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Last week we started off talking about a different kind of evil. Don’t allow yourself to succumb to peer pressure. Watch out for the neighbor that tries to lead you in a way that is not good. You should be able to recognize this guy because he winks his eyes and devises perverse plans. Be on guard, watch out, remain steadfast. As you pay attention, you’ll grow in knowledge and understanding which leads to wisdom which leads to longer life which leads to the development of gray hair which is the normal course of our spiritual walk with Christ. Gray hair is like wearing a crown so treat your elders with respect. This morning, we’ll see that a man’s temperament is at the top of the list of desirable attributes.
Proverbs 16:32-33 says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.”
Speed is relative. When I was in the Navy we had the saying, “Hurry up and wait.” It seems like we’re always waiting on something or someone. We tell our kids, “Hurry up.” “You’re slow as Christmas, or molasses.” We wait in the checkout line with the slowest cashier ever. We have to wait for our food in the restaurant and wish they’d hurry up. Being slow is not always a bad thing. We’re also told slow and steady wins the race. Slow down and smell the roses. In our seemingly contrasting world, Solomon tells us no different. Solomon starts off with the character of a man. He said previously, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Pro. 14:29) He also said, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Pro. 15:18) Now he says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty.” Notice he doesn’t say never gets angry, but it takes a while for the wise man. This verse comes right after Solomon talked about the gray headed man. The general thought is that as you grow older, you develop patience; you’re not easily provoked, you don’t take the bait to get into an argument, you think before talking, you consider the circumstances. In other words, you demonstrate biblical wisdom. You know who else is slow to anger? Ps. 103:8 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Listen to James’ expectation in Ja. 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” There should be progressive maturity in Christ. It should be steady. Just like in our biological growth, sometimes there are periods of growth spurts and sometimes there is slower growth, but always growth.
Being, “slow to anger is better than the mighty” is another example of how the Bible emphasizes qualities that are not elevated in our society. It doesn’t say being mighty or powerful is wrong, but when you compare it to anger, it’s better to be in control of yourself than it is to be strong and powerful. Solomon explains why when he says, “And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” This is one of the identifying traits of a mature Christian. Can you hold your tongue? Can you control your emotions? Are you anxious? Worried? It’s better to be able to control yourself than it is to be strong. The greatest battle you may fight just might be the one that you fight within yourself.
Solomon also talks about sovereignty. He says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Back in Bible days, the lot was one of the methods used to determine God’s will. Lots were cast to determine the scape goat in Lev. 16:8. The Promised Land was divided among the Twelve Tribes by lot in Num. 26:55. The sailors cast lots to determine the cause of the calamity in Jon. 1:7. Lots were cast by the disciples to see who would replace Judas in Acts 1:26. We don’t know exactly that the lot was. It could have been flat stones like coins, varying length of sticks, or some other dice like device. When you consider God’s will, I assure you that it can be quite the conundrum and it’s not left to chance. So if God controls all things, then what about the evil and wickedness in the world? I think it’s a fair question, but you have to understand a very difficult concept. There is a difference in the permissive and perfect will of God. God is in control of all that happens and there are things He allows for reasons we may never know or never fully understand. Nothing that happens catches God by surprise. He can see tomorrow as clearly as He sees yesterday.
So even if something happens by chance, ultimately, God is in control. That brings us back to the sovereignty of God question. Paul exclaimed. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33) We can thwart God’s will too. The fatalist says whatever will happen will happen. If whatever happens, happens, why would God command us to pray? In fact, you can say that about all the Christian disciplines we have. Evangelism, missions, worship, etc. Just because something happens doesn’t mean it’s God’s will. Romans 1 tells us that’s not so. We have choice. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Ja. 4:7) Some things are from God and some things are from the devil. Solomon says, “Every decision is from the Lord.” Everything that happens in our life is carefully evaluated by God and is allowed to happen or not. Don’t confuse the verbs allow and cause. Jer. 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” God’s plans for us are always good, but that doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen. We live in a fallen, sin filled, self-centered world where we make decisions based on us. Even in tragedy, God can be glorified. Even in crisis, God can be glorified. In sickness, God can be glorified. We don’t know the ripple effect our lives have on eternity. In tragedy and crisis, our faith can grow; our trust in God can grow. God is not the source of evil, but He does allow it in this world and in our lives. We can wrestle with the whys of it all, or we can trust that God knows what He’s doing. I admit that is a very challenging decision.
Are you going to let your circumstances dictate who God is? For some people, God’s character and love change depending on how good their life is going. God is awesome, right up until your spouse is diagnosed with some awful disease. God is awesome right up until your kids do something that turns your world upside down. God is awesome right up until you lose your job, your car dies, or a tree falls on your house. God is awesome right up until the time that something happens that doesn’t line up with your plans. When we evaluate that in light of Scripture, we can’t find where that’s true. Either God is the same always or He’s not. You can’t have it both ways. The sovereignty of God is a very challenging concept to understand and I will not pretend that I understand all the whys of life. I think a lot of the time; God just wants us to defer to Him. Paul said, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:1-5) I walk through life; what I have observed is there are rarely periods of growth in our faith when all is going according to our plans. It’s when those plans change or are totally blown out of the water do we really learn how to trust in the One that allows those deviations. Solomon is not saying, “Hey believer, just sit back and hang while God does His magic.” We should and must engage in an intentional daily pursuit of all things Jesus.
The fatalist’s theme song goes like this: “Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours, to see. Que Sera, Sera. What will be, will be. Que Sera, Sera.” All we have to do to discount that is go back to the Bible. Just a moment ago I told you that Jer. 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” God does have plans for you. During Paul’s second missionary journey, the Spirit of Jesus prevented him from preaching in Asia and from going to Bithynia. Things don’t always make sense and God wants us to trust Him. It should be an easy enough thing to do. So you need to ask yourself, what’s keeping me from totally trusting God?