I am preparing to teach my final lesson at our youth group this Saturday night. It is a bitter sweet feeling. I am so sad to be leaving all of my dear friends here in Moldova but at the same time I am excited to be able to spend some time with my family back in the USA. My mom is very sick so I am glad to be able to comfort her and share God’s love with her so that she can be comforted by God in the midst of sickness. I am also happy and well as a little afraid about the newest missionary adventure that our family is embarking on. I need these lessons on overcoming fear as I am constantly attacked by my fears, especially while going through this transition. I would like to review the previous two lessons to get up to speed on this subject and introduce lesson 3. Before getting into the review, I want to ask you, “what are your fears at the moment?”.
- We are naturally fearful because of our sin nature. We fear the natural elements around us and we need protection from them. God offers us protection in the person of Jesus Christ. He is able to protect us because He holds the world and the things in the world in the palm of His hand. We need to look to Him and trust instead of doubting and being afraid.
- We are afraid to try great things for God because of our fear of failure. God knows that and not only does He give us what we need to begin a great task for God, He also walks along beside us as we accomplish great things for Him, ready to offer a supporting, helping hand in time of need. We need to focus on Him and not the circumstances around us.
- Like King David, we need to know God based on His Word so that we can trust in Him when everything around us is falling apart. If we do not know Him based on His Word then we will be easily overwhelmed with our circumstances in this life.
- You have a choice in life; either you are controlled by fear of what people think about you, leading you to be trapped in a snare, or, you can fear the Lord which will lead to protection and exaltation.
- The better you know the characteristics of God based on His Word, the easier it will be for you to trust Him when it comes to facing life’s difficulties. This is why we need to be in the Word of God, day and night as the Psalmist says.
- If you walk with God daily, experiencing a personal relationship with Him then you will always know that He is for you and wants the best for you, no matter what. There is no need to fear that He will ever let you down.
God has already told us that the fear (respect or reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is step one. If you do not respect God and His Word then you can never attain true wisdom and you will constantly be overcome by fear. Via King Solomon, God presents wisdom as a person, one who cries out in the streets via the Word of God and the people who live by this Word. There are two kinds of people, those who hear this wisdom and follow her and then those who turn their backs on her, mocking her in their ignorance. Those who reject wisdom end up being enslaved to fear; fear of today, tomorrow, the past etc. There are many people who fear the past. They fear that they will become just like their mothers or their fathers, or brothers and sisters. Many fear the day, what if they fail or what will others think of them etc. Many fear the future. Since they do not know what the future holds, nor do they know the One who holds the future in His hands, they fear what tomorrow will bring. This fear, in all cases, can paralyze people into going through the motions of life and never really experiencing the abundant life that God wants us to experience.
I. Wisdom cries out in the streets offering great benefits
God chose to speak through the wisest man who ever lived. This man became the wisest man who ever lived because when God told him He would give him whatever he wanted, Solomon asked for the most precious thing he could think of, wisdom. Here is what God has to say via Solomon. Proverbs 1 relates the following:
1 The proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, from Israel: 2 Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline, to help one understand wise sayings. 3 They provide insightful instruction, which is righteous, just, and full of integrity. 4 They make the naive mature, the young knowledgeable and discreet. 5 The wise hear them and grow in wisdom; those with understanding gain guidance. 6 They help one understand proverbs and difficult sayings, the words of the wise, and their puzzles. 7 Wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Common English Bible )
There is a neat order here in this passage and it is an order that all educators today understand. If you want kids to learn then this order must be followed.
- Teaching – as people we do not do anything until we have been taught. We are taught how to walk, talk, eat, read, write, work etc. We learn from others. The only thing that we do not have to learn how to do is sin. That is inborn. Teaching leads to step two.
- Understanding – we apply what we have been taught when we understand it. In other words, our understanding of something is seen via the fact that we apply what we have been taught. Application leads to step three.
- Wisdom – this is developed over time as we continually apply what we have been taught. It becomes a habit, a routine, a integral part of our daily lives.
This all comes together in the story of a little girl who gained the wisdom in the area of a hot iron. She watched her mother iron her father’s clothes on a daily basis. Her mother taught her that the iron was hot. The little girl had the knowledge. Her mother also told her never to touch the hot iron because it would burn her. Again, she had the knowledge but still lacked the understanding. One day while her mother was ironing, the phone rang and she stepped away to answer it. The little girl was left alone for a moment and she was faced with a choice, obey her mother’s teaching and have understanding or touch the iron and suffer the consequences. She chose to touch the hot iron and was burned. From that day on, she applied the teaching that her mother had given her which led to wisdom. She used her wisdom to avoid the negative consequences of touching a hot iron. This how God’s wisdom works. God teaches us about life via His Word and we gain understanding by application. When application becomes a way of life then we are wise, avoiding the bad and receiving the good. This is a discipline that must be built up and maintained. This is not something that comes natural to us. Our natural tendency is to think that we know it all and try it our own way, usually leading to disaster. Let’s take a quick look at the benefits.
- righteous – you become a righteous person. The root of the word “righteous” is right or straight. When you respect God, listen to His teachings, and obey them then you are made right with Him or you are now straight (as opposed to being crooked before because of sin).
- just – this word has its roots in Latin and means “pure” or “sincere”. When you are right with God then you are pure in heart, you are sincere and open with yourself, with God, and with the people around you. When you receive God’s wisdom and train in that wisdom daily then you become a just person, a sincere person. We live in an insincere world where people will smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. There is a great need for just people and God wants to make us that way via the wisdom of His Word.
- full of integrity – this word also has its roots in Latin and it means “whole, complete, mature”. As believers we are all called to move on toward maturity. Maturity is seen by our attitude toward the Word of God, toward His wisdom, and finally by the way we live out that wisdom via our obedience.
Are these qualities part of your character? If not then you need God’s wisdom, just like I do and just like all people do? Which person will you be, the wise man who hears, accepts, and follows God’s instructions, or, will you be the fool who despises the wisdom and instruction of God’s Word? I have chosen the first because I understand the logic behind it and the benefits. I am no longer overwhelmed by fear. When I have fears, like David, I turn to God and His Word. I trust that He can and will help me overcome those fears. I want others to make the same decision and that is why I do what I do. Before moving on, I would like to look at a few more benefits.
10 The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD; the knowledge of the holy one is understanding. 11 Through me your days will be many; years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9)
Because you live right, as a general rule of thumb, you will have many days on this earth. Those days will not just be many in number, they will also be quality days. No one wants to live a long life if everyday is a new nightmare because of fear. That is why God removes your fear when you trust in Him and then gives you abundant life with many days leading to many years.
II. A man who has received wisdom despises sin
Mankind’s number one enemy is himself because of his sin nature. Sin ruins people, communities, and even nations. God wants us to avoid that ruination and in order to do so, He has given us His wisdom along with the fact that He announces the consequences of sin before we even take action.
12 I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence; I have found knowledge and discretion. 13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance, the path of evil and corrupt speech. 14 I have advice and ability, as well as understanding and strength. (Proverbs 8)
Those who respect the Lord and have attained knowledge and wisdom from Him show this wisdom by loving the things that He loves and hating the things that He hates.
- Pride and arrogance – when a person is prideful and arrogant he no longer has a teachable spirit. He believes that he already knows it all and is not willing to sit and be taught. As we have learned, teaching is step one what leads to understanding and wisdom. A prideful person is not a person who is open to being taught. He cuts the process off at the very beginning.
- Evil actions – when a person is not willing to be taught by God then he is left to be led by his sin nature, which is corrupt and naturally leads toward evil. He will not be righteous, just, or a person of integrity.
- Corrupt speech – if your attitude and actions are wrong then your speech will be evil as well. Instead of building others up with your words, you will corrupt them and tear them down.
God hates these things and if I am His then I will hate them too. This will be manifested in the fact that I will not be controlled by pride and arrogance. I will not practice evil actions and I will be careful to let words of construction instead of destruction come our of my mouth.
III. A foolish man will pay the price for his decisions
Many choose not to listen to God or accept His wisdom. It is to their own detriment. God is a good God because not only does He offer wisdom and help, He also warns of the consequences even before you act.
23 You should respond when I correct you. Look, I’ll pour out my spirit on you. I’ll reveal my words to you. 24 I invited you, but you rejected me; I stretched out my hand to you, but you paid no attention. 25 You ignored all my advice, and you didn’t want me to correct you. 26 So I’ll laugh at your disaster; I’ll make fun of you when dread comes over you, 27 when terror hits you like a hurricane, and your disaster comes in like a tornado, when distress and oppression overcome you. 28 Then they will call me, but I won’t answer; they will seek me, but won’t find me 29 because they hated knowledge and didn’t choose the fear of the LORD. 30 They didn’t want my advice; they rejected all my corrections. 31 They will eat from the fruit of their way, and they’ll be full of their own schemes. (Proverbs 1)
The second part of this passage seems harsh but when you see the entire context then you understand why God responds the way that He does. But, even His response is for their own good, so that they will come to their senses and depend upon God at all times and not just when calamity strikes. Many people live like this, pretending that God does not exist until calamity strikes. God does not want part time followers and the world is full of them.
- He invited and they rejected
- He offered and they paid no attention
- He was there to help and they ignored His advice
- He was ready to correct them for their own benefit yet they did not want His corrections
This is a hard lesson but a necessary one. We must learn to depend on God at all times, not just when we are in a bind. I am guilty of this myself. When I face difficult situations and have to make tough decisions I depend on God much more than when all is well in my little world. What about you?
So, which type of person are you, are you the foolish person who sets himself up to be controlled by fear or are you the wise person who listens to God’s advice from the very beginning? As long as you are breathing then you have a chance to become like the wise person. Do not let fear paralyze you. Overcome your fear by being taught by God so that you can attain His wisdom and live life to the fullest. May the Lord help us be all that He wants us to be.