Today we continue the second part of our Proverbs Study that we call A Deeper Dive to Finding Wisdom.  We spent the first half of this series reading the entire book of Proverbs as a Spiritual Family and which was so fun, but also can feel a bit overwhelming as Solomon gives us so much to think through and process, and often jumps back and forth through different important subjects for our daily lives.  In the second half of our study, we now circle back and take a deeper dive into some of the important topics that Solomon works us through in His Manual for Living.  So, this is an important part of studying the book of Proverbs because Solomon gives us so much wisdom to think about and often bounces from one very important topic to the next and now through the summer months, we slow down and focus on some of these incredible insights.  In our first two deep dives, we hit some very important topics.  Solomon brings up our words and how we use them often, and last week Ken talked to us about not being a Spiritual Victim and how we choose to live which Solomon brings up all the time.  Now today, we have an awesome opportunity because Solomon is going to show us the challenges, we humans have and the secret to accomplishing our goals, our hopes, and our dreams in life…I would add that, this is also going to show us how to truly stand in the freedom and joy and true reality of the Christian life that abundant and vibrant life that we all want that so few truly stand in…this is going to be a very big deal.

But before we get started, I would love to ask you a few questions just to get us thinking a bit here today.  First, do you have goals and dreams in your life?  I think for some they have listed them out and have very intentional goals, but I think we all have hopes and dreams in life, don’t we?  Do you struggle to accomplish long and even short-term goals in your life?  Maybe every year you make some resolutions for the “New Year, New Me” thing, but every year by February the passion for those resolutions’ fades, and you just never accomplish those goals.  Maybe it’s with work, with your future, with different plans in life, or with your physical health…but you struggle to accomplish those goals.  Now, let me ask you about your Spiritual Life.  Do you walk in the kind of life-giving relationship with God that you desire and hope for?  You truly want it, but you never experience the life-changing reality of a true, loving, deep walk with God.  You want it but you just can’t seem to engage in true discipleship that would lead to your best life possible.  Is this you?  Have you ever wondered why so few seem to truly find life and life to the full?  I mean Jesus says, so few truly find this life we all desire and hope for…

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. NIV

So, think about this as we get started today, how do you do when it comes to accomplishing your goals, hopes, and dreams in different areas of your life?  How about your Spiritual Life, are you truly experiencing freedom, joy, and standing in the abundant life you desire?  Well, today we are going to allow Solomon to show us the challenges we must overcome so we can accomplish all we desire in life.  I would like to focus today on three big challenges we face as humans trying to accomplish things in life, and spiritually through some of Solomon’s wise words.

  1. Time – We struggle to accomplish our hopes and dreams because it takes too long.
  2. Adversity – We struggle to accomplish our hopes and dreams because it is a difficult journey.
  3. Work – We struggle to accomplish our hopes and dreams because it takes too much effort.

So, let’s get started working through some of these wise words of Solomon to take us to the place where we can stand up and accomplish our goals, hopes, and dreams and experience our best life possible and we will get started looking at a major challenge we all face and that is sticking with things that take time!

Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. NIV

What does the phrase hope deferred mean?  Well, Solomon is saying that when the thing we hoped for doesn’t come or isn’t happening as soon as expected or is delayed for any length of time we struggle as people.  It’s a struggle to stay at something when it seems to be taking too long!  The Good News Translation helps us understand this idea of hope deferred.

Proverbs 13:12 Delayed hope makes one sick at heart, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. GNT

This is so true, isn’t it?  We struggle to accomplish our goals in life, or to see our hopes and dreams come true for life because it just takes way too long to happen and we don’t live in a world of waiting, do we?  We want immediate results, or we tend to struggle to stay the course.  Think about this in your life, how discouraging it can be to truly want something, and maybe choose to work hard for it, but you just aren’t seeing the immediate results that we humans tend to want!  It’s very discouraging, isn’t it?  It can make the heart sick.  We live in a world that demands immediate results and we struggle to accept the time it may take to accomplish the things we want in life, but it is so important to stay the course.  Have you ever heard the phrase “Good things come to those who wait?”  I know it’s easier said than done, especially when we really want something, but it is very true.  So, before we talk spiritually, let me ask you, how do you do with waiting on things you really want to see happen?  Is there something going on in your life right now that you have been waiting on for a long time…maybe years, even decades?  How do you handle the time it takes to accomplish things in life?  Now let’s talk Spiritually.

So many of us never experience the life-changing reality and depth of a true relationship with God because we aren’t seeing the immediate results we want.  Growing up in our faith takes time, and many just aren’t into waiting.  Frankly, I’m not sure anyone is a fan of waiting but it’s through the waiting that God truly can be doing important work in our lives.  Remember God is leading our lives to wholeness, to Spiritual Maturity, so this means all things in our lives are shaping and molding us into what He truly has for us.  Now we have free will and make our own choices on whether we stay on His path or take our own, but this is what He is up to…and so much growth can happen in the frustrating reality of waiting.  It’s in the waiting that we are challenged to trust Him because it’s just not happening as quickly as we want.  It’s in the waiting that our hearts and souls are stripped of control, and pride and we learn to depend on God, we learn humility and patience, and we learn to slow down getting on God’s page rather than trying to force God on our page.  Listen, I get it…God’s timing and our timing are very frustratingly different.  He works, much…much slower than you and I would like, but it’s in the waiting that we are being shaped and molded.  If you can stay the course, good things truly come to those who wait.  So many people choose to quit waiting and get off the ride just moments before they should, which is tragic to see.  I will never tell you it is easy, as someone who waits often for God to do work in my life, my loved ones, and in our Spiritual Family but my encouragement to you is to wait on the Lord…it is worth it in the end.

Psalm 27:13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. NIV

So many of us miss out on the true life we could experience in Christ because we simply won’t wait on the Lord to see all that could be.  Please, allow God to shape and mold you through the waiting.

The second challenge we face in accomplishing our goals, hopes, and dreams is the adversity we face in life that discourages us from getting where we want to go.  We talk about this a lot around here and love you too much not to be very honest about the reality of how difficult life can be.  And it’s adversity that discourages and stops so many of us from truly finding all we want in life.

Ecclesiastes 7:13 Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. NLT

I love this statement because it is so profoundly true but if I’m honest in the tougher moments in life this can be very difficult to accept in life, can’t it?  Life is so tough, and it can be very difficult to accept the ways of God and how He does things.  It’s certainly easier to accept His ways when life is going well, isn’t it?  I know it is for me…but we must understand the same principle found in waiting is the same principle found as we go through good and bad times.  God is shaping and molding us into the wholeness, into the very people He desires us to be, and I don’t know if there is a better teacher for us humans than pain and adversity…this is when God has our attention most isn’t it?  Frankly, it is in the tough times and painful moments of our lives that the most are revealed about ourselves as people, isn’t it?  I mean think of what Solomon told us in Proverbs here…

Proverbs 24:10 If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place. MSG

As life hits, and it will hit, and it will hit hard at times we are growing in the challenges and pain, and stress of it all if we stay the course in it.  This is why we see such wisdom and knowledge coming from people who have lived life for a while…and why we can see such naïve passion from young people who haven’t really experienced all that life will throw at them yet.  This is so challenging but important.  Think about your life for a moment, can you see moments where adversity hit and you were able to engage and overcome or do you tend to pull away when things get hard or challenging?  This leads us to the Scripture that no one likes to hear or read when they are walking through challenges in their lives but it is so important and so true.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

Do you see it?  It’s through the trials and challenges of our lives that we are developing and growing into the very people God called us to be, mature and complete, not lacking anything.  Check it out in the Message Version here before we move on because we see this idea of not trying to get out of it early!

James 1:2 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 3 You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. MSG

Jesus says it is so rare for people to find the true life we could stand in if we would take the narrow path, and we have looked at two reasons why, it takes time, and frankly, it will be painfully hard at times.

The third reason we struggle to accomplish our goals, our hopes, and our dreams is the reality that it will take work.  It won’t necessarily be clean, and a simple, easy process…it will take effort and work.  This gives us a chance to look at one of my favorites of Solomon’s wise words in Proverbs with a very important principle for our lives and maybe even more so for our Spiritual growth and development.

Proverbs 14:4 Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. NLT

I love this, and it’s a very important principle for us to wrap our hearts and minds around in life.  Let’s start here, you don’t have to be a farmer to understand this principle.  For so many of us we want life to be easy, clean, and not take a lot of effort.  We would like to see a great harvest or result in our lives, but we really have no desire to get our stables messy or tend to the ox which is needed to experience the great harvest.  If we want to accomplish our goals, our hopes, and our dreams we will need to roll up our sleeves, be willing to do the work necessary, and get dirty to experience all we want in life.  Quite frankly most people want a great harvest or results, but they are not interested in doing the work, getting dirty, and doing the things that are challenging to get to where they want to be.  Think about the mess, the smell, the amount of food, and even the waste it makes, and needs to be cleaned up after to keep that ox going.  The stable is a mess, but it is necessary to get to the goal of the great harvest…I believe this is the number one reason so few people accomplish their goals, and miss out on their hopes and dreams in life, and I will take it a step further…it’s the number one reason people struggle in relationships, and never experience all they could from their faith and relationship with God.  We just aren’t willing and choose not to do the messy stuff, the hard work…maybe better said, “Heart Work” needed to experience our full lives in Christ.

We live in a world where the hard work, discipline, and effort needed to accomplish things are often ignored.  We love looking at the highlight moments of people’s lives on social media and TV, but we ignore or overlook or just aren’t interested in the work and effort that was done behind the scenes to get that person to the highlight reel moment of their life that so many of us want.  For so many people they see someone walking in a true relationship with God, they see the freedom, the peace, the joy that person walks in and we want it…but we aren’t willing to dive in and do the work needed to experience the harvest or Spiritual Fruit that comes with it, this is a major reason that so few find that narrow path to God.  We just have no interest in doing the work, cleaning up the mess, diving in, and engaging in the ordinary everyday tasks needed to experience our best lives…and I will take it a step further, we aren’t willing to engage the messiest and most challenging area of our lives to grow through discipleship into the people we want to be, and that is by turning into the pain and challenges of our hearts and working through that with God.  This is the hard work, the “heart work” that so many don’t engage in, they have no interest in it.  They go to God to relieve some pressure in their lives but have no interest in truly engaging God in a life-changing way.  They don’t want to address the heart and while they won’t say it out loud are just fine living life the way they want, and if there is enough pain, they will come to God or church to release some pressure or offload some emotion, but never experience their true life in Christ, they never experience the transformational life change that happens as we choose to dive in and get dirty and do the heart work needed to experience our true, full, whole lives found in God.  We need to understand that just like life, your job, your financial freedom, your relationships won’t fall into your lap…neither will Spiritual Transformation and Freedom.  We see this all through our Bibles…it just won’t fall into our laps which is why so few find it…they don’t want to deal with the mess, the work of it all.

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  NIV

God says this won’t fall into your lap.  You will find me when you seek me with all your heart…wholeheartedly.  If we look at that Scripture, I keep referencing through this talk about how few find the narrow path to God in the Message version, Jesus is saying the same thing!

Matthew 7:13 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life — to God! — is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG

Spiritual growth takes effort and work…it is messy at times as we dive into the heart issues we all face, and few are willing to do the work.  Yes, Jesus says His teaching is easy and light, but the fact is dealing with our hearts and deeper issues is not easy and can be messy.  It is vigorous and requires our total attention, as we seek God with all our heart, and we can be sure that when we do, we will find Him…but so few do, so few are willing to do the work, to get dirty, to take what feels like a risk and engage.

So, let’s talk about this and I want you to think about your life for a moment because this is very important.  Are you willing to dive in and engage?  Let’s start with your everyday life.  How about in your relationships?  Do you engage people and relationships?  This isn’t always easy and frankly can be a very messy area of our lives…I will tell you this is a challenge for me, especially after 20-plus years serving MRC and dealing with so many people coming and going, and the hurts that come with it.  Life with people is messy and difficult, isn’t it?   In so many ways it’s easier to not engage people, isn’t it?  As a husband and a father, it can be easier to check out, rather than to dive in and engage my loved ones and lead them in life as so many of their choices and instincts seem to push against my goals and desires for them…it’s messy, it takes work but it’s important.  It’s funny we love the statement Solomon makes in Proverbs 27 about iron sharpening iron, don’t we?  We see this on shirts and posters a lot.

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. NIV

The concept of iron sharpening isn’t a soft and easy process, it’s a violent process of the iron clashing together to make the other better…and so it is with relationships.  They aren’t easy, but in the challenge and the mess, there is growth…just like in the waiting and the adversity we saw earlier.  So I want to ask you this.  Are you willing to engage your loved ones, and people around you even when it is hard or uncomfortable, or would you rather keep the stable clean?  The kids can be a challenge, your marriage isn’t all happy and easy moments, and the people around you will hurt and disappoint you, so what do you do with all of that? Remember this isn’t easy, but we are to live as Jesus lived, and Paul explains this about Jesus in Romans…

Romans 15:3 That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. MSG

Listen, I get it…whether in life, or your career, or your relationships with others it can feel easier or safer to not engage.  You can’t screw up something if you never try, but you can’t succeed either and we need to understand this.  It may feel easier, cleaner, or safer to never make the choices to engage in life, or others, or even God but in the end, it is the primary reason we are not experiencing all that could be in Him.  For so many of us coming to know the real you, the one God sees in you is a scary thought. Letting go of the pain and hurts and even sin in our lives can feel unsafe, or even dangerous.  Somehow we have determined that it is better to hold on tight to our old way of living to the point where it feels scary or unsafe to engage God and let go of sin and deal with our hearts, our hurts, and all of our junk.  But on the other side of that hard work, that “heart work” is everything we always wanted and never thought we could obtain.  On the other side of the messy stable, and all the hard work of taking care of that ox, is the harvest, the result we have always wanted.  But it just won’t fall into your lap!

“Be willing to tolerate the discomfort necessary for growth.” Pete Scazzero

It is heartbreaking to watch so few make the choice to engage God fully.  It’s amazing to see how true Jesus’ words are about the narrow path that so few find, and the number one reason is we just aren’t willing to roll up our sleeves and deal with the mess and the work, to find all we always wanted in life.  So, ask yourself today, how are you doing with all of this?  Are you willing to do the hard work, the “heart work” of truly walking into life-change?  So many say they want it, but they just aren’t willing to get messy and engage.

“But an authentic relationship with Christ also takes us into the depths – the shadows, the strongholds, and the darkness deep within our own souls that must be purged. Surrendering to this inward and downward journey is difficult and painful.”  Pete Scazzero

So today, we discussed how to accomplish our goals, hopes, and dreams in life, which is so important.  We learned that the challenges that keep so many of us from it come in the waiting because it just takes too long.  We get discouraged in the adversity and challenges we face and can end up quitting or not pushing through because it is so hard to push through all that life throws at us and we looked at the reality that for so many of us, we aren’t accomplishing what we want in life because we just aren’t willing to dive in and engage, to get dirty and do the hard work needed to get where we want to go.  This is so important when it comes to our lives, our goals, and our hopes and dreams…but for me, when we look at these principles as it comes to our Spiritual Lives, the stakes are that much higher.  So please reflect on this today…it is so rare to see someone truly experience all that life could be in Christ, and we begin to understand that God is doing work in us through the time and the waiting, through the pain and the adversity, and it all comes together when we make the choice to roll up our sleeves and get dirty.  It won’t just fall in your lap, it takes energy, it takes work, it takes time, and it will give us much to push through, but in the end, it is all worth it…yet so rare to see.

“The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are.” Peter Scazzero

Or as Jesus said…

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. NIV

Why?  Because it takes time.  It will take longer than we think and most of us want immediate results.  Because there will be adversity to push through and most of us don’t want to push through adversity.  Because it will take work and the reality is for most of us, we just aren’t willing to engage, get dirty, and do the work needed to accomplish our goals, hopes, and dreams and to experience all that could be if we truly engaged God in a real way.