************ Sermon on Proverbs 3:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 21, 2016
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
When we are made born again, Jesus plants new life in our hearts. But this new life needs to be cultivated. It needs to be encouraged. It needs to grow. For our new life to grow we need more than the law and the prophets and the gospel. We also need wisdom for day-to-day living. That's where Proverbs comes in. Proverbs helps us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Proverbs helps us to live as God's new people in Christ. So, this is wisdom for living as God's children.
I Trust in the Lord
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov 1:5). The Hebrew word translated as "trust" is part of a family of words that means "to throw oneself down on one's face, to lie down spread-eagle in complete reliance, to lie helpless facedown." We lie down before God in complete submission and dependence upon Him. We lie down before God like a defeated animal lies down before the leader of the pack or the herd or like a defeated soldier yielding himself to the conquering general. This is the kind of trust and submission we are to have in God. I am calling you today to trust in the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am calling you today to trust in the Lord Jesus with every fiber of your being.
So, what does this life of trusting in the Lord look like? Proverbs lays out four characteristics.
II Pay Attention to God's Truth
A First, if you trust in the Lord with all your heart, you pay attention to the truth of God's Word. Look at verses 1 & 2:
(Prov 3:1-2) My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, (2) for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.
God the Father is speaking. What is He saying? "Pay attention. Pay attention to me." We all pay attention to something or someone. Is it God or is it something else? In all the noise of our culture, what are you listening to? There is so much competing for your attention today.
Today Americans are bombarded with advertisements. I’m talking about a tsunami of commercials, print ads, Brand labels, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, ads on your phone or anything a business can produce to get your attention and compel you to buy. Digital Marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day.I repeat: In all of this noise, are you listening to God? Are you paying attention to His Word? Is it the heavenly Father's teaching you are paying attention to or is it something from culture or politics or false religions?
Ron Marshall thought that number sounded a little far-fetched. So he actually decided to dedicate one entire day to test it himself. This is what he writes:
On my test day, I heard about 14 ads on my local radio station before I opened my eyes and hit the snooze on my Sony clock. I used my Panasonic and Dish Network remotes when I turned on my TV, noticed a Kenwood receiver and Toshiba DVD player, and watched/listened to 46 TV commercials as I got going.
He tells us about product advertisements in his bathroom, in his closet, and in the pantry. He concludes by saying: "I’ve gotten around 487 ad exposures and I haven’t even finished breakfast."
B "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart" (Prov 3:1). That word "keep" is quite striking. It means "guard, watch over, maintain vigilance." In the Middle Ages, castles had a keep, a central fortress. There was the moat, the wall, the drawbridge, sometimes another wall, and at the center a keep, with thick walls and limited access to keep the king and his family and friends safe. "Keep my commands in your heart." In other words, "let your heart guard my commandments." After yesterday's fire, we thank God we have an alarm system in church for smoke, fire, water, security. According to Proverbs, God has given us all a personal security system: our heart. Your heart is your security system. Its job is to stand watch over God's commandments in your life.
The encouragement of verse 3 comes down to the same thing: "bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart" (Prov 3:3). Proverbs is telling us to keep them always with us. Just like you would never leave home without your smart phone, so don't leave home without God's Word.
III Obey God's Word
A Second, if you trust in the Lord with all your heart, look at what you do according to verse 6:
(Prov 3:6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.It is not enough to know God's Word or to listen to God's Word. The rubber hits the road when you do or keep God's Word. That's what Proverbs is saying.
Proverbs talks about ways and paths. Let me remind you that Jesus is the Way. He is the Door. He is the Gate. If you trust in the Lord with all your heart, you look to Jesus and Jesus alone to get to heaven. You know people need Jesus to have peace with God. You know no one gets to heaven just because they are sincere and well-meaning. You trust in the Lord for salvation.
"In all your ways acknowledge him" (Prov 3:6). Your life should look different from the life of someone who does not trust Jesus at all. Unbelieving friends should be surprised, even shocked, by your sacrifices for Christ and His Kingdom. If you never surprise those around you, it is probably because your life is no different than theirs. Jesus is supposed to be the Lord over the whole of your life.
B This positive teaching is expressed negatively in verse 7: "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil" (Prov 3:7). Let the Bible overrule your thinking. What do you do when the Bible contradicts what you want to be true? If you are looking in the Bible for excuses and exceptions and escape routes so you can do what you want to do, you aren't obeying God. But if your trust the Lord, you will let the Bible challenge your innermost thoughts and feelings and life and lifestyle.
IV Share God's Blessings
A Third, those who trust in the Lord with all their heart share God's blessings. Listen to verse 9:
(Prov 3:9) Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
The word for "honor" is also the word for "glory." The root word means "to be heavy, to be weighty." What carries weight in your life and in your house and among your friends? In most circles, it is money that carries weight. Money is used to rank prestige, importance, weightiness, reputation. The sad truth is, even among Christians money is used to honor ourselves. As for the Lord, He gets second best. But wisdom changes us. Wisdom says, "Don't use money to make yourself look good. Use money to make God look good." "Honor the Lord with your wealth." Use your money for Christ. Use your money for the glory of God.
Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the Chief End of Man?" Its answer: "Man’s Chief End is to Glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever." The glory of God is why you and I are on this planet. The glory of God is why everything is here. The glory of God is the central theme of the Bible. Everything that is wrong with the world today is traceable to the sin of glorifying self rather than God.
B In the Old Testament, the people brought the Lord the firstborn of their flocks (Ex 13:1-2) and the firstfruits of their fields (Lev 23:9-14). They were expected to give God their first and their best. This is how they honored and glorified the Lord with their wealth. The Lord came first. The Lord never wants to be second. The Lord never wants to be an after-thought.
Do you remember what God's people did after they returned from the Exile in Babylon? They put themselves first. They built their houses, repaired their vineyards, planted their fields, established their businesses. They looked after everything but the House of the Lord. So the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet Haggai:
(Hag 1:4-9) "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"To use the language of Proverbs, they did not honor the Lord with their wealth.
If we don't faithfully give to the Lord, we don't really trust the Lord. Of course, our tithes and offerings aren't payment for God's blessings. Rather, they are evidence of our faith and obedience and trust. So then, how do we honor the Lord with our wealth? By giving to Him our first and our best. He comes first in our budgets, even ahead of taxes and mortgage payments. This also implies generous giving. Wise people, people who trust in the Lord, are not stingy and tightfisted.
V Submit to God's Discipline
Fourth, those who trust in the Lord with all their heart submit to God's discipline.
(Prov 3:11-12) My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, (12) because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
God does permit suffering in the life of His children. Bad things happen. There are health problems. There are accidents. There are broken relationships. There are financial difficulties. There are fires. None of this means God is against you. None of this means God hates you. Rather, it means God is growing you in the faith. He is increasing your trust. As Paul writes in Romans, "God is working for the good of those who love Him" (Rom 8:28).
Does this discipline hurt? You bet it does. You know the saying: No Pain, No Gain. That's true in the religious realm too. But no matter how much the experience may hurt us, it will never harm us, because God always disciplines in love.
VI The Blessings of Trusting in God
A In the first 8 chapters, Proverbs lays out the case for wisdom. It's basic message is that wisdom helps us. In chapter 1, wisdom keeps us away from violence and folly. In chapter 2, wisdom protects us from temptation. Those are all negative benefits of wisdom. Now, in chapter 3, we see positive benefits of wisdom: prolong your life, prosperity, favor, a good name, straight paths, health, nourishment, full barns, brimming vats. "Wow," you might say to yourself, "how do I sign up? How do I get this for myself and my loved ones?"
You don't sign up. It is God Who signs you up. Notice how our Bible reading starts: "My son ..." "My daughter ..." That is, God addresses you as His children in Christ. As those chosen in Christ, elect in Christ, saved in Christ, sanctified in Christ. He has made the first move and now these are His promises to you in Christ.
B But there is a problem here. Doesn't this sound like the prosperity gospel? Doesn't this sound like the health and wealth gospel? Doesn't this sound like the name it and claim it gospel? You know what I mean -- God will make you healthy and rich and comfortable because you are His child. Is this the teaching of Proverbs here? Let me mention two responses.
First, look at verse 11. It mentions the Lord's discipline and rebuke. That doesn't sound like health and wealth to me. We notice that Proverbs mentions the two opposite extremes of life -- when the good times roll and when hardship strikes, when life is sweet and when life is bitter.
Consider, for a moment, the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. By and large, they suffered. Theirs was no comfortable pew. Theirs was not health and wealth. They trusted God with all their heart, yet some of them were tortured, killed, mistreated. In other words, the believer's life contains many good blessings, but God sends us pain too.
Look at Jesus. He suffered humiliation and He experienced exaltation. He humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! But God also exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Phil 2:6-11). And, Christians can expect to be like Christ: we can expect to experience both humiliation and exaltation.
Let me warn you about the prosperity gospel, dear friends. If your life is limited to the blessings of the here and now, you are in trouble. Because some day your vats will run dry and your barns will be empty. You need to realize your life in this world is only the first page of an eternal story. Focus your life and set your heart not on the gifts of this life -- which will certainly fail you -- but on the Giver Who will never fail you. As our text puts it, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov 3:5). Trust in the Lord, not in wealth, not in health, not in crops, not in vines, not in cows, not in jobs, not in government.
Second, the so-called prosperity gospel is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It is to be found on TV with Joel Osteen, the Hour of Power with the Schulers, the positive thinking of Norman Vincent Peale, the Prayer of Jabez and enlarge my territory theology. It is nothing but materialism in religious garb. It chooses Bible verses selectively. It doesn't love God but uses God and sees God as the pathway to the good life. The emphasis of the gospel is not on things but on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We hear this best expressed by Paul in his letter to the Philippians:
(Phil 3:7-9) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ ... I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in him ...Paul doesn't want things. What he wants is Jesus. Paul doesn't want health. What he wants is Jesus. Paul doesn't want riches. What he wants is Jesus. Paul doesn't want prosperity. What he wants is Jesus. Do you get the picture?! "Trust in the Lord with all your heart."
I have a to-do list in my office, things I need to do, people I need to see. In Proverbs 3 God writes down His to-do list for you and me: #1 - Trust in the Lord Jesus; #2 - Know His Word; #3 - Obey the Lord and shun evil; #4 - Share God's blessings; #5 - Submit to God's discipline; #6 Want Jesus.
Will you listen to wisdom here? Will you put the Lord Jesus first in your life?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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