Sweet Success

HoneyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech; they just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool. This morning, we’ll see some sweet success.

Pro. 16:24-25 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

I like this first verse. Solomon rephrases something he’s already talked about when he says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even though we’ve seen words to this effect in Proverbs, I wanted to spend some time here because I think the word picture is so beautiful. A honeycomb is the storage place for honey and that’s the word Solomon intends. Honey is an incredible substance. On their trip to see the second in command in Egypt, Jacob (Israel) told his boys to, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) The Promised Land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and then later returned to find the lion full on honey which he scooped out and ate as he walked. (Jud. 14:8) Jonathan’s eyes were brightened after eating honey in 1 Sam. 14:27. Honey was a regular part of John the Baptizer’s diet. (Matt. 3:4) Honey’s health benefits are widely publicized and it never goes bad. We use the word honey as a term of endearment.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb; they are comforting and soothing. There are many things I find pleasant, but may have no impact on eternity. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Solomon compares pleasant words to something that tastes good. The quickest way for a restaurant to fail is to have lousy food. A good, dark, strong cup of coffee brings me intense delight and comfort. And I’m sure you’ve heard the term comfort food. This type of food is supposed to transport you back to childhood where all your dreams were reality and you had no responsibility, no demands, no pressure, and no stress. Pleasant words are supposed to have an even bigger effect than that. Pleasant words can have a healing effect like a balm. I wonder if Solomon is thinking about the words penned by his father David in Ps. 19:7-11. The Law of God and the Word of God are eternally important for us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) That’s why Solomon says pleasant words are, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Does this next verse sound familiar? Verse 25 is exactly the same as 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Solomon to say the same thing again? We’ve had a number of verses so far that convey the same overall meaning. Do you take it for granted? This is a caution against doing things on your own and it needs to be said again. When I tell you a cross reference for this verse is found in Pro. 12:15 it’ll all make sense, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Solomon is always contrasting wisdom and folly or righteous and unrighteous. When you consider your own ways and do not take the input of others, the end result is not generally good. There seems to be a right way to do things, but when you rely on yourself, it’s typically not good. It might turn out okay occasionally because even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Solomon is trying to get us to realize that we need other people in our lives. We don’t see loners in the Bible. The most vibrant, engaged Christians are those that are actively engaged in community. The followers that are growing the most are those that are engaged in fellowship with others that help them grow. The most authentic believers are those that are willing to place themselves under the authority of others; they don’t just do their own thing. If the way you’re going seems right to you but you’re alone, how will your course be corrected? If you just follow your heart, where will you be led? The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Sometimes it seems like we’re that three-year-old trying to tie his shoes saying, “I can do it myself.” It seems like we’re so desperate to do things on our own and we not only ignore godly guidance, we have a tendency to be offended if offered advice from someone older or more experienced. At the risk of tiring out this example, we have these mentors or guides in every aspect of life. The coach tells you what play to run or if you don’t come to practice, you can’t play. The teacher tells you to use a #2 pencil. The IRS tells you that your return must be postmarked no later than April 15th. The military tells you exactly how to wear your uniform. IKEA tells you how to put together their furniture.

We have little to no issue with this. After all, we want to play and we want to win. We want the computer to see our answers so we can pass the test. We don’t want to get a monetary penalty for filing late. We want our cool IKEA furniture to look right. When we transfer these same instructional ideas to the church, what happens? The music leader tells you your solo is cut or you’re singing flat. Someone offers some marriage advice or parenting guidance and all of a sudden, it’s none of your business. We have some misguided notion in the church that the only people that can offer advice are perfect people. Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but how about learn from what I’ve messed up on and from what works for us. My kids aren’t perfect and I’ll tell you where I messed up so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. All of us tend to learn more from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, so why is it we’re so hard pressed against spiritual advice? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The most vibrant, effective ministries are the ones where there is a spirit of unity, a spirit of mutual love and respect where Jesus is elevated to His appropriate place above all other things. It’s a place where the focus is on the main thing. It is entirely unrealistic to think we will have success in every single thing we do. Thomas Edison figured out 2000 ways the light bulb didn’t work before finding one that did. Our first year going to Romania was not what we would define as a success, but the lessons learned were invaluable in refining the goals for how we do mission work in Romania. Every trip we learned something that didn’t work and that forced us to self-examine what we were doing. Each year at C4, we learn things. I don’t want us to get so routine and stagnant, that we just continue on regardless of how ineffective we might be. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we’ll continue. The church is a living, breathing organism. We are made up of people that are learning and growing Do you want to be more effective in life? In ministry? In Eternity? Surround yourself with people who want the same thing. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There is no room in your life for people who will tell you what you what you want to hear, who will lie to you, who won’t hold you accountable. That’s not love. That’s foolish. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others.

Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success.

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Proverbs – An Introduction

WisdomYou can listen to the podcast here.

We kick off a new series here at C4. I’m sure many people are aware of some of the things they will hear in this study, but may not know that it originated from the Bible. As we dig into the Scriptures, we find there is an inexhaustible wealth of knowledge and wisdom contained within its pages. The Bible can lead people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by grace through faith, and it can also teach mature believers truth that will change our lives. In an age where common sense has become uncommon, the book of Proverbs provides truth and wisdom so we can reject harmful and wrong behavior in order to authentically pursue Christ. Proverbs deals with normal, ordinary aspects of life from social skills, marriage and parenting to stewardship and personal disciplines. I encourage you to read a chapter of Proverbs each day, every month and learn from its incredible truths.

If you go back in the family tree of Israel’s leaders, you’ll find some wonderful people. One of my favorite Old Testament books is Ruth. It’s a great story of redemption not just for Ruth, but for us too because Boaz is an illustration of Christ’s redemption for mankind. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. David is one of the greatest characters of Scripture and is described as a man after God’s own heart. While David did many great things, he is known for some not so great things. One of those is the story of David and Bathsheba. The son that was conceived in adultery would later die as a result of David’s sin. But David and Bathsheba had another son named Solomon.

Prov. 1:1 tells us these are, “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” A proverb is an ethical teaching, a short pithy saying; it states a general truth or a piece of advice. The proverbs we’ll look at in this series can be trusted. They are from God’s mouth. How did Solomon get to this position? I hope you’ll take the time and get your Bible so you can follow along. Read 1 Ki. 2:1-4. David had some other things to say to Solomon and we come to 1 Ki. 2:10-12. So Solomon becomes the third king of Israel about 970 B.C. We don’t know how old he is, but many scholars believe he was about 12-14 years old when he becomes king. 1 Ki. 3:3 says, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” Notice that Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of David.

This sets up a remarkable dream sequence in which God appears to Solomon. In the dream God says to Solomon, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s request is found in 1 Ki. 3:6-9. He first acknowledges the covenant God made with David that was prophesied by Nathan in 2 Sam. 7:12, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” David walked before the Lord, “In truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward God.” David was loyal to God and God was loyal to David. We have to assume there was significant parental instruction and teaching to Solomon and yet Solomon confessed he needed God’s help because he was, “a little child, I do not know how to go out or come in.” This literally refers to his lack of leadership skill. Even though he is young and inexperienced, he is chosen to lead God’s people. Solomon is in the same position that was held by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and his father David. So Solomon asks for an understanding heart – this literally means a listening or obedient heart. In the Hebrew language, hearing and obeying come from the same word. The idea is that if you heard something, you would obey it. This all comes from Solomon’s desire to judge God’s people effectively. This is only possible when the king knows the difference between good and evil. God responds in 1 Ki. 3:10-13. Solomon asked for wisdom – that’s biblical. Ja. 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Not only does God give Solomon wisdom exceeding that of any other man, God gives him riches and honor. But there is a caveat – a conditional clause in v. 14. Too often we want God’s promise without doing what God requires.

Are you asking yourself, was Solomon really that wise? Matt. 12:42 says, “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

1 Ki. 4:29-34 says, “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” We will look at many of those proverbs in this study. Solomon will offer wisdom for everyday life. Will we be willing to listen and obey?