Trust the Teacher

“I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.
 I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”

Proverbs 5:13-14 (ESV)

Thinking back to your school days, did you ever not take a teacher’s warnings to study for a test seriously and then found yourself failing that test and ultimately the class? Warnings are for our good, and in Proverbs we hear Solomon warning his son about many aspects of life, but especially in chapters 5-7 he is adamant about avoiding adultery.

Proverbs 5 is Solomon’s plea to his son to avoid adultery at all costs because the act of adultery will cost all he has: health, wealth and community. Close to the center of this chapter, Solomon describes what an adulterer might say as he feels the weight of his sins: I didn’t listen, and now I’m in trouble, complete and utter trouble.

Notice that Solomon has warned his son multiple times in this chapter, telling him to pay attention (v. 1), listen carefully (v. 1), and not to turn aside (v. 7). This is a recurring appeal throughout the book of Proverbs, but especially in chapters 1-7.

While verses 13-14 refer specifically to the sin of adultery, the warnings in this passage can apply to any kind of sin in our lives, whether it is adultery or other sins such as gossip, lying, or unrighteous anger. In the same way, the consequences of sin described in the passage above takes on many forms: financial (v. 10), physical (v. 11) and social (v. 14).

God has given us instructions for our lives through his word, and we should heed his instruction. If you are facing a hard decision or what feels like an uphill battle to overcome a particular sin in your life, pray for strength, find an accountability partner, and seek wisdom from God’s word. Don’t ignore the warnings from God or your friends and plow ahead with your own self-will.

When we heed God’s word, we can know that the rewards of discretion and knowledge noted in verse 2 will far outweigh the ruin that leads straight to the grave (v. 5). Trust your heavenly Teacher and take his warnings seriously.

 

 

Supreme, Sound Wisdom

“For I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction.”

Proverbs 4:2 (NASB)

As my daughter gets older and is beginning to face more situations that require godly decisions, my husband and I realize how important it is for us to give sound wisdom, as described in Proverbs 4:2. When our daughter was younger it was much easier to dispense advice like share your toys, eat your vegetables and stay with us in the parking lot. But now when it comes to dealing with people, relationships and our Christian witness, the task seems much more complex. When I read Solomon’s words, it made me wonder, “Is my advice sound?”

The Hebrew word for sound is towb, meaning good or better. So, in this sense, sound advice is good and it brings that which is pleasant and benefits the person to whom it is given. While I understand the part about advice benefiting someone, I find the pleasant part harder to understand because not all things seem to work out … at least not immediately.

Recently, I had to encourage my daughter to approach a friend at school who was treating her badly. This was tough advice because any confrontation is hard. My daughter had the courage to talk to her friend, but unfortunately it did not go well. In fact, it seemed to make things worse. So, I felt bad and wondered to myself whether I gave her the best counsel.

After thinking about it I concluded that my daughter following through with my counsel has the “pleasant” benefit of knowing that she did what was right and can move on from that person to seek other friends. While this was a hard life lesson, it produces fruit as we study together what the Bible says about friendship. We can trust that wisdom from the Bible is sound and we should make that wisdom our standard. So, now when I question whether my advice is sound, I pray and ask God to show me if the advice I am about to give is biblical or not.

Another lesson I learned from Solomon in Chapter 4 is that persistence is sometimes necessary. He tells his sons to listen to him multiple times:

“Listen my sons, to a father’s instructions…pay attention and gain understanding” (v. 1)

“Listen my son, accept what I say”  (v. 10)

“My son, pay attention to what I say, listen closely to my words” (v. 20)

No matter how many times we may give our children the same advice, we need to remember to never give up. Keep on telling them. But do it with respect, so that you do not exasperate your children (Ephesians 6:4). We must not only give our children godly counsel, but we too need to live out that counsel. Our example often speaks louder than words. So, in my case, if I tell my daughter to tell her friend how she feels, then I must be willing to do the same. There is no better way to use godly wisdom than to live it in our own lives.

So if you ever wonder if your counsel to your children is sound, make sure you can find that wisdom in the Bible and consider whether you have tested it in your own life. We can all take Solomon’s advice:

“Wisdom is supreme–so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7 (CSB)

Sweet Sleep of the Just

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Proverbs 3:24 (NIV)

Is anyone else tired today? I have a difficult time “springing forward” into Daylight Saving Time because it is now dark in the morning when my alarm buzzes. It will take me a few days to get used to the time change, but if I make myself get up immediately, I know I will adjust.

Wisdom tells me that I will soon feel like I’m on a normal schedule again, and I will be able to enjoy longer days of sunshine when the sun goes down later. My sleep will again be sweet and plentiful.

As I was reading through Proverbs 3, I discovered another benefit to wisdom: sweet sleep. Through verses 21-26 in this chapter, Solomon explains that “preserving sound judgment and discernment” gives us life, safety, surefootedness, courage and sweet sleep. When we seek and live by God’s wisdom, we can lie down each evening with a clear conscience and enjoy peaceful sleep.

In general, I don’t have too much trouble falling asleep each night – in fact, my husband jokes that I’m asleep most nights before my head hits the pillow. This becomes evident when the book I’m reading falls out of my hands and onto the floor when I read before bed. While it’s great that I can fall asleep quickly, I do find that I often wake up in the middle of the night when I’m worried about something.

In our country, where more than 60% of the population says their sleep is disrupted a couple of times a week, sleep deprivation is an issue. While this problem can sometimes be attributed to health reasons such as restless leg syndrome or hormonal changes, Proverbs 3:21 gives us another reason our sleep is interrupted: rejection of wisdom (“sound judgment and discernment”). When we reject God’s wisdom, this can lead to a guilty conscience, worry and unconfessed sin in our lives, all of which can keep us awake at night.

If you find yourself missing sweet sleep, pray and ask God to show you if there is any unconfessed sin in your life. Ask him who or what you can pray for. Pray for wisdom.

Embrace godly wisdom and sleep the sleep of the just.

 

The Well-Trodden Path

“He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.”

Proverbs 2:8 (NLT)

This past weekend at a mother/daughter retreat, my daughter and I, along with seven of our friends, found ourselves trying to stand together on a swinging log for ten seconds without anyone touching the ground. As much as we tried to accomplish this feat, by the time the ninth person climbed onto the log, half of our team inevitably wound up falling off. Our ropes course instructor finally gave us a piece of helpful advice. She said, “Think about this verse: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'” (John 15:5, NIV)

What she was telling us is that each of us had to position ourselves on the log in the way that was most natural for us, like a branch that is grafted into a vine. From this, we realized we did not all have to stand or sit on the log in the same fashion. The goal was simply for everyone to be on the log at the same time. So we arranged ourselves, some of us standing and some of us sitting, and accomplished the task by following our instructor’s wisdom. By listening to her directions, we were able to get on, and remain on, the log.

Have you ever struggled with a problem, not knowing the right thing to do? If so, consider Proverbs 2:8, which tells us that God is our life instructor. When we follow his ways, we are protected. So, when you don’t know what to do, go to the Lord in prayer and seek answers from his word because he alone guards the path of those who are just and seek him faithfully — the path that is truly good.

The Hebrew word for path in this verse is ‘orach, which means a well-trodden road. In other words, this just path has been well-travelled and it is tried and true. Even more so, it is guarded by God, so we can trust him as we walk it, knowing that he has been down the path and knows it well.

When we follow the just path, that is, God’s ways, we find protection. He is our defender and shield (Proverbs 2:7). With God as our shield, why would we want to be anywhere else? It is easy to seek counsel from worldly sources – we can find advice for just about any topic on the Internet, in self-help books, or from other people. But, while some of these can provide helpful advice, ultimately we must test everything against God’s word. His word is the just path and if something does not line up with that, we should rethink that advice.

Any Christian will tell you that walking with God does not mean that you will always have an easy life, but you will have hope and peace, which are part of God’s protection. The rewards of walking with God far outweigh the consequences of straying away from him. Seek life instructions from God, and enjoy the blessing of the well-trodden path.