When I was growing up, I definitely did not equate religion with pleasure. Pleasure to me looked like doing tons of things I shouldn’t do without getting caught. As I reflect on why I did that, there were some things internally that I was escaping from. Fears…anxieties…insecurities. The purpose and method behind the pleasures that we have in life say a great deal about us. Proverbs 10:23 says…
A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
What do you find enjoyable and why? The true joy that I find in life comes from being engaged in eternal and purposeful activity. I find true joy in spending time with my wife and kids. I absolutely love growing on the inside in my relationship with God. I love living in freedom and helping others to do the same.
On the other hand…that’s not always the case. When I’m not doing well on the inside, I begin to crave cheaper pleasures from external sources. Nothing crazy because I’ve given up the broken activities that I engaged in when I was growing up, but I still have a tendency to make small compromises. I’ll eat more junk food. I’ll watch too much TV. I’ll spend too much time on social media. Basically, I’ll compromise. What I’m saying in those instances is, “I can’t seem to find joy where I need to find joy so I’m going to escape and settle for cheaper and fleeting joys elsewhere.”
We all make compromises. We all struggle with wanting to escape. The only course of action if we want to live life to the fullest is to dive into the fray. We have to figure out why we’re escaping. We have to figure out why we’re compromising for a life that we don’t really want to live. The answers may be difficult but that’s better than the alternative.
We get to choose where we find pleasure. We get to choose what we delight in. If we choose wisely on a consistent basis, we’ll find life yielding pleasures that will fill us from the inside out. If however, we choose to settle, we’ll saturate ourselves with more and more temporary pleasures that will always leave us wanting.
There is no question that life works better when we surrender to God. This isn’t to say that those who have followed God over the years haven’t, at times, faced unspeakable tragedy but there are still blessings that inevitably flow from following God. Proverbs 10:22 says…
The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.
The bottom line is that God loves us. When we become part of God’s family by giving our lives to him, we begin to live life the way that it was meant to be lived. God designed human beings to live in relationship with him. When we begin to live and grow the way that we were intended to, there is a certain “rightness” that will begin to permeate your life.
This proverb is talking about wealth “without painful toil.” Those who seek to follow God and make it their ambition to realize his dream for their lives don’t idolize material possessions. They prioritize generosity and giving over incessant consumption. As they live more for God and for others, blessings from God will ensue. Money was never meant to be the object of our toil but rather a vehicle that God uses to enrich the lives of others and ours as well.
So what about you? Does life feel like it’s being lived against the wind or with it? Have you opened your heart to God? He loves you and desperately desires relationship with you. It’s up to you to accept his invitation.
I’m 31 years old and I would say that one of the most difficult questions to answer as I mature deals with what I ultimately want to accomplish in life. It’s easy to say that I want to be successful and make a difference but what does that really look like? How would you answer that question? What does success look like for you? I’m working through Proverbs and Proverbs 10:21 says…
The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
“The lips of the righteous nourish many…” This is telling us something about what it means to live on purpose. Those who find a true sense of direction in life realize that we are not meant to live only for ourselves. This proverb is telling us that the righteous live to be a blessing to others. Their words and their lives “nourish many.” The righteous are not out there to just consume resources and hoard wealth. They find their sense of fulfillment in emptying themselves and in so doing they find greater fulfillment than those who always try to seek selfish gain.
“…fools die for lack of sense.” Maybe their lack of sense is demonstrated in their vain pursuit of wealth and purpose outside of the purposes of God. The people that Jesus always had the toughest time with were the Pharisees. They used their self-righteousness and surface level piety to get their own need for self-aggrandizement met. They lived for themselves even though it looked like they lived for God.
So what are you living for? What is the wake that you want to leave behind? Are you living merely to please yourself or have you oriented your life around the purposes of God? The beautiful thing about surrendering your life to God is that he enables you to find fulfillment as you empty yourself repeatedly for the fulfillment of others.
Proverbs 10:21 says…
“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.”
It is clear from the Bible that words proceed from the heart (Luke 6:45). This passage is clearly distinguishing the heart of the righteous from the heart of the wicked. Those who are righteous on the inside show it through the words that they speak. Those who are wicked on the inside show it by the words that they speak.
I’ve said it before but I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that righteousness is a gift. No one is righteous simply based on their own merits. It is a gift that is afforded to us through the work of Jesus on the cross. Once that gift is accepted however, we can then begin to apply our efforts in living lives that are characterized by righteousness.
“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver…” Those who live to please God have good stored up in them. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the grocery store, the bank or the DMV. Well, even the righteous probably struggle in the DMV (-; The point is that they are preoccupied and focused on the state of their hearts and therefore have things of value to say. It becomes easier and easier as they move along because they know that the life inside of them matters just as much if not more than the life outside of them.
“….the heart of the wicked is of little value.” Those who are wicked are generally more concerned with life on the outside than they are with life on the inside. They tend to think that the state of their heart doesn’t matter all that much. We live in a culture that drastically underestimates the importance of the heart. The emphasis that we see around us is on getting the job done and taking shortcuts to success. We like the idea of having a good and noble heart but we think that’s something that just sort of happens.
Working on your heart is serious business. Growth on the inside doesn’t happen without serious love and attention from God and from ourselves. This is the real difference between the righteous and the wicked. Truly righteous people are becoming more and more alive on the inside. This growing life inside manifests in the valuable things that they say and the freedom that they live in. Wickedness means not being alive on the inside. Those who are wicked may act like they’re alive but it’s just a show.
How focused are you on the life of your heart? How is your soul getting along? Are you experiencing true joy and peace? Are you experiencing freedom or bondage? The worst mistake any of us could make would be to neglect our hearts in the pursuit of external success. God cares so deeply about you and he wants you to be truly alive. The first step to moving in that direction is acknowledging the problem. What’s your next step?
Because I have the gift of communication and generally enjoy speaking, being silent is a discipline for me. Proverbs 10:19 says…
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
Why do the prudent hold their tongues? What is so dangerous and foolish about talking all the time? To answer these questions I believe we must dig beneath the surface. Wisdom and folly don’t necessarily lie in the quantity of the words that we speak but rather in the quality of the words that we speak. In order to speak words that have quality, we must be strong in listening to God and to people.
God is the author of wisdom and prudence so we cannot hope for either if we refuse to listen to God. Admittedly, listening to God is a difficult subject if you approach it in authenticity. People who flippantly claim to hear God speak on a regular basis make me nervous. That being said, God is a good Father who wants to speak to his kids and it is therefore upon us to seek to listen to him.
Listening to people…this can be tough. It’s one thing to listen intellectually but another thing to listen with our hearts. We cannot hope to speak with wisdom if we refuse to listen to people with our hearts. Listening to people like this requires that we have an openness or a capacity to listen to people. The trouble with capacity is that most of us have so much going on inside that we have very little room to listen deeply to others.
People who talk a lot and don’t listen demonstrate that they really don’t have much to say. Not talking doesn’t guarantee that we have a lot to say but it may be an indication that we do. What is the goal in a conversation for you? To be heard? To be understood or to understand? These questions and others like it are worth considering if we want to add value to the lives of those around us.
Have you ever met someone who always seemed like they were up to something? The reality is that it is human nature to hide. So much of life for so many people is lived like a poker game. You never want to reveal your cards and you always have an agenda. I’m working through Proverbs and Proverbs 10:18 says…
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.
What are you up to? What am I up to? The reality is that at some point we will all be revealed for who we really are. Sometimes it happens in this life and it will absolutely happen in the next. Life is so much freer and relationships are so much better when the poker game stops.
Transparency is so much more liberating than always having an agenda. We can’t share everything with everyone, but we can live authentic and open lives with sincerity. Relationship with God cures so much of the deception because he sees everything about us. You can’t have a real relationship with God for very long and cling to deception and hidden agendas. Relationship with God breeds transparency.
What about you? Are you playing poker all day long? I guarantee you that life will be much better when we all lay our cards down and live with transparency.
Just like most people, I like to do what I want to do and don’t want to be told differently. Having a 4 year old and a 2 year old, I understand this tendency all too well. I’m working through Proverbs and Proverbs 10:17 says,
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
When you submit to God as your Father, you have someone leading your life who is completely unhindered when it comes to his point of view. You also have someone in charge of your soul who could not love you more than he already does. You also have the security of knowing that your Heavenly Father has all the power in the universe to carry out his will.
Most people seem to imagine that God agrees with them most of the time. This is a woefully inflated view of our own perspective and an astoundingly limited view of God’s perspective. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This is God letting us know that he thinks in a realm that we can’t comprehend. This means that we should submit to his loving discipline in our lives.
For anyone who has ever experienced God’s discipline, you know that it doesn’t generally feel good. God is a great doctor and he is performing an ongoing operation on our hearts. I’ve heard it said before that “God loves us exactly as we are but too much to let us stay that way.”
I have to be honest and say that I don’t like God’s correction. I don’t like it when I’m wrong. I don’t like that I still have a long way to go. The more that we recognize that we are still works in progress however, the more quickly we’ll grow in our relationship with God.
Where is God calling you to grow? Where is there some tension between who you are now and who God is calling you to be? What does submission look like in this area?