Wisdom is one of the most important qualities that we could ask for as members of God's Church. We need to study what God says about wisdom and sound judgment, and we must see how it should be developed in each one of us.
Wisdom. One of the chief ingredients found in Daniel 12:3 as the children of God would be. Wise and able to turn to righteousness those individuals with whom they work and deal with. The apostle Paul said the following words in Colossians 4:5-6, reading from the New International Version he said:
Col 4:5-6 — Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace seasoned with salt that you may know how to answer everyone.
So once again the apostle Paul emphasized, be wise in the way that you act and let your speech be seasoned with salt. You and I will be scattered to the four winds to observe this Feast of Tabernacles very shortly, in a few days. This congregation will find its members in over 25 different sites around the world. Is it not important how we conduct ourselves and what we say? Christ told us to be wise, Christ told us to speak with the salt of wisdom.
So today I would like to ask you to come with me and evaluate the concept of wisdom, how we should understand what God says about wisdom and sound judgment and how it should be developed in each one of us. Whether it's in relationship to the Feast of Tabernacles where we will go, where we will eat, where we will sit, where we will sleep, wherever it might be, but also beyond that because it says that "the wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament." So wisdom becomes one of the most important qualities that we could ask for as members of God's Church.
What's wisdom? Let's take a basic definition of wisdom. Wisdom is simply the ability to make right decisions in harmony with right laws, at the right time to produce righteous living. It's a simple definition but very difficult obviously to carry it out in certain ways. It is the ability to make right decisions in harmony with right laws, at the right time to produce righteous living. Soncino's Commentary in the Old Testament says this: "True wisdom cannot be exercised where there is a spirit of arrogance." Therefore we begin to realize that there are offshoots of this wisdom and the only way it can be had and used and served with is through the ability for one to understand that arrogance is an opposite of proper wisdom.
What is the source of wisdom and good judgment? I think the answer is simply what Job said, he said: "The fear of God is wisdom." And Solomon said: "Only the Lord gives wisdom." And therefore we recognize that there is a worldly wisdom that Paul wrote about in I Cor. 1 and then there is a Godly wisdom that God talks about throughout the entirety of the bible.
Now with wisdom there is a secondary aspect of it and it is called judgment. It's the ability to judge righteous judgment. Jesus said that in the book of John. He said you need to learn, He was telling the Pharisees, because of their blindness to the reality of what they were and in their self-righteousness they could not understand properly what good judgment was and He said simply that you need to learn to judge righteous judgment.
So what's judgment, because it goes hand in hand with wisdom? Judgment is the capacity to assess a situation and to draw sound conclusions. Synonyms might be good sense, common sense, or growing up, my grandfather used to call it horse sense! And I think some of us probably can remember that term going way back and it just simply meant that if you understood sometimes how you'd have to give the horse his head sometimes in a storm to help you find your way back, it was just good horse sense. Good gifts, the bible says, come from God. James tells us we must ask for this wisdom and this good judgment.
Now wisdom is not just acquiring information but it's practical insights with spiritual applications. I want you to turn with me if you would to the book of Deuteronomy 17:14, we begin to see that when Israel went into the promised land and they would decide to have a king to rule over them, Moses was inspired by God to write to them certain principles here in Deut. 17. He talks about setting a king over them and what they should realize is that this particular king in v. 16 "should not multiply horses" and in v. 17 he "should not multiply wives" and the last part of the verse, he "should not multiply gold unto himself." But he did say that these are the things that will make for a good king and he said:
Deut. 17:18 — "And it shall be when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law...now Deut. was the fifth of the books to be written, it is the repeated law before they went into the promised land so obviously it has to do with the law that has to do with Deuteronomy first and foremost but in reality, probably the principles of the five books of the law later on. But he said, "...he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests and the Levites and he shall have it with him and he shall read it therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God... which is the beginning to learn to fear the Lord his God... and to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them."
So we see that he shouldn't multiply horses and he shouldn't multiply wives, he shouldn't multiply gold but it does say do this, take the law of God, write it out, wonderful thing to do, not only do you see it but you write it as well. It brings two things into focus in what you're doing, reading and writing. Principle of remembrance comes very much more greatly in that particular way. Then he goes on to tell him:
V. 20 — "...that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren."
Do you remember what Soncino Commentary said, that arrogance cannot operate with wisdom and wisdom cannot operate with arrogance? I think we begin to realize the importance of having the law and having an attitude that one needs to have when it comes to the question of wisdom.
Now over in the book of I Kings, let's turn over there for just a moment and take a look at what happened with King Solomon because again, this is a foundational principle upon which I would like to build the sermon today because it has to do again with two principles. One, the law of God and number two, it has to do with wisdom. Notice what it says in verse 7, this is Solomon speaking, he had now been given the kingdom of Israel, he had been given the job that his father had had, his father has died and he said, speaking to God in this prayer he said:
I Kings 3:7 — "Now O Lord my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father....
Now immediately, if you look at the frame of mind that this man had, he said he was a servant, he looked upon himself in what I would describe as a very humble way in his early beginnings. Obviously at the end of his life he did some things he shouldn't have done but the point was, we see how God began to work with him and why God worked with him in the way He did because of an attitude that he had toward God and toward His law. Notice what it says:
V 7 — "...but I am but a little child, I know not how to go out or how to come in."
Now physically speaking, that's not true, mentally, emotionally and spiritually he was simply saying, yes it is. To put it another way, the job is bigger than I am.
V. 8 — "And your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude." The awesomeness of a number of people that he had just overwhelmed him and his attitude.
V. 9 — "Give therefore Your servant an understanding heart to judge your people...To give him a "hearing heart" that is the ability to hear and see, a hearkening frame of mind...that I may discern between good and bad for who is able to judge this so great a people?"
I think we see that the attitude of wisdom, the attitude of sound judgment comes to us as a result of the development of an attitude that it says simply having the word of God and having a heart that will give us the ability.
With that in mind I'd like to look at some broad principles that can give us a lot of food for thought as we begin to prepare and as we go to the Feast, it's a part of what we would talk about going to the Feast but I think more than that, must be a part of our lives if we're going to shine as the stars in the firmament and if we are going to be able to shine in that brightness as wise individuals.
I'd like you to turn with me to the book of Proverbs 9, let's begin there this afternoon in the sermon. This chapter in the book of Proverbs discusses and contrasts two opposite houses. It says that every one of us has to choose which house we'll live in. It is obvious by the context that each house represents a way of life. One house is the house of wisdom; the other house is the house of foolishness. A fool is someone who is deficient in judgment, a fool is someone who is deficient in good sense, a fool is someone who is deficient in understanding so here the book of Proverbs is to give us what God intends for us to understand about this particular house. In the book of Proverbs, the Hebrew word for wise is very interesting. The Hebrew word for wise means "skillful...practical at living life." Interesting isn't it, that the actual word that we're going to begin to work with and develop has so many nuances but basically the Hebrew word simply means "wise, skillful or practical at living life." Vines Expository Dictionary says the Hebrew word "wise" means "a mastery of the art of living in accordance with God's expectations." Living according to the expectation, it's the art of living according to the expectations that God has for each one of us. Again we see an overview, a big picture that we're going to look at and as members we want to be wise and make wise judgments so that in our lives we can become more skilled in living God's way, loving God and loving our neighbors. So let's go to Proverbs 9:1 and let's take a look at it.
Prov 9:1 — Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars...
It's interesting that the verse mentions seven pillars. Pillars are basically supports, they hold the building in place, they give it its strength. In the bible the number "7" is what we would describe as completeness or perfection. The point is that wisdom is a perfect guide for life. It is a perfect guide for life. Although the book of Proverbs does not go immediately and give a lift of seven specific pillars or components of wisdom, there are principles found in the thirty chapters of Proverbs that give you the ability to understand what I call possible pillars that we can use in God's Church to build upon. Soncino's Commentary makes this comment: "This word picture of wisdom's house having seven pillars is indicative of a mansion built around a courtyard, the structure being supported by three pillars on each side and one in the center on the third side facing the open space which was the entrance." So you have three on this side, three on this side and one at the entrance in the center. He said, "You picture looking at a house, there's one main pillar in the center at the front and three pillars on each side of the house, on the left side and on the right side." Interesting, seven pillars but apparently they hold up the house, that's the principle that we find here in Prov 9:1. So how many pillars of wisdom do you and I have? A pillar is an essential support, it holds up a structure. Interesting if we only had three pillars, what can you hold up with only three pillars. We may be missing four, that's a lot of pillars to be missing.
Wisdom, we're going to find in just a couple of minutes, is not a masculine quality that only men need to be concerned about and developing and using. Wisdom is as important and essential for a woman or for women as it is for men. We're going to find something most unique that is going to summarize what I'm talking about in this particular book.
Pillar #1 — It's not hard to determine, is it, what is the main pillar of wisdom's house, the one that's at the entrance of the house as we perhaps go through and give you possible pillars that are found in the book of Proverbs. Let's go to Prov 9:10, let's begin with the pillar we describe as probably the main pillar of wisdoms house. It says:
Prov 9:10 — The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
The fear of the Lord...I think we could stop and say that God wants to see in us is an attitude of respect, an attitude of awe, an attitude of admiration and a submission to Him and a love for Him and I think no doubt all of us can grow in that area. But I think there's more to this whole thing of "the fear of the Lord" than we recognize. You see Job in his evaluation of his problem had to come to the place that ultimately when he came to the end of the book, he began to see himself in relationship not to the three men or to other human beings, but he began to see himself in comparison to God. Now why is that important?
Have you ever stopped to ask the question, why is it important to have this fear of God and a comparison between us and God alone? Because comparisons between human beings and human beings leave you frustrated either one way or the other — either it vaunts you up to have pride or the other side of that causes you to fall down behind that individual and say that you feel inferior to them. Now when God created man, God created him inferior to Him.
Man senses that inferiority and he doesn't know what to do about it so what he does is he tries to override that with accomplishment and his own human desires, his vanity and his ego and his needs as a human being. We try to rise above that and he tries to fill his mind, fill his body, fill his life with those things that will satisfy him and the end result is that he doesn't recognize that he is really inferior to God but not to another human being and he's allowing all these physical things to get in his way.
When you begin to see yourself in comparison to you and God, because man is inferior to God, and when we stop trying to rise above our inferiorities, what we begin to find out is that our relationship with Him changes dramatically and you begin to have an awe, you begin to have an admiration, you begin to have a frame of mind that is not just a fear in the sense of fear but a reverence that comes as a result of seeing yourself in comparison to God. Jeremiah 10:23 is probably the scripture that's been on my mind for the last two years more than any other scripture because it simply says that "The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walks to direct his steps." I've had to realize as I've watched the world that I live in, as I watched the church that I work in, as I watched myself, that we just simply, as human beings, I as a human being don't have the ability to get beyond some of the programmings that have happened to me unless the Lord build the houses, unless He is the one that becomes first and foremost in my life and in your life, and that's when you begin to have a different frame of mind toward Him because Jeremiah went on to say, "Correct me but with justice lest I be brought to nothing."
It creates a change of attitude, it creates a change of approach that we have, when the fear of the Lord begins to come upon you, you begin to realize that you don't trust in yourself, you don't trust in your experience, you don't trust in your vanity. You don't trust in your strength if you're a young man, you don't trust in your age if you're an old man. There are always the vanities of being young or being middle-aged or being old, they're all there and the struggle goes on all of the time.
But as you begin to change that frame of mind you begin to understand that our personal spiritual benefit is that which rises because we begin to see ourselves not in comparison to everybody else in the church or the world around us, but we see ourselves in comparison to God. And it begins to have a profound effect. It increases faith, it increases hope, it increases love, it increases the ability for you to recognize yourself in relationship to another human being, of being servant to them. Let's turn to Prov 8:13 for just a moment. There's one way to fear God and it will protect us and help us in the development of this. Notice what it says:
Prov 8:13 — The fear of the Lord is to hate evil...
Remember the king, when he sat down to read from the book, remember what happened? He began to read and write from that book and he began to have what we describe simply as the reality of understanding the truth about himself, the truth about God's law, the truth about human beings, the truth about human nature. So we see that the development of the fear of the Lord is to hate evil.
Herbert Armstrong said one time, some years ago, he said, "I look in the mirror sometimes and I hate what I see." I hate what I see! He said that when he was 63 years of age! He had been a member of the church for a long time but he began to realize how human he was in comparison to God, as he pointed out a little bit later in the sermon. He goes on to say:
V. 13 — ...pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (God says.)
So we begin to see that this fear leads us to hate evil, not human beings, but to hate evil. You can love human beings but you don't always love what they do, there are lots of things that human beings do that you just simply shake your head and you feel sad about but pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. The fear of God in this particular case, it shows us, is promoting humility, which is important in Christianity. What it does is it brings you to the place where you do what Luke 9:23 tells us and that is you come to deny yourself, you come to realize that in comparison to God, you really have to give up all rights to yourself and when you begin to give up all rights to yourself, then you begin to find out that wisdom starts coming instead of trusting in yourself, instead of trusting in your capacity, in your experience, in your knowledge, it simply shows us that our experience and our own wisdom will cause us to make foolish mistakes. But Luke 9 is probably one of the most beautiful examples because in the King James it really doesn't say it as well as the Amplified and the Phillips because both of them are telling us what the word really means. It says in Luke 9:23:
Luke 9:23 — Let a man deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.
But it actually means in its translation and I think those two translations have it beautifully, "he must give up all right to himself."
Ultimately when you empty yourself as Jesus did in Philippians 2:5-6, you ultimately come to the place where you stop making stupid mistakes, you stop saying stupid things, you stop doing things like that, that you've been doing because you stop taking yourself as seriously as you do. It's an amazing thing. It tells us in the book of Proverbs that "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit goes before a fall."
Have you ever tried to talk to somebody who's a know-it-all? He always has a better way and when you get them in the crowd of people, he always has a better way. Sometimes I just wish I had the ability to get a piece of that gray tape that you put around the mouth and say, This is for you, shut up! You know you can't do that, you say that's not the right thing to do but boy the thoughts grind away in your little carnal head. Let's put a piece of that tape on his mouth for a while; let's leave it on there until the resurrection! You know, that type of thing, you know what I mean? That's the way you feel sometimes but it's true, pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall and you just have to realize that there are people who try to rise above their inferiorities by telling you how great they are, they've been everywhere, they've done everything, they've got answers to everything. I've had people like that and I've learned that until God changes that, I can't do too much about it, except wish for a little tape in their particular case.
You know the bible says in the book of James, God resists the proud. You know what? So do people, ever notice that? You get around that person and boy you know, get away from me Charlie! I'm not talking about Charlie Preston now! But that sort of thing, you just say get away from me. I think a proper fear of God is a safety net. If we are humble and fear God I believe He will help us and intervene for us and take up the slack for our human inadequacies for the task. It's just a fact of life that God has to do that otherwise we won't make it! Because Jeremiah 10:23 means what it says, I'm convinced of it. It means what it says. But a key here, a big key here is our need to fast regularly. We really need to fast regularly to help develop the qualities of fear of God and humility because physically fasting does something for you, it whacks the spirit, I mean it just...if you do it the proper way by the time you get to the end of the fast, you're not as argumentative and as willing to give your opinion. I mean you're sitting there, your mouth is coated and you've got maybe a headache going like this or that and you've got this eye that might be popping out here or there like you have migraine headaches and you're saying, I don't feel good at all. And someone says, now we've got you, right where we want you!
But the point is, fasting has a way of just slowing you down and I think that God intends for that to be part of the lesson that you learn from fasting. Let's go to the second pillar of wisdom.
Pillar #2 — Knowledge and understanding. Now you knew I was going to go there, didn't you? But Proverbs 18:15, let's notice it for just a moment. Solomon writes the following:
Prov 18:15 — The heart of the prudent...that is the heart of the wise, prudent and wise go hand in hand, it's just a synonym for wise...acquires knowledge and the ears of the wise seek knowledge.
So the heart of the prudent or the wise individual acquires knowledge and the ear of the wise seek knowledge. The Proverbs also tell us, "Happy is the man who finds wisdom and a man who gains understanding." Another Proverb says, "God gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." But isn't knowledge and understanding just simply per se, to have knowledge and to have understanding? Or is it knowing how to apply that knowledge, knowing expressly how to handle knowledge in the right way. We could say the second pillar of wisdom is really gaining information and knowing how to use it. It's easier to make foolish decisions if we don't have proper knowledge or understanding and have all the pertinent information.
So let's apply it in two ways. We need first of all, what we would call physical knowledge and understanding about a particular situation, thoroughness of getting all the facts and things in life. This may entail talking with a large number of people to learn the whole story. But the second thing is, we need spiritual knowledge. Mentioned earlier, the need for us to be familiar with God's word. Remember the king in Deuteronomy 17? Remember Solomon in I Kings 3? You see this need to have the word of God...you're surrounded with the word of God, you need to be bathed in the word of God, you have to have it renewing you on a regular basis. Remember what I said in the sermon about four or five weeks ago, you just have to go to the word of God and read it on a regular basis, you have to let it talk to you, you have to listen, you have to read, you have to understand, it is an important thing. Prov 18:2 — I'm going to use a different translation here because I think it's said in this particular way, the particular translation I'm going to use is entitled God's Word for Today. Listen to what he says:
Prov 18:2 — A fool does not find joy in understanding but only in expressing his own opinion. Isn't that an interesting comment that is made by God's Word for Today. The Proverb simply tells you here in verse 2 that:
Prov 18:2 - A fool has no delight in understanding but that his heart may discover itself. Or to put it another way, I think, it is my opinion.
I remember on baptizing tours years ago when we began to explain the keeping of the Sabbath and explain some of the principles of God, I would have a number of people who would say to me, well my opinion is...and then they would give you their opinion. I'd say, what does the word of God say? And then I'd read it to them and then they'd say, well I still think that. And so I'd say, nice to know you, but you're not ready for baptism because you haven't been conquered, you haven't been willing to understand that you can't have that opinion, the word of God has to be the only opinion that you have in this particular case.
So we recognize that a fool does not find joy in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion. We used to laugh and kid about certain groups of people, when we'd say there were four of them in the room and they had five opinions, you know, that type of thing. This is true, we have this occur with many people, we have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Everybody does but the point is, when you simply allow yourself to use your own opinion and you don't sift it by reason of a number of factors, sometimes it gets you into trouble. We all have opinions; we all need to have a strong desire to gain understanding than just to express our opinion. We need to be learning to express God's opinion, not just our own when we're asking for input. I think that's an important thing.
So this concept of gaining information is one thing but knowing how to use it, to become adroit with the knowledge and the understanding. I had a case just the last week where a pastor called me on the telephone and he had a house that was infected with demons and so he said, I've never run into this before Richard. So we sat down and we talked for about ½ hour on what I would recommend that he do. But the point was, he listened and he said, well then what you're saying to me is do this, this and this and if I do this and this and I tell them to do this and this, then we should see this thing begin to move. I said yes, now go ahead and do that and see what happens. So he calls back a week later and he said he did that and he said, guess what? We have had some very very fine success with the problem. But you know, you've read about this, we have all this wonderful stuff with witchcraft and all of that stuff going on and we don't realize sometimes that homes do become infected and so what do you do? Do you go in and lay hands on the house, do you go in and lay hands on the people? What exactly do you do? And the interesting thing was, he had opinions as to what possibly could be done and he stopped and said, what do you recommend? And I went through about seven different points and he went and did it, and the point was, he didn't go to his own opinion, he took the experience that we had had parlayed over the years in God's church about things we've had to deal with and it was amazing, he got good results. So the point that I'm making here is simply you have to learn to realize that there are some opinions that are just fine, but there are some that you have to begin to look at other things as well.
Pillar #3 — Seeking good counsel or advice. Of course we know the scripture over in Proverbs 11:14, let's go there, it's a familiar scripture, it's a good definition of a proverb, it's a short sentence based on long experience. God has inspired these proverbs; He's giving a lot of experience with life, more than we've been through in the fifty, sixty, seventy years that we are on this earth. But I think it's a principle that we must follow. It's a principle that United is founded on when we were sitting in the back room of the Holiday Inn in Indianapolis and we realized this was what we had to do.
Prov 11:14 — Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Another Proverb says, Without counsel plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.
So point number three is that you simply have to remember that one of the most important things you can do is seek good counsel or advice. This is one of the most neglected elements of wisdom. It is important to seek advice for the more difficult decisions and judgments. Notice what I just said — for the more difficult decisions and judgments that we have to make. One mind has only so much power. Several good minds have more power and are of more value. What's the old expression, "Two heads are better than one?" As long as they're not on the same person right! But the point is, it's true!
You begin to find out that when Jesus sent men out, He sent them out how many? Two by two. Remember how many times He did that? Two by two. You see this in the book of Acts, two by two. Why? Because two heads are better than one. I have found on baptizing tours, one of the most important things I ever had was the ability to stand back while the first man was talking and then when he came to the end of ability to deal with the problem, I jumped in and then I talked for awhile and then when I came to the end of what I could do, he'd jump back in — it was very good, you played off each other and it was a workable situation. One source that I read reported that the twenty-five most common mistakes made by supervisors, that one of the top ones was, they didn't know when to seek advice.
Seeking advice is not asking or allowing someone else to make your decision, seeking advice and counsel is checking to see if our analysis is correct, checking to see if our plan is sound. Many times counsel gives us a different perspective and more options to consider. If your analysis is good you'll have more confidence after getting counsel. I will tell you that the most important thing that I believe I could have done was when I asked, when they gave me this job, if I could have a team of three men and have a team of regional pastors because of the fact that I needed wisdom of experienced men and I will tell you that it has been a priceless help to not make as many mistakes as we would have made along the way. I didn't say we didn't make mistakes; I'll be the first one to say that we made some, notice I didn't say few, we made some. But I will tell you this, that without that, you just simply will find yourself in trouble.
The point is that we simply recognize that if our analysis is flawed, counsel can help us avoid making a foolish mistake. I believe only a foolish person will depend entirely on his own judgment. A wise person not only discusses the matter with God but he seeks the counsel from those who can offer good advice.
Where do you go for good counsel? Well I start with my wife — she's going to tell me anyway, so I might as well start with her — act humble see, and say to my wife, "What do you think?" But basically, I mean she is my trusted companion, as a man you trust your wife with your life, I mean that's basically what you finally come to after being married so long. You really do, you come to that realization. Then of course you have a pastor that you might know well or a church elder and sometimes you have good trusted friends that are known for good hearty counseling. I have a couple of friends that I trust implicitly because they are so wise. I've even been willing to entrust them with certain things in my life that I would never have entrusted anybody else with. But it's important to be able to have some people like that in your life. It is so important to have more than yourself and to not walk it alone.
You know it's not like the old Bill Cosby record that says, "You and I, Lord right?" You know, when he was playing the part of Noah and the ark, I don't know if you've heard of that, it's probably dating me, I understand, probably that goes back 20,000 years! But the end result was, when God was telling him to do this and this, and he got complaining. Then finally God said, "Noah, how long can you swim or tread water?" And then he finally said, "You and me Lord, right? You and me." But the kidding part about that was really, You're with me, I'm with You, right? I don't want to tread water! The whole idea is that you trust Him even though I guess in this particular case he argued with him a little bit. But the point is, they are very very important to us.
Pillar #4 — Foresight. I didn't say four eyes, like some people call us with glasses, they call us four eyes, this is foresight. It's the ability to look beyond the immediate situation and to see the end result. A wise person thinks about the effect and the outcome of his actions and he avoids a lot of heartache and he avoids a lot of suffering. I want you to turn with me to Proverbs 27; we see here a very important principle that has to do with foresight.
Prov 27:12 — A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself but the simple pass on and are punished.
It's kind of like being at a baseball game and someone hollers out, "Duck!" And one man looks up and says, "Where?" Looking for a duck you know, and splat, he gets hit in the head with a baseball, the other man actually ducks, so you have to know the situation you're in and when someone says "duck" you have to know if it's a baseball game, you cover yourself, don't go looking up because you may have an egg on your head when you finish. It's a poor analogy but what can you say? That's an Italian speaking to you today! But the point is, it's the ability to look beyond the situation and a prudent man foresees the evil and he hides himself.
I grew up in Chicago on the south side, it was not a pretty place to live and we had to protect ourselves all the time and I would come home, when I'd get off the bus I had to walk three blocks into a neighborhood that had a lot of trees and a lot of shadows and you know, you didn't know what to do so I used to walk home and I literally had a four inch knife that I put on my finger and slid up my coat and I would walk that way. Now please understand, I'm telling you something I haven't told very many people but you know, the fear, you want to fight with me, I've got my knife. Now I've never had that happen to me in the sense of doing that, but I did that in the early going. Then later on when I started to work at night and we were selling newspapers, I had to take home from the newspaper stand, somewhere around $1,000 that night in order to pay the paper truck drivers and I had to walk home and so I learned then, that's not the way to do it. I began to foresee that as I walked along those shadows, out was going to jump the boogeyman, he's going to get me you know and there's going to be somebody there that wants my money or my life. So what I did was, I got my bicycle and I started driving my bicycle in the middle of the street — I don't care who was coming down the street with another car, I was going to stay as close to the middle of the street as I could because somebody could jump out and get me. And the point is, living in that part of the world; you learn to plan for something to happen even though it may not happen.
When we go downtown into Chicago, we would tell people that we would take down to Chicago, in the Loop they called it, we told them, do not walk next to the building, get yourself as close to the curb as you possibly can because there will be people lurking in those corners of the building and they're going to jump out and grab you and pull you in, nobody can see them mugging you. So what you do is you get about 12-15 feet out near the curb and they've got to run out and get you and you can still run out into the street and be killed that way instead of you know, being killed by somebody on the curb or right next to the building. You never take a purse downtown with straps on it because you can foresee them coming along and cutting it off and running off with it. You don't take your wallet downtown with all your credit cards and a bunch of money. What you do is you go with the least that you can and sometimes if you're smart, you'll take your money belt with you. You never go into Grants Park by night because you know they're sitting there in the shadows and they're waiting for you but by day you can go in there but don't go into areas that are not trafficked by people.
So you have to learn this kind of a street wise frame of mind and you just simply, when you walk down the street of the Loop, you don't, when you see three men coming at you, you make sure that you get to the outside and you don't look them right in the eye. Don't give them any chance to be angry with you and if you get by them and they turn around, run for your life! And that was the way that I recognized that I was becoming streetwise. But streetwise spiritually is the same thing; it's the same thing. You have to learn how to foresee the evil and to hide from it.
Now I'm not talking just about a street but I'm talking about using that concept of always being cognizant of what you need to be doing. A minister told us here recently that a number of years ago when he was less experienced in marriage counseling, a husband and wife were having serious problems so the wife asked for counsel, the husband was marginally interested in counseling so in discussing the situation with them, they revealed many things that they were doing that were harming their marriage. So my friend said in an attempt to help them turn it around, he noted and pointed out twelve things for the husband to repent of and work on and change. Now did you hear what I just said? Do you know what that does to the male ego? It's down the toilet, just like that, it's gone, I mean it's just really bad. So what happened? The pastor said he didn't see that the man would become somewhat overwhelmed...understatement of the day...and would feel hopeless, but looking back he said I should have given him one or two points, if I had foreseen what I should have done, he said I didn't see the effect that my counseling would have.
If you play chess you know that you have to get as far ahead of the other player in moves as you can. They tell me that good players sometimes get as high as 45 moves ahead of the actual play. Foresight is like having lights on at night and being able to see far enough ahead that if there is something there, you can bring the car to a stop, it's the difference between having your lights on low beam where you really can only drive so far and you really out drive the beams of your light if you're driving at a higher speed, so you have to slow down, but when you put them on high beams, you can see a whole lot farther. And when you're looking for something, you're just simply going to be ready for it, like deer jumping out in front of your car at night you know, that wonderful opportunity in Ohio to get your deer except on the front of your car instead of with a shotgun, you know, that type of thing.
Pillar #5 — Accepting correction. Learning to accept and to welcome correction is an important theme of the book of Proverbs and of the entire bible. But it is extremely hard for most of us to do. Proverbs 3:11 says in the New International Version:
Prov 3:11 — My son, do not reject the Lords discipline and do not resent His rebuke; because the Lord disciplines those He loves and as a father a son in whom he delights.
I think when you look at that in relationship to Hebrews 12:11 which is quoting this particular Proverb, it just simply says we don't enjoy being disciplined, it always seemed to cause more pain than joy but later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right. Correction is not easy nor pleasant, we need to be willing to admit that we are only human and we make mistakes and we fall short. You can pray, you can study your bible, you can fast but you have to also ask God for correction because Jeremiah said, if you remember in verse 24 of Jere. 10:
Jere. 10:24 — Correct me, but please be fair, don't correct me when You're angry otherwise you will reduce me to nothing. (From another translation.)
I think you'll find that's basically what we have to realize. Proverbs 12:1, I've just quoted to you, but it's again, from another translation, it says simply:
Prov 12:1 — Whosoever loves instruction, loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
Ouch, that would hurt wouldn't it! Even people who already have wisdom will at times need correction. I want you to turn over to Proverbs 1; I want to read it again because it's the beginning of the summary here in the book of Proverbs. It is written for anyone who realizes that he or she needs to continue growing and maturing, it shows you simply that the wisdom and the correction that is needed is not just simply for the simple but for the wise. Notice Prov 1:4, talking about the importance of wisdom and instruction and understanding.
Prov 1:4 — To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion; a wise man will hear and will increase learning and a man of understanding shall attain to wise counsels.
So it shows you it is a continuous cycle based on the attitude of verse 7, which is:
V. 7 — The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
So we see that one of the pillars that we look at in building this house is the ability to accept correction. I wonder if you realize that when the Apollo moon shot went there, that most of the time it was off course. I wonder if you realize that. That it was off course most of the time and what they did, and you didn't know this perhaps is that going to the moon and coming back, being slightly off course, all they did was simply to do what they call simple burns in order to put it back on course, just slight course corrections. You see it's not a requirement to beat the fire out of somebody, God doesn't necessarily need to beat somebody up in order to get them to do what's right, it's just simple course corrections. What you're thinking about this, what you're doing over there, what you need to be doing over here, it's just simply that way, simple course corrections are important and that's why as a member of God's Church, the growing and maturing is simply what is found in verse 5 here and that is simply that a person who is wise will hear and increase and a man of understanding will attain to wise counsel. Again, the progression of this particular cycle.
I do something in the ministry that perhaps I have not said publicly, so I'll say it today. I have had eight church circuits so far as a minister over the years that I've been a pastor, in Canada and here in the United States. I've made it a policy to go back and ask the leadership what they thought I did right and what they thought I did wrong - the leadership. Then I did one more thing, I searched out the people who didn't like me, who had problems with me and I asked them the question, "Why did you have a problem with me and what could I do differently to change that?" Amazing! It's amazing, I wasn't going for a whitewash, I didn't want them to tell me, "Oh you did well here, you did well there, we loved you" etc. etc. and then shove me out the door. I wanted to know from that leadership and in almost every church I was able to get the kind of information that I needed to add to my first assignment into my second and then into my third and into my fourth and into my fifth and hopefully not to make the same dumb mistakes that I made maybe when I was a freshman so to speak, as a pastor, or maybe as a sophomore as a pastor. But the point is, you simply learn to parlay that. Look, corrections will come to us sooner or later, you might as well go after it now and seek it now rather than wait for it to come in maybe a larger dose when you're really not wanting or looking for it and I do find that it's most important for me to ask the question and when I'm finished here, I'm going to talk to some people here and I'm going to ask them the question, the same question I asked those other church circuits. Why? Because in my next assignment I want to do a little bit better by taking assignments one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight and parlaying that into my ninth one. I think this becomes an important thing because of the fact that if we resist it, God calls us stupid. The scriptures tell us that correction is wasted on certain people because the more shallow and the more foolish a person is, the less willing that person is to listen to correction. It's important that you understand that.
The 6th Pillar of Wisdom that I think we would look at here — Self-discipline or self-control. There is a high price that is paid for acquiring wisdom. Prayer, bible study and fasting of course takes a lot of self-discipline doesn't it? Knowing what is right is one thing, doing it is another. Let's go back to Proverbs 1, I guess we're still there, and read verses 2 & 3 in the New Century Version. I think the NCV with the Hebrew is actually very very clear here.
Prov 1:2 — Proverbs teach wisdom and self-control...The NIV calls this, instead of self-control, discipline. The Hebrew words actually does mean discipline in the sense of the word of disciplining yourself...they will help you to understand words.
Verse 3 — They will teach you how to be wise and self-controlled and will teach you to do what is honest and fair and right.
Self-discipline is an essential quality of Christians. It is a requirement in the list of qualifications for leaders in Paul's letters of Timothy and Titus. Everybody in this room has to ultimately come under those qualifications for elders. The measure of a man or a woman is based on those qualities, it really is. Those are things that we must come to, they're not just for elders to be ordained, but they are for all of us to become kings and priests. It's a list of qualifications — maybe you've never looked at it that way. Things like the moderate use of alcohol, not losing your temper, being able to work with people in such a way where the self-control is a component of wisdom, the challenge that we can understand the principle and carry it out in our lives. Notice II Timothy 2:24. Notice what the apostle Paul says here:
II Tim. 2:24 — And the servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves if God peradventure will give them repentance through the acknowledging of the truth.
Listen to what the translation God's Word for Today says: A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, instead he must be kind to everyone, he must be a good teacher, he must be willing to suffer wrong, he must be gentle in correcting those who oppose the good news.
It doesn't come naturally; it takes a lot of self-control. Maybe God will allow people to change their way of thinking and acting and leading them to what is actually true and right. One of the fruits, as you well know, of the holy spirit in the Old King James is temperance and it simply means self-control. Let's go to the last one and I'd like you to turn to Proverbs 11:30 to look at this for just a moment. I want you to especially notice the second half of this particular verse.
The 7th Pillar of Wisdom is developing and maintaining good relationships with people. Good people skills are very necessary in service, they're very necessary as kings and priests, they are very necessary in dealing with the world that you're going to have to live in for the 8 days of the Feast of Tabernacles. But notice what it says in verse 30:
Prov 11:30 — The fruit of righteousness is the tree of life and he who wins souls is wise.
Now we don't often use the expression "win souls" or "win lives," it means simply that a wise person gets along with and has a winning way with people. They have a way of connecting with people instead of alienating them. Now lets understand something, please understand that there will be a few people in your life that you won't connect with, it just happens. I remember in Vancouver, Canada, I came back from being on a sabbatical and the first Sabbath I got up to preach in church, I looked on row number 18 back there, there was a gentleman about 60-65 years of age, he was a retired ship captain and with a white mustache. I started speaking and I wasn't speaking more than two minutes and he was mad and he was angry and he was just unhappy and every time I went to that church to preach, there he was in row number 18 right in the corner and sure enough, I'd open my mouth and he was mad! And I said, what in the world...and I spent four years going to that church, preaching and every Sabbath I wanted to go over and ask the man, I never got a chance to because he zipped out the door before I could get back and ask him.
But on Pentecost, just before we left to go to Toronto, he walked up to me and he looked me right square in the eye, it was after the morning sermon, I'd just finished, he looked at me and he says, "You know I don't like you don't you?" And I said, "Yes sir, I sure do." And he jumped back like it was a divine revelation that I had known that he didn't like me! Actually brethren, you have to understand, I can look out over an audience and I can see an awful lot and I can tell you sometimes when somebody's had a bad time, not all the time, I can tell you some people that are going through a struggle, it's just a fact of life, some things show on the face, you cannot help that. He looked at me and he was shocked that I had seen that for four years. He looked at me and said, "That's the best sermon I ever heard." And he wheeled around and walked out! And I went, aha, I just won! And I said that in a kind way, I don't mean that in a wrong way, but I never got a chance to go back to that man to find out. But whatever I said and the way that I acted, the way that my sermon came across, it alienated him and I'm sorry, I wish it had not been that way but you must understand, there will be a few people in your life that you won't connect with. But I think you must understand that the principle of winning people is basically having a positive influence upon people — it's the opposite of constantly offending people. Some people, without trying, leave a wake of bodies. Ever know people like that? They leave a wake of bodies along the way, they offend people behind them and don't even realize why.
We had a man in my first congregation that nobody could get along with, he came from another country and he didn't like the Germans, because I had 70% German in my congregation, he didn't like the Ukrainians, I had 18% of them, I had about 5% Slavic, he didn't like them either and the Canadians were just a pain and about the only people he liked were people from his country and there wasn't anybody else beside his wife so that was it. So every year he would complain and he never got it together and you just simply realize that everybody knew when so and so came around, you know he was going to say the wrong thing. I tried to explain that to him and it never worked, he never saw it, so the point is, he didn't learn how to win souls, he'd leave a wake of hurt and offended people and he didn't even understand or realize it or why. It's just one of those sad things that you see.
So much of having wisdom involves having good human relationships, valuing other people, learning to apply the laws of loving your neighbor as yourself. The book of Proverbs is full of instruction, I don't have time today to do that and what to think, what to say, what to do as we deal with all kinds of people. We don't have it down pat. I have never had it down pat, I wish I did, but the point is, the bible teaches us some of those things and we have to work at it. A king and a priest and a son of God has to learn the wisdom of tact and kindness and gentleness and forgiveness and mercy and patience. Even though sometimes you want to smack somebody up the side of the head for being stupid you know! I think you've probably said that, either you or your kids or somebody in your life. But the bible teaches us simply that we have to learn the value of mutual respect and love in dealing with members and with each other as members and dealing with the world. They just don't understand some of the things that we do.
A foolish person, on the other hand, is so self-centered and self-absorbed that he doesn't consider the feelings and the needs of other people; he puts a strain on relationships or unnecessarily offends other people and pushes that person away. James says the following:
James 3:17 — Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits without partiality and without hypocrisy.
To put it another way, it's an individual who, here it says, wins souls. It's that kind of wisdom, which is from above, it's peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits without partiality and without hypocrisy. Wisdom requires us to handle delicate situations carefully, faithfully and respectfully. This point of good relationships brings us to the full circle where we began with the big picture with the view of good judgment and wisdom, with the goal of being what we need to be during the Feast of Tabernacles and of course doing what we need to do to become good kings and priests so that when we are out there the wise will shine as the firmament, that's where we want to be and that's what we want to do — with each other, with the church and with others around us.
The book of Proverbs ends with something very interesting. What example do we find in Prov. 31? The virtuous wife. Ever wonder why Proverbs, the primary book of wisdom in the bible, written for male and female of all ages, ends with a poem about an excellent wife? I think I can read you a possible explanation from The Believers Study Bible. Listen to what they say: "This is a fitting conclusion to the collection of proverbs in that it offers an illustration of one who has mastered wisdom." Interesting, that's one conclusion, that it is one who has mastered wisdom. Many of the Proverbs are addressed to men, young men; men virtually do need good judgment and wisdom. I believe it is also the illustration of the virtuous wife, which is designed to encourage women and to show how important it is for women as well and God ends with that good example to show that positive frame of mind toward women. So I think it's most interesting that we recognize that a wife does affect her husband's standing in the community and in the church, she can be a part of bringing honor or shame, I think we must understand it that way as we see the beautiful example that is given here.
I'll just simply wrap up this sermon by telling you that good judgment goes right to the heart and core of going to the Feast of Tabernacles. It's being wise as a serpent and yet harmless as a dove, it goes toward us as being God's people, developing kings and priests in training and keeping the Feast of Tabernacles as a reminder to be on our best behavior as we practice, as we practice becoming kings and priests.