Today is the conclusion of our ten-week study of the book of Proverbs.  This week we read the final three chapters (chapters 29-31) of Solomon’s incredible Manual for Living.  How awesome has it been for our entire Spiritual Family to be walking through an entire book of the Bible, especially one with so much practical and important advice on wisdom and how to experience our best lives!  One interesting fact that you may not have known but will see this week in our study is that the last two chapters aren’t written by Solomon!  Chapter 30 is written by Agur son of Jakeh (an oracle) and the last chapter is written by King Lemuel.  We don’t have a lot of information on who he was, but just interesting as we land the plane on this awesome study, we have called Proverbs – Learning The Way of The Wise.

So, as we get started here today, I want to ask you a couple of very important questions in an area that seems to be a very popular tension point for so many people today.   Do you hear from God?  Does God speak to you?  Does God speak today to us people right here in the year 2023?  So many good, God-loving people are frustrated and feel a lot of tension around this because they don’t hear from God and wonder why or if God even does speak to us at all, and we are going to address this today…but before we dive even further into it, I want to add another question.  Now, when you hear this question, you may not think it is related at all to the question of whether God speaks to us today, but it actually is totally related to this tension point so many of us face when it comes to God.  Here’s the question.  Are you active and passionately engaging in The Bible?  Is it a priority in your life?  Do you see how important God’s Written Word is for your life today and do you actively and passionately engage it?

You know, just last week I was putting together a new conversation for The Ready Heart Podcast and had so many questions about this exact topic that I changed from the subject that I was to be recording on and did 10 episodes on this very frustrating question so many of us have. Does God speak to us today?  Right here in the year 2023 and if He does…why don’t I hear from God?  This can be a very frustrating reality for so many of us because we are told to pray, read our Bibles, and walk with God…we may try it, but we don’t hear anything, and we wonder why or where God is or if He even does speak to us people today.  But I want to confidently answer the question for you as we get started here today.  The answer to the question: does God speak to us right here in the year 2023 is a very confident YES! God does speak to us today!  He is God so He can do so in many ways!  The question is not whether God speaks, the better question is am I listening, open and aware, and able to hear God speak to me?  That is the better question.  Frankly, this can be a big tension point for so many of us, we can’t seem to hear, but we need to grasp that God loves and values us.  He is with us, speaking to us each and every day.

“We often miss hearing God’s voice simply because we aren’t paying attention.”  Rick Warren

Well, that is so easy to do in the world we live in today, a world that keeps us busy, and distracted, and is designed to keep us focused on everything, and anything, but God and Eternal things.  Then we go to church or maybe read Scripture, and we see these amazing stories of how God so clearly spoke to those people!  I mean, we would love to have the burning bush experience. It would be so clear that God is speaking!  Or the whisper Elijah heard at the mouth of the cave after earthquakes, fire, and wind!  That would make sense.  We would understand what decisions to make and ways to go in life if God led us around by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day, wouldn’t we?   I mean, I would even take God speaking to me through a donkey as he did with Balaam back in the day, wouldn’t you?  We live in a busy, stressful, loud, cluttered world and it can be very difficult to hear from God, but He is speaking to us each and every day.  I would encourage you to go listen to those 10 episodes of The Ready Heart podcast after this because the goal was to help tune our hearts and minds to the voice of God as He speaks each day…and He does speak to us every day, right here in the year 2023.  But today, we are going to spend our time looking at the primary way God speaks to us people today.  We are going to look at the primary way we get to know God, His plans, His promises, His will, and His heart and that is through God’s Word.  If we aren’t reading the Bible…and many of us are not, we will struggle to ever hear from God and know Him the way we could if we engaged His Word.   The Bible matters greatly.

Proverbs 30:1 The skeptic swore, “There is no God! No God! — I can do anything I want! 2 I’m more animal than human; so-called human intelligence escapes me. 3 “I flunked ‘wisdom.’ I see no evidence of a holy God. 4 Has anyone ever seen Anyone climb into Heaven and take charge? grab the winds and control them? gather the rains in his bucket? stake out the ends of the earth? Just tell me his name, tell me the names of his sons. Come on now — tell me!” The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true; he protects everyone who runs to him for help. 6 So don’t second-guess him; he might take you to task and show up your lies.” MSG

What is happening here?  Well, we are seeing something that is so common for us people…the skeptic wondering if there is a God?  Where is God?  Does He speak?  If He does speak, why don’t I hear from Him?  This is an incredibly common question today.  Where is God?  Is there a God?  Does God speak to ordinary people in our ordinary lives today?  The answer is a confident yes…God does speak to us today and He is God so He can do so however He would like…He is God!  But the primary way we hear from God and get to know Him is through His Written Word…the Bible and what do we see here today?

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. NIV

Proverbs 30:5 says that every word of God is pure, it is flawless, meaning that every word of God is not contaminated by other things. The word of God is God’s own desire, feeling, mind, and plan. When we read the word of God, we are actually exploring God’s mind and heart. That’s why, as we read the word of God, we need to realize that God Himself is talking to us through His written word!  Do you believe that?  That God speaks to us today through His word?  If that is true, then The Bible is a really big deal, isn’t it?  But so few read His word, so few hear God speak, and they are frustrated because they want to hear from God, but they have no interest in God’s Word.

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. NIV

The Bible is described in many ways in Scripture, and we will dive into many of those ways today, but here we see Agur the Oracle called The Word of God a shield to our life. The shield functions as a protector to whoever is using it.  But a shield is useless if you don’t pick it up and use it. The word of God is also a source of guidance in life.  I mean we are studying a book that Solomon calls a Manual for how to live our lives, so we should see this right?  When we understand God’s guidance through His word, our life journey will be guided accordingly. We believe that every guidance from God will bring goodness into our life.  We need to see how important this really is to our lives.  So many of us are frustrated because we see no clarity on how to live our lives, and we just don’t seem to know God’s Will for our lives we want to hear from Him, but we also would admit we have little interest or time or energy to give to God’s Word.  We need to understand that every time we read the word of God, God is talking to us, and we are led to come into His perfect plan for us. The word of God is God’s own desire, mind, feelings, and plan.  The wise understand this and engage God’s word with passion, and urgency…the unwise see no reason to engage Scripture and walk through life wondering where God is and what their path in life should be.

So as always as we get rolling here today, I want to talk about our two people.  Both people are intelligent, both have a lot of knowledge, and both love God…but only one is wise.  Remember, wisdom is not just knowledge but knowledge and the capacity to live it out and we will look at two scenarios of these two people and how God can speak to them through His Word in their everyday life.

Scenario 1 – How to respond to accusations, rumors, and misconceptions spoken against them.  Ok, so again we have two people both intelligent, both very smart, and both love God but only one is wise.  They are leaders in a public organization in a small town and as often happens in the people business in a small town, there are some assumptions made about them and words spoken about them that drift back to them…that are not true and frankly are very hurtful to them.  The unwise person is hurt, and angry, and immediately starts the public campaign of rebuilding their reputation and gossiping or discrediting the person who is targeting them.  They respond with a hurt heart, and it only leads to more and more drama in their lives, there is no prayer, no desire to turn to God for help, not a thought to engage Scripture and see what the Bible may have to say on the subject, just an emotional hurt response that only leads to more hurts and damage and drama for all involved.  The wise person is also hurt by this, but instead of an immediate emotional response, they take this pain and hurt to God.  They pray and ask Him for guidance and are honest about the pain they feel.  They pray for the person who is speaking against them, and they turn to God’s Word to see what it says on the subject and is profoundly impacted by what they find in 1 Peter…

1 Peter 2:21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. NLT

While the wise would love to hit back, defend themselves, and or hurt back…they now know what they are to do, because God spoke to them through His word, and led them to the way their lives should go.

Scenario 2 – Stress and anxiety build over money, debt, and the future.  So once again we have two people both very intelligent, both smart, and both love God…but only one is wise.  And life starts hitting hard, and all at once.  Their work lives seem to be a major challenge with a very uncertain future, at the same time one of their children was in an accident and totaled their car, while at the same time, they take two or three other big financial hits all in the same week.  By the end of the week, their minds are racing, and they are almost paralyzed by the fear of how to handle this all, and how to navigate the debt and future they seem to be stuck in…they are overwhelmed and so stressed out they don’t know what to do.  The unwise person is so stressed and fearful that they begin to process how bad it will be and immediately think and worry themselves to the point where they can’t function.  They start looking for a second job, or way through without ever considering turning to God and asking His advice.  They can’t breathe and react to scenarios that haven’t actually happened yet, they feel so real because they can see and imagine the day happening…but they haven’t happened yet and only make their situation worse by trying to react and fix it.  The wise person also feels stress and fear, but they feel that tension all through their body, and they know they must take it to God.  They turn to Him in prayer giving it all over to Him.  They know how dire things feel and ask God to lead them through, while giving all the stress and anxiety and fear over to Him.  They turn to God’s Word and are profoundly impacted in this stressful moment by what they read in Philippians 4…

Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. NLT

The wise take this word from The Lord and apply it to their lives.  They continue to pray about what they need help with, but they begin to experience God’s peace that exceeds all understanding as we walk through the tough stuff.  When their mind drifts to future scenarios they fix their thoughts on what is true, honorable, pure, and lovely and do their best to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise and it helps lead them through this stressful and intense time in their lives…even as they walk through so much, they can do it because God is leading and speaking…the wise don’t need the pillar of fire at night, or cloud by day because they are tuning into God and allowing Him to lead, the unwise live life their way, with no interest in God, no need for God’s Word or lead in their lives and wonder why God is not speaking to them.

The primary way God speaks and guides our lives today is through The Bible.  This is interesting because for so many people we just have no interest in Scripture.  We have many reasons for this.  For some of us, we will talk about how little time we have to spend reading God’s Word, but the reality is we have plenty of time for the things that matter to us.  For others, they will tell you they simply struggle to retain information, or that they struggle with reading while the reality is they can recite every Super Bowl Champion from Super Bowl 1 to the present, and they can recite every code in their profession that they need to remember.  They will decide that Scripture just isn’t relevant, or doesn’t matter, or that it can’t help them in life, while never engaging it, then wondering why God isn’t leading their lives.  This is a growing problem in our world today.  Fewer and fewer people are turning to God’s Word, even as it becomes easier and easier for us to access!  I mean, we can have multiple versions of Scripture sent to our phones, and read to us in our cars, yet we have zero interest in God’s Word, which I want you to understand is THE PRIMARY WAY GOD SPEAKS AND WE GET TO KNOW HIS HEART AND WILL TODAY!  God’s word could be a shield to protect us, but a shield is useless if we never pick it up and use it.  I was looking at different stats to show you on this today, and this one really stood out to me, from a study done in the year 2021.  So, if you think of 2020 and covid, which was a year when we had nothing to do but sit in our homes, fewer and fewer people could find time to engage God…even at a time when all they had was…time.

I was diving into the statistics of our culture and found a survey on from 2021 stating that fewer than 11 percent of Americans read the Bible daily. Trends in reading habits over four years showed that most Americans never read the Bible.  And what I believe to be a very telling reality of our present world and future condition the most frequent readers of the Bible were those aged over 70 years old with Millennials most likely to have never read the Bible.  This is devastating and speaks loudly to this tension point we face today as we wonder why we don’t hear from God, while never engaging the primary way He speaks to us today.  The Bible matters greatly, and with the time we have left, I want to walk through just 5 reasons that we should engage The Bible.  So, here are just 5 of the many reasons the Bible is so important to our lives today.

#1) Reasons we should read our Bible. The Bible Is Our Nourishment Sustaining Us Through Life.  Now you might be thinking, come on Sam, I don’t need to read the Bible to live or to be sustained through life.  It isn’t like food, water, and air.  Well, it is food, water, and air for your soul and so many of us walk through life loving God, and completely dried up Spiritually because we are not allowing God’s Word to nourish our lives.  Imagine that you go a day without eating anything. Then a week. And a month. As time goes on, you become weaker and weaker. Our bodies need nourishment to live. And it’s the same in our spiritual lives.  Your soul needs to be nourished and it’s clear that the food and drink we need is God’s Word.  One of the clearest examples of this is found in Jesus’ head-to-head duel with Satan in the desert that we call the Temptation of Christ.  Do you remember this?  Jesus goes out into the desert, with no food, no drink, for 40 days and nights, and at his weakest moments of starvation and thirst, the devil comes to tempt Him.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” NIV

So, Jesus just said that we don’t just live on literal food but also on God’s Word.  So many of us love God but are Spiritually dried up.  We aren’t nourishing our spirit and heart with God’s Word in our lives.  We are starving ourselves without realizing it.  We love God and are frustrated that Christianity doesn’t seem to work for us but does for others, and we struggle to find and experience the full life Jesus says He came to give us, while we never tend to our souls, and sustain our spiritual life with God’s Word.  If we want to gain life, an abundant vibrant life, well then, we need to feed our soul and spirit, it is essential that we spend time with God’s Word. God’s Word is a source of life! It contains infinite help and wisdom. And, when it is read, applied, and obeyed, it leads us to our best lives possible.  So many of us are starving in our spirit and walk through life malnourished, frustrated that we aren’t experiencing our best lives…Jesus says that God’s Word is a major source of nourishment that we need in our lives!

#2) Reasons we should read our Bible.  It shows us God’s will for our lives.  For so many of us, we walk through life wondering the ultimate question.  “What is my purpose?  Why am I here on this Earth? What is God’s will for my life?”  We struggle as we look for direction in life and often feel aimless and confused, unable to answer the question of our purpose and life direction for ourselves.  We struggle through life with no idea where to go while either not realizing or interested in the fact that God gives us a road map for how to live life in Scripture.  God loves you so much that He wants you to experience your best life possible on this Earth as He prepares you for all of eternity to come and it’s The Bible that shows us God’s will for our lives.  All through our Scripture, we see what God’s heart, will and purposes are for us, but we have to engage His Word to see it and know it.  God speaking through Jeremiah here…

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. NIV

We must seek Him, and call upon His name, and engage Him and He will listen…so many of us wonder what God’s will is, while never engaging Him to find out.

#3) Reasons we should read our Bible.  God’s Word completes us. 

2 Timothy 3:16 Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another — showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. 17 Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. MSG

This is very important; God’s Word puts us together and completes us making us fully equipped for all we face in life.  In Hebrews, we see this about God’s Word…

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. NIV

God’s Word is living and active, showing us the truth, exposing our rebellion, convicting and challenging and redirecting our lives, and putting us together…it makes us complete…without it, we are unable to fully engage in the life God has called us into.

#4) Reasons we should read our Bible. God’s Word can guide us through a life filled with choices.  We just read in Hebrews that God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword penetrating our spirit and soul…challenging and judging our hearts and motives and this is very important.  We spend our lives pulled in two directions.  Part of us wants to live for God and part of us feels pulled to live for our own fleshly desires.  We could say we have two voices or pulls that we all face, and for many of us, it is hard to decide if I’m living in my will, or God’s.  Scripture is very important as it helps guide us through life and discern what is God’s will compared to what is our own will.  We also have God’s word to guide us through life and often see that it truly is our life map if we choose to engage it.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. NIV

We saw an example or two of this earlier in the wise and the unwise scenarios, didn’t we?  Remember when they heard that someone was making assumptions and speaking poorly about them?  How hurt they felt, and it was the wise who went God’s word and got clear direction, literally allowing God’s word to be a lamp to their feet and a light for their path…which leads us to something I really wanted to hit hard today.

#5) Reasons we should read our Bibles.  God’s Word gives us the power to overcome!  This is profoundly important.  It also is not lost on me that today is Father’s Day.  A day to be thankful and celebrate our fathers and the men who often serve, provide, protect, and deal very silently with so much pain and so many challenges in their own lives.  Men, fathers, husbands I want you to understand something here today.  Your life is opposed in every way.  From the moment sin entered this Earth, we were placed in a world that will push against us in every way.

Genesis 3:17 And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” NLT

So, what does all of that mean?  Could I really be under this sin curse here in 2023?  Well, you may not see it this way, but you feel it in every way.  Your entire being is pushed against in every way, and everything you do is opposed.  This is why we must be focused, God-centered, and nourishing our spirit and soul in God’s Word.  Because life is hard, and men, you are told in Scripture that it will push the hardest on you.  You will feel disrespected at times and unheard.  You will feel tired and weak and know that you can’t feel tired and weak because your loved ones depend on you… we must understand the power to overcome isn’t found in our human abilities, but is found in God, and can be unleashed through God’s Word in our lives.   God’s word gives us the power to overcome.  Let’s go back to Jesus and how He dealt with Satan trying to appeal to his human side and get Him to sin against the Lord.  How did Jesus overcome that temptation?  It was through God’s Word.  Satan makes use of these natural lusts and desires we all have to try to weaken us or get us to disobey God.  He even tempted Jesus, trying to get Him to give into egotism, pride, and self-seeking. But, for each temptation Jesus faced, He had a counterattack, and it was God’s Word quoting Scripture each time.

Matthew 4:2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” NIV

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” NIV

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  NIV

And every single defense and response from Jesus came from God’s Word.  God’s Word gives us the power to overcome all that life throws at us, and life throws a lot at us.  Dad’s out there, I feel you.  I get it.  Life is really hard, and it can feel like no one is really all that worried about you, while you try your best to lead, bring strength, and provide in a world completely set again you, pushing hard on you all the days of your life…you need to understand the way to overcome, to be strong, to get through it all is found in engaging God’s Word because in God’s Word is the only way to find the power to overcome.  Paul says it is our weapon to overcome in Ephesians…

Ephesians 6:13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. MSG

Can I ask you as we close here today, are you frustrated with your faith?  Do you wonder if this Christianity thing can work for you?  It seems to work for others, but not so much for you.  Do you believe God speaks today?  Do you struggle to hear God’s voice?  Now be very honest with yourself today.  Do you spend time with God?  Do you engage God’s Word not just because you feel like you have to but because you want to hear from God, and you want to truly know God?  I want you to understand a couple of things about God’s speaking to us today.  First and foremost, God is speaking to us today, the question is not if He is speaking the better question is are we aware, open to Him, and are we listening?  One of the most primary ways the Lord speaks, and guides is through His Word…so the question has to be asked, do you read your Bible?  Do you engage God’s Word?  If you feel dry, flat in your faith, or just like you don’t have the energy or vibrant life a Christian should have…ask yourself if you are nourishing your heart, spirit, and soul with God’s Word.  Are you allowing God to equip and complete you through His Word?  Are you allowing God’s Word to guide you through life, a challenging and difficult life filled with one big choice and decision after another?  God’s Word is everything.  If you aren’t engaging in it, you will feel weak, like God is far away.  You will feel confused, directionless, and powerless. If you engage in it you will stand in and have the true power to overcome, which is so important in this challenging world we live in today.

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. NIV

The wise understand this and center their lives on God’s Word each day.  The unwise do not.

Happy Father’s Day.