Who has influenced you during the past week? During the past year? What voices have made a lasting impression on you?the way you think, the way you act, the career path you?ve chosen in life?who influenced you to make those decisions? What kids at school are pulling you down, lifting you up, inspiring you, or tiring you? You see the fact of the matter is that each and every one of us is easily influenced. Whether you are a student or teacher who has just started a brand new school year or a secretary, nurse, assembly line worker, or corporate executive who faithfully shows up on the job day after day?you are being shaped and molded by those you watch and listen to, those you allow to influence you.
This past week I?ve heard stories about how lives have been shaped by others. The two stories that I?ve become familiar with are interesting because both guys didn?t personally know the one who had such a great influence on them. Let me share their stories with you.
Aaron Rogers is a college quarterback that you?ve probably never heard about. He wasn?t recruited out of Chico High School in California, but he had a desire to play football. He went to Butte Community College so he could continue to play the game he loves. While he was in his first season at Butte the coach from the University of California, Jeff Tedford, had made a trip to Butte to recruit a tight end. While he was at practice he saw Aaron throwing the ball. To make a long story short, Coach Tedford eventually offered Aaron a scholarship.
Aaron began last season for the California Golden Bears as a backup to Reggie Robertson, but he got his break during the fifth game of the season and has become a star. He threw for more than 300 yards in five of the last seven games. Aaron has shocked people, including his coach, with his cool, level-headed demeanor. I wonder where he learned to stay calm, not get rattled, and stay focused? David Leon Moore, in USA Today, writes,
This is a guy who wears a Joe Montana t-shirt under his game jersey, who re-enacted all of Montana?s San Francisco 49ers highlights hundreds of times in his backyard in Chico, Calif., with his dad and older brother. (USA Today, Monday, August 23, 2004)
In the words of that great American theologian, Paul Harvey, ?Now you know the rest of the story!? Aaron Rogers had never even met Joe Montana, but Aaron watched every game that Joe played, he listened to him speak in interviews, and he allowed Joe Montana?s mannerisms and method of playing quarterback to shape the way he worked at being a quarterback?even as a little kid.
By now most of you have heard of Jeremy Wariner. This past week the 20 year old sophomore from Baylor won the 400 meter Olympic gold medal. As much as people have talked about Jeremy?s incredible speed, they?ve talked even more about the fact that Jeremy is the first white American to win a gold medal in an Olympic race in 40 years.
Unlike Aaron Rogers, who dreamed of being a quarterback when he was a little guy, Jeremy never even gave running in the Olympics a thought. He dreamed of playing pro baseball until a coach approached him during his freshman year in high school. Jeremy wasn?t cracking the starting line-up and the coach suggested that he switch his spring sport to track. Jeremy took the coach?s advice. The ignition point of Jeremy?s passion for running came when he was a sophomore in high school and watched Michael Johnson run the 400 meters. Jeremy says that when he watched Michael run he knew??That?s what I want to do!? And he did.
Both of these young guys were influenced and the influence resulted in good things taking place in their lives. That is not always the case. We see all around us, each and every day, how negative influences upon the lives of young and old alike can lead to disastrous results.
In our next section of Proverbs we will take a look at influence. Won?t you turn to Proverbs 6:20-35 with me and let?s get started.
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. 23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, 24 keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. 25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, 26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? 28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? 29 So is he who sleeps with another man?s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. 30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. 32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; 34 for jealousy arouses a husband?s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. 35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is. (Proverbs 6:20-35 NIV)
I want to let you know that we are going to focus our attention this morning on verses 20-23. It is these verses that are the real remedy to the problem of getting entrapped by the things that can destroy us. If we will learn the lesson of verses 20-23 then we will have a ready defense to guard against the attacks of Satan and the desires of the flesh. Let?s take a look at verses 20-23.
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. 23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (Proverbs 6:20-23 NIV)
This is not the first time Solomon has instructed his son to pay attention to the lesson that he is offering him. Throughout the first six chapters of Proverbs we?ve read about Solomon telling his son to ?pay attention,? to ?write the instruction on his heart,? and to ?not forsake his teaching.? Here again in chapter 6, we read Solomon?s words, ?Keep your father?s commands and do not forsake your mother?s teaching.? Solomon tells his son to do two things: First, he is to ?bind them upon his heart.? Secondly, he is to ?fasten them around his neck.? What Solomon is telling his son is that he is to make this teaching prominent in his life. He is not to have a ?Sunday morning faith? or simply give lip service to the Word of God, but it is important that he make God?s teachings the most important thing in his life.
If Solomon?s son will heed his dad?s advice and make godly teaching the most important thing in his life then he will experience three marvelous blessings take place in his life. First, if he will pursue the Lord with all of his heart, then, God?s Word will guide him. Secondly, when he sleeps God?s Word will watch over him. Last of all, when he wakes up in the morning God?s Word will speak to him, it will counsel him. I want to take a look at each of these individually this morning.
Now that school is back in session I?ve been praying for our kids. There are so many distractions that they are confronted with every day at school. It doesn?t matter whether you go to a prestigious, academically challenging, private school, a Christian school, or a public school?you are going to be around kids who are misguided, misinformed, and misled. Some of these kids are being led astray by what they see on television or listen to on their headphones, others are trying to achieve a look or a reputation that requires them to live a particular kind of lifestyle, and others are simply rebels without a cause. If you told them the sky is blue they would protest, ?No it?s not!?
Solomon doesn?t want his son to be influenced and shaped by those who might lead him astray?he wants his son to be influenced and led by the Lord and His teaching. The Hebrew word for ?guide,? that we see in verse 20, means, ?to lead, guide,? or ?to govern.? The word carries with it the sense of instruction. As you walk with the Lord you will be instructed and His instruction will govern your life.
I want us to look at some of the places where the same word appears in Scripture so that we can get a good sense of its meaning. In Psalm 27, David wrote and asked the Lord to teach and lead him. Look at Psalm 27:11-14 with me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. 13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:11-14 NIV)
David didn?t want to be led by the ill feelings he had for his oppressors, he didn?t want his anger to dictate his actions?he wanted to be led only by the ways of the Lord. David had a desire to learn of God?s ways so that he wouldn?t give into the feelings he had for vengeance or retribution.
The last Scripture I want us to look at where this word is so prominent is found in Psalm 73. This Psalm shows us the need we have to walk with God instead of allowing our feelings or experiences to lead us astray. The Psalmist was almost led astray because of what he saw and how he felt about it. I say ?almost? because something happened in Asaph?s life that corrected his perspective and thinking. Follow along with me.
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, ?How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?? 12 This is what the wicked are like?always carefree, they increase in wealth. 13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. 15 If I had said, ?I will speak thus,? I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:1-28 NIV)
Asaph saw the wicked prospering and it almost ruined him until he decided to go to the sanctuary, into God?s presence. In verse 24, Asaph writes, ?You guide me with your counsel?? When life didn?t make sense and all that he saw contradicted what he believed, Asaph made a visit to the Lord?s house where his perspective was corrected. We may be guided by our feelings, by the influence of others, or by the counsel of Almighty God as we dig deep into His Word, but make no mistake about it?we will be guided by someone or something.
The second blessing that will come to those who pursue a Christ-like life above all else is that they will have restful, peaceful sleep. Their rest and peace in the night is brought about because they know that the Lord is watching over them. Take a look once again at Proverbs 6:22.
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 6:22 NIV)
Once again, we have to remember that the prerequisite of experiencing these blessings in our life is that we walk with God. Please, please do not allow anyone to lead you to believe that you can give God mere lip service or treat Him like He is a rabbit?s foot and expect Him to guide, watch over, and counsel you. It just won?t happen. We need to remember Asaph?s words, in Psalm 73:28, after his perspective was corrected by the Lord. Asaph wrote,
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:27 NIV)
Asaph says that he made the Sovereign Lord his refuge. He knew that God was in control and he was not. He knew the Lord loved him and was his refuge. This is the same idea of what we find here in Proverbs 6:22 where Solomon says that God will watch over us while we sleep. The word that is used by Solomon for ?watch? means, ?to keep, guard, observe.? Let me show you another verse where this same word appears.
In Proverbs 2:6-8, a section of Scripture that we?ve already studied, Solomon told his son about how the Lord will guard his way. Read along with me.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. (Proverbs 2:6-8 NIV)
I hope you noticed that the Lord will not only watch over those who seek Him during the night, but He will also guard our steps during the day. How does this take place? I?m so glad you asked. Stop and think with me for a moment. Think about the incredible lessons of wisdom we?ve learned just from the first six chapters of Proverbs! We?ve learned lessons about not getting tied to debt that is not our own and instruction concerning sexual promiscuity and adultery. We?ve learned that godly wisdom is more precious than all of the money in the world. We?ve learned that lying brings dire consequences and prideful, arrogant attitudes are hated by the Lord.
These teachings have made a lasting impact on my heart. They?ve caused me to see red flags when situations arise in my life that tempt me to give in to what comes naturally, but results in destruction. As I resist those temptations I see how God is guarding my life?God?s Word is a shield to protect me from destruction.
The last blessing that is promised to those who pursue God with all of their hearts is that when they wake up in the morning God?s Word will counsel them, it will speak to their hearts. The Hebrew word for ?speak? found in Proverbs 6:22 means, ?to put forth, mediate, commune, speak, complain.? For those who are seeking God with all of their hearts, God?s Word will counsel and speak to them before they ever leave the house.
In Psalm 55 we read about how David?s thoughts were troubling him. Why was he so troubled? Was it because of something he had done or some situation in his life? Let?s find out.
1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; 2 hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3 at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. (Psalm 55:1-3 NIV)
David?s thoughts troubled him because of the ?voice of the enemy? and the ?stares of the wicked.? What?s interesting is that the word ?thoughts? is the same Hebrew word as we found in Proverbs 6:22 for ?speak.? David wasn?t allowing godly counsel to lead him; he was listening to his own thoughts. David?s thoughts were focused on what others thought about him, what they were saying about him, and what they had planned for him. We really need to let this sink deep into our hearts.
How many times is our grief, anguish, and anxiety caused by what others think about us or what they are saying about us? This experience is not limited to some school girl who hears rumors around school about her last date or some school boy who is tagged as an outcast by his peers. Each and every one of us is vulnerable to the attacks of others. We are so prone to allow what others think of us to mold and shape us, to rob us of the joy and peace God desires for us.
Now, I want us to take a look at one more place where the same Hebrew word appears. Turn with me to Psalm 119:23-24 and let?s read together.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. 24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 119:23-24 NIV)
What?s the difference between these two individuals and their experience? Is one living the good life? Has he got life by the tail? Does everybody think highly of one while they want to get rid of the other? I don?t think so. Both of these individuals are under attack. They are being slandered. They are hated and despised, yet one of them is cratering while the other is rising above the confusion and chaos of their enemy?s attacks. How is he doing this? Great question. The answer lies in verse 24 of Psalm 119??Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.? The man in Psalm 119 is not focused on what others think about him, but he is focused on God?s Word. God?s Word tells me that I am of infinite value to God regardless of what others think of me. God?s Word tells me that He has a great plan for my life regardless of the plans others have to bring me down. God?s Word tells me that I am not alone regardless of how alone I may feel at the time. I need, you need, we all need to be counseled by God?s Word rather than to dwell upon and stew over what others think about us.
Isn?t God?s Word, God?s counsel, His Sovereign guidance, the most wonderful thing you?ve ever experienced in life! We spend so much time and money seeking advice from people?from friends, professionals, books, seminars, and such. If we would spend the same amount of time and energy seeking God then we would experience His counsel, correction, and guidance rush in like a flood. In Proverbs 6:23 we read,
23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (Proverbs 6:23 NIV)
Make no mistake about it?we live in a darkened world and there are many troubles for us to experience in life. We can?t avoid many of the trials and trouble that will come our way, but we can avoid God. We can try and figure our way out on our own, but this will only lead to more trouble and heartache. We can seek the wisdom of those around us or we can allow God?s Word to light the way for us. In Psalm 119:105 we read,
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105 NIV)
God?s Word will light the way for you and me if we will seek to walk in the light. God?s Word will show us the way if we will walk in the light. God?s Word will correct us when we get off track and lead us back into the light of His glorious will and truth for our life if we will walk in the light. I say, ?If we will walk in the light? because this is not what comes naturally to us. What comes naturally for you and me is to avoid the light and walk in our own determination and resourcefulness. When our sin leads us astray or troubles come our way our first reaction is not??Lord, show me the way. Show me what You are desiring to teach me. Help me to trust You in the midst of this trouble.? Our first reaction is to figure out a way we can get it behind us, get it over with, and be done with it so that we can head on down the road. God desires more for us than that my friends. He desires that you and I live by His Word, trust Him with all of our hearts, and grow in our walk with Him moment by moment and with each experience of life.
I want to invite you this morning to recognize that apart from surrendering our hearts to Jesus we will never experience the lasting blessings of these promises that we?ve studied this morning. Before we can ever experience the wondrous blessings of God we must submit to the wonderful plan of God for each of our lives. The first step of His plan is to surrender our hearts to Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. We need to admit that we are hopeless sinners who can be saved, restored, and led only by the wondrous grace of His Son Jesus. Won?t you invite Him in?