What would you do if you had the secret to guaranteed success?
I run across websites all the time that promise it. They pop up on my Facebook feed through sponsored ads, as well as posts by friends who sell one product or another, promising me that if I listen to their advice, or buy their product, I will be happy, healthy or successful in reaching my potential … in achieving my dreams. Or they land in my email box (how they got my email one wonders), with a countdown of hours to get the very best deal.
And I’m not discounting that there is some truth in what they offer. A food plan that limits calories and provides nutrients. A daily planner that will organize my life. A makeup regime that will erase wrinkles and give me that “flawless finish.” An online class that will further my career. An insurance policy that will guarantee my needs are met well into old age. The offers are endless, sometimes funny, usually annoying, and rarely successful in getting me to buy in.
It doesn’t really bother me, all those ads. People are trying to make a living, and they really do believe in what they are selling, I hope. And I’m sure that there are things out there that would make my life a little easier, a little better. And people deserve to be paid for their work, whether its dispensing advice or selling a product. I’m not against hard work and ingenuity.
But did you know God offers us the keys to success absolutely free? He gives us the opportunity to tap into the highest source of wisdom, the most powerful of life-changing habits, with no charge. In fact, all of His advice on how to live a successful, healthy, happy life is readily available in digital form and printed copy, and here in America we have it at our fingertips, just for the asking.
Listen to these words from the book of wisdom.
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; to know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naïve, to the youth knowledge and discretion, a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:1-6
Does God care about our physical lives, our day to day existence, or is He only concerned about our spiritual lives? Well, I believe the book of Proverbs is proof that He is very much interested in giving us the knowledge and understanding we need to build a productive, healthy and God-honoring life in the mundane duties of our days.
Do you ever need instruction on which path to take?
Do you ever have to decide what is the wise thing to do?
Do you ever wonder what is the right thing to do?
Do you ever ask what’s fair in this situation?
There are three kinds of people mentioned here: the naïve, the youth, and the wise man.
Naïve comes from the Greek word pĕthiy, and means “simple, foolish.” It refers to a person who can be easily persuaded, a silly person, able to be enticed. The wisdom of God offers prudence to this type of person. The biblical definition of prudence is “craftiness, guile, discretion, subtility” but used in a good sense. You might call it “street smarts.” The innocent, gullible and foolish person who has little experience in recognizing what is evil and what will destroy him, is given the wisdom to discern, to be aware, to be on guard against the trickery of the enemy, and a worldly culture that would destroy his life. We think of a naïve person as one who needs a mentor, someone to protect them as they grow up and gain wisdom. A baby Christian, a person who has just been born into the kingdom of God, is understandably naïve.
A youth is just what you think, a young man or woman, a person who is not still a baby, but not yet considered an adult. It’s that mysterious, chaotic, fast-changing stage of growing up. In our culture, we call them teenagers. One minute wise, with eyes and heart open to the adult responsibilities they are headed toward, and the next regressing to immaturity and acting like a child. How many of (us) stay in this stage in our spiritual growth, as evidenced by our daily lives? The wisdom of God offers knowledge and discretion to the youthful one. Knowledge is perception, skill and understanding. To perceive means we become aware of something, perhaps something we never knew before! Skill is the ability to put that awareness to use, to put it into practice. And understanding comes when we see how the practice of this new knowledge affects our lives for good, or for evil. Discretion comes from the Hebrew word mĕzimmah, and it’s an interesting concept. It means purpose, device, or plot; a plan. It has the idea of counsel. In other words, there’s a purpose behind what we do. We all know that teenagers usually live “in the moment,” and think only of the present. They make decisions on what affects them in the immediate. But the wisdom of God causes the youth to see beyond what is right in front of them, to what the effects will be days or years down the road. It takes knowledge and makes it purposeful.
The wise man…oh, don’t we all want to be this person? The wise man is the person who has gained a level of understanding and wisdom; they are learned, skillful, prudent, and ethically and morally wise. They have experienced life, and have wisdom to give back to the naïve and the youth. But notice, they haven’t arrived. They aren’t finished; they are still learning. The wise man will hear and increase in learning. The wise man, because he is a man of understanding, will acquire (seek after, work hard to get) wise counsel. What makes us wise is not that we have reached a level where we know it all, but that we realize how much we still need the wisdom of God. To increase means to “do more” or “do again.” We aren’t too proud to go over our lessons again!
At the end of Proverbs 1, God gives us one definition of success:
But he who listens to me [referring to the wisdom of God] shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.
Success is laying my head down at night and enjoying good and peaceful rest because I know that I am living my life in a way that pleases God. It is the absence of fear, and the security of the peace of God.
Which person are you?
Are you the naïve…a new believer who needs to find a mentor, someone to disciple you? Or maybe you’ve been a believer for some time, but are still living foolishly, a partaker in the worldly culture around you, unaware that in the end it will destroy your life?
Are you the youth…perhaps growing in your faith, and hungry for more? Someone who needs to be reminded and taught to keep looking forward, growing in your knowledge and ability to see how your decisions will affect your future?
Are you a wise man or woman…someone who needs to be reaching out to a naïve believer, or help disciple a younger one? Are you still learning, still growing in your faith? Do you seek out wise counsel from God’s Word or are you relying on what you learned years ago?
Proverbs is a great place to begin.
James 1:5 – But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.