are going to work to their good regardless of how they live their lives. But this is not so - you can’t take this scripture out of its context. First of all, it says that all things work together for good TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE. So having a whole-hearted love for God is one requirement. Second, this verse is a continuation of the chapter, which starts with another requirement of “those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So this verse does not give you “blanket blessings” as you live your life however you please.
You see, in the world success is sought for. People live their whole lives to make a buck and be able to retire one day. And although there is some wisdom in preparing for our future here on the earth, if that is all we live for, then we are living a life of vanity.
You see, our life on this earth is so short in comparison to eternity. And I believe the church has allowed the same mentality of the world to creep into it. We have adopted the same carnal and foolish thinking that is only concerned with this earth-life. This is indeed a grave mistake because a day is coming, soon and very soon, when we will stand in front of our Master and have to give an account for the stewardship of our life on this earth. I personally want the Lord to look at me and say, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in little (i.e. in this short life) and now you will become ruler over much (i.e. in the eternal kingdom of God)!”
So which end of the spectrum are you going to strive for? Are you going to live for today and be in debt for the future or are you going to live for the future and lay down your life today? Life is short, my friends; so live for eternity!
So, in conclusion, we could say that making current decisions that will positively affect our future is the heart of wisdom! By far the most important aspect of this is regarding the spiritual because he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption but he who sows to the spirit will of the spirit reap everlasting life (Galatians 6:8). But we should also incorporate this characteristic of wisdom into our earth-life as well - physically, financially, etc. And the best wisdom we can use in any situation is to be led - seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s wisdom.
My brother and sister, if we would live our lives with a heart of wisdom we would be making one of the greatest decisions we could ever make in our life. My prayer is that you will take this truth and begin to reevaluate your life to make sure you are investing in those things that are of eternal value. Never forget: what we do today will echo for all eternity! What sound will you make?
We began a new series last week on the subject of WISDOM, and I am extremely excited that the Lord has led us to camp on this subject over the next few months because the wisdom of God is such an important part of our lives. And this is exactly what we learned last week.
And before I begin to review what we talked about last week, I wanted to reiterate to you that the Lord has given us a book that is all about the wisdom of God, and that’s the Book of Proverbs. So, as we are going through this series, I encourage you to spend time studying this Book of Wisdom. You can read one chapter a day and generally cover the entire book in one month. Shannon and I have started a Bible study where we are going through this book together, and we encourage you to do something similar as well.
But the truth is, most believers do not put this subject at the top of their list of priorities. I explained last week how the Lord showed me the reason that most Christians do not get as excited about this particular subject. It is because:
a. They don’t think they need it. In other words, they think they are just fine, they know what they are doing, etc. Most people are deceived into thinking this, but the truth is - when we see what the fruit of wisdom is, we will recognize that we need more wisdom in our lives. And that led me to the second point…
b. They don't see the value of it. You see, if we saw how valuable wisdom is and all of the benefits it yields in us, we would hunger and thirst for more of it. Yes, if we saw that with wisdom comes all of these other things that we seek after, we would desire wisdom far more than most of us currently do.
But the truth is this, we all need much more wisdom than we currently possess. There is not a person that I know, who cannot stand to have more of the wisdom of God operating in their lives. And in last week’s message, I proved this very thing to you:
So, let’s quickly review what we talked about last week by looking again at Proverbs 4:5: It says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
So the first things we see here is the command to get wisdom, which lets us know two things - first, that we need it, and second, that it is “gettable.” Because God would not tell us to get it if we could not get it.
Second, we saw how Solomon - a man who had certainly acquired wisdom from the Lord - said that wisdom is the principal thing. No, not love, not faith, not grace. He said wisdom is the principal thing. And we saw that this phrase “principal thing” literally describes in the Hebrew language something that is the head or at the top. It describes something that is first or something that is at the beginning. So, some good translations of this phrase then would be that wisdom is “the first thing” or it’s “the top thing.”
I said that most of us, when we hear the word “principal,” think of the director of a school. This position is generally called “principal” because they are the head teacher or the head-honcho (if you would). This word “principal” is also where we get the term “principalities” from, which are commonly a reference in the New Testament to the highest-ranking demons in the kingdom of darkness. So, they are the top-ranked class of demons in Satan’s kingdom.
In fact, the Hebrew word that is used here in Proverbs 4:7 is the same word that is commonly translated as “first-fruits.” Now the giving of “first-fruits” was when the children of Israel gave the first, and therefore, the best of their harvest to the Lord as an offering. So, when we think of the giving of “first-fruits,” we think of giving our first and our best. Therefore, we can clearly see that Solomon was saying that wisdom is the first and best thing! In other words, it is at the top of all things that we could acquire from the Lord. Now that is a pretty strong statement, isn’t it? Wisdom is the first and best thing! That’s the reason Solomon continually said to get it!
So, what we did last week is we learned why - why wisdom is the first, top, head and best thing. We did this by looking a myriad of Scriptures that teach us of wisdom’s worth and value:
Looking again at Proverbs 4:8-9, we will begin to find out what wisdom brings with her: Solomon said, “Exalt her, and she will promote you. She will bring you honor, when you embrace her…” So, we saw that both promotion and honor come by simply valuing wisdom. Sure, these things don’t come from the east or from the west; promotion and honor come from the Lord (Psalm 75:6-7). However, does that mean that the Lord is just picking and choosing whomever He wants to exalt? No! Again, this verse says that when we exalt wisdom, we will be “exalted.” So, maybe a problem with many is because they have not placed the appropriate value on wisdom - seeing her importance and living like that is true - they have failed to be honored.
So, we need to honestly ask ourselves these questions: Do I love and embrace wisdom? Do I exalt and honor her? To most believers, this is not on their radar to do this. But should it be? If you desire things like honor and promotion, it should!
Therefore, we learned that this is the first thing we need to do - begin to exalt and embrace her. This describes simply just holding her in higher esteem than we currently do. And the awesome thing is by us simply valuing wisdom in our hearts, we begin to attract her. And then when we obtain her, she brings with her all manner of good things in our life.
We then began to look at several other Scriptures like Proverbs 3:14-15; 8:10-11, 19, 16:16 & Job 28:12-19 that expressly state that wisdom is worth more than gold, silver, precious stones and anything else we could desire. And we learned that the reason why wisdom is more valuable than these precious things is because with wisdom comes these precious, natural things.
We looked at both Proverbs chapter 3 and 8 in depth and saw many of the benefits of finding and acquiring wisdom in our lives. Quickly, we saw that with wisdom comes:
So, do you have more than enough riches and wealth in your bank accounts? Have you obtained all the favor you want from the Lord? Have you received all of the honor and promotions you desire? Are you a happy person? Are you on your way to living a long, peaceful and pleasant life? If you cannot answer a definite YES to all of these questions, then you can apparently stand to have more wisdom in your life - because we’ve learned that all of these things come with acquiring wisdom from above! Amen!
Now it stands to mention here that the telltale sign that you and I truly know and understand these things is by how excited and enthusiastic we get about hearing it. So, if the value of wisdom does not stir something up on the inside of us, then it is not real to us. It is that simple! Therefore, church, let’s receive this revelation and receive all the benefits of wisdom in our lives. Amen?
WHAT WISDOM IS NOT
So, an obvious next step in our series on wisdom is to define it. Let’s do this by not only asking the question, “What is wisdom?” but also by asking, “What is wisdom not?”
You see, wisdom is a very difficult thing to define. Like agape love, it has a variety of meanings and is hard to adequately describe. However, one of the best ways to begin describing wisdom is by talking about what wisdom isn’t.
First of all, wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom is not simply accumulating more information than others. You can accumulate a vast amount of knowledge and still be void of wisdom. I received the following statement when studying this: you can have a cap and a gown or a robe and a crown and still be a fool.
You see, the term “fool” is the title that the Bible gives to the one void of wisdom. In other words, the opposite of a wise person in the Bible is a fool. And you know what the Bible says that a fool does, right? Psalm 53:1 says that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” But isn’t it interesting that these self-proclaimed atheists who say that there is no God are the ones who are lauded for their “wisdom”? Yes, these are usually those who are highly intelligent and scholarly, yet the Bible calls this belief that there is no God the epitome of foolishness.
And do you know why this is? It is because Proverbs 9:1 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In other words, the very foundation of wisdom is recognizing that there is indeed a God, and living a life of respect and reverence for Him. If one does not have this basic understanding, they are not wise. I don’t care how many degrees they have, how many letters they have at the end of their name, or what position and title they hold; if they do not recognize and respect the One True and Living God, they are “unwise” (to put it nicely). 1 Corinthians 8:1 tells us that only having knowledge puffs you up (setting you up for a fall.) On the other hand, there are some who are wise that don’t have a very high IQ. This is because they have recognized that true wisdom comes from God and have received it from Him.
Secondly, wisdom is not understanding. Thus, the reason that we see Solomon saying, “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Proverbs 4:5, 7). If they were one and the same, then why tell us to get them both? Amen?
No, understanding literally describes insight, discernment and to realize something. My favorite way to describe biblical understanding is that it is “the ability to put two and two together”- thus “understanding” is to not just knowing what something is, but why something is the way that it is.
So, no, possessing knowledge or understanding is not the same as having wisdom. However, they both work together with wisdom. For example, it is for this reason that I have always liked the following definition given to wisdom: Wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. In other words, wisdom is different than simple knowledge in that wisdom knows how to take the knowledge it has accumulated and then apply it. Therefore, knowledge can exist without wisdom; but wisdom cannot exist without knowledge.
For example, let me give you a good natural example that describes the roles that both knowledge and understanding play - the example of automobile mechanics:
You see, we can study everything that is underneath the hood of our car and be able to tell which parts are the engine, the transmission, the radiator, the battery, the alternator, etc. But this is simply “knowledge.” We might even have the “understanding” of what each of these parts do and what their function is in regards to the vehicle running correctly. But how many of you know that just because you can lift the hood on your car and have the “knowledge” of which part is the alternator, and just because you have the “understanding” of what the alternator does, does not mean that if your alternator goes out that you yourself will know how to fix it. That is where wisdom ties in.
So, what role does wisdom play in this? Before I answer that question, let’s now answer the question: What is wisdom?
The best one-word definitions that I have been able to find for “wisdom” are “skillful” and “expert.” In other words, having wisdom in an area is being skilled and an expert in that area.
Now looking back at our example of auto mechanics - a good, skilled auto mechanic is the one who has the “wisdom” regarding what is underneath the hood. In other words, he or she not only “knows” what every part of the car is, not only do they “understand” what they do and why they do it, but they know how each of these parts work together and can fix the car if it needs it. Yes, one who is “skilled” or an “expert” in auto mechanics could take the vehicle apart and put it back together again. In other words, the one who is “skilled” and an “expert” in auto mechanics knows the correct application of all of that knowledge they have.
Therefore, as wisdom is commonly defined - It is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. In other words, wisdom is the ability to use knowledge and understanding in order to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. So, that is why I like to define wisdom like so: wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life - because as important as being skilled in the arena of auto mechanics is, what we really want to become an expert at is life. Amen?
For example, sticking with this analogy of automobiles: you could say that “knowledge” knows what a traffic signal is and understanding is knowing why it is there. So, these other two virtues know where the traffic signals are located and what the three colors mean. But wisdom, on the other hand, applies that knowledge in a prudent and skilled fashion. In other words, wisdom applies the brakes and stops at the traffic signal. Wisdom respects the yellow light and begins to brake, knowing whether it has the time to make it through the intersection before it turns red. Wisdom even pauses after the light has turned green to make sure no “fools” are running the red light from the intersecting road.
Another good example along the same lines is that knowledge knows what brake lights are and knows that it means when the car’s brake lights come on in front of it; wisdom knows when and how to apply the brakes. In fact, wisdom looks ahead of the car in front of it and looks for other cars in its lane that have begun applying their brakes. Then it correctly assumes that the car before it will put on their brakes before they actually do.
So, do you see how wisdom functions in this example? It looks ahead! It considers what is going to happen before it does! This is a significant characteristic of wisdom which we will get more into in the future.
So, these natural examples I have just described to you are good definitions and descriptions of wisdom, but the wisdom we should be primarily looking for is not the wisdom of auto mechanics, traffic signals and brake lights; the wisdom we need is the wisdom that descends from above! Amen?
How many of you know that there is a BIG difference between natural, earthly wisdom and the wisdom that descends from above (i.e. God’s wisdom)? This is one reason that I like Dr. Charles Stanley’s definition of wisdom. He says, “Wisdom is the capacity to see things from God's perspective and respond according to Scriptural principles.” Amen!
You see, this is the wisdom that you and I truly are looking for! Not just the earthly wisdom that will only help in things that pertain to this temporal life. Sure, there are benefits to having wisdom in regard to the things of life, but the wisdom that comes from above (i.e. God) contains the skill and expertise that will not only help us in this life but also has the promise of the life that is to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
One way you could answer the question - What is wisdom? - is with one word - GOD! That’s right: God is wisdom!
In fact, the Bible actually teaches us in three places (Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17 & Jude 25) that God alone is wise? That means that just as there is none good but God (not meaning that there is no one else who ever does any good things, but simply that God is the only One who is purely good and has this as an unchanging part of His nature), likewise there is none wise but God, which means the same thing: that while we might only scratch the surface of wisdom that descends from above, no one else can ever compare to God’s wisdom.
A good example of this is found in that oft quoted verse, Romans 8:28: So, many have tried to make this verse out to say that God is the author of everything that comes into our lives and that He is using those things to perfect us, to teach us things, etc. Church, that is just not true! A good parable that describes Romans 8:28 is this: God is simply the greatest chess player that ever lived!
You know, chess is a game that is won through simple principles of wisdom. Like what? In chess, it is not just about your current move. It is a game where you must anticipate your opponent’s strategy and have your own strategy at the same time. But what makes a good chess player? A good chess player can take the move of their opponent and beat them with their own move! And that is what God has been doing to the devil for 6,000-plus years! Hallelujah!
WISDOM FROM ABOVE
So, this is where we need to get our wisdom from - from above, from God Himself, since He alone is wisdom. Amen? So, let’s go over to the Book of James because it gives us the primary difference between God’s wisdom and this world’s wisdom.
You know, James is commonly considered the New Testament Book of Wisdom. One of the reasons for this is because James differentiates worldly wisdom & godly wisdom. Let’s look at this passage of Scripture:
He says in James 3:13-17- “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
In verse 13, James asks a rhetorical question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” – indicating that there was evidently a group of individuals in this church he was writing to who claimed to have all of this wisdom and understanding (Probably that same group who wanted to become teachers that James warned in 3:1). So, James answers this question by saying that if you really have true wisdom, it will be displayed in your life by how you conduct yourself. In other words, wisdom is not just knowing something and having all the answers. Wisdom is simply living rightly. In other words, wisdom is not us being able to win a debate; wisdom is us have the common sense to make good decisions in life and actually doing so.
Do you remember the example that I used of wisdom being like a skilled, expert in automobile mechanics and how that is different than just simply knowing what all of the various parts of a car are and why they do what they do? Well, this is how that applies to godly wisdom: it is more than just being able to quote a bunch of Bible verses about something, such as love; it is knowing how to apply these truths about love to your life and actually being a doer of these verses that you know.
For example, knowledge would be us learning the truth. Understanding would be us learning how to apply the truth. But wisdom would be us actually living the truth. Again, this is why my own personal definition of godly wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life. In other words, wisdom is having obtained God’s knowledge and understanding it, and then becoming proficient in applying the truth to our lives.
You see, as James begins to describe in verse 14-16: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
What he is saying is that for one to say that they have God’s kind of wisdom yet have bitter envy and selfish ambition operating in their hearts is not possible. Why? Because if the wisdom that descends from above is planted in our hearts, then our lives will be full of good fruit – the fruit of God’s kingdom. Amen?
This is why when we look at verse 17 - where James defines the God kind of wisdom - that all of these traits and characteristics of wisdom are good and loving behaviors. No, not just theories or philosophies; true wisdom is the applied knowledge from God. And you can bet that everything you learn from Him will revolve around love, goodness and righteousness. Amen?
In James 3:17, he says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
Notice that James begins by saying that this wisdom is “first pure, then…” In essence, he is differentiating this earthly, sensual and demonic facade of wisdom that contains things like envy and selfish motives in the heart from God’s wisdom that is, first of all, pure on the inside (i.e. purity of heart). In other words, God’s wisdom is void of these selfish motives. It is pure, thinking more about others than it is its own self.
Then he goes on to describe this godly wisdom by saying it is “peaceable.” In other words, it is not contentious and creating divisions. But that is exactly what you see the earthly, devilish wisdom. It creates factions. It generates strife. 2 Timothy 2:23 teaches us to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” You see, this disputing back and forth and arguing over doctrine - when done from this sensual wisdom - does nothing but stir up strife. It is not peaceable.
You know, it has been well-said that peace is the manifest presence of God and strife is the manifest presence of the devil. So, when we sense that peace in our conversations, then we can know that God is pleased in the conversation. But when strife is being generated, you can bet the bank that the “wisdom” that is being shared is demonic. Amen? Simply ask yourself the question after you have engaged in these conversations: Do I feel closer to the Lord now or further away? This “afterwards test” will oftentimes indicate whether the activity we just participated in was wisdom from above.
Then James goes on to describe true wisdom as “gentle.” This word describes character that is reasonable, fair and considerate. It is the exact opposite of someone who is abrasive and contentious. Now we know people like this don’t we? And the people who are not “gentle” are generally the ones who think they know a lot. But again, if someone is dogmatic, abrasive and contentious in sharing the things they know, that is not godly wisdom. Wisdom actually is considerate of others. It is reasonable in its discussions.
As James goes on to say wisdom is “willing to yield.” The King James Version says, “easy to be intreated.” This word, which is only used this one time in the New Testament, describes being “compliant, submissive or open to reason.” How many times do you see people who think they know everything being completely unwilling to yield to other people’s views? No, wisdom is teachable, listening to learn what others know. It is not a “know-it-all.” If you aren’t open to instruction, you are limited in acquiring any more wisdom than you have - which is, in essence, foolishness.
This wisdom is “full of mercy and good fruits.” So, again, back to the deeds of wisdom. It is disposed to mercy. It produces good fruit. Godly wisdom is “goodly.”
James goes on to say that wisdom is “without partiality”- meaning that it does not show favoritism or give preferential treatment. James had just told this church that showing partiality is wrong (James 2:1-9). Some will say that this is “wise” to put the people with the deeper pockets in the best places; but again, what is our motivation there? That it is in our own best interest to do that. Therefore, that is the earthly wisdom that contains selfish motives.
Finally, James describes this wisdom from above as being “without hypocrisy.” This goes back to those who claimed to be wise yet were insincere and had all of these improper motives in their hearts.
WISE AS SERPENTS; HARMLESS AS DOVES
So, in essence, God’s wisdom is pure and without hypocrisy. It is a peacemaker (compare with James 3:18). It is considerate and non-contentious. It is open to reason. It is merciful and produces all manner of good fruits.
Yes, godly wisdom uses good, common sense and makes strategic, thoughtful decisions, but not for selfish, harmful motives. All that it does is righteous and good.
A great balance in describing God’s wisdom is found in a very simple exhortation given to us by our Lord and Savior. It is found in Matthew 10:16. In it, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Yes, we certainly want to be “harmless” in our dealings - meaning, we are not to violate the love command. This is at the top of our list of priorities - doing good, being kind, showing mercy, etc. Therefore, we are gentle in our dealings, not harmful and not self-seeking.
However, we are also to be wise as serpents - meaning, we do not naively put ourselves in the position of being hurt ourselves and doing foolish things that lead to loss in our lives. Like a serpent, we make small, calculated movements in our dealings with people and things in this world. Yes, our aim is to imitate Love Himself and be good and gracious in our interactions with people, but we do things wisely - that is, in a slow, systematic fashion, being led by the Spirit of wisdom. And what are we doing when we take time instead of hurrying into things? We are seeking and waiting on God’s wisdom. The answer to 101 questions in this life is “be led.” Similarly, we are told in Philippians 1:9-10 that when we are operating in God’s love, we walk in wisdom and avoid offense. Amen!
So, don’t be quick to move and just blaze on without giving a lot of thought to where you are going and how you are getting there. For example, many people do not consider the outcome of their fleshly impulses. They just do what feels right at the moment, giving no consideration to what it will cost them tomorrow. Wisdom does not do this.
Wisdom is being skilled in the arena of life. It is living right with good, common sense. God has more than enough wisdom for us. Ask Him for it and find it by reading in His Word. If we live in this manner, we are living in the wisdom that is from above, and we will live like the dove, who flies above the snakes below. Amen, and so be it in our lives!