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
In the book of James, we meet a follower of Jesus who is going to sit us down for a little chat. And fair warning here: James isn’t really too concerned about your feelings, or how comfortable you are with someone you don’t know nor have ever met getting pretty personal with you.
Sunday's Comin' (July 7, 2019)
I think all of us want to be wise. The question is, how do we get there?
Preparing For May 26, 2019
Do you know why the church exists? Do you know who formed the church, and how it was formed?
Just a brief reminder that a great way to prepare for the service this coming Sunday is to read the text we will be studying together.
Preparing For Sunday May 12, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
This last Sunday, I preached the first of two sermons on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Here was the sentence I began unpacking, which is my summary of both letters:
Martin Luther warned that the people of the church are always in danger of their hearts straying from the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.