************ Sermon on Proverbs 4:1-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 2, 2004
"Wisdom for Living"
Title: Good Questions
A little boy came to his father and asked him, "Dad, who made God?" The father, engrossed in the evening paper, responded, "Beats me, son." The little boy would not be put off. "Dad, why is the earth round?" The dad answered, "I don't know, son." The boy played for a minute, then asked, "Dad, is there life on other planets?" The father patiently answered, "Nobody knows the answer to that." Finally the boy asked his father, "Dad, do you mind me asking you all these questions?" The father put down his paper, "Why not at all son," he said, "how else are you going to learn?"
This humorous story contains a very serious question: How is this little boy going to learn? Or, to use the word of Proverbs 4, how is this little boy going to gain wisdom?
Whether we are young or old, whether we are a little child or an old man, whether we are someone flush with youth or in middle age, we all need the same thing: we all need wisdom. We all need wisdom in order to get through this business we call life.
Our Scripture reading from Proverbs tells us the importance of wisdom:
(Prov 4:7) Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.Young People, is wisdom something you are pursuing?
(Prov 8:10-11) Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, (11) for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
I Wisdom - what it does
A Why should we pursue wisdom? Why is it worth so much?
Young People, do you want to live long, do you want to be happy, do you want to be a success in life? If your answer is "Yes," then you need wisdom. Wisdom, you see, is the stuff that makes for happiness and fulfillment in life.
You young people have important decisions in front of you. Someday, if you plan on getting married, you must decide on a marriage partner. Someday too you must make a decision on a career, on what you will do with your life. It is wisdom that enables you to make the right choices here. It is wisdom, for instance, that leads you to choose a Christian marriage partner so that you live together with him or her in joy and happiness (2:17). It is wisdom that makes you choose a career, a calling from God, that you will find both fulfilling and prosperous (3:2,9f).
Wisdom guides you as you face life's big issues and choices. Issues and choices like: what school do I go to, do I move, do I change careers, do I accept the new position, how should I vote in the election? It is wisdom that enables us to make the right choice, to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong (2:9).
It is wisdom that enables you to choose a lifestyle that brings health and strength and long life rather than sickness and weakness and shortness of days (3:8). It is wisdom that gives you a good name or reputation so that you are admired by all and despised by none (3:4).
It is wisdom that keeps you from leading a life of sin – whether it be drugs, alcohol, pre-marital sex, adultery, divorce, theft or whatever (2:12f). In fact, wisdom leads you to hate sin and evil, pride and arrogance, bad behavior and perverse speech (8:13). It is wisdom that keeps you walking down the right path, the path of righteousness and uprightness (2:8,9).
We have spent the year on "Living out the Faith." We've looked at the kind of friends you choose and challenged you all to be a friend by speaking up for what is right and speaking out against what is wrong. We've looked at the importance of love. We've looked at the clothing you wear and the importance of not sending the wrong message. We've looked at the music you listen to. We've looked at drugs and alcohol. We've looked at the fruit of the Spirit and the Passion of Christ. We've looked at the Parable of the Sower. We've challenged you to be like Daniel and his friends.
How is it that Christian young people can choose the right kind of friends? What makes you wear modest rather than sexually explicit clothing? What allows you to listen to something other than the heathen and sensual music that is on the radio? What keeps you from getting hooked on drugs and alcohol? How come you know you are a sinner for whom Christ died on the cross? Why do you spend time with the Word of God? Where do you get the courage to be like Daniel and his friends? The answer to all of this is wisdom. Wisdom. It is wisdom that enables us to live out the faith every day and in every way.
Listen to what Proverbs 8 says about the benefits of wisdom:
(Prov 8:14-21) Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. (15) By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; (16) by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth. (17) I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (18) With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. (19) My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. (20) I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, (21) bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.
Wisdom does so much. It has so many benefits. It is worthwhile pursuing. So to all of you I say, "Get wisdom!"
B In the Bible the opposite of being wise is being a fool. The fool throws morality out the door and lives in sin. The fool is sexually immoral. The fool gets hooked on drugs and alcohol. The fool chooses the wrong kind of friends. The fool listens to the wrong kind of music. The fool does not guard his or her heart. The fool lives for self rather than God. The fool pursues foolishness instead of wisdom.
II Wisdom - how to get it
A Now, how do we get wisdom? How do we become wise and end up enjoying all the blessings and benefits the Bible mentions? How do we become wise enough to live out the Christian faith?
Let me start off by saying some of the smartest people I know are also the dumbest. They have no wisdom. So wisdom has nothing to do with brains. It also has nothing to do with education or philosophy or science or computers.
B The ninth chapter of Proverbs tells us how to get wisdom – the stuff that makes for happiness and fulfillment in life. It says,
(Prov 9:10) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (cf 1:6).Wisdom comes from God (2:6). It begins with knowing and fearing Him. It requires a relationship with Him.
Do you want to be wise? Do you want a life of happiness and fulfillment? Do you want to make the right choices? Do you want a happy home life? It starts off with the fear of the Lord.
I came across a poem this past week that speaks to this. It's title: "WHO ARE THE WISE MEN?
Who were the Wise Men long ago?
Not Herod, fearful lest he lose his throne;
Not Pharisees, too proud to claim their own;
Not priests and scribes whose province was to know;
Not money changers running too and fro;
But three who traveled, weary and alone,
With dauntless faith, because before them shone
The star that led them to a manger low.
Who are the Wise Men now, when all is told?
Not men of science, not the great and strong;
Not those who wear a kingly diadem;
Not those whose eager hand pile high the gold;
But those amid the tumult and the throng
Who follow still the star of Bethlehem.
Yes, those who follow Jesus are the wise men. That was true some 2,000 years ago. That is true today as well.
Young People, are you wise? You are if you follow Jesus. You are if you fear and love the Lord. You are if you have given Him your heart and your life. You are if you have decided, by grace, to follow Jesus and profess your faith.
B Proverbs reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Notice, it is the beginning and not the end. Which means that wisdom is something that grows and develops and matures. Or should, anyways.
I've been told that there are four stages of life: child, youth, adulthood, and senior. The Lord expects wisdom in each stage of life; He wants us all – whether young or old – to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and fear Him. Yet, the Lord does not expect those in the first stage to have as much wisdom as those in the last stage; and, He expects those in the last stage to have more wisdom than those in previous stages. Job says,
(Job 12:12) Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?
What it comes down to it that the Lord is not pleased with those adults and seniors who have no more wisdom than little children. And, He delights in those youth and adults who have the wisdom of those who are far older.
So, how do we gain in wisdom and understanding? Let me tell you. It is nothing new to any of you. Bible reading, prayer, worship attendance, Bible study, Christians books and magazines, Christian schools and colleges – they all add to the wisdom that begins with knowing and fearing God. And, I hope and pray you young people take advantage of all of these!
Wisdom – it is worth so much but it can be found only in God. Wisdom – it is foolishness in the eyes of the world but we all know it is worth pursuing. Wisdom – it is required if we live out the faith.
Let me end with a story first told by G. H. Charnley in "The Skylark's Bargain."
Topic: SinThe young skylark exchanged all it had for worms and ended up with nothing. The skylark was a fool.
Subtopic: Impairments of
Title: The Skylarks Bargain
A young skylark discovered one day a man who would give him worms for a feather. He made a deal -- one feather for two worms. The next day the lark was flying high in the sky with his father. The older bird warned him about his action.
But the young bird did not hear, for all he saw was an old man with worms. Down he flew, plucked two feathers from his wings and had a feast. Day after day this went on. Autumn came and it was time to fly south. But the young skylark couldn't do it. He had exchanged the feathers of his young wings for worms.
This is a parable of what happens to many Christian young people. They too exchange feathers for worms and end up with nothing. They exchange morality for immorality, Bible reading and prayer for drugs and alcohol, modesty for shamelessness, chastity and virtue for loose living. Instead of being wise they become fools.
So I want to ask you, I need to ask you: are you one of the Lord's wise ones? Or, are you a fool?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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