This past week Annie and I went to learn how to pitch a softball. We went to a place called Sports Plus because a friend told me that the coach is outstanding. She played softball for Oklahoma State so she must be good, right! Annie and I met Jane and Shae Boyd at 50th and Counsel for the lesson and I don?t know what Shae was expecting, but I do know what Annie thought was going to happen?she thought that we would arrive and spend an hour pitching. No, no, no. That?s not the way it works.
For one solid hour Annie and Shae went through three drills to help them learn the fundamentals of correctly pitching a softball, but they never got on the pitching rubber and went through a complete wind-up. What they did was spend an hour doing repetition after repetition. When we got ready to leave the instructor told the girls, ?Now I want you to go home and practice these drills. Throw 25 pitches doing each of the three drills. That way you will throw 75 balls each time you practice.?
On Tuesday night, after we got back home from the lesson and our kids were in bed, I thought about our time at Sports Plus and the time that we?ve been spending in the book of Proverbs. For an eight or nine year old doing the same routine over and over again can seem monotonous, it can seem boring, it can seem like a waste of time, and it might even lead a kiddo to think, ?This is worthless. Let?s get on with pitching. Put me in a game and let me go.? That would be a huge mistake. A young girl shouldn?t venture out on the pitcher?s rubber until she has practiced, and practiced, and practiced again. To get in the game before she is ready could bring about catastrophic results, cost the team lots of runs, and ruin her self-confidence.
For those who are young in their faith or those who are constantly looking for something new and exciting these wonderful lessons that Solomon has been teaching to his son can seem monotonous, they can seem repetitive. As we?ve worked our way through the first seven chapters of Proverbs we?ve read the same solutions over and over again. Oh, they are phrased a little differently, but they contain the same message, the same methods of prevention, over and over again. Solomon has addressed many topics that his son will face in life, but he offers the same counsel for each situation?seek godly wisdom, cry out for godly understanding, keep this wisdom in your heart, before your eyes, and don?t turn away from it no matter what! I want to just give you a sampling of what I am talking about. We read in Proverbs 1:8.
8 Listen, my son, to your father?s instruction and do not forsake your mother?s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8 NIV)
In Proverbs 2:1-5 we read,
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NIV)
In Proverbs 3:1-2, Solomon?s reiterates to his son,
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. (Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)
And in Proverbs 4:1-2 we read,
1 Listen, my sons, to a father?s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. (Proverbs 4:1-2 NIV)
Now turn with me to Proverbs 5:1-2 and let?s read together.
1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. (Proverbs 5:1-2 NIV)
In Proverbs 6:20-22, Solomon shares with his son how this wisdom will keep him from harm.
20 My son, keep your father?s commands and do not forsake your mother?s teaching. 21 Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. (Proverbs 6:20-22 NIV)
Last of all, in the last chapter of Proverbs we studied we read,
1 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 7:1-3 NIV)
Now, for many people the repetition of Solomon?s counsel might lead us to believe that Solomon has run out of things to say. We might conclude that he is being repetitive, and he is, but we need to understand that repetition is the basic, foundational principle of all learning. It doesn?t matter what skill you are trying to master?it may be a jump shot, a hand off on the relay team, a surgical procedure, memorizing Scripture, learning a foreign language, perfecting a sales-pitch, playing an instrument, or studying for a test?repetition is still the basic, foundational principle of all learning. Let me give you some examples from everyday life of what I am talking about.
In an article I read on the internet this past week called, Eight Keys to Effective Leadership Communication, the writer states,
The fourth key to leadership communication is repetition. Repetition is key. Repetition is key. It used to be that people needed to hear or see a message at least six times before they would begin to recall hearing or seeing it. Now, the yardstick, as agreed by sales and marketing professionals, is that it takes at least 12 repetitions for a message to be recognized. This is because the “clutter” of messages that bombard each of us every day continues to intensify. The latest estimate is that each of us hears or sees a total of 3,000 messages every day. So, in an organization, the core stories that a leader tells need to be repeated often, especially at historical moments, so that people are reminded who they are, both individually and collectively. (Eight Keys to Effective Leadership Communication. http://www.corpstory.com/ezines/archives/8keys.htm.)
An effective leader, in any organization, must constantly tell the core stories that the makes their organization unique, that communicates the purpose and strategy of the organization, so that those who are part of the organization will always remember why they are doing what they are doing.
It is not just effective organizations that understand and utilize this important principle, but world class athletes also understand the importance of repetition in mastering their skills. Bill Russell, was the dominate center for the Boston Celtics during the 1950?s and 1960?s. During Bill?s 13 year career the Celtics won 11 NBA championships and he was named MVP five times. Bill Russell said, “I hated practice. I never minimized, however, the importance of repetition in getting ready for a season. Your craftsmanship comes out of your dedication to your practice.”
In an article in The Boston Globe entitled, Repetition Makes Best Surgeons, Tufts-New England Medical Center’s surgeon-in-chief, Dr. William Mackey is quoted as saying, “The more often I do a procedure, the more I fall into a standard routine. Then, if I encounter something out of the ordinary, I’m quicker to recognize it and correct it.” (Repetition Makes Best Surgeons, By Raja Mishra, The Boston Globe, February 5, 2003.)
Repetition is not only key to mastering those skills that we desire to acquire in sports, our job performance, educational pursuits, or some other endeavor. We must also realize that repetition solidifies the negative habits that we grow to despise and detest about ourselves. The more we repeat an action or attitude, be it negative or positive, the more it will become part of who we are. A young college student posted an example for us on a website called, ?collegeslackers.com.? Let me show you what I am talking about. He writes,
It all started the Spring Break of my sophomore year of high school. Ever since then I’ve been practicing. Practicing to become what every college student strives to be–Practicing to become a College Drinker. And not just any College Drinker, I want to be the best. I want to be able to party all night long. I want to be able to not pass out. I want to be able to function just well enough to hook up. I want to never puke again, unless my friends will think it’s funny or there’s a cop car around. I want to leave every party I go to with my eyebrows intact?I’ve been practicing for years to become a good College Drinker, and maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll even earn the title of Best College Drinker Ever… (Blade. www.collegeslackers.com)
I?ve got news for you?the guy who wrote this piece will succeed. It may cost him more than he ever dreamed, but he will succeed because he is practicing that which is important to him. He may glory in reaching his goal for a little while, but he will feel much differently when it costs him his family, his job, wreaks havoc on his liver, and leaves him destitute. What he now loves, he will one day loathe.
The principle holds true whether we are pursuing some noble quality that we desire to see manifested in our life or whether we are pursuing something as destructive as becoming the best college drinker in the world. The principle holds true because practice makes perfect!
In our Scripture for today, found in Proverbs 8:1-11, we hear wisdom once again invite those who are living randomly to come and sit at her feet. Let?s read our Scripture for today.
1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: 4 ?To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. 6 Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. 7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:1-11 NIV)
There are so many things that we can pursue, so many things that are vying for our hearts and minds. Our day is no different than the day in which Solomon and his son lived. Solomon knows that there are many voices crying out in the public square. He knows that his son will be bombarded by countless messages that will promise to bring his son fulfillment, happiness, pleasure, and excitement in life, but he wants to chronicle for his son the wonders of godly wisdom. Solomon wants his son to know that there is absolutely nothing that can compare to the qualities of godly wisdom. He wants his son to know that if he passionately pursues anything else other than godly wisdom that he will end up morally, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt. Let?s take a look at what Solomon taught his son.
First of all I want us to notice the way in which wisdom sends out her invitation. The invitation is not issued in a dimly lit room or dark alley-way like the invitation of the seductress or adulteress. The invitation is not whispered in a sultry, seductive voice so as to lure her victims. The invitation is not only for a few, for an elite class of people or for the unsuspecting and gullible. No, you can see by looking at verses 1-4 that the invitation of Lady Wisdom goes out like a bullhorn. The invitation is not whispered?it is shouted! Lady Wisdom stands at the city square, where all of the people congregate, where business people, skid row bums, and every other kind of person cross paths, and she offers her invitation to all people.
What is it that is promised to us by the myriad of voices that are crying out for our allegiance this morning? That is a great question. Let?s think about it for a minute. An Ivy League education promises success. The right look and the right friends promise us recognition and popularity. Money promises us everything we could ever want. The night life promises us experiences that will excite us and take us away from the hum drum of life. Any wonder why they call it??Happy Hour?? Are we only allowed one hour to be happy a day? I could go on and on with the promises made by those in society who are trying to lure us to their products, places of establishment, or to what is popular.
Lady Wisdom, godly wisdom, makes promises of her own. Let?s take a look at what is promised to those who pursue godly wisdom with all of their hearts. Look at verses 5-8 with me.
5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. 6 Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. 7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. (Proverbs 8:5-8 NIV)
In verse 4 the call went out to all people. The Hebrew word for ?man? and ?mankind? are words for the common person. Each and every one of us is offered the invitation to benefit from Lady Wisdom?s counsel. Here in verse 5 we see two groups within the larger sea of humanity addressed and invited to come near to listen. We?ve already studied both of these words in past studies so we won?t take too much time to look at them again this morning. Suffice it to say that the ?simple? are those who are ?unformed? in their resolve. They are open-minded, easily influenced, and gullible. On the other hand, the ?foolish? are not lacking in gray matter or stupid nearly as much as they are prone to make wrong decisions because they do not think and are not led by godly wisdom. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about the fool.
We note the kind of choices which the fool makes. His eyes are unable to see any proper way or conduct. He may roam the earth seeking it, but miss it completely. Apparently he does not concentrate on what is right (Prov 17:24). The fool imagines that he can buy wisdom when actually he has no inclination for it (Prov 17:16). He takes no delight in understanding (Prov 18:2), hates knowledge (Prov 1:22), and therefore does not choose the fear of the Lord (Prov 1:29). The end of the fool’s complacency is destruction (Prov 1:32). (TWOT Wordbook)
The invitation of Lady Wisdom goes out to all of us, but especially to those of who just keep messing up, who keep making bad choices in life, and to those who don?t have a clue about how to live or what to do to experience the life that we all long for and dream about. That is good news for me! I?m invited to the table to learn of wisdom?s ways.
I learn from this Scripture that I can trust what godly wisdom has to teach me because none of her words are crooked or perverse?they all come with a 100% money back guarantee. God is not trying to manipulate me?He is seeking to mold me into the man He desires for me to be. God is not trying to use me to His benefit, so that He can get ahead even if it leaves me behind. His desire is to bless me and lead me in this life so that I can experience the fullness He desires for me.
I also learn from this section of Scripture that I can also trust God?s Word because Lady Wisdom says that her words, which is really the Word of God, will never lead me into that which will destroy me because godly wisdom stands in stark contrast to wickedness.
This is good news, but how can wisdom teach us? What areas of expertise does wisdom possess? I mean if you want to learn about the human heart then you would be wise to talk to a cardiologist. If you want to learn about the oceans of the world then you would do well to consult with a marine biologist or oceanographer. If you would like to learn about numbers then you really shouldn?t talk to a philosopher or fiction writer, you should talk to a mathematician. If you want to learn about the game of football don?t talk to a fan, talk to a coach.
What areas of life can Lady Wisdom give us good solid advice? That?s a great question! Godly wisdom has solid, totally trustworthy counsel for you and me in every area of life. Paul made this very clear to Timothy when he wrote his first letter to him. Paul writes,
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives? tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)
Money, marriage, sex, power, temptation, trials, integrity, business ethics, honor, humility and much more are all addressed by Lady Wisdom?and her counsel can be counted on my friend. The wisdom and advice offered by God?s Word is unparalleled in human history. You can?t find wisdom, direction, insight, or counsel like this anywhere in the world today. Oprah doesn?t offer it. Dr. Phil can?t match it. Dr. Laura can?t top it. God?s Word speaks from the mouth of God?the One who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He knows it all, but He is more than willing to share His wisdom with common, ordinary folks like you and me. In James 1 we read about the availability of God?s wisdom for you and me.
5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8 NIV)
James makes it very clear for us?God?s wisdom is available to us. It?s availability is for the living, not for theorizing or contemplating. James says, ?Believe it! Live it! Put it into practice!?
In the last section of our study for today we can see the incredible, immeasurable value of godly wisdom. Read along with me from Proverbs 8:10-11.
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11 NIV)
The invitation is going out this morning, just as it has gone out for each and every generation. Come can sit at the feet of wisdom, come sit at the feet of God, and learn of His ways. Godly instruction is more valuable than anything this world has to offer. All of the money in the world can get you all kinds of things, but it can?t get you a life. You can set your sights on the ?bling,? on grabbing the golden rung on top of the corporate ladder, or winning the lottery, but none of these can provide peace for your heart or joy for your home. Why do we spend so much of our time and energy pursuing that which can never fulfill and neglecting the One, the only One, who can quench our thirst with the Living Waters?
The invitation is going out. I hope that this morning you will receive and respond to the invitation. Don?t be like King Zedekiah, the religious leaders, and people of Jerusalem who heard the invitation come again and again but they never got around to responding. Take a look at 2 Chronicles 36:11-16 and let me show you what I am talking about.
11Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD. 13He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God?s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel. 14Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. 15The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16But they mocked God?s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:11-16 NIV)
The people of God kept turning down the invitation until there was no remedy for their woes and worries, their sin and sorrow. If we know these things then why would we want to turn down the invitation that is going out this very morning?
Again in Jeremiah 7 we see how those called by God, loved by God, turned away from the invitation to pursue what was important to them. Read along with me from Jeremiah 7:25-26.
25From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.? (Jeremiah 7:25-26 NIV)
God sent His prophets time and time again to teach the people about the godly wisdom that we have been studying for the past several months, but they would not listen. I?m sure they talked like many of us talk today. ?I don?t have time for Bible study. I?ve got more important things to do. There?s a good football game on this Sunday night. I can?t go to church on Sunday morning because I?ve got business to take care of. If I went to church it would just put me behind. I know I?m not perfect and that I need to straighten up, but hey I?m still young so I want to live it up while I can. When I get old then I will get serious about God.? The invitation goes out again and again. The invitation is going out this morning, but is anybody listening? Will anybody respond? Will you surrender your life to Jesus Christ? Will you confess your sin to the Father, your need of the Savior, and trust Him to lead you and guide you by His counsel alone? Is anybody listening? Will anybody receive the invitation?