As we move into the 15th chapter of Proverbs, Solomon addresses a wide array of topics and issues that he knew his son would face at many times in the years to come. Solomon helps his son know how to deal with angry people by saying, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (vs.1) He says those who are wise go around lifting others up and commending them for good rather than tearing others down. Solomon urges his son to pray with a sincere and seeking heart. He says that those who are lazy will always be in need. Solomon says, “A greedy man brings trouble to his family.” (vs.27) He warns his son that there are dire consequences for those who choose to turn away from godly wisdom and live life by their own desires. He says that those who don’t listen to correction and refuse to be disciplined really hurt themselves more than anyone else. Solomon says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (vs.22) He tells his son that it is better to have the bare necessities of life with love in the house than to have a feast and great wealth where there is turmoil.

Those of us who have lived for awhile know these things are true because we can look back over the years of our lives and see how many of these Proverbs apply to situations we’ve already experienced whether we knew the Proverbs at the time or not. On the other hand, for those of you who are young, in your teens or twenties, you need to know these Proverbs, take them to heart, because you will find yourself benefiting greatly if you will take this wisdom to heart and apply them to your lives in the years to come.

Solomon’s counsel, offered to his son as well as to you and me, is without a doubt the wisest counsel that you and I can acquire anywhere. We could take each of these little one-liners and spend our entire time searching God’s Word for examples of each of the truths. We could, but we won’t. What we are going to do this morning is focus on three verses from Proverbs 15:13-15. Turn with me to Proverbs 15 and let’s begin.

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. 14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. 15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:13-15 NIV)

In these three verses we see the word “heart” appear four times. We learn that there is a direct correlation between the countenance of our faces and the condition of our hearts. We see that a discerning heart is hungry for godly knowledge; it will lead us to a lifetime of learning about the Lord and His truths for living. Last of all, we learn that a cheerful heart allows us to continuously taste of the good things of life. Before you think that “the good things of life” are materially oriented, let me direct you to Psalm 34:8-10.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:8-10 NIV)

If we are feasting on the good things of life then we are enjoying the sweet fellowship and peace that comes from spending time with the Lord, walking in His ways, and living according to His will. Those who seek the Lord will lack nothing. What a promise!!

Alongside of the three truths we see in Proverbs 15:13-15, we also learn that we can allow heartache to crush our spirit. External circumstances can cloud our demeanor if we allow the external circumstances of our lives to overwhelm us. In verse 14 we see the contrast of the discerning heart and the mouth of the fool. The mouth of the fool grazes like cattle in a field on folly, worthless things, while the heart of the discerning yearns to learn more and more. The last contrast that Solomon sets in place for us is the comparison of the oppressed with those who have a cheerful heart. The great Bible commentators, Keil and Delitzsch, say of this last pair of people,

The true and real happiness of a man is thus defined, not by external things, but by the state of the heart, in which, in spite of the apparently prosperous condition, a secret sorrow may gnaw, and which, in spite of an externally sorrowful state, may be at peace, and be joyfully confident in God. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament)

What Solomon is really setting before us this morning is a choice. Will we live this life controlled and dominated by what happens to us or will we live life with our hearts set on the peace and contentment given by God regardless of whether our circumstances are pleasant or painful? Will we be pessimistic people who always see the glass as half-empty, life as lacking in purpose or meaning, and disappointment as our only destiny? Or, will we live life with confidence in the Sovereign hand of God and see the Providence of God at work in each of the situations that come our way in life? Will we set our hearts and minds on the things above or will we live this life controlled by our emotions and the events of life? Those are such important questions for us to consider as we study God’s Word this morning. I would urge you not only to consider these questions, but to make a decision how you will live this life this very morning.

Each of us here this morning is already living life. The question is “How have you lived this past week?” Have you allowed your circumstances to control your responses to life or have you chosen to trust God regardless of your circumstances or situations? I will promise you that if you allow your circumstances to control you then you are going to have a bleak outlook on life, there will be a gray cloud hanging overhead and it will grow darker and darker as the years go by. You will end up seeing life like Eeyore, the little gray donkey who was Winnie the Pooh’s buddy. Let me give you an example of an Eeyore outlook on life. In A.A. Milne’s, “Eeyore’s Birthday,” we read,

Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water. “Pathetic,” he said. “That’s what it is. Pathetic.” He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again. “As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.” (A.A. Milne, Eeyore’s Birthday)

Eeyore couldn’t see the sun beyond the clouds because he always had his head down. His life was pathetic, his days were pathetic, and his take on those around him was pathetic as well. His eyes were filled with his circumstances rather than the glory of God. Eeyore is only a character in a children’s book, but there are many folks who are walking around today who share Eeyore’s outlook on life. Solomon urges us to look beyond the clouds to the Son who shines with glorious radiance even in the toughest situations of life.

As I mentioned to you earlier Solomon uses the word, “heart,” four times in these three little verses. I want to take a minute to help us understand why our hearts are truly the heart of the matter. The Hebrew word for “Heart” means, “inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, the seat of appetites, emotions, and passions.” You can see that the heart, for the Hebrews, was command central for the total person. Let me give you some examples of the variety of ways that the heart expresses itself in Scripture. In 1 Chronicles 16:10 we see the heart rejoicing.

10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. (1 Chronicles 16:10 NIV)

In 2 Chronicles 30:12 the Hebrew word is translated, “mind” instead of “heart.” We see here that the people were of one heart or mind, there was unity among the people. Read along with me.

12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD. (2 Chronicles 30:12 NIV)

In Ezra 6:22 we see the same Hebrew word for “heart,” translated, “attitude.” God had changed the heart or attitude of the king of Assyria.

22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:22 NIV)

In Psalm 19:8 we learn that the teachings of the Lord give joy to our hearts. Our hearts are filled with joy when we pursue the truths of God. A joyful heart is a by-product of seeking to walk with God and apply His Word to our lives. Now there’s something for us to keep in mind as we seek to live this life that God has given us. Read along with me.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:8 NIV)

Last of all, we can see that the heart is not simply tied to our emotions; we have the power of determination within our hearts. Take a look at Psalm 119:58 with me.

58 I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. (Psalm 119:58 NIV)

Our hearts are so important, so tied to everything that flows from us. Solomon says that the condition of our heart is written all over our faces. I want to address something that is a misconception among many Christians. In Proverbs 15:13, Solomon writes, 13 “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” The heart that is set on the things of God will rearrange the face. I’m not saying that the heart set on the things of God will cause us to walk around with a big smile all of the time or spouting off, “Well, just praise the Lord anyway.” The word for “cheerful” can mean, “to rejoice, to be well, or pleasant.” Many Christians seem to think that to be a Christian means that you have to have a Pollyanna mindset about life. Everything is fine, everything is fun, its Christmas morning every day of the year. This is just not so. Christians experience the hardships of life just like everyone else.

Just this past week I’ve spent time with men and women who love God deeply, with all of their hearts, and yet they are going through very painful experiences right now. Broken relationships, physical afflictions, job related problems, anxiety about important decisions to be made–all of these things can rattle our hearts, but they don’t have to rob us of the peace that God desires for us. For those whose hearts are yielded to God the troubles and anxieties of life are an opportunity to draw near to God and trust Him as well as His promises. This is why Paul could write to the Corinthians and say,

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV)

For you and me to see this bold confidence and contentment present in our lives we must recognize that this “all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” That is why we turn our hearts toward the Lord rather than trusting in what we see present in our lives.

As I mentioned to you earlier, there are troubles in this life regardless of whether you are a Christian, Atheist, Hindu, or Muslim. Solomon is right when he writes, “Heartache crushes the spirit.” He is right isn’t he? Have any of you ever experienced the crushing weight of heartache? I bet you have.

Connie and I had lunch with a couple in our church this past week that went to their 14 year-old nephew’s funeral one week ago. Aaron was riding his bike with some of his buddies when he had some kind of seizure or something and rode his bike into an oncoming van. What a crushing weight that is and yet as we talked over lunch Jason said, “I’ve clearly seen God’s hand move twice in my life. I’m talking about when there could be no other explanation but God. One of those times was when Aaron died.” How could that be? How can he see God’s hand at work in the death of someone so young? The answer to that question can’t be found if you seek out the wisdom of the authorities of our day, but if you consult with God and seek to learn of His ways then you will know that Psalms 116 tells us, 15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV)

In Proverbs 15:14 Solomon writes, 14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” The “discerning heart” is the heart that desires to know about life from God’s perspective. A discerning heart is something more than having the ability to gather information or to accumulate facts. It is having the ability to see as God sees and know how to act or react as God would have us act in a given situation. The best example of the use of the word for “discerning” is found in 1 Kings 3 where the Lord appeared to the new king, Solomon. Turn to 1 Kings 3:5 and let’s begin reading there.

5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:5-9 NIV)

Solomon asks God to give him a “discerning” heart so that he can lead the people and distinguish between right and wrong. This is the wisdom Solomon is speaking of in Proverbs 15:14 when he writes, 14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” Those who will seek the Lord will hunger all of their days for the wisdom of God. They will recognize that they have entered the school of wisdom and that they will never graduate. The reason we will never graduate is because we live in this world, but we are called to live for God. The wisdom of this world will not lead us to godly living. As a matter of fact, the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Paul wrote,

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 3:18-19 NIV)

The fool is the person who chases after the ways of this world. The word, “feeds,” means to “graze” like a cow in a pasture. The fools have their eyes set on the things that seem so important to this world. The fool gives his energy to the pursuit of pleasure, acquiring more and more, and getting what supposedly will make him happy. Solomon urges us to desire a discerning heart, a heart that yearns to know more and more about God and His ways.

Last of all, in verse 15 we see that the oppressed experience wretched days, but those who have a cheerful heart will feast on the good things of life. Solomon writes,

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NIV)

This verse is not so much concerned with who has the more difficult life as it is concerned with how we deal with the difficulties of life. The oppressed allow the difficulties of life to cloud their days, their troubles pile up on them, but the person who has a heart set on the things of God will experience the joy of the Lord regardless of his circumstances or situations.

Our attitude flows from our allegiance my friends. If you are committed to living your life for the glory of God then that allegiance, that commitment, will shine through in everything you do. On the other hand, if your only allegiance or commitment in life is to get whatever you want and do whatever you want to do then the troubles of life will break you down. Chuck Swindoll wrote a wonderful piece about the importance of attitude.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on my life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.” (Chuck Swindoll)

Our attitudes are a direct reflection of the condition of our heart. If our heart is trusting in God’s Sovereign hand and looking for His Providence then our attitude will reflect that commitment. Are there things in this life that cause us to worry and suffer from anxiety? There are so many things that drive us to our knees, but we can go to our knees in confident trust and quiet prayer to our Sovereign King or we can go to our knees in desperation and despair. Jesus said,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

“Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.” What an incredibly simple answer to a complex life right? Not really. We all know that trusting God is not simple at all. It requires total submission, total concentration, total commitment, and total devotion all at times. The moment we take our eyes off of the Lord we will see the enormity of our troubles, but if we will seek to keep our eyes on the Lord then we will see the enormity and Sovereignty of our God. Which will it be for you this morning? You allegiance will not reduce the number of hardships you experience in life, but it will certainly change the way you experience those hardships. You see my friend, the condition of your heart and my heart is truly the heart of the matter.

Is your heart yielded to the Lord this morning? Have you ever surrendered your heart to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord and King of your life? Have you confessed your sin and asked Him to forgive you? I want to invite you this morning to ask Jesus to give you a new heart.

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114

The Heart of the Matter
Proverbs 15:13-15
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