“Old Town Road” set the all-time record last year for the most weeks as a number one song on the Billboard’s top songs…19 weeks.
It was controversial in that it first appeared on the country charts (I guess because he wore cowboy outfit and talked about a horse) but it was removed because it didn’t fit the genre of country(you can decide).
It’s interesting to read some of the research on what makes hit songs.
Basically, they connect to a broad audience and cause action on the part of the listener…cry, laugh, dance, tap their feet…and of course…that you buy the song is the ultimate desired action.
One study had graphs that compared hit songs through the years with different features…lyrics, acoustics, etc…most hit songs stood out in two areas…danceability and energy.
We have dance parties pretty regularly in my basement with our grandkids.
I have a cheap laser light that fills the basement and a Spotify playlist with songs they love…most of the songs they love have energy and danceability…I turn them on…they start dancing.
Today we are going to look at my own personal top 25 Proverbs…as part of our year in the book of Proverbs.
- They are my top 25 because they make me want to do something and be something…they are personal and practical for me…they make me want to move to some action…internally or externally or both.
- I’m giving them to you not because I think they should be your top 25 but in hopes that you will this year…find your top 5, 10, 20 and internalize them…so they become truth that impacts how you live your life…they shape you.
Like a song that makes you move a certain way…they are truth that makes you live a certain way…but not for 19 weeks, for 19 years…whatever you have left to live.
First…let’s talk about Timothy and the usefulness of God’s word to impact how we live.
Timothy came from Lystra, a city in what is now central Turkey.
Paul had traveled there on his first church planting journey and Timothy was led to Christ at that time along with his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5)
Timothy later traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey and became like a son to him.
Timothy was mentioned as a coauthor in six of Paul’s letters (books) and two of Paul’s letters were addressed directly to him…very important guy in the Bible.
He was probably in his late teens when he first joined Paul on his journey and by the time Paul wrote his two letters to Timothy he was probably in his mid-thirties.
When Paul referred to Timothy’s “youth” in 1 Timothy 4:12 (Don’t let anyone look down on your youth…but set an example for everyone in your faith and life) Paul used a Greek word for “youth” that described individuals up to the age of 40.
The culture of the time valued age…so a 35-year-old would be seen as “young” in terms of wisdom…but Paul encouraged Timothy to humbly…step forward in his example of Christlike wisdom in words and actions.
So…kind of like the “Father” in Proverbs addressing his young son (daughter) to walk the wise path…Paul is doing this for Timothy.
In his second letter to Timothy, look at where Timothy was to lean on in terms of setting this example with his life…it was not his own understanding…but on Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 …and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
From “infancy” refers to the fact that Tim was immersed in the OT since his birth.
-His father was non-Jewish but his mom was Jewish…so she taught him the OT
Interesting to note that the OT is said to have the ability to give the “wisdom”…(understanding) necessary for trusting Christ for salvation.
All the Bible points to Jesus.
But when he says “All scripture” he is referring to both the OT and to the then emerging NT as well.
The word God-breathed is used one time in the Bible (here) and it refers to the fact that God spoke through people who wrote the Bible(40 of them).
But it was not like God used them as human keyboards…but he used their experiences, personalities and minds to accurately communicate his word to us through them.
Hard to believe? Nah…not at all.
If you start with the God who made everything…he exists eternally outside of time of space…he knows all, can do anything…then think about him taking 40 people over a few thousand years and ensuring we get his accurate word for us…not a big deal at all.
But Paul was not trying to convince Timothy that Scripture is the Word of God…Tim was already convinced of that.
He was challenging Timothy to remember and embrace the “usefulness” of Scripture…it’s practicality…for Salvation and all aspects of a Godly life.
Since is it is the Word of God…then obviously it will “useful” for all aspects of our lives.
It is super important for us to grasp this point…a point that might seem obvious, but practically speaking often isn’t obvious.
We all have ideas about information that is useful and information that is not useful.
What is useful is often related to our immediate “felt needs”…and those felt needs change over time…but our essential need for wisdom…is always there.
What if we need…or are about to need…something we don’t have an immediate felt need for?
When I was first learning to drive…my dad tried to teach me to change a tire…I didn’t think it was useful information…my dad knows how to change a tire…why do I need to know…he can do it.
Besides…I won’t have any flat tires.
This is before cell phones, now a 16-year-old could say “I don’t need to learn”…not so when I was 16.
I had a flat on I-35 (right by Town West Kellogg overpass)…my dad had tried to teach me to block the wheels so the car wouldn’t roll off the jack…didn’t remember that piece of information…didn’t think I needed it.
I jacked my car…took off the wheel and it started to roll forward…I ran to the back and grabbed the bumper…and there I was…leaning enough to keep the car from falling off the jack…but not strong enough to pull it all the way up…cars whizzing by.
I’d still be there today…if some kind man in a truck had not pulled in front and gently used his bumper to push my car back onto the jack…and stayed there until I changed the tire.
Sometimes we need to know stuff…that we don’t have a felt need for right now
That is why Proverbs is written as the wise father telling the young son…you need to pay attention…you will need this stuff.
When it comes to Scripture and life…it’s common to wait until we have a particular problem or question and then go searching for verses that address that problem…we want relief from the problem.
Not a bad thing, in fact its good…as long as we are willing to “read out” what Scripture actually says about our situation rather than “read in” what we want Scripture to say.
But we would wise to listen to wisdom…whether we think we need it or not.
So, the writer of Eccl. said “remember your creator in the days of your youth…before the days come when you find no pleasure in them.”
*What was he saying?
“Why wait until you are old and have wasted opportunity to live life God’s way…take my word for it…what matters most at the end, matters most now.”
Here in his letter to Timothy…Paul is casting vision for Timothy that all of Scripture is useful…so that he would be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Thoroughly (completely, fully)…have all you need.
Every good work…in context here is life and ministry: Live and help others live in line with the will and ways of God.
Paul is helping young Tim…have vision for wisdom…regarding the power of God’s word to walk the good (wise path).
Four things are outlined here that relate to walking this path with consistency and effectiveness:
Scripture is useful for…“teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”
All relate to the path…walking the wise road…as we have seen…Proverbs focuses on the analogy of life as a journey on one of two paths…wise and foolish.
Teaching: “Here is the good path, you want walk this way”
Rebuking: Look you have veered off path, you’re in the ditch.
It’s not good over there. Bad stuff happens there.
-Yeah, you see that…not good is it?
-That is because you are in the ditch, or have taken a turn onto the bad path.
Correcting: Here’s how you get back on the path.
Training: Okay, that wasn’t a good experience…Here’s how you stay on the path…become faithful, consistent.
Scripture is essential for this good life on the good path…a life of trusting Christ.
Good life again, is not, …a trouble-free life.
Good life is…a God-filled life…life wrought with meaning, purpose, impact…because it is life with God…who designed life itself.
So, to say Scripture is “useful” for these four things…means it is meant to move into your life…to direct the way you live.
It’s not just ideas to be absorbed and theological theory to be debated…it is meant to be applied.
I like to listen to lyrics and think about what the song writer was thinking (evaluate it)…but my grandkids would revolt if I turned on a song and started a discussion about the lyrics…when they want to dance.
Of course, we want to think deeply about Scripture…and we must.
But if all we do is think and talk about Scripture…but don’t move to application…we are missing the point entirely.
Paul told Timothy…The goal of his instruction is love (1 Tim. 1:5)…love is actional
WE are to think deeply about it…so we are equipped to consistently do something with it…specifically…love God and others.
So…let me give you my top 25 Proverbs (some cases two verses but one Proverb)
Again, I’m doing this because we are spending an entire year here and our goal is that this year will shape all of our years…for that to happen…some of this wisdom must make its way permanently into our hearts (command posts)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 3:5,6
Faith is a word that has fallen into disrepair in our language…as a word (not an actual reality) it’s like an old run-down house.
It now means “blind faith” or a “leap of faith”…or wishful thinking apart from reason and evidence.
But Biblical faith has nothing to do with this thinking.
Faith is trust, confidence…that is what is in play here in this verse.
You trust someone because of evidence, experience…and that trust leads to action.
Steve Covey wrote a book called the “Speed of Trust”…he describes how when trust is low everything slows down…communication is slow and difficult…relationship is stunted.
But when trust is high…life moves with the speed of trust.
This verse challenges me to move through life with the speed of trust…faith in God that leads to real practical action.
Putting my full confidence in what God has said…not my current mood…I can’t trust my mood…I can trust God.
- Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. 3:25,26
I talked about why this Proverb is meaningful to me several weeks ago.
We can live in fear of what might happen…we can ruminate on possible disasters that may come upon us and our loved ones.
*Yesterday I sat in on a briefing with a team in Topeka tasked with leading the response to the Coronavirus in our state…it was balanced, fact filled, led by experts…but no one can predict what will happen…in the next few months or beyond.
Preparation is wise…resiliency requires being ready for what might happen…but we are to approach the future with faith not driven by fear.
With the amount of bad news available to us in our purses and pockets via smartphones…the opportunity to live in fear of sudden disaster is manifold.
This verse helps shapes my mind back towards confidence in God…when my thoughts go rogue into fear…I could sick, my kids, my grandkids could be harmed…blah, blah, blah.
*It is a perspective reset button.
The future is either the domain of faith or fear…I want faith.
No matter what the future holds…my confidence must be in God.
- Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 4:7
This Proverb reminds me of the cost and the benefit of wisdom.
Neil spoke last week of how everything of great value has a great cost.
Wisdom…a life lived walking with God on the good path is costly.
Salvation is free (for us, it cost Jesus much)…but sanctification…the walk of becoming more like Christ is a journey that involves cost, effort, decision points… “what do I want, who will I become…okay then what will I do?
So this verse is practical for me…not theoretical…it reminds of the cost of wisdom…it may be the cost of “being wrong” when I think I’m mostly right.
It will often doing what I don’t want to do right now…because of who I want to be.
- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 4:23
This is probably my favorite Proverb and you are probably tired of hearing me quote it.
It is just so good.
The human heart is the human command post…everything we allow in there shapes who we are becoming.
So…do I really want to do that, say that, see that…because do I really want to become that?
- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 9:10
I marvel at the things humans can understand
But awesome respect, reverence for God…worship…is where all real wisdom begins.
So, for me…when I’m trying to understand something in my life…to see clearly what is true about a situation…I need to start with worship.
*Sometimes I use music, sometimes I take a walk and look at what he has made…sometimes it means speaking out loud of his greatness.
Start with worship…if you want to get to wisdom.
- When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. 10:19
This doesn’t mean that just because you don’t talk much you are wise…it does mean that if there is no filter between thoughts and words…you are going to sin…a lot.
This Proverb helps me ask “Do I need to say this? Is this helpful? Why do I think I need to say that?”
- When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing. 11:7
Power comes in the form of money, position, influence…many people with power are just not good people.
People want power for a purpose…they want to use it
You have power outlets in your home…they are there to run a fridge, or a vacuum, or computer.
The power has a use for you.
All of us have power…influence, resources, opportunity…your physical body is a power pack (you can do stuff with it)
I have power…so do you…what will I do with whatever influence, resources, opportunity…power I have been given?
I sometimes think to myself when I see people using power for bad and selfish purposes… “don’t they know they will die someday?”
Don’t they know that all they expect from their power will come to nothing…it helps me think more clearly about power and its proper use.
- A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. 11:25
When I find myself “adding up” what I could do with the money I give away…this verse comes to my mind and it encourages me…that it’s dumb to think that way….generosity is a good thing.
Giving is a good investment.
I do say “That’s dumb” to myself fairly often.
I don’t actually think I’m dumb…I do think dumb things though…so it helps me to say so to my own thoughts.
Generosity is not just money but time, energy…my life.
This helps me want to be generous with my life…when I feel the pull towards self-protection and selfishness…I remember that what I need is to live a generous life.
We can hold back giving ourselves away…time, talents, treasure…because we believe we are depleted and need to be “refreshed”…of course there is a time for rest…but the person who gives their live away…will be refreshed.
- A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. 12:16
Frankly, this verse continually reminds me how foolish I can be…because I very often show my annoyance very quickly.
This is one of those…rebuking verses for me.
“Terry, you are showing your annoyance…and taking offense…you are heading for the fool’s ditch…turn the wheel back on to the good path.”
- Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 12:18
I want my words to promote healing…I don’t want to be a person who wounds.
This verse reminds me of the real value of wisdom…it doesn’t just make us smart…it makes us good...we can help people when we are wise…we can learn to have healing words.
- He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. 13:20
I don’t want harm in my life…I want the benefits of wisdom.
This requires walking through life with wise people…and Walking with wise people requires ongoing effort and intentionality.
I cannot take breaks from this, because I don’t want breaks from wisdom.
I cannot retreat into hiding from honesty in relationships, or try to figure things out on my own…I truly would prefer to not suffer harm…so I embrace this condition…I must walk with the wise.
- A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 15:1
Another Proverbs I live both ends of.
I always, always…like how life feels and works when I live the “front end” of this.
- Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. 15:22
I don’t always love the process of getting counsel…but I do love success.
As I get older, I am learning more and more how the two go together.
If you love success, you will learn to love counsel…they come as a pair.
- A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. 18:2
This Proverbs is the theme of our national discourse…not just now…but historically.
I am challenged that it not be my own personal theme.
Demanding to be understood…not taking the time and effort to understand.
This verse challenges me to seek to understand first rather than demanding that I be understood…I am consistently trying to get better at this.
- He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame. 18:13
There it is again.
When I speak (and I often do) before I listen…it is foolish and shameful.
If someone jumps in and offers commentary, or judgment or correction…before I have had the chance to really say what is on my heart and mind…it is hurtful.
So…when I do that to others…I am hurting others…that is to my own folly and shame.
That’s a violation of the “golden rule”…do to others as you would have them to do you.
- The purposes of a man’s (woman’s) heart are deep waters, but a person of understanding draws them out. 20:5
Everyone you meet is deep water.
There are no shallow people.
I sometimes think there are (and that I on the other hand am not)
Humans, all of us, are driven by deep purposes, deep hurts, deep desires…we bear the image of God himself.
If I want to really understand and relate to people…I need to start with the fact that this is true of all people.
Then I need to purpose to listen more than I talk…if it is my desire to understand someone.
*By the way…this includes children…they are deeper waters than we often know.
This is Proverbs is short version of Lewis’s great quote:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
- The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. 21:31
This reminds me that I must faithfully prepare for the future, but I must never foolishly think I can predict it…or control it.
Do your best…learn to trust God with the outcomes.
- A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 25:11
“Right words, wrong time=wrong words.
Right words, right time=thing of beauty.
I am sometimes compelled to speak my mind outside the right time…this is always dumb…and never a thing of beauty…like right words/right time
God grant us wisdom to know what and when to speak.
- Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. 25:28
Self-control (ability to lead myself) is a protective gift that God has given us.
When we let our bodies(desires, emotions) rather than our “Christ-yielded will” determine our direction…we are in danger of being overrun and destroyed.
Pleasure, desire, emotions…these are gifts that must be protected by the wall of defense called “self-control”
Freedom requires self-control, and self-control brings freedom…they friends, partners.
- Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. 26:4,5
This twin proverb helps me remember that applying wisdom requires wisdom…wisdom is situational.
I need to continually grow my R/A
- Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Pride makes me stupid.
When I am full of pride…I am empty of Christ
Pride is stupid…and pride leads to stupid decisions.
- Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. 27:2
When I hear someone boast…I am never impressed…but why do they do it?
To impress me.
But I sometimes boast.
Why do it?
To impress someone
Once again…dumb…not wise.
Wisdom works…pride doesn’t.
- Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. 27:5,6
I don’t want to wound people or be wounded by people…and my true friends likewise don’t want to wound me.
So, when they speak to me in ways that are hard to hear…I need to trust them…I have people who have proven trustworthy…I must choose to trust them.
- Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 29:20
I don’t want to be quick to say what is on my mind to whoever is nearby…this causes so many problems in my life and in the lives of others.
A word spoken out of proper time and place…is not only not a thing of beauty…it causes so much real human suffering.
- Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. 29:25
Fear of people=people pleaser
So, it not just literally afraid of some physical harm from someone…but rather the fear of being snubbed, or thought to be not cool or not smart…to be ready to do and be things that are not good in order to a part some inner circle.
To seek to impress people, Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10…means we are Not following Christ.
Before I speak in public…or even go into a one-to-one conversation I often say to myself “Bless not impress.”
When I am seeking to impress…I am by default not in a position to be a blessing to someone.
What will you do to build and own your own your own list…and internalize it?
My recommendation (if you don’t have a plan)
- Read through Proverbs in a month or couple of months…takes a few minutes a day.
- Write down the reference (or just mark) that “hit home” personally.
-Not what you think others need, what hits you?
-Be realistic…5, 10, 50…I don’t know.
*The best plan is the one you will actually do…5 good!
- When you are done…write them out, use an app, whatever…find a way to memorize them…Proverbs are pretty easy to learn.
*It’s not as important that you can quote the chapter and verse (those numbers are not inspired by God)…but it’s great if you do.
- Think about them…review them…watch how often they come up when you need them…if you have stored them.
That’s it…try it
Ps. 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Ps. 119:32 “I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free”
Ps. 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path”