“Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” (Proverbs 4:7-9 HCSB)
The good life—we all want it, but where do we find it?
There are bookshelves full of the premises of self-help gurus who have written promises of what they consider the good life. There are talking heads that inundate the airwaves with their counsel about the good life. Politicians proclaim that their election to the levers of power will bring us the good life. The inventor holds out the hope that the newest technology will usher in the good life. The stockbroker says that if we invest in this fund or build that fortune it will bring the good life. The advertiser tells us that if we would purchase their product, we will have the good life—or your money back.
Somehow, the more we listen to this, the more confused we become. One conclusion we draw, however, is that a whole lot of people seem to be making a whole lot of money marketing the good life!
We thirst for it and so we continue to look into the world’s wells, put down the bucket and draw up and drink—sand! Our mouths are filled with grit and we become thirstier than ever.
The good life is to be found only in the One who is the source of all good—God Himself. Augustine had it right when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Every parent who is worthy of the title wants to provide the good life for their child. Solomon did. One would have thought that his son would have had it easy. He would have been “born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” The boy would grow up in the midst of fabulous wealth and great privilege. But, Solomon knew that these did not insure the good life. They would be poor substitutes for God. His son needed to know God—and so he wrote these Proverbs to instruct him—and if we will heed them, we too can find the good life. Here is where it all begins: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)
WISDOM’S WARNING (Proverbs 1)
We won’t have the good life if we choose bad companions.
“My son, if sinners entice you, don't be persuaded.” (v.10).
Solomon knew the temptation would be there. He warned, “Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, and don't reject your mother's teaching, for they will be a garland of grace on your head and a [gold] chain around your neck.” (v.8-9) Throughout Proverbs we will see those who are fools—that is, those who reject God’s ways and follow their own wicked desires, contrasted with the wise—who are enlightened in God’s ways and pursue His will. The crowd we run with will influence our destination.
Do your closest friends bring you closer to God, or do they pull you down into the mire of evil? Those who will lift us up are few, and those who would drag us down are many.
WISDOM’S WORTH (Proverbs 2)
We won’t have the good life if we value bad counsel.
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; [He is] a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path. For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil—from the one who says perverse things, [from] those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, [from] those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversion, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious.” (2:1-15)
Years ago, there was a pop song by Harry Nilsson with the title drawn from the opening line, “Everybody’s talkin’ at me.” They are! There is no shortage of counsel for us. But much of it is bad—and needs to be tuned out. The good counsel is found in the Good Book. The will of God is found in the Word of God—and wise is the man or woman who apprehends it.
Do the persons you listen to, the publications you read, the programs you watch, and the music you hear offer you the wisdom of the Word or that of the world? Our minds are like sponges and if we absorb bad counsel, we will not experience the good life.
WISDOM’S WINNING (Proverbs 3)
We won’t have the good life is we practice bad conduct.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don't consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones. Honor the Lord with your possessions
and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine. Do not despise the Lord's instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in.” (3:5-12)
The good life is found in the practice of godliness. It isn’t that there are no temporary pleasures in sin—even Scripture acknowledges this reality. Let’s face it, what makes temptation so tempting is the immediate gratification it typically brings. But, the price is way too high. We exchange true life for a momentary fix—much like the junkie who injects heroin in his or her veins. The craving is quickly appeased and just as quickly returns—with even more powerful demands—and all the while, the addict is enslaved, with those chains dragging them down to destruction. Relatively few are wise enough to practice godliness, because it is very costly upfront—there is self-denial—even a cross! But, the blessedness that comes—to be fully alive as God intended for us to be, and then to dwell in eternal glory—that is worth everything!
Conduct a personal inventory. What does the fruit of your lifestyle indicate about the root of your life? No matter what you claim with your lips, what does the conduct of your life show? The good life demands good living.
WISDOM’S WAY (Proverbs 4)
We won’t find the good life by following a bad course.
“Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don't turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.” (4:25-27)
Our Associate Pastor of Youth, Kevin Burns, said it well in his sermon last Sunday, “Direction determines destination.” He said, “If you want to go to
“Listen, my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years. I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction; don't let go.
Guard it, for it is your life.” (4:10-13)
As we walk through the wisdom of Proverbs in this week’s readings, I encourage you to mark the path carefully. Commit yourself to that narrow path of truth. Focus and apply the message and you will end up where you want—the good life!