A Word to the WiseSeptember 19-23
Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble. – Proverbs 24:1-2 (ESV)
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, bronze medal winners are generally happier with their prizes than are silver medalists. Why? Bronze medalists are thrilled to win a medal at all, while silver medalists can’t stop thinking about how close they came to gold. (Today in the Word)
Pastor Jim reminded us that perspective can make all the difference in the world when it comes to living wise lives. There are times when it may seem that ungodly wealthy people are living better lives than the godly. However, the author of Proverbs is reminding believers to be careful who their heroes are. Proverbs 24:1 connects the previous chapter of the ungodly rich man and the believer. How could God’s people be jealous of the worldly person and his fleeting pleasures when judgment, like a dark and gloomy cloud, is looming over his head? Disappointment and grief will always be the end result of those who hope to find happiness through sin. Scripture is replete with many instances of the final end of the wicked even though it appears as pleasure in the moment.
When have you been tempted to be jealous of the ungodly? What about your faith motivates you to choose God’s way instead of the world’s way?
Thank God for His promise to bless you for walking in righteousness. Ask God to help you have His perspective on the situations that tempt you to doubt the benefits of His way.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. – Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)
The essence of emotional self-regulation is the ability to delay impulse in the service of a goal. The importance of this trait to success was shown in an experiment begun in the 1960s by psychologist Walter Mischel at a preschool on the Stanford University campus. Children were told that they could have a single treat, such as a marshmallow, right now. However, if they would wait while the experimenter ran an errand, they could have two marshmallows. Some preschoolers grabbed the marshmallow immediately, but others were able to wait what, for them, must have seemed an endless 20 minutes. To sustain themselves in their struggle, they covered their eyes so they wouldn’t see the temptation, rested their heads on their arms, talked to themselves, sang, and even tried to sleep. These lucky kids got the two-marshmallow reward.
The interesting part of this experiment came in the follow-up. The children who as 4-year-olds had been able to wait for the two marshmallows were, as adolescents, still able to delay gratification in pursuing their goals. They were more socially competent and self-assertive, and better able to cope with life’s frustrations. In contrast, the kids who grabbed the one marshmallow were, as adolescents, more likely to be stubborn, indecisive, and stressed. (Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman)
Proverbs 25:28 uses the picture of a city with no walls or protection to describe a person who lacks self-control. Eventually, that city or person will be destroyed by their enemies. Self-control is very important. Paul kept his body under control to avoid dishonoring the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). The lack of this self-control sadly dishonored Noah shortly after he had been given dominion over the earth (Genesis 9:20-21). Moses, too, the meekest of all men, failed in self-control when angered at Meribah (Numbers 20).
What did Pastor Jim say in the sermon about problems resulting from lack of self-control that stood out to you the most? What did God challenge you about making changes in your life?
Praise God for the protection that He promises to give you through His Word and His Spirit. Ask God to grow your self-control in areas where you struggle.
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:33-34 (ESV)
Sheer laziness has probably been responsible for more shortcuts, not to mention valuable inventions, than we are ready to admit. Most of us are continually on the lookout, at least subconsciously, for easier ways to perform onerous or routine tasks. An example of imagination spurred on by outright lethargy is contained in the story of an old mountaineer and his wife who were sitting in front of the fireplace one evening just whiling away the time. After a long silence, the wife said: “Jed, I think it’s raining. Get up and go outside and see.” The old mountaineer continued to gaze into the fire for a second, sighed, then said, “Aw, Ma, why don’t we just call in the dog and see if he’s wet.” (Bits & Pieces)
In Proverbs 24:33-34, the lazy man was sleeping when he should have been working. The hour is approaching when he will be aroused by poverty coming on him like an unexpected robber or an unexpected military attack. But the lazy man will be awakened too late to realize that his opportunities have been lost. This warning against laziness is meant to help us realize that God has work for us to do that is a vital part of our faith and relationship with Him.
When have you paid a price for spiritual or physical laziness? How is your work directly connected to your spirituality?
Thank God for the benefits you have experienced as a result of hard work in your life. Ask God to help you see your work as a part of His calling in your life.
Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. – Proverbs 25:6-7 (ESV)
Muhammad Ali, the great boxer was never known for being a humble person. Once he was on an airplane and he said, “I’m the greatest.” The air hostesses looked at him and saw he didn’t have his seatbelt fastened. She said to him, “Mr. Ali, you’ll have to fasten your seatbelt.” Ali responded, “Superman don’t need a seatbelt.” The hostess then replied, “Superman don’t need an airplane either.”
Self-promotion is always a source of weakness as well as a revelation of vanity. In vanity there is no substance; it is idle breath, it is foolish vapor. When a man is left to praise himself it is evident that he has lived a self-centered life, not a life full of blessedness and comfort in relation to other men. The pride which leads one to boast in the presence of the great will almost certainly be followed by a crushing rebuke.
When have you caught yourself trying to promote yourself only to be embarrassed later? When you have not sought out attention but been recognized for your work behind the scenes?
Praise God for some of the blessings in your life that are simply from His mercy and grace toward you. Ask God to help you recognize areas in your life where you are promoting yourself in a way that dishonors Him.
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. – Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)
Paul W. Powell once observed: “Pride is so subtle that if we aren’t careful we’ll be proud of our humility. When this happens our goodness becomes badness. Our virtues become vices. We can easily become like the Sunday School teacher who, having told the story of the Pharisee and the publican, said, ‘Children, let’s bow our heads and thank God we are not like the Pharisee! (Today in the Word)
The person described in Proverbs 26:12 is wrong in their own self-assessment. His assessment of his knowledge and abilities is off and this makes him hopeless. A person who is arrogant and considers himself superior to all instruction places himself hopelessly beyond the reach of help. This is ultimately a picture of someone who thinks he is smarter than God and his own way is better than God’s way. Proverbs calls him worse than a fool.
When was the last time you bragged about your spirituality? Can you recall something Pastor Jim said about the pride that stood out to you? Are there any areas of your life where you may be choosing your own way instead of God’s way?
Thank God for the gift of wisdom. Ask God to show you any areas of your life where you are making foolish choices and to help you change.