Praying Proverbs 23:23

 

“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” (Proverbs 23:23)

This is my prayer for my two boys right now. They’re learning to live on their own, one in college and the other getting ready to head into the Navy, and I’m learning to let them. Prayer is a major part of this process.

They have their own faith and are now learning to live with less parental oversight. I’m learning to trust God and put that trust into action by praying more than preaching or interfering in their lives.

The four elements listed in Proverbs 23:23 will help them live their faith successfully. It will also grow their faith and bring them closer to God. As much as I want to be a part of their lives, I want that more.

Truth.

I pray my boys know why they believe what they believe. I pray they base their morality on God’s absolute truth expressed through Scripture and not on any relative truth the world tries to sell them.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Timothy 2:15)

Wisdom.

Wisdom from God will shape my boys’ lives in ways nothing else can. Having God’s wisdom gives them guiding principles that will keep them walking in the Truth. It will also protect them and move them into success the world cannot give.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and though it cost you all you have get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:6-7)

Discipline.

The habits my boys establish now are crucial as they transition to adult lives. The earlier a life of discipline is established, the stronger their faith will be when times get tough.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

Good Judgment.

Also known as “discernment,” good judgment is the mark of maturity. Having discernment means my boys are making efforts toward progress in their faith walks. It also means that truth, wisdom and discipline are active.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)

Praying Proverbs 23:23 for my boys also serves as a personal reminder. These elements need to be active in my own life too. Partly, this is to set the example for them, one adult to another. Largely, it is because I want to make progress in my faith too and to continually grow closer to God.

Learning to Be Wise

Drawn to Wisdom

Some people seem naturally wise to me. Since they seem to always know how to act and what to say and do in every situation, I’m drawn to these people. I want to be like them.

A friend recently told me about celebrating her 70th birthday in between two major hospital stays. She said that what she’s realizing most of all these days is that so much of life is not in our control, but we can choose to become wise. In other words, she reminded me that wisdom is learned.

How to Learn Wisdom

The book of Proverbs talks a lot about wisdom. Here are just a few verses from chapter 9 that specifically talk about how to learn wisdom.

“Leave your foolish ways behind, and begin to live; learn how to be wise.” (Proverbs 9:6)

“Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more.” (Proverbs 9:9)

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Wisdom, then, is learned by focusing on it and by choosing to neglect foolishness. It’s learned by humbling yourself under Godly teachers. And, it’s learned by respecting and revering God.

Acquire Wisdom

No longer do I simply wish to be like my wise friends, though I still am drawn to them. I’ve read these verses before, but they’ve clicked for me in a new way because now I’m choosing to pursue to acquire — wisdom.

The word “acquire” helps me understand what this choice to pursue wisdom actually means.

“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” (Proverbs 4:5, NASB)

When you acquire something, you gain it for yourself through your actions and effort. You then possess or own that something. It becomes yours.

With that, I’m determined to do what is necessary to acquire wisdom. I want to possess it, to own it. Let it become a part of who I am, Lord.

The Reality of Your Focus

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Notice the Theme

In Star Wars I: Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn directs young Anakin toward a way of thinking that really drives the entire movie series:

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

This theme actually runs throughout many books and movies. In most cases, it stands out with little effort put toward seeing it. As a Christian, I also see this theme throughout Scripture.

The truth that “focus determines reality” stands out the most in the Old Testament as God’s people continually struggle with focus, casting it from God Almighty to foreign god’s multiple times.

“This disaster happened because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt and because they had worshiped other gods. They had lived according to the customs of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites and the customs the kings of Israel had introduced.” (2 Kings 17:7-8)

The theme also comes alive in Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” (Proverbs 4:24)

“Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then your will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:2-5)

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

The theme shows up in the New Testament too.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Applying the Theme

FocusThis theme of “focus determines reality” has become one of continual application for me. And even though I regularly visit its status in my life, I still intentionally hone in on it a bit more at the start of every new year. This year, that deliberate focus came out in the form of three separate posts.

Pursuing a Quiet Life — A peaceful inner life permeates the outer, physical state of a person. It’s a deliberate effort that benefits not just our own lives but the lives of the people around us too by witnessing to the impact of the presence of God in a person’s life.

Balanced Goal Setting — We certainly should pursue our ideas and make plans as best we can. We also need to keep in mind that He ultimately accomplishes His will regardless of what we plan. With that, we need to leave room for the unexpected and be willing to love and pursue His will over our own.

Diligent, Peaceable and Occupied — These words give a deeper understanding toward what it means to focus on developing and living a quiet life. This focus also helps us accomplish the work God gives each individual in a productive and effective way.

My prayer is that this theme permeates your life too as you realize the importance of deciding your focus in the determination of your reality and how doing so falls within God’s design and plan for your life.

DISCUSSION: How have you seen the theme “your focus determines your reality” played out in your own life?

Note: For more Scripture examples, see “What the Bible says about staying focused.”

Sunday Reflections – A Father’s Wise Advice

“My children, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching” (Proverbs 4:1-2). Some have received positive instruction, such as that spoken of in Proverbs 4, from their earthy fathers. Others have not. Fortunately, everyone can receive perfect advice from their Heavenly Father as He fills the gaps in our lives.

Instructions for “the way of righteousness” make up Proverbs 4, telling us how to have “life and radiant health.” Let’s look at five points made by Solomon as he passes on what his father David once told him about living a holy life.

  1. Learn to be wise. Verse 7 tells us that this is “the most important thing you can do.” How does wisdom begin? Proverbs 9:10 tells us wisdom starts with “the fear of the Lord.” This means learning what God hates and not doing it and learning what He desires and doing it knowing that one day we will be held accountable for our attitudes, actions and words.
  2. Develop good judgment. Good judgment follows wisdom and could be described as the ability to apply wisdom. Good judgment involves learning from mistakes (your own as well as others), having patience, and continually seeking wisdom. Good judgment allows for the development of a clear conscience (2 Timothy 2:15) and involves following good examples (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  3. Guard your heart. As we’ve already noted, wisdom is the top priority. Interesting that verse 23 of Proverbs 4 says that guarding your heart is the top priority. Perhaps this means wisdom and guarding one’s heart are closely connected and perhaps even one in the same. Ephesians 6:14 instructs us to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.” This means that righteousness (right living) protects our hearts. Wisdom allows us to have good judgment to live right which then protects our heart. So, the way to guard your heart is through wisdom.
  4. Know what to avoid. Proverbs 4:14 says to “do not do as the wicked do or follow the path of evildoers.” (See Psalm 1 for additional emphasis on this point.) Then in verse 24, we are told to avoid “perverse talk” and “corrupt speech.” These verses tell us to guard what goes into our hearts through our ears and our eyes. Wickedness, violence and sleeplessness are just some of what happens when we don’t avoid these things. Solomon tells us simply to “turn away and go somewhere else.” In other words, avoid them and simply do not give them room in your life.
  5. Don’t get sidetracked. Keeping our focus lies more than with just avoiding evil. Not getting sidetracked also means choosing to pursue good. This includes choosing to see the unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), getting wisdom and using good judgment. Keeping focused means knowing the truth of God’s Word for protection against not only the accuser’s lies but also against man’s ideas and philosophies as well as against our own distortion of reality to fit our fleshly desires.

In Bible times, a city without walls left the people exposed to the enemy and open to thieves. Likewise, a person without wisdom leaves his heart exposed and vulnerable.  Fortunately, God always gives wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5), and often that wisdom comes through godly fathers, just like the advice in Proverbs 4 came to Solomon through his father David. If you have a godly father, be thankful for him and soak in his wisdom. If you don’t, know that your Heavenly Father fills that gap. If you are a godly father, are married to one or just know one, encourage him today to pursue the wisdom of his heavenly father and to share his wisdom with those he loves as David did with his son Solomon. And as this wisdom flows, boast in the giver of that wisdom (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

DISCUSSION: In Star Wars, Episode II, Attack of the Clones, Dexter-Jettster says to Obi Wan, “I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and… heh heh heh… wisdom.” How does this difference play out in the life of a Christian?

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