Proverbs Week 12 – Sermon Notes

By March 22, 2020 Sermon Notes

Good morning River and others who might be joining us as we “gather for scattered worship”

For introverts…social distancing doesn’t qualify as hardship…for extroverts…it’s very painful.

I was talking with my youngest Daughter Casey last week about how the closed stores and restaurants and low traffic on Sunday evening reminded me of my childhood when everything in Wichita shut down on Sunday nights by 5:00…except church. 

In fact, most things shut down by 6:00 or so on weeknights.

Casey said “I want to live then!”

For her…that pace sounds wonderful…maybe for you, not so much.

And then my daughter Corrie…because of her daughter, Norah’s health situation…is more tuned to the threat than others might be…and I respect and admire that in her.

So, there are many perspectives and personalities and approaches to this time…be generous, kind, full of grace in response to others…it’s okay if people feel and think differently about this

I spent Friday in Topeka at the State Emergency Operation Center:

-Civilian and national Guard authorities are working long hours to lead our State’s response.

-There were several different groups working different issues in the same building…some groups were not smiling, some were joking and laughing…all were working hard and doing their jobs.

Which ones had it right?  

“how can you laugh at a time like this?”

“how can you thrive in a time like this if you don’t laugh?”

Again…people do things differently…it’s okay.

But however, God has wired you up…we must all choose the worship that brings wisdom…put our confidence in God.

We must refuse to sing in the choir of complaining or join the fellowship of fear.

Join the choir of thanksgiving and worship.

We cannot fall into fear…we must pursue faith…we have hope as an anchor for our souls.

Biblical hope is not just an idea or a feeling…it is a discipline, a habit, a learned response to life.

You don’t just happen to play the piano, or golf…you decide to and you practice it.

Biblical hope is more like that…it is a practice, an ongoing choice that shapes us…based on the reality of the gospel.

Let’s worship together…so that we can move towards wisdom. 

I’ve joked with friends about writing a book called “Two dial Theology” or “The Two dial life”

Using my analogy of an old radio with two dials that must both be tuned properly in order to get music to play.

We tend to want a digital, single button life…where balance and continual attention to life’s tensions are unnecessary.

We especially long for that kind of simplicity during times of extra complexity…like now.

But, in most areas of life…there are in fact at least two “dials” that must be tuned to live life well.

Some examples of phrases used to describe this reality are: grace and truth, passion and pace, parenting with love and logic…God’s sovereignty and human choice.

The most important word in all of these examples and many more like them is the word “And”.

Take away the “and” and you have a single dial…you lose the balance that creates “music” not static.

If you don’t like the two dials analogy…think of “tensions”…like a guitar string must be attached at two opposing ends and kept tight in order to play music in tune.

Or a muscle, if there is not appropriate tension it does not have strength and function.

Or even a bridge…to be strong…it is connected to two sides.

For today…the two dials are “wisdom and faith”

Not wisdom or faith.

Western civilization has created false dichotomies  or splits…”either/or scenarios” when in fact reality is “both/and”

For instance:  “faith or reason” or “faith or facts” “faith or wisdom”…the problem is that the “or” should be “and”

Don’t be influenced by the word “or”…stick with the more difficult word “and.”

Faith and reason. Faith and wisdom.

Faith and wisdom…the “and” makes them friends… the “or” makes them opponents.

Faith and wisdom…are always good friends.

Now don’t over apply this…there are plenty of “either/or” realities.

Either Jesus is Lord or he is not.

Either you are born again or you are not.

But in areas where we need to apply balance…we must hold to the tensions…we must keep hands on both dials.

During these times of national and personal complexity…don’t grasp for false simplicities… “either/or” scenarios.

The good path…is always going to be the path of “faith and wisdom”

So, in line with our year in Proverbs…and our current international/national crisis…let’s tune “faith and wisdom” into our lives.

So…mentally…put your hand on two dials, one is faith and one is wisdom.

This is just a mental “hook” to help us think well…because in reality they are not two completely separate things…but we want to work on balance…so the image works well.

So…look at your hands…got faith, got wisdom?

Good, keep your hands on both dials…let’s tune them in.

We are going to focus on a single word in Proverbs today…prudent.

Prudent is a subset of wisdom…it is one of wisdom’s attributes or applications.

Wisdom, remember, is more like “skill” than what we tend to think of it as…we tend to think of  wisdom more like… “smart” or “knowledgeable”

Biblical wisdom is skillful living…to have skill is the ability to “do something well.”

Skill in a craft or job…skill in surviving in the wild…skill in marriage or parenting.

Overall…Wisdom means skill at “life” as God has designed it.

So, it begins with the one who made everything…who brought forth life… “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”

Back to prudent…

Prudent is a word that describes a person who has the ability to use reason and experience under the fear of God to navigate the problems and complexities of life.

Prudent, in real sense, means keep your hands on both dials.

Use reason, sound thinking (wisdom)

And

Faith…Trust and obey God (the practical outcome of “fear of the Lord”)

Prudent=what is really happening here?  How does this moment fit into the larger picture? What needs to happen next?  What should I do?

Could we all use some prudence right now?

Prudent is big R/A

Let’s re-visit that model…it fits really well with our current cultural situation.

R=read

A=act

Four people or approaches: describe

Prudence is R/A

Let’s look at some aspects of prudence so we can understand how to grow in it.

  1. Prudence is a key component of wisdom…it is in the introduction of Proverbs, twice.

1:1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline;  for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple

Proverbs are given to make us wise…part of that wisdom is this thing called “prudence”

Prudence carefully considers a situation before rushing in.

Prudence considers the future before acting in the present.

Outside of its use in Proverbs the Hebrew word translated “prudence” can have a negative connotation.

For instance, in Genesis 3 the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve was said to be “cunning, or shrewd”…it is the same Hebrew word translated “prudence” but in a different context.

Words, as we know…find their definitions in their contexts.

What was negatively “cunning” for the serpent…because he lacked fear of the Lord (no dial of faith him)

Is, for the one growing in wisdom…prudence.

Take “cunning, shrewd” without faith…and it is manipulation.

But if you add “faith” or fear of the lord you get “prudence”…a tremendous thing.

So, let’s move on and take other looks from different angles at prudence.

  1. Prudence loves truth, knowledge, facts…fools love their own ideas.

Every prudent man works with knowledge, but a fool flaunts folly. (Proverbs 13:16)

John Adams, our second president famously said.  Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

In Topeka Friday…I saw how much valuable time and energy was being expended…answering and dispelling rumors across the state.

-Some people, during times like this…and in fact at all times…have too much confidence in their own ideas.

-They latch on to things that are not true…and become impervious to the truth.

Why?  It’s a simple way to live…find an idea that fits my personality, or feels right…latch on to it.

-Now…”no more need for the effort of tuning in wisdom and faith…”I’ve got MY fact.”

It is common to hold onto ideas that we find personally satisfying or convincing or comforting…that fit in with our own preconceived ideas, or preferred narrative…but this is not prudent…not wise.

We need to be open to what is actually, factually true…this by default requires at least two things:

-Humble hearts

-Open ears not just open mouths

It is difficult to separate fact from fiction in times like this…but humility and openness to the ideas of others will always be helpful in finding the facts.

Facts=truth

Facts are always your friend…even if they don’t seem friendly.

Facts are never going to be in opposition to faith.

  1. Prudence has a long time horizonwhile the fool is self-deceived by living only in the moment

The wisdom of the prudent is to thoughtfully consider his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. (Proverbs 14:8)

Wise people live now with the longer term in mind…people who have a “short time” horizon tend to make foolish choices.

Time horizon=how far into the future do you see in order to live today?

Of course, the most wisdom, or prudence…comes from having an eternal point of view in how you live today.

Folly tends to ask “What will bring relief, pleasure…quickly…what do I want right now?”

Folly is perpetually undone by the “emotional chaos swirling around them in the moment”…always trapped in the temporary.

Folly is a thermometer(reflects the climate they are in)…Prudence is a thermostat(sets the climate)

The wise, prudent…starts with the “eternal God” and sees the “temporary now”…allows them to stabilize emotional chaotic situations.

*We prayed virtually Thursday for awakening….we want to pray for immediate needs and we are doing lots of that…but we must pray “big picture” as well.

God has moved in mighty ways in the past…awakenings, revivals…perhaps he will again…we must live fully in the moment…but not just for the moment.

The prudent person decides now…based on what is ultimately good and right.

One hand on wisdom… “what makes good sense right now?”

One hand on faith… “Who is God and what is he up to, past, present, future?”

You can say…“Sounds good, but doesn’t really help me know what to do in actual situations…it’s just not practical.”

Actually…if it resets your perspective to eternity…it is enormously practical in making good decisions right now.

  1. Prudence takes correction while the fool despises it.

A fool despises his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds rebuke shows prudence. (Proverbs 15:5)

“Discipline” here  it is synonymous with “rebuke”

Prudence (wisdom and faith in balance) wants to know the right way so as to walk in it…even if it means enduring correction.

The fool just wants to be confirmed in what he or she already believes and is doing.

So…what if you are feeling a bit nonchalant about this whole thing…you think it’s overblown

Or…you think people are absolutely not taking things seriously…people are being utter fools, putting you and others at risk.

Now…who is right?  

Clearly “you” are otherwise you would change positions because who doesn’t want to be right…right?

What is of real and lasting importance here is the status of your heart in all this.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life.”

Clearly, we all have to make real life decisions in times like this…this is not theoretical for us.

We have to decide what is the prudent (faith and wisdom) thing to do and then go do it.

As we move through life making prudent decisions…we must remain open in humility to God and others.

At the very least we can “tweak” our approach…become a bit more prudent…if we listen to others.

Even if we have a strong difference of opinion…we can better our own position if we are open to others.

Prudence: wisdom and faith…both hands on the dials allows you be confident enough to listen to and learn from others and not become defensive or offensive.

When you make your decision…do it without becoming a bitter, defensive, or a controlling grump.

“Hey, you ought to be…” or “you ought not to be…”

Instead…“Thanks, I hear you…but I’m going to do this…and I will remain open to the possibility of being wrong.”

  1. Finally…The prudent person sees traps and avoids them.

A prudent person sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)

You might remember that folly is a spectrum from the “simple to the fool to the mocker”

The simple is not fully formed, they are not wise and yet they are not full-blown fools.

The simple here doesn’t have enough wisdom (experience with life) and faith (experience with God) to recognize the dangerous path.

The prudent person sees the danger embedded in situations in front of them…they don’t live in fear…because they have prudence…faith and wisdom together.

The dangerous situation looks harmless to the simple or naïve…they can’t see the long-term effects of this short-term decision.

By dangerous…I don’t mean “failing to social distance”…there are many more dangers than the possibility of illness.

Dangers are relational, spiritual, mental, and physical…many during this time may stay physically safe…and be in grave spiritual, moral danger and not see it.

The wise sees the larger picture in the moment…that is why prudence…is one hand on faith, one hand on wisdom.

APPLICATION:  How do we do this “wisdom/faith” balance now and into the future?

Okay…so school is closed, businesses are closing, society has never been like this.

Missionary’s lives are turned upside down, as are deployed military members…like Aaron Lewis…who will likely get to come home on time…are in limbo

But History, American, and otherwise have always had these shaping times and events.

Often, they have been Wars: Revolutionary, Civil, world wars and the like.

Events: Pandemic of 1918, Stock Crash, 911

Awakenings: 1740, 1800, 1860, and others.

National events just like personal events…shape us…means we won’t go back to what and who we were before.

We will move into a new normal.

Life will always be, for all of us…life after corona virus and that all it entails…things we can’t yet foresee…we are still in the middle of it.

Just like life will always be life after 911…and all the many things that were at first strange are now normal. (not all good, not all bad…but mostly now normal)

What will change because of this…is yet to be seen.

We don’t get to choose the things that change the world.

We don’t get to choose all the ways the world will change.

We do get to choose how we will respond to how the world changes.

In a real sense, which we get to choose “how we will change”

We will all have a new normal as a result of this particular cultural and personal event…but who God is and what God wants for us remains unchanged.

Whether it is a pandemic or a personal injury, illness or loss…or great awakening…his purposes for us remain fixed.

He wants to use all things to conform us to the image of his Son.

So to maximize the opportunity embedded in this challenge…we must resolutely keep one hand on sound wisdom and one hand on faith.

We won’t get it all right…we won’t make all good choices…we will differ in our opinions and approaches…

But the outcomes for who we will become will be much better if we strive to keep balance…faith and wisdom…prudence.

Control what you can control…you can decide to grow in faith and wisdom during this time.

You have a say in what your own personal “new normal” will be.

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