The world is full of talented people. It doesn?t matter what field of study or profession you explore you will find lots of talented people. There are lots of talented musicians who have the ability to touch our hearts and stir our souls. There are so many talented people in the field of marketing. They know how to pull at our heartstrings and make us want their product. In the field of medicine we have doctors who are performing procedures and making discoveries that just a few years ago seemed out of reach. You can look at the athletes of the last Olympics, people like Justin Gatlin who won the 100 meter sprint in 9.85 seconds, Jeremy Warner who won the 400 meter sprint in 44.00, or Michael Phelps, who at 19 years of age won 6 gold and 2 bronze medals, and we see talent that causes us to stop and marvel at their abilities. As I said before the world is full of talented people who have worked hard to sharpen their skills and excel in their chosen field.
There are talented people all around us, maybe not as high profile as the people I?ve just mentioned, but talented nonetheless. There are talented carpenters who build beautiful homes, talented mechanics who can fix an engine with the skill of a surgeon?s hands, talented secretaries who can make an office run smoothly and efficiently, talented teachers who inspire their students, and talented assembly line workers who perform their jobs with accuracy and professionalism. The world is full of talented people.
Talent is wonderful, talent is a gift, but talent is not the determining factor in weighing the success of a person?s life or the fulfillment one will experience in life. There is another ingredient that is even more important than talent and that is wisdom?godly wisdom. If we will glance back over our shoulder and take a look at history we can see story after story of talented people whose talent was abused or wasted. They had lots of gray matter, a high IQ, and creative genius, but they didn?t have the godly wisdom necessary to know how to live with integrity, with a servant?s heart, and how to utilize the talents they had been given to bless the lives of others while honoring God.
In our Scripture for today we will see the advantages that come to those who make their first priority to live in godly wisdom. Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 8:12-21.
12 ?I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. 13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. 14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. 15 By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; 16 by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. 18 With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. 19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, 21 bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full. (Proverbs 8:12-21 NIV)
?Prudence, knowledge, and discretion.? Now those are important words. Words, that if they were used to describe you or me, we would lift our chin, puff out our chest, and feel good about ourselves. Yet, these words are pivotal in demonstrating to us the point that I was making earlier. Simply possessing ?prudence, knowledge, and discretion? doesn?t guarantee us that life will be good or that our life will be pleasing to God.
Take a look at those three words again with me??prudence, knowledge, and discretion.? You probably don?t notice anything unusual in these words. We see these as good qualities, right? It is good to be prudent, right? It is good to have the ability to be careful, meticulous, methodical, and cautious in making decisions. It is good to possess knowledge. It means that we are smart, intellectually astute, right? We, who are parents, are encouraged to exercise ?parental discretion? before we allow our kids to watch certain movies or television programs. To have discretion means that you have good judgment, you are careful and thoughtful before you decide. Yet, if you look a little deeper into these three words you can see that they can be very destructive if they are utilized outside of the guiding hand of Almighty God. Let me show you what I?m talking about.
The word translated ?prudence? means ?shrewdness, craftiness, or prudence.? I want to show you how prudence can be destructive by taking a look at some negative uses of the word in God?s Word. Turn with me to Exodus 21:14 and let?s read together.
14But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death. (Exodus 21:14 NIV)
He laid out his plan and executed it to perfection so that he could take his enemies life. He was deliberate, cautious to make certain that no one else would be around, and he was careful in thinking through every detail. The attacker was a prudent, shrewd man, yet he was condemned by God.
In Joshua 9:3-6 we see another negative use of the word. Won?t you turn there with me and let?s take a look.
3The people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai 4and cooked up a ruse. They posed as travelers: their donkeys loaded with patched sacks and mended wineskins, 5threadbare sandals on their feet, tattered clothes on their bodies, nothing but dry crusts and crumbs for food. 6They came to Joshua at Gilgal and spoke to the men of Israel, ?We?ve come from a far-off country; make a covenant with us.? (Joshua 9:3-6 NIV)
The Gibeonites were prudent in that they cooked up a plan to get in good with Joshua and the Israelites. They were afraid that the Israelites would do to them what had been done to the people at Ai, so their leaders tricked Joshua into signing a peace treaty with them. They were prudent, but they used their prudence in a deceptive way.
Just as there are many talented people all around us, there are also many shrewd, prudent people all around us. They have the ability to think things through thoroughly, plan meticulously, and work craftily to see their plan come to fruition, but is the plan devised and designed to bless those around them or to line their own pockets and to benefit their own situation?
In Proverbs 8:5 we find Lady Wisdom crying out to those who are simple and urging them to gain prudence. Read along with me.
5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. (Proverbs 8:5 NIV)
We who are prone to living life willy nilly, wherever the opportunity arises, or the wind blows?we are urged to gain prudence for two reasons. First, godly prudence will protect us from those who desire to scheme against us, those who would like to fool us like Joshua was fooled by the Gibeonites.
Roy Tarpley, coming out of college, was a basketball phenom. He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks and was one of the top ten players in the NBA until he was banned for life because of drug and alcohol use. The word was that Roy was a great guy. He wasn?t a thug. He was a small town boy who made it big, but he was prone to the influence, bad influence, of those around him. His situation was so bad that Dallas hired a coach who simply babysat with Roy. Gar Heard drove Roy to all of his practices, stayed with him, and watched over him to make sure that Roy didn?t get in trouble. It didn?t work. Several years ago, after Roy was banned for life from the NBA, Jonathan Comey wrote these words.
Roy Tarpley probably never asked to be a role model. He probably never expected to be a millionaire either. No one told him on the first day of school that it was going to be like this. No one told him that he was going to have a drinking problem. No one told him he was going to have a drug problem. No one told him the urge to have a drink, or do a line, or smoke a joint was going to cost him so much. Roy Tarpley will probably never be an NBA player again. His second lifetime suspension, handed out for repeated alcohol abuse, cost him the remaining $22 million on his six-year contract. Tarpley started out like every other kid in a temptation?drriven America, learning at the whims of his family, his school, his friends, his surroundings. From an early age, every kid in America knows what alcohol is. Their parents drink it. It’s in those funny ads on TV. When they get to a certain age, they try it themselves. And that’s where the danger lies. When Roy had that first drink, how ever many years ago, he was in the same situation that 99 percent of have been in. From that first drink, or first joint, anything is possible. A friend asked me the day after Tarpley’s ban, “Couldn’t you go without a drink for 22 million dollars?” Temptation got the better of Roy Tarpley. (Jonathan Comey, Standard-Times Correspondent http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-95/12-16-95/b2sport.htm)
Prudence could have kept Roy Tarpley in the NBA and out of trouble, but Roy allowed other things to influence him other than godly wisdom.
Prudence not only will protect us from those who desire to bring us down, but it will also help us to live wisely, to plan thoroughly, and give our all to honor God and bless the lives of others.
The second word that I want us to look at is knowledge. The Hebrew word for knowledge means, ?knowledge, skill, discernment, or understanding.? We send our kids to school for years to gain knowledge and yet a person can be an educated idiot, an evil genius, or a Mensa maniac if they do not submit to God?s counsel and seek godly knowledge above all else. Once again, let me show you some of the negative uses of the word to prove my point.
Many of you are familiar with the story of Job and the suffering that he endured. Job couldn?t figure it out. He was a righteous man, he feared the Lord, and lived his life to honor God and yet he was devastated by loss and sorrow. By the time you get to the end of the book of Job, he thinks he has it all figured out. He wants a hearing with God so he can give Him a piece of his mind. Well, guess what? God shows up and asks Job some questions, questions like, ?Where were you, wise guy, when I laid the foundations of the earth and hung the stars in their place?? After Job heard God speak, Job spoke once again from a posture of confession and humility.
1Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 ?I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ?Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:1-3 NIV)
Job spoke with confidence about what he thought he knew, but he really didn?t know did he? My friend, we can think we know all of the facts and yet, if we do not submit to the Lord, our knowledge can lead us into destruction. Alongside of this, we can think we know, we can be absolutely certain that what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we believe is lock down right?yet we can be so wrong.
In Isaiah 47:10, we run across mighty, self-confident Babylon. The super power of the day, the conqueror of God?s people, could anything ever bring her down? The Babylonians sure didn?t think so. They didn?t worship God, but why should they? They were strong. They were smart, well educated. They had military might, economic prosperity, and the nation was thriving. Yet, God spoke and said,
10 You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ?No one sees me.? Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ?I am, and there is none besides me.? (Isaiah 47:10 NIV)
Do you see how perilous it can be to have knowledge and to know that you are knowledgeable, but lack godly wisdom? Just as the Babylonian?s knowledge misled them, our knowledge can mislead us if we trust in our knowledge, rely upon our knowledge, rather than confess that we don?t know and that we are utterly dependent upon God to give us His knowledge and wisdom for each day and each decision.
The last word that I want us to examine is the word ?discretion.? Discretion is a good thing. We need discretion in making decisions. We need discretion when opportunities come our way so that we can know whether or not we are to get involved or avoid the offers, if we should speak what is on our heart or hold it, if we should do what we have planned or refrain from doing it. The Hebrew word for discretion means, ?purpose, discretion, thoughts, intents, or plot.? Turn to Psalm 10:2-4 with me and let?s take a look at a negative use of the word.
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:2-4 NIV)
The ungodly can possess discretion, they can formulate their thoughts about what they want to do, work to accomplish their purpose, and yet do all of this only to serve themselves. Are you a businessperson who is always thinking about a new way to make a buck? Are you scheming, plotting, and planning a way to get over on your business partners or clients so that you can boost your bottom line? God stands in judgment of your thoughts and plans. Are you a young person who is trying to work your parents or your teachers? You are not doing what you ought to do so you try to come up with a plan to cover your tracks, right? Let me inform you?your sins will find you out. Are you a husband or wife who is always trying to get what you want out of the relationship so you plot and plan new ways to get over on your mate, to mislead or deceive them, to take advantage of their trust in you? God stands in judgment of your ways my friend.
Prudence, knowledge, and discretion. Good attributes of a person right? Maybe. How can we utilize these qualities in a way that will not do us in, dishonor God, or bring about harm to those around us? How can we trust God for the wisdom to know how to utilize these qualities so that God will be honored and praised? Those are great questions. Now you are asking the right questions! Let?s take a look at verses 13-14 and we will find the answer.
13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. 14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. (Proverbs 8:13-14 NIV)
You want to know how to utilize these characteristics, these qualities, in a way that will benefit others rather than treat them as if they are a means to an end, then fear the Lord, stand in awe of His power, might, majesty, and glory. Know with absolute certainty and constant awareness that we are accountable to our Sovereign King who created us to bless and not to harm, who created us to be servants and not to be served, who calls us to be a kingdom of priests and not ?profiteers.?
We don?t hear sermons or Bible lessons any more about the ?fear of the Lord.? It?s not trendy, people don?t want to hear it, so how can we grow a church if we teach the need to grow in our understanding of what it means to ?fear the Lord?? Because we don?t hear sermons or lessons any longer on this important topic we are seeing the fruit of our silence before our eyes. Our day is much like the day in which Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome. Turn with me to Romans 3:10-18.
10As it is written: ?There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.? 13 ?Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.? ?The poison of vipers is on their lips.? 14 ?Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.? 15 ?Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.? 18 ?There is no fear of God before their eyes.? (Romans 3:10-18 NIV)
Do any of those societal ills sound familiar to you? I bet they do. I was brought to my knees this past week as I was studying for the time we would spend together in God?s Word this morning. I was reading Deuteronomy 31 where Moses was coming near to the end of his life and he was passing the baton to Joshua. It?s interesting what Moses had on his heart. I dare say that if we were witnessing the passing of the baton from one leader to another in our day that we would hear a different lesson than the one Moses shared with Joshua. What lessons do you think we would hear today? Financial management techniques? Who to stay in good with and who to avoid? Up and coming young leadership that we should look to for a new leadership team? What pitfalls to look for as we begin our new position? All of these and more would be contained in the lessons of the outgoing leader as he or she instructed the incoming leader. That is not what Moses offered to Joshua. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 31 and let?s learn the most important lesson that Moses had to offer to Joshua.
7Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ?Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.? 9So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10Then Moses commanded them: ?At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12Assemble the people?men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns?so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.? (Deuteronomy 31:7-13 NIV)
Moses said, ?Joshua, teach your people to fear the Lord, to walk in obedience, to live before Him in reverence.? Moses says, ?Children will come along who do not know what He has done. Read to them His Word so that they will listen and learn to fear the Lord.? What wisdom! What counsel! We desperately need to learn how to live our lives in the fear of the Lord!
I want to clarify something for us. To ?fear the Lord? doesn?t mean that we cower behind a couch like a child living with an abusive parent. To live in the fear of the Lord means that we have such an overwhelming understanding of His holiness, glory, and might that it leads us to live in such reverence for God that it consumes us. It means that we are intensely and wholeheartedly aware that He is Sovereign, He is omnipresent, He is omniscient, He alone is omnipotent. He made us and we have not made ourselves. He made us for a reason and it is to be a blessing and not a curse. He made us for Himself so that we might honor Him with all that we are and all that we do. When we understand this about God then we will melt before His glory!
Solomon said, ?The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.? Are you aware of the majesty and might of Almighty God? Does it affect the way you live, the way you interact with others, and the desires of your heart? Does the ?fear of the Lord? give you a greater desire to walk in obedience with the Lord? Jesus spoke to the people of His day and said, 46?Why do you call me, ?Lord, Lord,? and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46 NIV) We can?t say that we understand what it means to live with reverence and awe of God and His ways and yet live like however we want to live.
I pray for you and me this very morning that the Lord will consume us with His holiness and glory this very morning. This is my prayer because I know that if He will answer this prayer and overwhelm us with His holiness and majesty, if He will show us that we are accountable to Him for these precious lives He has given us, then we will have a greater desire to walk with Him in intimacy and faith. I have seen over and over again how people who seek God are transformed by God. If you and I will put aside lesser things and pour our lives into walking with God day in and day out, then we will see Him begin to revolutionize our lives. We will walk in the fear of the Lord. We will see godly prudence, godly knowledge, and godly discretion rise to the surface and bless our lives so that we can be a blessing to others.
If you are not a Christian and you have never accepted Jesus as Lord of your life then I?m certain none of this makes any sense to you. I want to invite you to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life this morning. Allow Him to forgive you of your sins, fill you with His Spirit, and open your eyes to the glory and grace of God. Won?t you invite Him in?