So, as we get started today, I want to ask you a couple of questions.   What does it take to live a centered, and healthy life?  What about a peaceful life?  Have you ever wondered why some people just seem to live more peaceful, centered, and healthier lives than others?  How would you describe your life?  Would you describe it as peaceful and centered or is it volatile, and filled with chaos and a lot of major highs and lows along the way?  At Easter at MRG last week, we were talking about all that Jesus’ overwhelming victory truly means for us, and the fact that while we Christians tend to focus (and we should) on the hope we now live in as we look forward to our new eternal destiny someday, which is amazing…that because of Jesus we look forward to a future in Heaven, but we lose sight of the fact that we can also live our best lives in our time on this Earth as well!  This is interesting because I’m not sure there are too many of us who would say that we are living or standing in what we would call our best life.  I mean, have you ever wondered if there was just some secret out there to live a better life?   Let me ask you this.  Have you ever looked back over moments of your life or some choices you made in a moment and wished you had taken some time to think before you acted, or just made a different choice altogether?  Yeah, me too.  You know here at MRC we love you too much not to be honest with you, life is hard.  And we often make it harder by how we choose to live our lives.  We want to live our best lives possible, but we struggle because of our choices, emotions, and just how we respond to life.  And it can leave us wondering if there is some secret that some have that we don’t, that could allow life to go better for us.  And there is.  It’s called wisdom.  And today we start a journey to not only learn of this incredible thing called wisdom but to also apply it to our lives.  Life is hard and can often leave us wishing there was an instruction manual or guide to help us along the way.  Well, what if I told you that we have one, and not only do we have a manual to live our best lives but it was written by the wisest man who ever lived?  His name was Solomon, he was blessed with wisdom, and then took the time and care to record his wisdom and share it with us all. Literally writing out a manual for us to live our best lives here on Earth and over the next 10 weeks, we will be walking through the book of Proverbs, as a church family.  We all can agree that we would love some instructions or a manual on life at times, well, Solomon literally tells you that this is what he gave us as he kicks off the book of Proverbs to us.

Proverbs 1:1-3 These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king — 2 Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; 3 A manual for living. MSG

This is awesome, we do have a manual for living our best lives possible here on Earth, and today kicks off our 10-week study of the book of Proverbs, something we are very excited to share with and walk through with you, so welcome to our study, Proverbs – Learning the Way of The Wise.

How will we do this?  This is one of the most interactive series we have ever done because we are asking you to dive into God’s word with us and I wanted to give you the layout for how we will study this manual for living our best lives possible.  The reading guides will come out on our social media.  Every day, you will see a post on Facebook and Instagram.  On Sunday you will see our sermon subject come out, along with a link to the YouTube version of the talk.  Then we get into our weekly rhythm which will come out on our social media.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you will see a post go out that will ask you to read a chapter of Proverbs, and there will be a little guidance on how to read it.  Then Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday you will see posts go out on what we are calling a focus verse.  One specific word of wisdom that we can slow down and really try to personalize for our own lives.  And again there will be some guidance on how to get the most out of that Scripture make sure you are following our Facebook and Instagram and please, we welcome you to read along with us through these incredible words of wisdom, which if you notice and you have already seen one, we will be sending out as “tweets” because it seems to us that Solomon was so wise that he was tweeting long before Twitter existed.   So, this is what it will look like, and with all of that said, let’s get started on this journey to learning the way of the wise!

What is Wisdom?  So, as we kick off this journey to learning the way of the wise, we need to start with understanding what wisdom is and what it is not, and I would like to start with this, wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge or intelligence.  In fact, you can have a lot of knowledge, you can know a lot of facts, truths, and principles and not be wise.  This is something we see around church all the time, don’t we?  A lot of people know a lot about Scripture and have memorized a lot of Scripture, but simply aren’t living out what they know.  We see a lot of people who will tell you that they know how a church should be run, and what a Christian life should look like, they have a lot of knowledge, but they don’t apply this information to the way they live their lives.  So, they can look very spiritual or very smart, but they are not living a wise life.  This is very important, because as we learned in our last series, being a Christian isn’t about the knowledge in your brain, but it’s literally about how you live your life.  If you look up the definition of wisdom, Websters defines it this way.

Wisdom – knowledge AND the capacity to make use of it.

This is a profound truth, that we all must understand, there is a way to live life, to live our best lives found in Scripture.  Our Bibles are not there to give us enough information to look important, but to guide us on how to truly experience our best lives, and for so many we may like the knowledge part but we lack wisdom, which is the true depth of not only having knowledge and facts but the capacity to live it out, to apply it and make use of it in our lives.  Do you see it?  There is a depth to the wisdom that goes beyond knowledge, facts, and IQ points.  It’s wisdom that allows us to truly live our best lives, which is why we are calling this study of Proverbs, “Learning the Way of the Wise.”  There is a depth to wisdom, it’s more than memorization of facts, and appearance but how we live our lives.  Wisdom is not just knowing what is good for you but discerning it and applying that knowledge to your everyday life!

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of a sensible person guides his way of life, but the stupidity of fools misleads them. GWT

Before we move on, let’s draw the difference between knowledge/intelligence and wisdom.  So just an example or two of the differences and the importance of wisdom.  Let’s start with a fun one and talk about alcohol.  Let’s say two people go to the same party, they hang out all night together, both are intelligent and knowledgeable.  But only one is wise.  So, the drinks start flowing, and everyone is having a great time, and both know the effects of alcohol.  Both of them know what the next day will look like if they keep choosing to go back for more, both know the regrets they can have from drinking, and or drinking too much, but only the wise one can take the information and apply it to their lives and wake up feeling rested and healthy the next morning, ready to enjoy the day, while the unwise wakes up wishing they would have been wiser, and I am sure you catch where I’m drifting to there.  One more just for fun and maybe a little more where you thought a Pastor would hang out on a Sunday morning.  Two people, both with knowledge but only one with wisdom both know that spending time with God each day just leads to a better day.  They both know that, but only the wise one takes that knowledge and applies it to their lives, and lives in the God-centered peace that comes from God-focus, while the other does not.  Last one, two very knowledgeable people but only one who is wise both know and understand that a human being needs rest, sleep, Sabbath rest where they truly disconnect from life, work, social media, all of it, both know that, but only the wise one actually stops and rests while the unwise pushes through wondering why they are so exhausted and why their life is such a mess, probably angry at God for not giving them the same peace that they see in the wise person who applies what they know and lives differently.  This is wisdom, not just knowledge or IQ points, but the ability to apply what they know to their everyday life, and it is the key to finding and enjoying your best life possible on this side of eternity.  So, if you want to know if you are wise, don’t look at your ability to win a game of Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit, or how many degrees and diplomas you have on the wall, look at the way you live your life, that will tell you if you are truly wise.  So, let’s dive into our study, and start learning the way of the wise from the wisest man that ever lived, Solomon.  And we will start with the first 6 verses of Chapter One…

Proverbs 1:1 These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king — 2 Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; 3 A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; 4 To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. 5 There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, 6 still a thing or two for the experienced to learn — Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. MSG

I love the way he starts, these are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s King!  We will talk a good bit about the influence his father, David, has had on his life which truly led Solomon to all his great wisdom.  But I wanted to read that introduction clearly to you, because so many of us don’t grasp what true wisdom is, and once again Solomon explains it to us.  What did he say there?  I’m writing down all my wisdom so you can understand what life means, and to give you a manual on how to live.  Once again this is wisdom, you can be really smart and not be wise.  So, if wisdom is all about living our best lives possible, it sounds important.  It sounds like something we all want so how do we become wise?  Maybe we should start by looking at how Solomon obtained this incredible wisdom and became the wisest man who ever lived and walked the face of the Earth… (who wasn’t named Jesus.)

So how did Solomon become so wise?  Solomon acquired this incredible wisdom from God because he was humble, and reverent to God, open and able to listen to his own father’s advice, and then able to not just hear of the value of wisdom and learn facts about its importance but was able to understand his need for it and seek it out.  So, when God came to Solomon and told him that He would grant Solomon whatever he wanted, anything his heart desired, Solomon asked for wisdom.  This young man, whom God said could have whatever He wanted, asked for wisdom.  Listen to the humility of this moment.

1 Kings 3:4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” 6 Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. NLT

So, think about this for a moment, wisdom is really important, because it is all about living our best lives possible.  But I wonder how many of us at this moment, where God says, whatever you need, it is yours would actually ask for wisdom.  This is the dream moment, the genie is out of the lamp saying I will grant you whatever you wish, how many of us would be asking for wisdom, for an understanding or God-listening heart so we could live well?  This is big, and in verse 10 we see that this pleased God, it pleased Him so much, that God gives him the wisdom he asked for and everything he didn’t ask for as well!

2 Chronicles 1:11 God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— 12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!” NLT

Solomon becomes the wisest, wealthiest, most famous King who ever lived and ever would come, and it all started with one humble request, Solomon was seeking the wisdom needed to live his best life possible and rule over God’s people well. And then as we start our journey into learning the way of the wise from Solomon, he explains this first step to obtaining wisdom for us here in verse 7 of Chapter 1.

Proverbs 1:7 Start with God — the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. MSG

Proverbs 1:7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. NLT

The first step in learning the way of the wise is found in the “Fear” of the Lord.  The word Fear comes up a good bit in Scripture, and it means respect, reverence, or awe of the Lord as supreme and the Leader of our lives.  This is where we learn the way of the wise.  This is how Solomon learned it, he didn’t thumb his nose at the wisdom and advice he was receiving, but humbly opened himself up to it, and was able to receive it and it was a game changer for him and can be for all of us.  This is how Solomon learned wisdom, and he is now passing this on to us.  Solomon respected God and the role God gave him to serve him.  His humility helped him see his deep need for God and that God gave him the role and he wanted to honor God well.  He also was humble and listened to his dad, who guided him in the value and priority of wisdom.  Wisdom and humility go hand in hand, because, without humility, you may gain knowledge, but you will not receive wisdom, this is seen all through these first few verses of Proverbs 1, as Solomon is expressing this ready heart, this openness that we must have.

Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. ESV

You can’t receive this wisdom if you are too proud to listen and be open to it, this is why I am so focused on the concept of a ready heart.  Jesus says without it, you can’t receive his teaching, which is so true, isn’t it?  We need to be humble and open to receive this wisdom or we stay the fool that Solomon brings up so much in his writing.  So before we move on, let me give you a little more about Solomon’s background and upbringing because it does matter how he became so wise and shows us where he found this humility and desire for wisdom.  So, I know I’ve touched on it, but Solomon’s father was King David, yes that David.  The man after God’s own heart, the man who killed Goliath, yeah, that David and his mother, was Bathsheba.  Yes, Bathsheba who was originally the wife of one of David’s mighty men Uriah whom David had murdered after committing adultery with her, and realizing there was a pregnancy that needed to be covered up.  Yes, this is his parents, and there are many sermons for other days found there but I want to keep showing you where the source of the priority or desire for wisdom came from, and it came from his father David who instilled this into him, is a man after God’s own heart, and understands in all his own imperfections, pain, and emotions that we get to read all about in Psalms, grasps the importance of God in His life, of humility, and wisdom and passes this on to his son.  Now, many parents pass along great words of advice to their children, but it isn’t heard, received, and soaked in, and I think if you think back to your childhood or teenage years you probably didn’t see any wisdom in your parents’ guidance either, until years later, after you walked through things, you can think back to what they were saying and think, oh, maybe they weren’t as crazy as I thought.  Well, Solomon thankfully, was able to humbly listen and receive his father’s advice and tells us about it in Proverbs 4…

Proverbs 4:4 My father taught me, “Take my words to heart.  Follow my commands, and you will live. 5 Get wisdom; develop good judgment.  Don’t forget my words or turn away from them.  6 Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you.  Love her, and she will guard you. 7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!  And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. 8 If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.  Embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown.” NLT

Then later gives us this same advice in one of his wise “tweets” that we can apply to our lives…

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. NIV

This is what Solomon did, and he is passing this wisdom on to you.  But we have to be humble and open, we need ready hearts to receive it or this stays knowledge and doesn’t become part of our lives.

So, before we dive deeper into this concept of humility, and the way of the wise, let’s talk for a moment.  Have you ever really thought of Scripture the way we are talking about it today?  That found in your Bible could be a pathway to living your best life possible here on the Earth, on this side of Heaven.  I think for so many of us, we tend to think about the Bible as the thing that helps us get to Heaven, discover salvation and understand who God is, which is all very true, but we miss the fact that it is also laying out a way for us to live our best lives possible here on this Earth.  A way to live each ordinary day of our lives the best way possible.  Did you ever consider that?  It’s funny to me but there is a bit of a perception around Christianity that we need to tear down here today, that when you live a godly life and follow God’s teachings, the fun days are behind us and now we are stuck living out God’s commands.  Which I find funny, we miss that there is a better way to live our lives today, and God loves us enough to show us and guide us towards it, but most of us aren’t open or humble enough to see it.  We talked about some wise ways of living earlier, but just for fun I want you to think about those good old days that we tend to be afraid to lose…were they really good days, and helping us find and live our best lives?  Think about that, think back on those days.  We were led around by our appetites and our emotions, and desires.  Doing our best to enjoy that moment at that moment.  Paul paints the picture so well in his letter to Titus.

Titus 3:3 It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. 4 But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, 5 he saved us from all that. MSG

Could there be a better way to live than waking up hungover and sick as a dog from the fun we had the night before?  Was living one day to the next being led around by our glands really leading to your best life possible?  It is interesting but somehow, we look at that and glamorize it, then think of the wisdom and living differently than that as oppressive or hard, or like taking our best life away.  If you think back to those days before finding God, we all were wondering the same thing, weren’t we?  There must be more to this life.  And there is.  And it is found in God’s word, it’s found as we walk the way of the wise and it can start right here in Solomon’s Manual for Living.  There is a better way to live, and our Scriptures lay it out for us, but we probably know that.  We have that fact in our brain, the issue isn’t knowledge or knowing facts, it’s being wise, and the wise are able to live out the facts and knowledge they have in their brains.  It’s interesting because if you keep reading Titus 3, Paul warns Titus and all of us not to get so caught up in the facts and knowledge piece but keep focused on living our lives well.  Scripture points to wisdom repeatedly…

Titus 3:9 Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. MSG

So, to start this study on Proverbs, I really want you to understand this about your Bible, it is absolutely the guide to Heaven someday, but it is also the guide to living your best life possible here on Earth, on this side of Eternity as well…and it all starts with having the humility and openness to receive these incredible teachings and apply them to our lives. Paul would say the humble can learn the way of the wise but brings up the prideful, the unopen, and those who won’t listen as “fools.”  In fact, we see him bring up the idea of the full over 40 times depending on what version you read, let’s look at just a few of those warnings…

Proverbs 1:7 Start with God — the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. MSG

Proverbs 12:15 A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others. TLB

Proverbs 23:9 Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words. MSG

As you read through Solomon’s wisdom you can’t help but see the theme build.  The wise are humble and open, they have ready hearts to learn and grow, and the fool is full of pride.  We need to address pride because it is the blocker from us finding our best lives and living out the way of the wise.  We see pride and ego everywhere, I’m just not sure we can identify it, but we need to.  So, what does pride look like, are you prideful?  Solomon seems to be saying that it is pride that doesn’t allow us to listen and learn in many of his wise words, so let’s explore that.  Did you ever think it was a humble person who could listen and a prideful person who could not?  Well, think about this in life.  At work, have you ever tried to get a prideful person to do something the way you need it done?  Can they hear you?  This happens in sports, when the coach talks of someone who is coachable, that is an important attribute for a player and that is someone a coach loves because the play is open and able to listen, receive and apply the coach’s instructions.  That is humility.  You know, as Christians we would never say we are prideful, because we know that pride is not an attribute of living Christ-like and we know that when we say we are Christians we are saying we live like Christ.  We know some of these powerful and popular warnings in Scripture against pride…like this one from Solomon in Proverbs 16…

Proverbs 16:18 First pride, then the crash — the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. MSG

So, it’s interesting because we know these warnings against pride, and would never call ourselves prideful.  But today we are learning that it’s humility that allows us to listen and apply God’s teaching to our lives.  We have also learned that wisdom is not just knowing things, like what pride is, but having the ability to live out the guidance we are learning about…there is a big difference between knowing what pride is and avoiding it…the wise avoid it.  So, in our faith, we know not to be prideful, but we need to ask ourselves if we are listening and applying God’s word to our lives…or not.  I’m not prideful but I will never do what God asks me to do.  I’m not prideful but I will always get frustrated and push against sound and Godly words of advice.  I’m not prideful, but I’m going to keep living as I always have…and it’s time we see this.  There is a better way to live our lives, a wise way, and it all starts with humility.  Solomon was the wisest person to walk the face of the Earth because he was humble and is trying to pass this wisdom on to us and that only happens if we are humble and open to receiving and living differently.

So, as we close this big introduction to wisdom today, I want you to understand some things about what made Solomon not only so wise, but gave him more wealth, fame, power, and prestige than any other person on the planet.  It was his humility, and ability to be open to his dad’s teaching and guidance, and his respect and awe of His Heavenly Father.  It’s funny because I think most of us aren’t as interested in the humble openness to follow God and the desire for wisdom, but we sure have a desire for all that other stuff that God gave Solomon, because of his humble heart.  We can look at Solomon’s life and wish we had all the bling-bling that came with being the greatest King who ever lived while overlooking what it took to get Him there.  It’s easy to overlook wisdom, humility, and the fact that everything was given to Solomon by God.  It’s easy to pursue success and all the flashy things that we humans all see as successful and glamorous.  It’s easy to lose sight of the key to all of Solomon’s success, that he points to over and over again in Proverbs because it’s not as loud or exciting or flashy as the castles, the wealth, and the fame…but we can’t overlook the fact that all of it came to be through humility.  He didn’t seek the Earthly stuff, he reverently and humbly served the Lord and lived out the way of the wise, which allowed him the ability to handle all the other stuff that comes with living our best life possible on this side of Heaven.  So, a couple of questions as we close, and kick off this journey to wisdom.

How would you have defined wisdom before today?  Did you equate wisdom to knowledge or intelligence?  Do you see the difference between having knowledge and living a wise life?

Have you ever considered that found in Scripture is a better way to live your life today or have you always just assumed that the Bible was all about getting us to Heaven someday?

Are you able to listen, receive and apply God’s word to your life?  Would you say that you are coachable and open to living differently depending on what God asks of you?  Why or why not?

Would you consider yourself humble or prideful?  If you had a piece of paper and could make lists, in what ways do you see humility in your life, and in what ways if you are honest do you see pride?

Now I want to ask you an important question.  If God stood before you, today and told you that He would give you whatever you want, what would you ask for?  Would it be wisdom, so you could steward, lead and live well…or would it be all the things that this world says are important?

Listen we love you so much and we are so excited to dive into this study of Proverbs with you, as we learn the way of the wise, the way to live our best lives here on this side of eternity.  And we can’t start this journey without understanding what wisdom is, and where it all begins.  Wisdom is not just knowledge or intelligence but the ability to apply what you know and live your best life possible, and it all begins with humility.  We can’t learn the way of the wise if we aren’t open, coachable, and able to listen to these wise words of Solomon.  It is as we begin to understand this core truth behind the foundation of all wisdom that we find the way of the wise and live our best lives possible…I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of fun.