This Sunday we conclude our series in the book of Proverbs. The goal of the book is to instruct us in how to live wisely, skillfully in a broken world. And one of the ways it has done that is by setting before us the contrast of the life, character and behavior of the wise man and foolish man. As Christians, we seek to live wisely according to the Word of the Lord through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The grace of God has appeared in Christ Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit trains us to renounce ungodliness and the flesh and walk by the Spirit. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way we exercise self-control.
We gather this morning on the dawn of a new year. No doubt all of us possess goals, desires, aspirations for the new year. And how shall they be achieved? How will our desires for 2018, our goals be accomplished? Certainly not through laziness. Nothing we desire, nothing great we want, will be achieved or accomplished through idleness, through laziness and do nothingness. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished by remaining idle. No, we must work. If we would have a fruitful, indeed, joyful 2018, we must work diligently. One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is hard work, hard work contrasted with laziness and slothfulness. Work is a glorious thing. If you are starting to grow lazy, let Proverbs call you back to the joy of productivity. Laziness, idleness does not offer us greater joy. God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make that we might change the present and alter the future.
Thinking highly of oneself is one of the highest values in our society. Our society is filled with programs and techniques to help you look and feel better than the next guy. But the Bible treats thinking highly of ourselves as a problem. In Proverbs, God reveals his hatred of our pride. God hates pride, therefore, our pride shall not go unpunished. Prideful men shall receive the righteous judgment of God. But God has made a way for prideful men to be saved from destruction through Christ. Through a humble Savior, we can be rescued from pride's destruction.
While mankind was created to be in communion with God and others, it is our interactions with friends we find to be the most gratifying of relationships. Often, it is our friends who really know us, who we share the most intimate of details with, and who know our greatest successes and flaws. True friendship goes beyond sharing a common history and common interest. We see through these verses in Proverbs the importance of the company we keep and of their ability to influence us. We see descriptions of who a true friend is, and how we can be a true friend to others. True friends run to help in times of distress. They are present through the joyous times and the lonely times. They share one another's burdens. They spur each other on in righteousness. They edify through encouragement and are not afraid to rebuke one another when needed. A true friend is involved in the life of another such that their presence and speech are a source of healing.
Proverbs has much to teach us regarding how to be wise in the way use our words. Oftentimes however, the areas where we struggle to keep our speech pure have far more to do with our hearts than our mouths.
Proverbs shows us the foolishness of earthly possessions and money. What God truly values are matters of character: righteousness, wisdom, instruction, integrity. The cravings of material wealth are never quenched, they never satisfy, they do not profit our soul. Instead, we are called to set our eyes on godliness and to be content with little. In so doing we will be equipped to give generously and steward honorably which is a hedge against the temptation and snare of worldly riches.
How do you build a happy home? We all desire to live in and sustain a happy home life. But how do you that? Fortunately, Proverbs holds out wisdom for the path to a happy home. God has specific order and intentions for the family and the roles therein. Wisdom is to embrace God’s ordering of the family. Harmony at home is the fruit of embracing Christ and his authoritative Word on how to govern your marriage, inform your parenting, build your family and shape your home.
The Bible describes the voice of temptation like bitter honey. The temptation to sin promises to be sweet but in the end is like bitter wormwood, poisoning the soul. In Proverbs 5, Solomon goes to great lengths to warn his son about the dangers of sexual sin. Nothing is able to bring people to ruin quite like illicit sexual passion. Therefore, whether you are single or married, the Bible equips us with strategies for resisting sexual sin.
In Proverbs chapter 4, Solomon wisely exhorts us to be vigilant to keep our hearts on the path of wisdom. He does so because he knows we live out of our heart; the heart is the key to our life, everything we do flows from it. And there are powerful messages competing for our heart's attention and affection, seeking to shape our beliefs and change us. Therefore, we must keep, indeed, guard our hearts with alertness and thoughtfulness.
In Proverbs 3 we learn that living wisely means living with complete trust in the Lord. This is challenging for a variety of reasons, namely our sinful tendencies, and our perpetual inclination to trust in our understanding and follow our heart rather than lean on the Lord and trust him fully. The most important decisions we make in our lives revolve around whom we trust. And Proverbs 3 leads us away from trusting our fickle hearts and instead, leaning in and fully trusting our faithful, wise God.