Today we begin our study of the third heart-to-heart talk between the parents of Proverbs and their son. In the first two chapters of Proverbs we?ve seen how the wise counsel of the boy?s dad and mom have been offered to steer their son away from those who would lead him down a path to ruin. Today, as we begin our study of chapter 3, we get to be a fly on the wall, listening in as they teach their son how godly wisdom can mold his heart and teach him to trust in the Lord, which is of greatest importance. Today?s study makes it very clear that to walk in wisdom is truly an inside job.
Today we put so much emphasis on environment. If a young person steers off course and starts drinking, using drugs, and hanging out with the wrong crowd, then it has to be his friend?s or parent?s fault. If an employee is dishonest and steals from the company then it is due to the fact that there are extenuating circumstances going on in her life, or the company precipitated the theft by cheating her out of a promotion or paying her such low wages. If a husband is unfaithful to his wife and destroys his home then we are told that we need to try and understand how the unbearable situation he was living in led him into the arms of another woman. We?ve spent four weeks studying the first two chapters of Proverbs so that we can gain a good grip on the importance of avoiding those who will lead us down a path of ruin, but this is not the only factor that we need to consider. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees of His day in Matthew 12:33-37.
33 ?Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.? (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV)
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to believers in his day and encouraged them to refuse to lay their temptations and sin in the laps of others. Turn with me to James 1:12-15 and let?s read together.
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13When tempted, no one should say, ?God is tempting me.? For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:12-15 NIV)
Walking in wisdom, walking with God, and avoiding the path of destruction, humiliation, and ruin is a two-fold undertaking, but our first priority must be the matter of our own heart. Let?s read verses 1-12 together and then we will get into our study.
1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. 11 My son, do not despise the LORD?S discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:1-12 NIV)
Before we get into the particulars of the benefits of wisdom there are some comments that I need to make in order that we might gain a firm footing as we study this passage. This section of Scripture and others like it have been misused by many in the Body of Christ. Throughout the ages those who subscribe to a ?health, wealth, and prosperity? gospel have used passages like this to try and buttress their arguments. The reason we have seen such growth with this type of theology, especially in America, is because we want to hear what we want to believe. Instead of studying the ?whole counsel of God? we pick and choose passages and paste them together to get what we are looking for. I?m sorry my friends but we are not given this latitude in the study of God?s Word. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Take a look with me at verses 8-10 and let?s read together.
8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:8-10 NIV)
If you read this Scripture in isolation, apart from the rest of God?s Word, then you can easily be led to believe that if you will simply ?do? what is right then you will ?get? what you want to get. This type of theology reduces God to a mere formula and that is nonsense. There are other passages in Proverbs that show us ?more? is not always better when it comes to wealth and prosperity. I want us to take a look at some passages of Scripture from Proverbs 15-19 so that we can see what I am talking about.
16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. 17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Proverbs 15:16-17 NIV)
8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. (Proverbs 16:8 NIV)
1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. (Proverbs 17:1 NIV)
1 Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse. (Proverbs 19:1 NIV)
Passages like the ones we have just read are never shared by the modern-day ?prophets of profit.? I can remember when Connie and I were living in Plano, Texas. There was a huge church that experienced great growth and success. The preacher had a television program that was in every market in America. He taught people that the reason they didn?t have more money was because there was sin in their lives. To change their circumstances they simply needed to confess their sin to God, get right with God, begin confessing God?s abundance, and sow a seed gift into His ministry.
In 1991, before an expose by ABC?s Prime Time Live, Robert Tilton was bringing in 80 million a year to his ministry. People followed him like the Pied Piper. After the expose things changed, the money didn?t flow as freely even though he still brought in millions, and Robert Tilton lived on the run?going around Dallas in disguises so that he wouldn?t be recognized.
Word of Faith church is still in Farmer?s Branch, but instead of more than 5,000 people gathering on Sunday mornings there are only about 130 people who gather in the huge building for worship?Robert Tilton is not one of the worshippers. Robert Tilton has divorced two wives, bilked millions out of hundreds of millions, fled Dallas, and is now ?prospering? in Miami, Florida where he has bought a piece of property to build himself a new home to go along with his new 50 foot yacht. The undeveloped property in Miami Beach cost $1.3 million before his new house is built.
Robert Tilton is a success if you are simply reading his financial report, but I will tell you that Robert Tilton?s life is in shambles and he doesn?t even know it. His life is in shambles because he has built his life on sand, a flimsy theology of cultural philosophy based on wealth and prosperity, rather than biblical truth.
You need to understand that my intent today is not to try and disprove Scripture?that is a futile effort. I absolutely believe God?s Word is Truth, the only Truth that we have in this world. What I am seeking to challenge us to consider is that we need the whole counsel of God?s Word, not isolated Scriptures plucked from context to build a case for what we want to believe. If we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and refuse to trust in our own ingenuity or mental capabilities then we will be blessed, but we will be blessed with the presence of Almighty God, a living relationship with the King of Glory, not necessarily great wealth or fame.
Let me give you the greatest test case of all, but before I do that I want to go through Proverbs 3:1-12 and highlight some of the promises that can be so easily misunderstood. Let?s begin in verse 1 and work our way through. We are told that if we will keep the commands and ?do? the right things then we will experience the following:
? A prolonged life and many years.
? We will win favor and a good name with God and people.
? Wonderful health and vitality of life.
? Our barns will be overflowing.
? Our vats will brim over with new wine.
These are wonderful promises that are worth doing the right thing in order to get, right? Of course they are. Now let?s take the greatest test case of all and see what we can learn. Wouldn?t we all agree that Jesus is the most righteous, holy, and morally upright person to ever walk on the planet? Not only was He morally upright, but the Bible teaches us that He was sinless. Now that we?ve got that out of the way let?s see which of these promises were evident in His life. Did He live a prolonged life and many years? He died at 33?in the prime of His life. Prosperity? Oh, He was prosperous alright, but not in the way the world or the ?health, wealth, and prosperity? folks define it. Did He win favor and a good name? He was jeered, mocked, and run out of town. They hung Him on a cross for Heaven?s sake! Wonderful health and vitality of life? You bet! He was fully alive and even though He faced great opposition they couldn?t rob Him of the joy He knew from living and walking in obedience to the Father. How about full barns and overflowing vats? In Luke?s Gospel we read about a man who came up to Jesus one day. Turn with me to Luke 9:57-58 and let? read together.
57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ?I will follow you wherever you go.? 58Jesus replied, ?Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.? (Luke 9:57-58 NIV)
Jesus said He didn?t even have a place to lay His head, forget about barns and vats! Does that mean that Jesus was experiencing less than God intended for Him? He didn?t experience long life on this earth, but He reigns eternal! He didn?t have a good name while He walked the earth, but He possesses the name that is above every name!
The greatest missionary the world has ever known, the author of 13 books of the New Testament, one once wrote to the church in Philippi and said,
10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13 NIV)
Paul was as content in poverty as he was in plenty. He was as content when the table was bare as he was when it was brimming over with food. Why? For Paul the key to his contentment was the Sovereignty of God. God was in control of his life. Paul knew that whether He brought poverty or wealth, sickness or health?he could trust the Sovereign King of Glory. You see, unlike many of us today, Paul read his whole Bible. In 1 Samuel 2:6-7 Paul read,
6 ?The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. (1 Samuel 2:6-7 NIV)
The key for us is to distance ourselves from seeing God as a formula or an equation: good deeds + God?s promises = the blessings of good health and great wealth. What we need more than anything is simply to trust Him?Just trust Him. Whether He brings poverty or wealth, sickness or health?just trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 is the heart of our study. Take a look at this section of God?s Word with me.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
Just trust Him. He loves you and me. Like a parent who withholds things that his child wants because they will harm him, God will not give in to our wish list when it will lead us away from Him or destroy us. Like a parent who blesses his child with things the child doesn?t want at all, but which are necessary to build his character and increase his maturity, God blesses us with what we need rather than what we want. We just need to trust Him.
S.M. Lockridge was a powerful communicator of God?s Word. He served faithfully as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California for many years, but he?s gone home to be with the Lord now. Pastor Lockridge encouraged his congregation one Sunday to trust in the Lord with these words.
You can trust Him. He?s the one who made us. It is He who made us and not we ourselves. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. No means of measure can define His limitless love, and no farseeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply. I?m telling you today you can trust Him.
No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. He?s enduringly strong, and He?s entirely sincere. He?s eternally steadfast, and He?s immortally graceful. He?s empirically, powerfully, and impartially merciful. He?s the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He?s God?s Son. He?s the sinner?s Savior. He?s the centerpiece of civilization. I?m trying to tell you, Church, you can trust Him.
He does not have to call for help, and you can?t confuse Him. He doesn?t need you, and He doesn?t need me. He stands alone in the solitude of Himself. He?s august, and He?s unique. He?s unparalleled. He?s unprecedented. He?s supreme. He?s preeminent. He?s the loftiest idea in literature. He?s the highest personality in philosophy. He?s the supreme problem of higher criticism. He?s the fundamental doctrine of truthology. He?s the cardinal necessity of the spiritual religion. He?s the miracle of the age. He?s the superlative of everything good that you can call Him. I?m trying to tell you can trust Him.
He can satisfy all your needs, and He can do it simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak, and He?s available for the tempted and the tried. He?s sympathizes and He sees, He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleansed the leper. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the people. He blesses the young. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. He beautifies the meek. I?m trying to tell you, Church, you can trust Him.
He?s the key to knowledge. He?s the wellspring of wisdom. He?s the doorway of deliverance. He?s the path of peace. He?s the roadway of righteousness. He?s the highway of holiness. He?s the gateway to glory. You can trust Him.
He?s the master of the mighty. He?s the capturer of conquerors. He?s the head of heroes. He?s the leader of legislators. He?s the overseer of the overcomers. He?s the Governor of the governors. He?s the Prince of princes. He?s the King of kings. He?s the Lord of lords. You can trust him.
His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you. He?s indescribable because He?s incomprehensible. He?s irresistible because He?s invincible. You can?t get Him off your hands. You can?t get off your mind. You can?t outlive Him, and you can?t live without Him. Pilate couldn?t stand it when he found out that he couldn?t stop Him. Pilate couldn?t find any fault in Him, and the witnesses couldn?t get their testimonies to agree, and Herod couldn?t kill Him. And death couldn?t handle Him, and thank God, the grave couldn?t hold Him. There was nobody before Him. There?ll be nobody after Him. He has no predecessor. He?ll have no successor. You can?t impeach Him, and He?s not going to resign. You can trust Him.
He?s the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. The first and the last. He?s all things. He?s the giver of life. He?s the joy out of every sorrow. He?s the light of every darkness. He?s the peace that passes all understanding. He?s the giver of every good and perfect gift. You can trust Him. There?s no God before Him. There?ll be none after Him. He is the first. He is the last. He is preeminent. There is no other God.
Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord. We give you praise, we give you glory. We walk out of this building today knowing, God, you are trustworthy. And God?s people said, “Amen”. All right. You can trust Him. Amen (S.M. Lockridge, Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego, CA. http://www.rbcdothan.org/Outlines/you_can_trust_him.htm)
Oh, we can trust Him my friends. He is worthy of our trust. I would rather be a doorkeeper in God?s will than to live in palatial mansions apart from His grace and mercy. Some of you are being called to trust Him in the midst of horrific suffering, severe physical illness this morning and you need to know that you can trust Him. Some of you are being called to trust Him this morning in the midst of severe financial hardships, you wonder if you are even going to be able to come out of it, but you need to know that you can trust Him. There are others here this morning that are being called to trust Him rather than the great abundance that He has brought your way?won?t you trust Him? There are some among us this morning who?ve never trusted Him for our salvation, we?ve reserved our hearts, but this morning He is calling us to surrender our hearts to Jesus, His only Son. Won?t you trust Him?