Proverbs 24

The Intimacy of Honesty.

Proverbs 24

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26 NIV

Honesty is in short supply these days. We live in a world mired in half-truths and deception. Oh, we have plenty of people who claim to "tell it like it is." But this is usually just another way of saying that they have an opinion and aren't afraid to share it – no matter how many people they hurt along the way. Honesty in the Hebrew scriptures is about much more than bluntness or frankness of speech. It's not just speaking your mind or getting something off your chest. It has to do with saying the right or equitable thing. There is an aspect of appropriateness and timeliness to honesty. It entails a certain degree of sensitivity and intimacy. Thus, the comparison in the passage to a kiss on the lips. In Solomon's day, a kiss on the lips carried a lot of meaning. It was not something done lightly or flippantly. It signified love, devotion, sincerity, and commitment. It was a visible expression of what was in the heart. To kiss someone insincerely would have been unacceptable. To kiss someone on the lips would have given them the impression that you cared for them and that your relationship with them was close. But to do so insincerely, but without meaning it, would have been as unacceptable as lying to them.

When we are honest with someone, it is an expression of love. It shows that we care for them. But it is NOT just a willingness to be blunt with them, telling them whatever is on our heart without any regard for their feelings. Honesty involves intimacy. Honesty requires love. We lovingly express what is on our heart because we care and desire the best for them. We think about how best to say what is on our heart, so that those with whom we sharing will receive it well. Our motivation is love. Our desire is that they will benefit from our honesty, not be devastated by it. Sometimes we can attempt to be honest, but our motivation is to hurt, not help. We can say what is on our mind, simply out of anger or in an attempt to teach the other person a lesson. But the honesty Solomon is talking about is always for the good of the other. It has the other person's best interest at heart, because it comes from the heart. It is honesty that aims at building the other person up, not tearing them down. It is honesty that is selfless, not selfish. We share what we share because we wish to make the other person better, not because we're out to prove a point or voice our opinion. An honest answer is a loving answer. It is saying what needs to be said because you care for someone deeply.

Father, give us the capacity to be honest with one another because we truly care for one another. Teach us to share intimately and honestly out of love. Reveal to us any selfishness or self-centeredness that may be getting in the way. Help us to see when we our attempts at honesty are nothing more than poorly veiled efforts to hurt the other person. May our honesty always be motivated by love and focused on the well-being of the other person. Amen.

Captain Obvious.

Proverbs 24

"If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” – Proverbs 24:10 NLT

At first reading, this particular proverbs seems ridiculously obvious. You almost wonder why in the world something so simple got included in this book that is supposed to be a compendium of wisdom sayings. After all, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that if you fail under pressure, your strength was too small. That's a no-brainer. But I think Solomon has a different point he is trying to make and the proverb has a much more important message to convey. We all know that we are going to fail, become feint, grow weak, and succumb to the pressures of life. It is inevitable. We are going to face situations and circumstances that try our souls and test our strength, and there will be times when we fail under the pressure. And when those times come, they will reveal that our strength alone is not enough.

The entire Book of Proverbs is ultimately about God. It is about the wisdom, power, and sovereignty of God. It reminds us that He is the source of all that we need, from wisdom, understanding, knowledge, common sense and discernment to protection, provision and guidance. He is also to be our source of strength. God never intended for us to live this life in our own strength. He is fully aware that there will be times when our strength grows feint and our sufficiency will prove insufficient for the task. He knows there will be times when the pressure will prove too great and our strength too small. But rather than become defeated, He desires that we come to Him. He longs for us to turn to Him for strength. To run to Him for refuge. But there is also a certain strength that we gain from having spent time with Him. Just a few verses earlier, Solomon writes, "The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger" (Proverbs 24:5 NLT). The wise are those who have had the wisdom of God instilled in their hearts. They have been equipped by God with knowledge and understanding. They have the capacity to know right from wrong, and the right paths to take in life. They have a strength that is far greater than mere physical stamina or power. It is an inner strength, a determination and drive that allows them to endure the seemingly unendurable and not only survive, but thrive. Rather than fail under pressure, they prosper, because they have learned to rely on a strength outside of themselves. They have discovered the reality that the power of God is far superior than their own strength on their best day. When we fail or falter in times of trouble, it should remind us that we are relying on a strength that is insufficient for the task. It should reveal to us that we have an inadequate power supply. And it should drive us back to the Source.

Father, the fact that I faint should not surprise me. But I should be a bit embarrassed when it happens because I have Your power available to me at all times. My faltering under times of pressure is just a wake up call that I have been living in my own strength, and not Yours. May those times grow increasingly fewer and farther between. Amen.

The Key To A Strong, Healthy Family.

 

Proverbs 24

“A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through common sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.” – Proverbs 24:3-4 NLT

You can read countless books on parenting. You can attend any of a number of seminars on the topic. You can get parenting advice, both good and bad, from all kinds of people. They'll tell you about the importance of communication, the need for consistent discipline, the danger of a home without rules, but the damage that can be done if your home is too strict. Everyone has opinions. Everyone is ready to give their advice. But there are few who truly know the secret to having a healthy, thriving family – except Solomon. The word he uses for "house" in this passage can be translated "family" and is probably best seen as a metaphor for establishing a strong, vibrant home life, not about building a structure. We all know that a well-built home is no guarantee of a healthy, whole family. There are many beautiful homes in the best of neighborhoods filled with children who despise their parents, husbands and wives who have fallen out of love long ago, and where domestic bliss is nowhere to be found. No, Solomon is not giving us construction tips, but the key to a healthy family. And this advice applies not only to our biological family, but to our spiritual family as well. The church, the body of Christ, is also a family. As believers, we are all members of the family of God and are His children. And just like our biological family, the family of God can become dysfunctional and unhealthy if we ignore the counsel of Solomon.

He tells us a home, a family is built by wisdom. Which reminds me of Solomon's advice found in the very first chapter of his book: "Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God" (Proverbs 1:7 MSG). This is a paraphrase from The Message, but I find it paints a very accurate description of what it means to "fear the Lord." To fear the Lord is to recognize that He is God and we are not. It is to understand that He is the source of all wisdom, not us. It is to humble ourselves under His mighty power, recognizing our own weakness. The key to gaining wisdom is starting with God. It is focusing all of our attention on Him and making Him the center of our lives. This is true when it comes to our homes or families. He has to be number one. Not our kids. Not our careers. Not our marriages. Not our own selfish wills and self-centered desires. We must start with God. Our homes must be built on Him. He must be the foundation on which we construct our families. Marriage is difficult. Raising kids is a real challenge. Having a healthy family in the world in which we live is next to impossible – unless you do it with God's help. Only He can give us the wisdom we need, the good sense we require, the knowledge life demands, and the outcome we desire.

But God can't be an add-on or an afterthought. He must be the focus of our families. We must make His Word a daily part of our lives and the manual by which we parent. Our kids must see that we not only believe in God, but that we obey Him. They must see that our faith is real and that it lives itself out in real life. Solomon tells us that if we begin with God, if we turn to God, He will gives us wisdom, good sense and knowledge. And as a result, our homes will be filled with "all sorts of precious riches and valuables" (Proverbs 24:4 NLT). This is not a promise of financial success, but a reminder that living God's way produces treasures that are priceless and not of this world. We will experience His peace even when our kids rebel, endurance when our marriage is less than perfect, patience when life becomes difficult, and a growing awareness of the presence of God that is more valuable than anything money can buy.

Father, I want to build my home on You. I can't do this without You. And I know because I have tried far too many times. I want to start with You. I want to continue with You. I want to end with You. Amen.

I've Fallen and I CAN Get Up.

Proverbs 24b

“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” – Proverbs 24:16 NLT

Living a godly life is not easy. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised a life of ease and comfort when we follow Christ. Yes, He offers us rest, but He does not promise us a trouble-free life. Instead, He assures us that our life will be marked by troubles and trials. He tells us that the world will hate us and that Satan is determined to destroy us. Yet, most of us seem to have an expectation that the Christian life is the good life. There are even those who preach and teach that following Christ is your ticket to health, wealth and prosperity. But history tells us otherwise. Over the centuries since Christ ascended into heaven, there have been countless numbers of His followers martyred for their faith. Others have been persecuted and forced to live out their faith in the face of threats and extreme deprivation. The life of godliness is not a bed of roses. It is the life of an alien living in a strange land. We are outsiders here. This world is no longer our home. We are on enemy soil and we are engaged in an epic battle between two forces at complete odds with one another.

As a result, there will be days when we fail and possibly fall. We will experience ups and downs in this life. But as Christians, we enjoy a certain sticktoitiveness that allows us to respond to setbacks and disappointments with amazing elasticity. We bounce back. We get back up. We keep on keeping on. As Christians we have a future hope that we can rest in and look towards. Paul put it this way: "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits arebeing renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever" – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT). When you have an eternal perspective, the setbacks of this life take on a different perspective. As Paul says, they begin to appear as small and short-lived. So rather than let them get us down and keep us there, we respond to them with hope and endurance. Paul knew this from experience. He was a man who had gone through all manner of trials and difficulties in his life as a follower of Christ, yet he was able to say, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (Romans 5:3-5 NLT).

We can and will fall down. But we can and should get back up. "The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again" (Proverbs 24:16 NLT). The wisdom of God lets us know that the trials of this life are temporal and limited in their impact. They cannot take away our salvation. They cannot change our eternal status. And while uncomfortable and unenjoyable, as Christians we can embrace them because we know they produce endurance in us and are part of the loving plan of God for our lives. He uses them to perfect us and correct us. He uses them to reveal our own weaknesses and His power. For God, they are simply opportunities to use His strength to provide for His children. The truly wise see life through God's eyes. We learn to view the circumstances of life from His perspective.

Father, sometimes this life can be hard. But I know You are here with me every step of the way. And I also know that Your love for me does not waver or change. My circumstances are not an indicator of Your love and faithfulness. Help me to view my circumstances through the lens of Your love. You never leave me or forsake me. You never let me down. You are able to use any and every circumstance in my life to make me more like Your Son. Thank You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org