Wisdom is a Choice Richard s Testimony:

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1 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 1 Wisdom is a Choice Richard s Testimony: I thought I d managed to accumulate a bit of wisdom in my forty-two years. I came from a good family, had a good education. And I d been able to do a great deal of research and quite a bit of writing in my work. I was conducting communication seminars for businessmen. But one day I found myself alone in a rented room, cut off from my wife and children divorced and very confused. All the things I d learned about love and commitment just didn t seem to work anymore. It was as if I d fallen into this upside-down world. Love had just made me an enabler. Devotion had suffocated me. The only thing that made me feel better was venting expressing the rage that I d repressed for so long. I realized, too late of course, that I was filled with anger over what I d allowed my marriage relationship to become. Life wasn t supposed to turn out this way. Richard needed to find answers. He needed for things to make sense again. He needed wisdom the real thing. 1

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3 2 GOD S LITTLE ADVICE BOOK This book is written to show us how to use the book of Proverbs as our personal advice book. It will show us how five essential principles in the book of Proverbs can help us live successful, productive lives. There are wonderful bits of wisdom tucked away in this little book. We re going to learn how we can make the best use of these truths. And Richard s remarkable story will help us. We re going to discover just how Richard encountered the kind of wisdom he needed most. Cecil Adams is quite an answer man. He answers questions from readers in a syndicated newspaper column called The Straight Dope. Cecil manages to get to the bottom of a remarkable range of mysteries. For example, someone wanted to know Do I get better gas mileage with the air conditioner on or with the windows open? So Adams ran some tests. It was a dead heat. Turning off the air conditioner and opening the windows didn t save on gas because it increased drag. Another inquirer wrote, If a baby was born on the moon and lived there twenty years, would he be able to cope with earth s gravity if he were brought to earth? Answer: The moon person s muscular system would probably be too weak to deal with earth s gravity. And someone else asked, How long could a man live on bread alone? Answer: Three to six months, if he had water, too. Adams is proclaimed as the world s smartest human being. He advertises All major mysteries of the cosmos succinctly explained.

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5 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 3 So he is able to respond to such queries as: Do turkeys really sometimes look up during rainstorms with their beaks open and drown? Answer: They re dumb, but not that dumb. An explanation for all mysteries! The idea has quite an appeal, doesn t it? Cecil Adams can network with biologists and chemists and physicists to answer many of life s little curiosities. But I d like to tell you about a man who really did have a claim to being the world s smartest human being. This individual s wisdom was so celebrated that royalty from nations far and wide came seeking his advice. Kings and queens came to sit at his feet and learn. Like all of us, they wanted to know what life means, what s important, how to make wise choices. And they got wonderful answers from a man named Solomon, the King of Israel, a man especially gifted by God. Solomon s answers are compiled in the Bible book of Proverbs what we might call God s Little Advice Book. This book is filled with wisdom. And not just wisdom about moon babies or drowning turkeys. It s filled with wisdom about how we can live successfully. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon shows us how to succeed at life itself. We re going to learn about that in this book you re reading right now. We re going to focus on five principles that sum up the insights of Proverbs, five secrets to living happily and abundantly. So let s get started. Let s look at the first thing Solomon talks about.

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7 4 GOD S LITTLE ADVICE BOOK In Proverbs, Solomon focuses on a certain kind of wisdom. This is a subject that dominates the book early on. It talks about our need to acquire this certain kind of wisdom. In chapter eight, we find this striking picture: Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,... Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold (Proverbs 8:1-3,10). Solomon pictures wisdom as a noble woman who appeals for our attention. She makes her appeal everywhere. She lifts her voice on top of a high hill. She calls out on the street and at the crossroads. She pleads by the city gates as people stream by. This picture of wisdom is striking; it s unique. Most religions, most philosophies, show us a wisdom that s hidden away, wrapped in mystery. We must make a long pilgrimage to find it; we must climb to a high mountain or endure long hardships or prove ourselves righteous to acquire it. But here in the Bible, wisdom is a woman calling out, Receive my instruction. Receive what I have to give. Stop in your frenzied pursuit of other things and take this in. In Proverbs chapter nine, wisdom builds a spacious house and prepares a great feast. She calls to whoever desires knowledge, Turn in here! (verse 4). What is Proverbs telling us? It s telling us that wisdom is a choice. That s right. Wisdom is a choice! It s not six years and a Ph.D. It s not gigabytes of

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9 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 5 information. It s not something far away. It s something very near, calling out. It s not something we have to work endlessly to acquire. It s something we can choose to accept. That s why Proverbs is full of invitations to wisdom like this one in Proverbs 19:8, He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good. Getting wisdom is the very best thing you can do for yourself. That s what Proverbs is telling us. It s the most valuable commodity you can acquire. It s the thing that feeds your soul. It enables you to find the good things in life. Here it is. Here s wisdom. Reach out for it. You can choose to be wise. That s one of the lifechanging concepts in the book of Proverbs. That s part of the good news in Proverbs. You can have wisdom. More than anything else, it s a choice. We need to understand that, so often, our choices lead us away from wisdom. Our choices can deaden our minds, deaden our perceptions. Proverbs warns us, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12). Richard s Testimony: At some point, I just decided that if I have to live in an upside-down world, at least I m going to have a good time doing it. I wasn t going to sit at home brooding. So I went out a lot. I went to as many parties as I could as often as I could. I got to know a lot of people, and I heard a lot of stories. Actually, I thought I was learning a lot. I thought I was getting smarter about people,

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11 6 GOD S LITTLE ADVICE BOOK about myself. But what I didn t see was that I d stopped caring. I wasn t really listening to people s heartaches, people s dreams. I was just trying to find some excitement that would get me through the night. What I wasn t getting in quality, I tried to make up for in quantity. I was still as angry as ever. Sometimes I lashed out for no apparent reason. I looked down on all the pathetic, dysfunctional people around me. I was determined never to get used again. But I was busy using people. I just couldn t see it. Funny. I had gone to counselors; I had read selfhelp books. But I couldn t see what was happening inside myself. The choices we make can lead us away from wisdom. They can blind us. That s the bad news. But the good news is more dramatic. We can also accept wisdom s invitation. We can go into her house. That s the message of the book of Proverbs. More than anything else, wisdom is a choice. So how do we make that choice? How do we accept wisdom s invitation? The answer Proverbs gives us can be condensed into one word listen. We need to choose to listen. That s it. Here is what Proverbs 8:33 says this is the voice of wisdom again, giving her invitation: Hear instruction and be wise. A simple statement, but it says so much. Do you want to be wise? Then hear instruction. Listen. That s what Proverbs emphasizes.

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13 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 7 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise (Proverbs 15:31). Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days (Proverbs 19:20). Wisdom is a choice. It s a choice to simply listen. And it s a choice to take to heart what we hear, to let the truth sink in, to allow the light to get into the shadowy corners of our minds. Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge; for it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; let them all be fixed upon your lips (Proverbs 22:17, 18). Apply your heart to knowledge. That s a great phrase. Sometimes we play mind games with the truth. We deflect it. We distort it. We rationalize it away. We don t keep it within us. Do you know why? Do you know what is the greatest obstacle to wisdom? Pride. That s what keeps people ignorant. Pride. It s not usually a lack of opportunity. Most of the time it s simply human pride. We re too proud to listen. By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom (Proverbs 13:10). Note the contrast between the proud and the well-advised. Here s an even stronger statement found in Proverbs chapter 26: Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him (verse 12). Too proud to listen. That s the number one obstacle to wisdom. It s not that the perspective we need is so far away. It s not that it s so hard to figure out. People

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15 8 GOD S LITTLE ADVICE BOOK very close to us are often telling us exactly what we need to hear, but it s not registering. We re not getting it. We keep doing the same old things, stuck in the same old ruts. Proverbs tells us over and over: rebuke a scoffer, and you waste your breath; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Wisdom is a choice. It s a choice to humble ourselves and listen. Richard s Testimony: I was driving down the freeway early one morning to another city. It was a beautiful day, and somehow I felt compelled to pray to God. I tried to think of things to be thankful for. That had always been important to me before. I was thinking about my life, just driving by myself, nothing but the hum of the road, trying to be thankful. At some point, my praying turned into listening. I began to realize some things about my life. No, it hadn t been so bad, in spite of all the destructiveness in my marriage. I began to see what really mattered. I saw great friendships. I recalled the great opportunities I d had to teach and write. And suddenly, I felt that God really was behind all these blessings. The best things in life had Him at the center. I kept thanking God. And I kept listening. I was driving past ugly landfills, gaudy billboards, and tacky strip malls. Driving through LA isn t the most inspirational experience, but I felt like I was in the green hills beside the still waters. The whole world just seemed so different. It was like some revelation. I knew I knew so clearly what it was all about. All the blessings, all

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17 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 9 the great things, go back to God. I knew it right there on the eastbound 210. I was blinking back the tears, trying to keep from getting run over by trucks, but I couldn t stop praying, and praising, and listening. I d been looking back on the negative stuff so long. I d allowed that to color my whole world. I wasn t just thrown into an upside-down world. I d helped to create it. That was something I finally got. It sunk in. And I began to look for ways to change my own perspective. Did you notice how this man finally started listening? He finally got it when he opened up to God. He spent some quiet time with the Lord of the universe. Here s what Proverbs has to say on the subject in chapter nine: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (verse 10). Reverence for God. Respect for the Lord. That s the beginning of wisdom. That s how we begin to really understand. Why? Because God can open up our ears. God can open up our hearts. God can help us listen to what we really need to hear. Proverbs celebrates the Lord God as the starting point for wisdom and as the starting point for the successful life, the abundant life. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life (Proverbs 22:4). A fountain of life. Riches and honor. It all goes back to God. It all starts with God. God is the One who can help us listen. And when we really listen atten-

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19 10 GOD S LITTLE ADVICE BOOK tively to Him, we will start hearing what we most need to know. This kind of experience requires an investment of our time, an investment of our attention. It requires spending some serious time thinking about Him. Richard s Testimony: One day it just hit me. Some truths are inescapable. They grab you. I knelt down by my bed, and I told God, OK, I ve been angry long enough. I want my life to be centered around love. That s it. I can t keep reacting to the past and reacting to all the messed-up people in the present. I want to invest myself in love. It was clear that was where I needed to go. Little did I know how richly that investment would pay off. I just didn t think there were people like Susan left in the world. She was warm, and she stayed warm. She had a spirituality I could identify with and respect. She could help me grow in exactly the way I needed to grow. And I found I could help her too. What do you know? Maybe there is a big plan after all! Do you want wisdom? Do you want a better perspective? Do you want your life to make sense again? Then make a choice. Make a decision to listen. Spend some time with God listening. He will open up your heart. He will help you hear the right voices. He can take you to a place of abundance. Proverbs pictures for us what can happen in our lives when we really absorb the wisdom that comes from God. Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the

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21 WISDOM IS A CHOICE 11 rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3, 4). God s wisdom builds a home on solid rock. It builds a sturdy structure. It furnishes the rooms with all that is delightful. That s the spacious house that wisdom creates. And that s what your life can be like. Don t let anything get in the way of moving into the house of wisdom. Don t hold onto anything that can become an obstacle. You may be very distracted. You may be very discouraged. You may be quite confused. Or you may be totally convinced that you re right and everybody around you is wrong. Whatever your situation, please take time to listen. Make that decision. Real wisdom is closer than you think. It s more accessible than you think. It s calling out to you on every street corner. You just need to stop and listen. You just need to let the right message break through. It may be unpleasant; it may be hard to hear at first. But please listen. Please take it in. Humble yourself before the Lord of the universe. Sit at His feet. Study His Word. Let His voice get through to your heart.

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