A Look Inside
In the text for last month’s lesson we introduced following God’s leading to stay on the straight path and avoid worldly temptations. Today’s scripture enforces those principles. Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives leads to good choices which in turn lead to a long, healthy life. As Christians, our lives extend beyond earth to an eternity in God’s presence.
Break It Down
Teaching And Guidance
Proverbs 4:10,11 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
In verse 10 we are advised to listen and receive. Is it possible to receive something if we don’t listen? Not likely. You could hear this week’s sermon and quote verbatim what was said and what you are supposed to learn from it. When asked about it you give a “ho-hum” statement and the impression is that nothing was received from that sermon given by God to your pastor possibly for your direct benefit. On the flip side of that coin, you could brighten the lives of many if you excitedly respond that you have learned something and now are going forward to apply that lesson.
How does learning a proper method of listening prolong our lives? For that explanation let’s explore the opposite. What will shorten life? Since these will vary greatly from one person to the next, you can come up with your own specific answers to this question. It is likely that you have heard advice to stay away from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other destructive elements, whether from your parents, a public service announcement in the local media, or even from your conscience (fed by the leading of the Holy Spirit). Listening to these messages and learning from them results in a tendency to try our best to avoid these temptations.
Do you hear from friends, “Oh man, that is some old fashioned thinking” or “Don’t be bunk!”? When do you generally hear this? When you are attempting to avoid something that your conscience is indicating as a bad thing, most likely. You have heard the term “peer pressure.” There is also positive peer pressure which can be created by a group of Christian friends. It is peer pressure to steer clear of those things that can corrupt your mind and body. Make a pact with your Christian friends to exhibit positive peer pressure on others.
The only way that we can gain wisdom is through learning from the teachings of others. That teaching can come from a book, audio, from the pulpit at church, and many other avenues. Some wisdom comes quickly and easily while other types require years of in-depth study along with the guidance of many teachers. Listening to correct teachings and following that guidance will lead each of us on the right path.
Avoid Evil And Wickedness
Proverbs 4:12-15 When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
These first two verses show what can result from following the previous great advice to listen to great teachings and learn from them. When following the morally correct path we shall not stumble. Does this statement indicate that hardships and troubles will not be encountered in this earthly journey? Far from it. Why should we expect exemption from trials and tribulation when Jesus, our Savior and intercessor, received some of the harshest punishments that his tormentors could impart?
Jesus led a sinless life. Although the Son of God he served those here on earth, even in the lowly capacity of washing feet. He tapped into His source of power to be able to heal the sick and lame, give sight to the blind, and even raise the dead on multiple occasions. Yet He was also chastised, spat upon, and subjected to a cruel death on a Roman cross. Should we be exempt from the comparatively minor trials that this world can put upon us?
We are told to hold fast to this wise instruction, never let it go. Through Bible study, scripture memorization, and listening to the wise teaching of many committed members of God’s family we will be able to commit God’s word into our hearts and call upon it in times of need.
Verses 14 and 15 advise us to turn from evil. We are all human and we are all tempted in some way, shape, or fashion. How we handle our approach to avoid that temptation is completely a personal matter. If we believe the misleading statements of “just a little won’t hurt you” or “go along with the crowd just this one time …” then we will find it much harder to avoid that temptation the next time, and the next, and so on. If that evil is turned from, and run away from, then that first time has been avoided. If we take this a step farther and avoid the situations that could lead to temptations we should find the presence of these temptations to be lessened greatly.
Life And Health
Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
These verses command us to listen to these teachings, learn from them, and store them away for future use. These teachings are life and health for all of their recipients. How do these teachings enhance our earthly life? By leading us away from many harmful substances involved in the sins of this world, our health and longevity can be greatly increased.
Studies have shown that people with positive attitudes and active minds live a longer life. Keep in mind that these are scientific studies and may not include the spiritual aspect. We can extend the results of these studies by adding what has been learned here in Proverbs – “a mind that is actively studying God’s word will help its owner to avoid harmful distractions offered by the world and live a longer, happier life because of it. As a member in God’s family, that person will have an eternity in God’s presence after a life here on earth is over.”
Words Are A Window To Your Heart
Proverbs 4:23-25 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
These verses are enforcing the command to listen, learn from the teachings, and live a life of purity. We should not have two opposite approaches to life – one on Sunday and one for the rest of the week. Our lives should be a consistent example to friends and family because that may be the only example they will have of Christianity. If our friends receive an invitation to join us at church and see a consistent, Christ-centered life as proof that the invitation is true and meaningful we have provided a consistent example.
This leads into verse 24. First, let’s define the word “froward.” This means perverse, deceitful, false.[i] We are told in many places in scripture that the mouth can be used to curse or to bless, to corrupt or edify, for good or evil. We have to choose how we will use the many instruments we have been given by God. By learning from the teachings presented in scripture and applying that to our hearts and lives we will strive to serve God in all that we do. As we move forward and attempt to do just that we will occasionally slip in our efforts. Once we realize our mistakes and repent of them, God is waiting for us just as the father was in the parable of the prodigal son. He will restore our place in His family just as if we had never sinned. Of the three types of love defined in the original Greek language of the New Testament (agape, phileo, and eros), God loves us with an unconditional agape love.
Wrap It Up!
Can we listen to the Holy Spirit and apply those principles in every aspect of life? We are supposed to strive for just that. By learning and applying scripture we will be able to have it available at any time for use in the many situations of life, whether that is a major decision, counseling a friend, or just what to have for breakfast. Listening to good advice and learning from the experiences of others leads to excellent personal decision making capabilities and a correct path to follow.
Somethin’ To Think About
Do you feel that you have trustworthy mentors to ask advice of?
When they give you advice do you prayerfully consider and then follow it?
Do you pass that advice on to your friends?
[i] King James Dictionary, Sword module version 1.1 (Electronic Edition)