Wisdom Works

December 3, 2017 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Proverbs

Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 3:13-35

Read Passage: PROVERBS 3:13-35

Since it’s the Christmas season, we’ve got countless children around the world preparing a Christmas list. It’s the top items that they want to receive for Christmas. And they make a list with the expectation that mom or dad or grandpa or grandpa or whoever will make it come to pass.

Now, as adults, we might think we’re beyond that kind of thing, but we al have desires. We all have things we want or wish we could change. And what do you think would happen if God were to appear to you one night and say: “What do you want? Tell me anything, and I’ll give it to you.” What would you ask for?

There might be all kinds of ideas conflicting in your mind, but behind every item on your list is the basic idea of having a better life. Right? We can all debate what we think will improve the quality of our life, but in the end, we’re all after the same thing—a more satisfying life.

And here’s the important part. God wants the same thing. And so should the church. And so should parents for their kids.

The big battle between God and us, or parents and children, isn’t ultimately over being happy or joyful or satisfied. The battle is over what we believe will actually bring it about.

Will a new car make you happy? How about a new job? Or a new family? Or more money? Will any of those things actually bring joy and satisfaction? We can say: “No, it won’t.” But that doesn’t mean we act like it.

That hypothetical situation about God showing up one night and asking you to name whatever it is you want…that’ actually happened. God appeared one night in a dream and said to Solomon: “Tell me what you want. Name it.”

Solomon had just become the new king of Israel, and he felt the pressure of that kind of position. And most of you know what he asked God for. He asked for wisdom. And wisdom was the right answer.

Wisdom is the keyword for the book of Proverbs. It is the primary theme. And the message that we get over and over again, the message in our passage today, is that if you want a good life, then your greatest pursuit must be wisdom. Wisdom is the path to a life that is joyful and satisfied and blessed.

Well, what is wisdom? It is the practical skill of applying the knowledge and righteousness of God. That’s one of many definitions you might hear for wisdom. It is the practical skill of applying the knowledge and righteousness of God. And in Proverbs we have many, many synonyms for wisdom. Words like knowledge, understanding, instruction, prudence, discretion [conocimiento, ciencia, prudencia, inteligencia, cordura]. Although the words could emphasize different ideas. Most of the time they are being used as synonyms for the idea of wisdom.

Wisdom is like the next level of knowledge. You can have knowledge and not be wise. But if you are wise (in the biblical sense), then you will know the truth and righteousness of God. And you will be applying it in daily life.

This life of wisdom is what every earthly father should want for his kids. And it is what our heavenly Father wants for us.

And in our passage for today, we’ve got a father sharing another lesson with his son about wisdom. And if we boil it down, there are basically two messages here. The first is intellectual, and the second is practical. Two messages.

And I’ll give you the first message upfront. Here it is: “Wisdom works.” Wisdom works.

It is one of the most annoying, frustrating, and aggravating things when something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, isn’t it? A phone. A car. A pen. An email account. A lawnmower. Whatever it is, we want stuff that works.

Whenever you watch a commercial or an infomercial, that’s the primary message. This item works. This will make your life better. This will enhance the quality of your life.

The first message—the intellectual message—of our passage today is that wisdom works.

We had a men’s meeting a couple weeks back, and we were looking at this passage trying to summarize the message in a memorable way. And that’s what we came up with. Wisdom works.

Works for what? For blessing. For joy. For satisfaction. I’d like you to look with me at the opening words in verse 13. What does it say? It says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom.” [Beinaventurado el hombre que halla sabiduría]. Other translations use the word “happy” or “joyful” [dichoso].

Now skip down to the second half of verse 18. And you see the same idea. Speaking of wisdom, “Those who hold her fast are called blessed.” And that’s the same root word there. Happy. Blessed. [Felices. Dichosos.] [Some people even propose the word bliss.]

Isn’t that what you want? If you want a good life, get wisdom. Wisdom works!

Verses 13-18 describe all the blessings of wisdom. This is like a dad selling wisdom to his son. He wants him to know all the benefits. PROVERBS 3:13-18.

That is an impressive list. Wisdom is valuable. It’s desirable. It’s pleasurable. It’s peaceable. It’s good for you. This is like an informercial for a multivitamin or a health shake. Verse 18 points us back to the garden of Eden, where there was the Tree of Life. Nothing you pursue in this life will be as beneficial and satisfying as knowing and pursuing God’s wisdom. Nothing will be better for you.

Get to know the truth and righteousness of God. Learn the principles of God’s word, and this will give you a longer, better life.

And in the true spirit of an advertisement, what we get next is an endorsement. Every major company does this, when they want to sell you something. They find someone well known, whom people trust, and they get him or her to say: “This is a great product. I use. And so should you.”

I remember a commercial that said when Bon Jovi uses a cordless mic, there’s only one brand he trusts—Duracell. That’s an endorsement.

People will choose a specific type of shoe—or beverage, or perfume, or clothing, or shampoo, or candy bar, or cell phone—if the right celebrity says they use it too. That’s why companies have endorsements.

Well, when this father is trying to get his son to value the wisdom and righteousness of God, whom does he go to for an endorsement? Who can he appeal to as a positive example? This dad goes all the way to the top. God Himself. PROVERBS 3:19-20.

Wisdom is what God used when He created the world, and it’s what you need to use as you live in this world. God established the world in wisdom, and you will establish your life if you have wisdom. Wisdom is how the world runs. So, if you want to figure out how to navigate this world, you need wisdom. God values wisdom, and so should you. Wisdom works.

In the same way that dew and rain bring refreshment to the earth, your life will be refreshed if you rely on the wisdom of God. Establish your life on it. Let that be what sustains you.

In verse 21, we get the commands of this section. Read what it says. PROVERBS 3:21.

The idea here is not to let something out of your sight, otherwise you’ll make a mistake. It’s like watching a group of little kids at the park. If you’re not watching them carefully, they disappear. They wander off. You need to guard them.  And in relation to wisdom, the message here is: Preserve it. Conserve it. Maintain it. Keep your attention on it.

The assumption behind these commands is that left to ourselves, we do not keep wisdom. It leaves us. It takes intention and energy to gain and apply wisdom.

You need to know that for yourself. And parents, you need to help your kids know that for themselves too. It’s true for all of us, and it’s especially true for younger people. Those of you in elementary or junior high or high school—you need to know that you do not gain wisdom automatically. And you do not walk in wisdom automatically. You have a foolish heart. Proverbs 22:12 says it: Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. [la necedad está ligada al corazón del joven].

But you can be diligent to find and gain and store wisdom. That’s the best thing you can pursue in life—the wisdom of God. And if verses 13-18 weren’t enough to convince us of the value and benefit of wisdom, verse 22 goes back to the same idea. This is the result of seeking wisdom. And again, it’s emphasizing our first message—wisdom works. Wisdom brings a better life.

Verse 22. Keep wisdom and discretion, PROVERBS 3:22-24.

The goal here is to help us value wisdom, to value godliness, to treasure it more than anything else. Why? Because it works. It brings life and honor and peace and safety. Like the end of verse 24 says, it brings sweet sleep.

Now, we’ve said it before, but it should be repeated, that the Proverbs are generalities.  It’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, but this is the general pattern we have from God. People who seek wisdom, people who honor God’s righteousness sleep better. They aren’t afraid of someone coming after them. And they don’t have their conscience assaulting them. They have nothing to hide.

Waling in the ways of God, invites his blessing. Verse 25 is worded like a command, but I think it’s really another way of promising the benefit of wisdom. PROVERBS 3:25-26.

Justice will come to the wicked. They will be destroyed one day. I think that’s the best way to understand verse 25. But if you walk in integrity, in the wisdom of God, you don’t have to be afraid. That’s what Jesus says in Matthew 7. The storm of God’s judgment will destroy the foolish man who built on the sand. But the wise man who builds his house on the rock, will be saved.

That word “confidence” in verse 26 speaks of something you trust, something that will hold you up and protect you. God will be your confidence, if you walk in his ways.

And this leads us to the second message for today. The first message was intellectual. Wisdom works; it produces a result. The second message is the practical part. This is about putting that truth into action. And here’s the message… Are you ready? Wisdom works. That’s message number two. Wisdom works.

Message number 1 was about treasuring and valuing wisdom, because it works. It produces a result. The second message reminds us that it doesn’t happen all by itself. It requires work. It needs to be put into practice.

One of the men in our meeting used the analogy of exercise. You can know all the principles about weight loss, and about gaining muscle, and about good nutrition. And you can have all the best workout equipment or a membership at the best gym. But if you never put it to use, you’re not going to see any results. It’s that simple.

If you’ve ever talked with someone who has gone through an Alcoholics Anonymous program, you might have heard them use the slogan: “It works if you work it.” What does that mean? It means the same things we’ve been saying already. Knowing principles doesn’t matter if you don’t put them into practice. It takes work. Wisdom works, in that it produces the beneficial result. But “wisdom works” also means you need to put effort in on your part.

And that’s what the lesson here is. In the gospels we have Jesus saying to the people: “Wisdom is justified by her deeds.” That means that true wisdom is going to be visible. In James chapter 3, it asks the question: “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show it by his conduct and works.”

Well, what kind of conduct shows wisdom? How do we work wisdom into our lives? That’s what verses 27-31 describe for us. This is the practical side of the equation. Value wisdom, and then put it into practice. How?

Well, in this case, we get a list of negatives. A list of things NOT to do if we want to apply wisdom in our lives. The first things to avoid is delayed kindness. This is the procrastination of love. Don’t delay in showing love to someone or helping someone. Look at VERSES 27-28.

How many of you have ever done that? You have the ability to help someone and you delay it. Why would we do that? Because we think more about how it affects us personally than about how it helps someone else. If I give you money I have right now, then what’s going to be left for me?! So rather than give you money right now, I’ll think about it and give it to you tomorrow.

An employer might do this to his employees. A borrower might do this to the person he owes. A father might do this to his own family. Those are all possibilities of delayed kindness.

But before we think, okay I’ve got that lesson down, let’s think about how this idea of delayed service applies to us in a more personal way. How does selfishness creeps into our lives?

Here’s one example.  When your parents, or your spouse, or your kid asks you to do something that will help them, how quickly do you respond? How quickly do you obey? Isn’t it a lot easier to say: “Well, let me wait until this TV show is finished, and then I’ll help you.” We are elevating our desires over theirs.

Here’s another example. Someone invites you to an event. And they want you to RSVP. “Are you coming?” What’s a common response? “Umm, let me let you know later. I’ll get back to you.” Sometimes it might be legitimate. But many times, if we’re honest, it’s because we don’t want to lock ourselves into something. Maybe something more fun or more exciting will come along. So rather than give them a clear answer and sticking with it, we delay our response.

Let me make this even more practical for our own church with a final example. We’ve been talking about how much our church would benefit from people who are regularly committed to ministries. But why don’t some people commit. Because they don’t want to sacrifice something that they value.

You don’t come right out and say: “No, I won’t serve.” But, in order to relieve your conscience, you say: “Well, I’m not sure right now. Let me know if you don’t find anybody” or “I can help you in an emergency. Ask me again in a couple weeks.”

It’s a form of delayed service. Delayed love. Delayed kindness. And it’s not the proper expression of godly wisdom. If you’re going to purse and apply godly wisdom, avoid delayed kindness.

Secondly, avoid a combative spirit. Avoid a combative spirit. Look at VERSES 29-30.

The wording here could imply a lawsuit. That’s one way of fighting with someone. It could also be used for a fist-fight. That’s a more vivid example of a combative spirit. Do you have a combative spirit? Yes. We all do. And working wisdom into our lives means taking deliberate steps against it.

Now, one of the ways we see this sinful attitude is in kids. If you give one kid a cookie, what doe he do? He walks over in front of another kid, and he waves his cookie in the air. “Look at me! Look what I got. No one else got a cookie, because you’re all losers!” They don’t say that last part usually, but they might as well. That’s a combative heart. They pick fights. They instigate.

What are some other examples? Well, when we had our men’s meeting, I think we had 4 different examples of someone getting upset with their neighbor because he parks in front of their house. And it seems like there’s no real reason for them to do it.

And when something like that happens, our sinful combative spirit plans ways to retaliate. We might never carry it out, but it comes through our mind. “I’ll turn my sprinklers on… I hope a car drives by and scrapes it. I hope it gets a ticket on trash day. etc. etc.” Wisdom says: Don’t do that. Don’t plan evil against him.

What is the wisdom of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Don’t pick fights. And don’t sabotage people.

Finally, if you want to work wisdom into your life, avoid sinful envy. Avoid delayed kindness or service. Avoid a combative spirit. And avoid sinful envy. This is the message of VERSE 31.

Some people choose the path of sin and foolishness, and it looks like life is going well for them. They look happy… Don’t be fooled by that. Don’t get sucked into that life.

Ultimately, it boils down to faith. To faith. Do I believe that God’s wisdom is the true path to satisfaction and joy and life? Wisdom works! Faith works. Wisdom is faith in action.

That’s the message of Hebrews 11 or James chapter 2. Faith is expressed in action. It’s a deliberate decision based on revealed truth.

And the revealed truth, in this case, is VERSES 32-35.

Which group are you in? How are you pursuing joy and satisfaction in life? Through the righteousness and wisdom of God? Or through the foolish ways of this world?

The foolish person is an abomination to God. There’s no blessing there. There’s no divine support. But the upright person have God as an intimate friend.

Do you want God’s curse or God’s blessing? Do you want His disdain or His favor? Do you want honor or disgrace?

Wisdom works. It will benefit you. But remember also that wisdom works. It doesn’t come automatically.

Faith and wisdom are expressed in faith in Christ. And if you surrender to Him, the blessing is eternal peace and eternal life.

More in Proverbs

March 8, 2020

The Power of the Tongue

May 19, 2019

The Value of Work

May 12, 2019

A Mother's Life Lesson