On May 11
, 1849 Mr. S. Shufelt left New York City aboard the Panama heading for the beautiful San Francisco Bay in search of gold. A year earlier, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in a river near present-day Sacramento. His discovery of the gold had spread across the country sparking the Great California gold rush of the 1850s. S. Shufelt was one of 200 men who left their families and friends in search for gold on the other coast. Mr. Shufelt departed New York City leaving behind his wife and a newborn child. He told his cousin of his motivation for leaving, no doubt similar to many who made the same voyage. He said, “I have left those that I love as my own life behind and risked everything and endured many hardships to get here. I want to make enough to live easier and do some good with, before I return.
” On his hunt for gold, Shufelt endured hunger, natural disaster, the death of friends and came very near death himself.
History has not recorded whether Shufelt struck it rich or made enough to live easy and do good, or if he ever made it back to his wife and newborn child. What we do know was that he was willing to endure a three month difficult voyage at sea and many hardships to pursue gold. Regardless of whether we appreciate his motivation for going, we cannot fault his determination and willingness to suffer to accomplish his goal. Shufelt left those he loved and risked everything for gold. Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Men, like Shufelt, have endured extreme hardship and risked everything for gold. How much more should we pursue wisdom over gold?
When given a choice of gold or wisdom, the decision will be wisdom, hands down!!
, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11) Proverbs 8:19, “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” Beloved, there are so many things we can pursue with our lives, but there is nothing better than wisdom.
The blessings of wisdom will always pay back more than gold. We must pursue wisdom. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Proverbs gives us practical advice on our money, relationships, parenting, communication and government. And yet this is not just practical advice, but wisdom given from the hand of Almighty God. Let us look at 4 aspects of our pursuit of knowledge.
The Wisdom of
The beginning of our quest for knowledge is to first to realize our need for it. We need help, but we will never pursue wisdom unless we know we need it. As a dad, I have discovered one of the most frustrating times of my day is bed time. I love my children and I love having my children go to bed. Usually my wife and I look at each other right before the bed time routine begins and we know it is go time. And inevitably, my sweet little Olivia will say, “I can’t find Bla-Bla.” Bla- Bla, legally named Mr. Bubbles the Cat, is Olivia’s lovey and is the one of the most valuable things in our home. I have often joked that I would rather have someone steal my car than take Bla-Bla. It is not uncommon to spend 10-15 minutes scouring the house, the garage, and the car in search of it. Why would we spend so much time searching for a stuffed animal? Because we see its value. We know that without it no one is going to get any rest. And because we deem it valuable we search for it.
Do you see God’s wisdom as valuable? Solomon begins his second mini-sermon at the beginning of Proverbs 2 and I want you to listen how often he uses the word “if,”
you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes,
you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
All Christians want to understand the fear of the Lord and to find the knowledge of God, but that is conditioned on the promise of pursuing wisdom as for a hidden treasure (v.3).
Do we view wisdom as Shufelt viewed gold or as I view Bla-Bla? Are we willing to earnestly and diligently pursue wisdom? There are two competing calls laid out in Proverbs, the call of the wise and the call of folly. The natural current of our world flows towards folly, so we have to be ever more diligent to swim upstream towards wisdom. There are so many resources available to set our hearts on wisdom. Podcasts, blogs, free seminary courses (biblicaltraining.org, sebts.edu, itunes University, etc.), but we cannot forsake the most basic and most powerful resource that God has given us: HIS WORD!!
DL Moody was given a Bible by his mother which was inscribed with Matthew 6:33, “‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’ and with a warning, ‘this book will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from this book.’” Beloved, we must earnestly pursue God’s Word in our personal study, in our discipleship and for our church. Do you pray for the preaching of the Word? Do you come prepared to hear a Word from God? When was the last time you took a week and memorized a chapter in the Bible? Proverbs 2 was written so that it could be memorized with each verse beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. Saturate yourself with the Word of God.
We will pursue God’s Word when we realize we need it. Dear friends, understand your desperate need for knowledge and give all that you have to attain it. Be like the man who finds a a pearl of great price in a field and then sells all that he has purchase that field.
The Wisdom of
Life is more than listening, but it is not less than listening. Solomon continues to exhort his readers to listen to his words. Listening takes humility. Listening begins with a posture that says, “I need to hear what you have to say.” Of course the implication of listening is not merely hearing, but listening with the intent to obey. James says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds,
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
We must listen to wisdom and then walk in that wisdom. We must obey.
The great enemy of listening is busyness and the clutter of the mind. How hard is it to find solitude to simply hear and listen to God’s wisdom? Don Whitney writes in Spiritual Disciplines, “One of the greatest costs of technological advancement is a greater temptation to avoid quietness.
” Progress is not always good. As our society advances technologically, we have to be careful to guard our hearts and minds. Technology has given us access to much more time. It takes a fraction of the time to complete tasks today than it did years go. We don’t have to take a 3 month journey to get across the country, but a 6 hour flight. We do not have to wash our clothes or dishes by hands, but have machines that can do that for us. And yet with all the additional time technology can save us, we still find ourselves running crazy busy lives.
Over the last several months as we have been studying Proverbs, I have seen two worlds in conflict. There is the way of wisdom and the way of folly. God wants us to be wise while the world wants us to be foolish. The wise listen, the foolish don’t. The wise obey, the foolish don’t. Our world is set up so that we don’t listen. We have to guard our listening time. “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27) One way you can guard yourselves from straying from words of knowledge is by setting aside time every day and every week to hear instruction from God’s Word. We take time to be alone with God in studying and meditating on His Word, but we also need time to corporately gather and hear God’s Word.
How hard is it for you to focus during a sermon? It could be because you are tired from staying up too late. It also could be that our minds are so cluttered that it is hard for us to hear because there are so many things clouding our thoughts. I pray every week our corporate time together will give you time to think and contemplate the deep things of God.
The concept of listening is vitally important for our evangelism and discipleship. We have to be creative enough to engage our neighbors in serious thought. If it is hard for Christians to slow down to hear and listen to God’s Word, how much more for our non-Christians friends? If we are going to reach people, we need to listen to them. We need to hear where they are and what they believe. And then, we need to help them hear God’s wisdom from the Bible. Over the past year the greatest tool for discipleship that I have seen is simply taking an hour once a week and reading the Bible with people and talking about it. The Bible is powerful. Do not underestimate it. Write down 2 names of people in your life that you could ask to read the Bible together with you. Pray over those names and consider if you are able to find time to read the Bible with them. Is there anything you could cut out of your schedule to make time? We should help our neighbors take time to hear God’s Word.
The Wisdom of
I pray this series through the Proverbs has made you more aware of the importance of God’s wisdom. God’s Word is relevant to every area of life. Proverbs teaches you how you show earn and spend your money. Proverbs teaches you who to befriend and how to invest in friendships. It provides practical instruction on how to raise your kids and love your spouse. And I pray as you see God’s Word applied to these different practical areas of life, you will be able to approach the world with God’s wisdom on your mind and will be able to more readily identify folly.
The Apostle Paul gave himself to the proclamation of the Word. He lived to help others become mature in Christ. My prayer throughout this series has been that you would desire to take God’s wisdom and apply it to your life so that you would know Jesus Christ and make him known. Colossians 2:1-3,
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in the person of Jesus Christ. To pursue wisdom is to pursue Jesus Christ.
As we face this world living out our daily lives, we should always be thinking how can I know Jesus and make Him known? Jesus Christ is the goal of life for all the world was created by him and for him. We live for the glory of Jesus Christ. Proverbs doesn’t just help us have better friendships and manage our money, but to display the glory of Jesus Christ through a life that has been transformed by His wisdom. Friends, we all have lived as fools. We all have followed our own way and experienced the harsh reality of our own sin. In the solitude of our own hearts, we know our consciences condemn us for our folly. But thanks be to God, that while we were fools, God sent Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus willingly laid his life down to pay for our sin. And after he died for our sins, God raised him from the dead accepting the payment in full and publicly declaring his Lordship over death and the grave.
Jesus who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus has promised righteousness to all who would repent of their sins and trust in Him. When we trust in Jesus Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, God declares us righteous, not because our good deeds, but because of His righteousness. So now we live as God’s righteous people, in our parenting and our finances, to display that righteousness to the world. Our lives are witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live resurrected lives. Our old lives are dead for we have been made alive with God in Christ.
This is my prayer that you would view the practical matters of your life as an opportunity to witness the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to the world. Therefore you have to approach this world on guard against the deceptive philosophy and empty knowledge of our world. Folly calls aloud, but we strive for wisdom so Christ would be exalted. After Paul encourages the church to find the wisdom in Christ, he continues,
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8)
We must look at this world with the knowledge of God so that we will not be taken captive by seemingly plausible yet deceptive philosophy which is not of Christ.
Beloved, we are easily deceived. This is why we have to pursue learning and listening to God’s wisdom. We need God’s Word. We need’s God’s people. Following God’s wisdom in the Proverbs will give most likely give you a better earthly life, but a better earthly life should never be our goal. Our goal should be to walk with Jesus Christ, rooted and established in him abounding in thanksgiving. We must be armed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ if we are going to heed wisdom’s call.
The Wisdom of
We can guard our hearts by avoiding the deceptive philosophy of our world, but I do not think that is the most effective way to walk in wisdom. The most effective way is love and treasure wisdom above all else.
My son, if you receive my words and
up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for
wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
We do not just want to be wise, but we want to love wisdom. We want to delight ourselves in the Lord and have his knowledge be pleasant to our soul.
Greek Mythology illustrates this well in how Odysseus and his men overcame the foolish call of the Sirens. Sirens would sing an irresistible song luring unsuspecting sailors to come aboard their island which would lead to their death. Circe warns Odysseus of the danger and encourages him to tie himself to the mast so he could not jump overboard and to have his men fill their ears with beeswax so they would not hear the song. Many of us try to overcome foolishness like Odysseus and his men. We want to avoid hearing the world and withdraw from society. This method may be effective, but I do not believe it is best.
There was another adventurer who overcame the allure of the Siren’s foolish call. Orphesus did not plug his ears or tie himself to the mast, he simply played more beautiful music that drowned out the Siren’s song. Lady Wisdom is far more beautiful than folly’s call. She sings a “sweeter song” for she leads us to Christ
. The answer is not to run from the world, but to run to Christ. Delight yourself in wisdom and she will guard your life.
We bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of your glory You may grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to You who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Whitney, Don. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. 228.
Newheiser, J. (2008).
Opening up Proverbs
. Leominster: Day One Publications. Chapter 2