Decision Point
God Has an App for That – Part 1
Proverbs 1:7

 

The popularity of running marathons continues to surge worldwide among people of all ages and walks of life.  Among what are considered to be the top five marathons in the world, two of them take place right here in our country – the Boston Marathon, which was cancelled last year due to COVID but is scheduled to take place on October 11th this year month, and the New York City Marathon, of which the 50th Anniversary running is scheduled to take place on November 7th

To complete a marathon the runner has to navigate through a lot of different things over the course of 26.2 miles.  You navigate through potholes that are there on the street so that you don’t turn an ankle or injure yourself and get knocked out of the race.  You navigate through, in the case of the Boston or New York City marathons, a sea of 30,000 to 50,000 people.  You navigate through pain, through frustration.  You navigate through those times when you feel like you just want to quit.

Come to think of it, a marathon sounds a whole lot like everyday life: Trying to navigate our way through the pressures of work, family, finances, career, relationships.  And the Bible has a word to describe the person who navigates life well.  That word is the word wise.  You see, a person is knowledgeable without being wise at times.  It is not the goal of the Bible to teach us information to simply grow in knowledge.  It wasn’t preserved for our information.  It was given to us for our application, because when we apply Biblical truth then we experience a transformation in our lives.  So for the next eight weeks we’re going to look at some select verses from the Book of Proverbs that will help us to learn to walk in wisdom as we journey down life’s path.

Now in Proverbs God’s Word applies God’s truth to our lives in very practical ways.  In recent years the word application has become very popular.  It has a double meaning.  If you have a smartphone like an iPhone® or a Droid®, or maybe you have an iPad®, or if you have any type of a computer in your home or a laptop, you know that the word applications is often shortened just to say the word app.  Okay?  “They have an app for that.”  It doesn’t matter what the felt need is, there is an app for that.  And if you don’t believe me, just go to any app store on your device and you will begin to see that there is something for any need that you have.  Currently the Apple App Store contains about 1.8 million apps and the Google Play store 2.7 million.  And app might be free; it might cost you a dollar or two to download that application, but it can help you.

I was looking this morning at some of my favorite applications that I have on my phone and one of them is Office Time.  Office Time helps me to track my professional expenses and the business miles I drive.  It helps me by providing diary section so I can keep track of how I spend my time and chart the progress of projects.  It has a variety of functions useful to business productivity.

I have another one on here called Gas Buddy, which tells me the price of gasoline per gallon at gas stations within a five-mile radius of wherever I am.  So it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling, if you’re in town, if you want to compare the prices you just download Gas Buddy and you have that.

Shazam is another good one.  If I hear a song playing and I say, “I like that song.  I’d like to get that song,” then all I do is open my Shazam application and it listens to whatever music is playing.  And after a few seconds it will tell me the name of the artist that is singing it and it will tell me the title of the song.  Then it gives me a choice to download it and in thirty seconds I can have that song in my iTunes®.

Anyhow, I am very excited about this series and I want to encourage you to make some applications on your own throughout this time over these next couple of months.

Now, by way of background, there are some things that you need to know.  The Book of Proverbs was written around 900 B.C.  That means nearly 3,000 years ago!  Yet it is so appropriate for our lives today.  

The author is primarily Solomon.  Now in a few different chapters he includes the writings of some other wise men, but for the most part about 95% of it is from Solomon.  And we’re going to spend eight weeks on this.  

There are 915 different proverbs, and we’ll probably look at fifty or sixty over the course of this series.

So let me begin by explaining that every proverb has three distinct and vital components to it.

 

I. IT’S A TIMELESS TRUTH, NOT TEMPORARY ADVICE.

First, every proverb is a timeless truth; it is not temporary advice.

Now that is important for you to know, because you need to understand that this is something that just is ongoing.  It’s not a quick fix.  It is something that will carry you through perpetually.  Any proverb is like that—whether it is biblical or whether it is secular.

Now let me demonstrate how easy it is for you to remember proverbs, all right?  I am going to start a proverb…a secular proverb…and you’re going to finish it for me.  Everybody ready?  Look before you…(leap).  A penny saved…(is a penny earned).  The apple doesn’t fall far…(from the tree).  Can’t teach an old dog…(new tricks).  Two heads are…(better than one).

You’re brilliant!  You’re ready for Jeopardy!  Well, maybe not.  I don’t know.  But Proverbs, whether they are Biblical or secular, help us for the long haul.

I want you to take your Bible out, and I want you to bring your Bible with you every week throughout this series.  You’re going to get very familiar with this.  But I want you to turn to Proverbs.  You say, “Well, tell me what the page number is.”  No, if you’ve got an Old and a New Testament, all you do is turn to the dead center of your Bible.  Try it a couple of times. Try it to the dead center and you will find it’s either Psalms or Proverbs.  If you hit Psalms go to your right.  Proverbs is the book right after it.  I want you to turn to Proverbs, chapter 22. (Hopefully, sound of flipping through their Bibles.)  I love that sound.  And we’re going to look at some of these wise sayings so that we can greatly benefit the way we approach everyday life.

Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  I won’t put the Proverbs up on the screen because you can just look at them in your Bible.  The other verses I’ll put up.  That is a timeless truth for parents.  It’s practical advice.  It is short and sweet.  It’s a principle that works.

Now look at the verse underneath it – Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”  

What a timeless truth!  It was written 3,000 years ago, yet it is just as appropriate to us today. Those of you who carry credit card balances from month to month know what this means.  Those who went into to debt a few years back to make some real estate investments know what this means.  Real estate seemed to be an ongoing, wise investment, and then, all of a sudden, everything changed almost overnight.  And for some today, Solomon’s words ring in their ears that “the borrower is a slave to the lender.”

What if we really believed what Solomon writes?  What if we actually put it into practice?  Would there be fewer arguments in our home?  Would there be less stress in our life?  Would generosity come more naturally if we downloaded that app into our own lives?

II.  IT’S A GENERAL PRINCIPLE, NOT AN UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE.


Here is a second vital component of each proverb—it’s a general principle, not an unconditional promise.

Let me give you an example.  Look again at Proverbs 22.  Look back at verse 6 that we just talked about.  Some people see this as a promise from God, but proverbs are actually principles not promises.  

Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  

Some of you might recall the King James Version says it like this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  

Nine out of ten times that is what will happen.  In fact, 95 out of 100 times that will be what happens.  But the fact that occasionally there is an exception shows us that it is not a promise from God, but it is a principle from God.  All right?  And the reason why it becomes a principle is because man’s free will is thrown into the mix, and a person might choose to go a totally different direction than the way their parents raised them.

 

III.  IT’S SPECIFIC INFORMATION THAT HAS A BROAD APPLICATION.

Here is the third vital sign of a proverb—it is specific information that has a broad application.

In other words, these principles can be taught in business settings, in budgeting seminars, in high school classrooms.  Their applications stretch beyond just a sanctuary setting.  And each of these proverbs are both morally and ethically sound, and when we study these principles, they give us a glimpse of God’s character and what is important to Him.

David McKinley is a Baptist preacher who preaches down in Augusta, Georgia.  He did a series on Proverbs some time ago and I loved what he said in one of his sermons.  He said, “There is a sense today that we are living in an age where we are exploding with information and knowledge, but so many people are struggling to have wisdom to live life.”  He says, “We are drowning in information, but starving for knowledge and wisdom.”  What an accurate picture.  And Solomon’s words are what we need today.

Now understand how it is that Solomon became the wisest man.  It goes back to 1 Kings, chapter 3.  The setting is that Israel is at its highest point.  It’s a time of peace.  It’s a time of economic prosperity.  And the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream, and He says to him, “Ask for whatever you want.  Ask whatever it is that you want, and I will give it to you.”  Now we would’ve said, “Long life” or “great wealth” or “military power.”  But that is not what this king asks for.  

First Kings 3:7 and also verse 9: “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties…  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.  For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  

He asks for wisdom.  He asks for a discerning heart.  And the Lord is pleased with Solomon’s request and He says, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart…” (v. 12).  He said, “But because you didn’t ask for some other things,” He said, “I’m also going to give you those things, too.”  He kind of gives him a bonus because He is so pleased with the request that he makes.  And Solomon shows his wisdom in the governance of Israel time and time again.

Now turn in your Bible back to Proverbs, chapter 1.  Let’s look at the opening verses of the book: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…” (vv. 1-5).  

Do you see those words: instruction, prudence, wisdom, discernment?

You know, in the Proverbs there are 125 different references to wisdom.  

You see, Proverbs is written from a father to a son.  And you don’t want to have a child who knows things and that’s all they do.  You want a child who knows things but also applies them.  So this is fatherly advice for all of us.

And the foundation of all wisdom is found in verse 7.  

Look back at Proverbs 1:7.  It all comes down to this.  This is the focus: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  

Have you ever been around a person who doesn’t want instruction?  Have you ever tried to say to your child, “Oh, you need to do this.  You need to…”?  “I know, I know, I know.  I got it, I got it, I got it.”  And then they do something, and you realize they don’t “got it.”  Okay?  

Well, he says this: The foolish person despises wisdom and instruction.  Proverbs will teach us to hunger for that.

He says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” or “the beginning of knowledge.”  What does that mean?  

Well, there should be a respect, a holy reverence for God and His power.  

It’s an acknowledgment that God is all-powerful, that God is all-knowing.  The universe revolves around Him and it revolves because of Him.  And the Christian life begins with dying to self on a daily basis.  

Solomon says in the Old Testament, “Fear God.”  The New Testament equivalent would be found in Matthew 10:28 where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  In other words, fear God.

And sometimes this concept of fearing God is confusing to Christians.  Is this saying that we should be terrified of God?  How do you balance that with the fact that He is a loving God and that we should love Him?  Well, while this comparison falls far short, you might think of a godly, earthly father.  He is firm but he is fair.  At times he is feared and yet he is still loved.  His children have an acknowledgement of his power and there is a healthy fear and acknowledgement of who he is and what he has the authority and the power to do.

C.S. Lewis had the right understanding of how to fear God.  In his Chronicles of Narnia series of children’s books, Aslan is the lion who is the hero of the books.  Aslan represents Jesus Christ, and the children are quite drawn to him but at the same time they are rather frightened of him.  I mean, after all, he is a lion.  He could tear them limb from limb.  And early on in the story one of the kids asks about King Aslan and they say, “Is he safe?”  And I love the reply.  They say, “Oh, no.  He is not safe, but he is good.”  

And that is a perfect picture of God the Father.  He can be a God of wrath, but He is a good God, He is a fair God, He is a forgiving God.  And the Book of Proverbs teaches us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

You know, when I was sixth grade, I read the Book of Proverbs all the way through.  I had a youth leader at my home church who challenged us one Sunday evening.  He said, “During this month I want you to read the Book of Proverbs.  All you need to do is read the corresponding chapter in Proverbs with the corresponding day of the month.”  And it only takes about four or five minutes to do.  I mean, they’re so short.  It’s so easy.

But that is what I want to challenge you to do throughout the eight weeks of this sermon series.  Read the chapter from Proverbs that corresponds with the date of each day.  You can do it with your Bible.  You can do it with an application on your phone.  You can do it on your computer.  But some way, find a way to put into your schedule an extra four minutes in God’s Word over what you’re already doing.

And what you’re going to find is that there will be things that you have read time and time again, but you will see just how relevant God’s Word is for us.  I’d encourage you to just jot a little notation—maybe in the margin.  Put an asterisk next to each day whatever the verse is that stood out to you.  Maybe you’re going to choose to memorize a verse each week or a couple of them during the week.  But find some way for it to find a way into your life.

Billy Graham used to say, “I read five Psalms a day and I would read one chapter of Proverbs each day.” He said, “That way in the course of one month I’ve read through both books all the way through, and I can do that time and time again.” But this is what he added. He said, “I read the Psalms to keep me right with God.  I read the Proverbs to keep me right with man.”

That is what happens when we start to download some of God’s wisdom.  You see, Proverbs literally means “the skill of living” or “the skill of navigating life well.”  Remember when I talked earlier about marathon runners, how you kind of navigate your way through? That is what Proverbs helps us to do in our everyday life.  Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  These verses in Proverbs tell us that our quest for wisdom and for advice for life’s decisions should begin by seeking the wisdom from above.

You see, the Book of Proverbs has been a big help to me in overcoming temptation. Sometimes when I’m tempted to do something that I know I shouldn’t…sometimes I try to play it out the way Proverbs would.  I try to look at it two years from now or five years from now. Or if I did this sin, what would life be like ten years from now?  If I give into this temptation to lose my temper, if I steal, if I slack off at work, what will the consequences be long-term?  And as you read these short chapters you will be given so many proverbs that apply to your life.

Some of you know the name Charles Stanley.  He preaches in Atlanta, Georgia.  He says that when we face temptations from the evil one, we must remember that the most important factor is the CMD.  That stands for “Critical Moment of Decision.”  And Stanley points out that you are strongest at the first point of attack.  If you don’t stand up then, then you are less likely to stand up in the future as Satan continues to just be a battering ram and come after you.  So if you don’t react in Godly fashion at the first point of attack, at the critical moment of decision, the odds are that in time you might be more willing to give in or to give up.

And I think he is right.  There are critical junctions where you are faced with the decision of honoring God or satisfying self.  How you respond in those instances will dictate your progression or your regression in your spiritual life.  I mean, how many times have we heard a person, when they’ve had a major foul-up in their life, say, “You know, I just wasn’t thinking.  I just didn’t think it through.  I just wasn’t thinking”?  The Book of Proverbs will help you to think things through.

Now one of the difficult things for us as we study Proverbs is to read these words of wisdom – these proverbs of wisdom – and realize that Solomon, the man who wrote the majority of them, was not always as wise in his living as he was in his writings.  Understand that there is a difference in wise sayings and in applying those sayings to your life.  

In fact, years later Solomon would write the Book of Ecclesiastes and would admit that many of the things that he did for pleasure, to make himself happy … he will say, “It was all vanity.  It was all vanity.”  He knew what was right, but he didn’t always pursue what was right.  Without God’s blessing, everything is vanity.  And like us, Solomon, at times, was one of those people—“Do as I say but not as I do.”

And we all know the type of individual.  It’s the out-of-shape doctor that tells you, “Hey, you really need to exercise.”  It’s the marriage counselor who has been divorced four times.  It’s the preacher who tells you to read a chapter in Proverbs every single day of the month, yet he hasn’t cracked open his Bible in weeks or in months.  It’s the financial planner who asks you for a loan.  It’s the nutritionist who camps out at McDonald’s® and eats double quarter pound burgers every meal.  Okay?  Or it’s the King of Israel who tells you where to find joy and fulfillment but he looks everywhere else instead of in God.

One of the best-known passages of Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6.  Turn over and look at that.  I love this passage.  You’ve heard it countless times—Proverbs 3:5-6.  But here is what I noticed this week as I was preparing for this message.  I realized how verse 7 completes the whole train of thought.  

Just listen to this: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.”

Did you hear that last verse? “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”  You see, the beginning of wisdom is having a reverence for God and realizing that He is all-wisdom, that He is all-knowing, and looking to Him and seeking His direction and His guidance.

So for the next eight weeks, I challenge you to open up God’s Word every day and to read it, to allow God through His Word – through these proverbs – to convey truth and practical applications that you can make to your daily life.