Committing to any endeavor that takes time always carries with it the challenge of making it to the end. Refinishing that dresser. Repainting the downstairs. Reading all of War and Peace (or finishing any long-ish book for that matter). Completing the class you decided to take at the community college. Running a marathon. Taking up a new hobby. Learning a new sport. Trying to introduce a new habit into your life and routine. You often hit this pain-point, where you consider giving up. At such times, it can help to remind yourself why you started in the first place.
If you decided to join me about three weeks ago, we entered into 31 days working our way through Proverbs. Maybe it’s rare in your experience to spend 31 days at something. Maybe you’ve felt like quitting. Maybe you already have.
It seems to me that maybe Solomon planned for this when he sat down and put together Proverbs. I mean, hey, he was the wisest man who ever lived, so it stands to reason that he knew a thing or two about human nature. So he built in a little jolt to the senses to remind us why we are listening to him in the first place.
One of the helpful things in keeping a good thing going is to mix it up a bit. For example, I’m a runner. I generally enjoy my weekly running routine. But over the weeks, I can find myself not as motivated to keep at it. And one of my strategies to keep at it is to find a new running route.
But a fresh way of running.
So after hundreds of two-sentence, individual sayings of wisdom that have been hitting our eyes the last three weeks, lest they start to glaze over and we tap out, we get hit with this:
Yeah, you there. Hey you! Lock in. Pay attention. Listen to what I’m saying. This is important. Don’t give up now, keep alert….
LISTEN to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
I am teaching you today—yes, you!—
so you will trust in the Lord.
I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth…
(Proverbs 22:17-21, New Living Translation)
I love this.
But a fresh way of getting Proverbs.
Do you see it? It may just be Solomon knew we were thinking of tapping out on pursuing wisdom, by reading his complete works here. So he grabs our attention, and speaks very directly.
“Listen friend, here’s what I’ve done for you now, after all I’ve already told you. Let’s mix it up a bit. I’ve put together thirty sayings for you, and I’ve packed them full of advice and knowledge. And I’ve done this so that you may know the truth.
Listen to the words of wisdom, and apply everything you are—your heart—to my instruction. Because it is going to be a really good thing for you to have these things branded on your heart and on the tip of your tongue, always ready for when you need them. That kind of readiness in life will lead to a good life.”
And it’s not just that he’s mixing up the delivery of wisdom. At the same time he gets our attention by shifting the writing, he also introduces this idea of why we started in the first place. Why we have committed to this exercise of reading through all these bits of instruction. You remember why, right?
There are a few options here for the answer to that question.
Because it is good to have these sayings on our heart (22:18).
Because who doesn’t want good advice and knowledge (22:20).
Because we want to live a wise and good life.
So that we may know the truth (22:21).
But are any of these really the reason we started 31 Proverbs? Is that really why we’ve been at this? It’s close, but that only counts in, well, you know.
No, Solomon gives us the reason not to quit on Proverbs. Here’s why we started—
“I am teaching you today—yes, you!—
so you will trust in Yahweh.”
There it is. The reason why we are doing this and the foundation for all wisdom are one and the same thing—trust Yahweh. Trust in the One who hardwired wisdom into all the world, and made it the inner logic of everything (Proverbs 8). Our steadfast and faithful God is the headwater from which all the streams of wisdom flow, watering the garden of a good life.
So let’s keep pursuing wisdom together, friend. Let’s not quit on him.
Thank you for making wisdom the inner logic of everything. And what grace that you then gave us the code to understanding that, and how it all works, through the wisdom literature you placed in your Scriptures. Such a gift proves what Solomon reminds us—you are worth trusting. With our whole lives. With everything. So fill us with your Spirit today, Father, that we may gain a heart of wisdom that pulsates with an energy to endure and remain steadfast. We want to be like your Son, who had no quit in him when it came to pursuing and trusting you. Make it so.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.