Today is Reformation Sunday! We recognize, remember, and celebrate the Protestant Reformation which began 500 years ago. Many of you will recall the series I preached in August on the Five Solas, which are five theological convictions which emerged during the reformation as essentials of our Christian Faith. Do you remember what they are? The five Solas are Sola Gratia – “By Grace alone,” Sola fide – “By faith alone”, solus Christus – “Christ alone” Sola scriptura – “Scripture alone”, and Soli Deo Gloria – “To God alone be glory,” each of these remind us once again who we are and whose we are. Today, as we look at Proverbs 3, we are reminded of the fifth Sola – Soli Deo Gloria – “To God alone be glory.” This fundamental piece of wisdom, when we allow it to permeate our life fills even the simplest of existences with substance.
We can call Proverbs 3:1-10 the Way of Wisdom, because there is enough wisdom in this one passage to fully and wisely live your entire life. Within this short passage, five ways are named which all lead to the Glory of God and which bring wisdom, fulfillment, richness of life.
First, THE WAY OF OBEDIENCE (from the heart) – Vs. 1. Verse 1 describes for us the way of obedience and reminds us that true obedience comes, not from just following God’s commandments, but following from the heart. Of all the things that we can give to God, the thing God wants most is our heart. There is an expression and even a song by Selena Gomez that says, “the heart wants what the heart wants.” It’s kind of a nonchalant way of saying, I have no control. Yet, as Christians we should be different, we should be able to say, “the heart wants what He wants.” So, obedience from the heart.
Next, verse 3 addresses THE WAY OF INTEGRITY (mercy and truth) – “do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you” The Hebrew word translated here as loyalty can also be translated as mercy or kindness. Following the way of integrity carries certain responsibilities – integrity requires faithfulness, reliability, truthfulness and the ability to be merciful and kind toward others. These traits are so important that we are charged to “bind them around your neck, and write them on the tablet of your heart.” There is that reference to the heart again, these traits of integrity need to reside at the deepest level of our being, where they then determine our character and our actions.
The third way that is mentioned in this proverb is THE WAY OF TRUST.
– Verses 5 and 6 guide us to place trust of God in the highest position in our lives, not trust in ourselves. These verses say “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight (or understanding). In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We have a tendency though to only partially follow this instruction to trust. We find ourselves trusting – with a partial heart. Or trusting ourselves with our whole heart. Or trusting the Lord with our whole mind, but not our heart. Often leaning on our own understanding and acknowledging God in some of our way. Trust is the key to wisdom.
Even though we make hundreds of trust decisions each day, still, placing our full trust in God isn’t always easy. You all know that I recently had shoulder surgery and now I am going through a lot of therapy which is necessary to get full use of my arm back. Things are gradually improving, but I’m here to tell you therapy has been a huge exercise in trust.
At the first few sessions most of the movement of your arm is done by the therapist who gently holds your arm and moves it until they see you wincing in pain. The sensation of having someone else hold and move your just operated on arm is frightening. I found it very difficult to just give over control to the therapist. I didn’t trust that she would not hurt me, and so I kept tensing up. The therapist kept reminding me that unless I relaxed and let her be in control, I would not make any progress in my recovery. So I had to decide – control or recovery. Gradually, as we have worked together, I have learned to trust my therapist more, a little at a time. Though the movement is often uncomfortable, she has never pushed me further than I could bear and indeed we have made progress.
Our trust in God is sometimes like this – we are afraid to relinquish control and so we keep trying to help God by retaining some or all control. Our progress is slowed or even halted when we fail to trust God’s direction. It isn’t easy to trust – especially when things get uncomfortable – but it is the only way to make progress.
Six weeks into therapy sessions, there are still days when I try to take control – even though I have seen how much better things go when I let the therapist do the work she needs to do. Isn’t that the way we are with God – we see that things go much better when God is in control, but then lo and behold, we find ourselves trying to take back control. So wisdom demands that we cultivate trust in God.
Next is THE WAY OF DISCERNMENT – in verse 7. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Humility toward self and awe of God are key in leading a life of discernment. What happens when we rely on our own wisdom? Well, that’s when we start veering of the path. That’s when we begin to deceive ourselves that we are wise, and that God just asks too much of us. We begin to feel that we are entitled to certain things and that just leads to trouble. On Friday, I attended a required training for Pastor’s through the Presbytery on Boundaries because even pastors can become wise in their own eyes and that is when they risk getting into trouble. It is important to trust God’s wisdom, not your own.
The fifth area in the proverbs is found in verse 9 -THE WAY OF GIVING – This verse takes the traits that have formed the inner person and moves that formation toward a visible, outward action; trust in God conveys tangibly into our lives. Verse 9 calls upon us to honor God with “our substance and first fruits.” That means our stuff. When we are truly trusting, truly giving of ourselves to God, then giving of our stuff, our financial giving becomes much easier. How we handle our money reflects our faith. (Matt 6:21) “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Money talks and it shows where our heart is.
This entire passage in Proverbs 3, is a concise how-to of living wise. It simply describes how to live our daily lives in the presence of God in a way that is honoring, and that is to the glory of God. We are to honor God with: obedience, integrity, trust, and giving. If we are truly living in this wisdom, truly trusting God, it will automatically flow into our own lives and into our earthly relationships in positive, fulfilling, abundant ways to the gory of God. Soli deo Gloria.
May you leave here this morning rejoicing in the love of our wise God in whom you can place your complete trust. May you go in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen