Today we are wrapping up our study of the book of Proverbs, and as excited as we are for our fall series, we are also bummed to see this series come to an end.  Proverbs is an incredible book, written by the wisest person to ever walk this Earth not named Jesus, who not only was wise but generous enough to share his wisdom with all of us, which we are so grateful for because let’s face it there are times in our lives where we all find ourselves wishing for the instruction manual of life.   Life just isn’t all that easy, is it?  We talk often about this, but 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 with our choices, our 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 would allow our lives to go better than they are.  And there is.  It’s called wisdom and we went on a journey to not only learn of this incredible thing called wisdom but also how to apply it to our own lives practically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When we do, life is just different.  It’s just better.  It doesn’t mean that adversity and painful moments won’t happen, but we handle them differently.  The reality is that life is hard and can often leave us wishing there was an instruction manual or guide to help us along the way and we learned that this is exactly what Solomon gave us, the instructions on how to live our best lives possible in our short time on Earth.  So, this book has incredible value for us today.  Solomon himself explains to us that this is our instruction manual for life.

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

Life is so difficult, and we all find ourselves in places just wishing for the instruction manual for life…thankfully Solomon gave it to us, and it is just packed full of great handles for life.  Solomon walks us through everything from very practical insights that can help us with our day-to-day lives, to very deep spiritual insights that can help us truly connect to God in a real way, which is why we set up the study in two parts.  We spent the first part walking through the entire book of Proverbs, reading it as a Spiritual Family, then we circled back and dove deeper into some of the bigger topics that Solomon came back to so often in this manual for living.  That gave us a great opportunity to not just read and move on, but to grab hold of these words of wisdom and truly learn the way of the wise.  So, as we come to the epic conclusion of this incredible book, we are going to look back and go over some of the things we learned on our journey to wisdom.

We learned what wisdom is and what wisdom is not.  

It’s interesting but heading into this study of wisdom I think we all would have equated wisdom with intelligence and how much knowledge someone has, and we learned that wisdom is not the same thing as having knowledge or being smart.  In fact, you can have a lot of knowledge, you can know a lot of facts, truths, and principles and not be wise.  Wisdom is knowledge AND the capacity to make use of it or live it out.  This makes wisdom a big deal! 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 possible. 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.  All through that portion of the series, I had some fun talking to you about two people, both Christian, both very intelligent, both with a lot of knowledge on whatever the issue was we were discussing…but only one was wise.  Do you remember that?  We had some fun with all kinds of topics from things like rest, to money, to relationships, and even things like that we get a little uncomfortable talking about at church like alcohol.  Here’s an example of those two people we kept looking at, this was so much fun!  Let’s say we have two people, both Christian, both love God, and both are intelligent and knowledgeable…but only one is wise.  These two people both know God commands them to rest.  They both also know and understand that a human being needs rest and sleep.  So, they both have the knowledge that Sabbath rest is important, and they both understand that it is where they truly disconnect from life, work, social media, and all of it.  They both know that, but only one is wise.  It is the wise one who takes the knowledge and applies it to their lives.  They stop and rest while the unwise push 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 you know to your life!  This is why wisdom is so key to us experiencing our best lives possible on this side of eternity.

We learned that humility is the key, and pride is the issue that blocks us from wisdom.

It is incredibly clear as you walk through Solomon’s manual of living just how important humility is and how dangerous pride is in our lives.  Scriptures like this are found all through Proverbs…

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  NIV

It’s humility that opens us up to learning, growing, listening, and obtaining wisdom, and it’s pride that never allows that to take place in our lives!  Humility is a clear understanding of who we are and who we are not.  It’s standing in the reality that we aren’t the center of life or the answer to all questions, needs, and issues, but God is, and I would say that when we have humility in us, we trust God to do what we clearly understand we cannot.  A massive concept with incredible benefits that Solomon brings up often!

Proverbs 15:33 Fear-of-God is a school in skilled living — first you learn humility, then you experience glory. MSG

Humility is so key to us finding and living our best lives possible because, without it, we won’t have the ability to learn the way of the wise.

We learned about the fear of the Lord.

Solomon talks of the fear of the Lord often and we learned that the fear of the Lord is essential, the literal foundation to us obtaining wisdom.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ESV

We also learned what the “fear of the Lord” is.  So many of us associate fear negatively for good reason, but it is important for us to grasp why if God loves us we would “fear” Him.  Fearing God is not about being terrorized or scared of God but seeing Him for who He is!  It is all about reverence or awe of God, respect, and an ability to recognize his holiness, power, and complete authority over your life.  This is a big deal and comes up all through our Scriptures, and we learned that this fear is reverence or awe of the Lord, but the phrasing is interesting, isn’t it?  As we reflected on this, something very important came out of that concept that I wanted to revisit today.  Shouldn’t we run from things that we fear?  Snakes, fire, pain, you name it, but fear doesn’t seem to be something we want to draw close to.  But I want you to see this today.  Fear is interesting because the thing you fear tends to be the thing that really determines a lot of your life.  It can consume you.  Have you ever thought about that?  Think about things we are afraid of and what they lead us to do.  If you are afraid of the dark, what do you do?  You stay in the light and avoid the dark.  If you are afraid of heights, what do you do?  You stay on the ground and avoid heights.  If you have a fear of not having enough money to pay your bills, what do you do?  Work, worry, save, never spend any money.  If you have a fear of relationships, you spend your life avoiding people.  If you fear the future, you spend your life focused on and living in the past.  If you fear rejection, you spend your whole life trying not to be rejected, probably pretending to be someone you are not, and losing your true self in the process.  What you fear can run your life.  This really impacted me as I really tried to center on Solomon’s constant encouragement to “fear the Lord.” As I reflected on all of that, I realized something.  We are told to “NOT BE AFRAID, OR FEAR NOT” 365 times in our Bible, so this is a big deal…but there is one thing we are told to fear and that is God.  The only fear I am commanded to have in Scripture is fear of the Lord.  Maybe Solomon was wiser than we even realize.  What if we truly only feared the Lord and He was our focal point in life?  What we fear tends to drive our lives, and we are to humble ourselves and allow God to do that.  Those who fear the Lord do.  What would life look like if the only thing that we truly feared was God, who is perfect love, and casts out all fear?  Fear of the Lord leads to total peace because you truly see who God is, and what He truly is in and for your life, so there is truly nothing but peace when the only thing we fear is the Lord.  Another essential key to finding wisdom and living our best lives possible.

We learned that the most important thing you can do is take care of your heart.

Going into the study of wisdom I wonder how many of us realized just how much we would be diving into our heart condition.  Solomon is very clear, the most important thing we can do, above all else…we must guard our hearts.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. NIV

I want you to see this, the most important thing we can do…above all else, we are to guard our hearts.  Why?  What does it mean that it is the wellspring of our lives?  Well, check it out in the NLT version, this helps us see something important about it.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. NLT

Solomon is letting us see that the driver, the engine of your life, the thing that is determining the way your life goes is your heart.  You could say that your heart is who you really are.  So, the most important thing you can do is guard and care for it, and make sure that your heart is full of Godly health and wisdom…because it’s our hearts that lead us through life.  It is your heart that is seen, heard, and felt by those around you.  It’s your heart that takes knowledge and makes it wisdom…your heart is a big deal.  You may be able to pretend you are something you are not from time to time, but your heart condition will reveal who you really are, it comes out…and Scripture shows us time and time again that your heart condition is truly determining how you live, what you say, the choices you make, what you value, how you relate to people, every aspect of your life is seen, heard and felt through the condition of your heart.  Your heart condition is who you really are, and you just can’t hide who you really are…no matter how hard you try.  Life, people, and this world will squeeze it out and expose the real you.  It will be revealed, and it is.  Remember wisdom is taking knowledge and living it out in our lives and the heart is what determines our ability or inability to do that!  This is why it is the most important thing to care for because without it we can’t walk in the way of the wise, we can’t experience our best lives possible.

We learned the importance and benefits of trusting the Lord.

You know it is so interesting, we talk a lot about finding and experiencing our best lives possible and I will say I think this concept of trusting the Lord is a huge key to whether we will or we will not find our best lives on this side of eternity.  Solomon brings up the concept of trusting God a lot, it is so important.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. NIV

This is such a popular and essential word of wisdom.  We see humility here.  We see the fear of the Lord here.  We see surrender here, and it leads to incredible peace and health in our lives.  When you recognize God’s awesome power and knowledge, you’re more than willing to let him run the show and you can do something that may sound crazy…you can relax! This concept of trusting God in all things, at all times, leads to some incredible benefits in our lives…we find peace where stress was, we can slow down and relax and rest where constant work and tension was, and we find strength and comfort in all different circumstances from good and peaceful times to scary and painful times too, and we find that strength and comfort in ways we never could in our own strength…it all happens as we learn to trust Him in ALL things, at ALL times.  This next thing we learned I believe goes hand in hand with trusting God and could literally just continue the concept of trusting God at all times with all things.

We learned that in the end, we can make our plans, but The Lord determines our lives.

The concept of trusting the Lord in every way is very difficult and this line from Solomon is just so profound.

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. NLT

This to me is a lesson that we all are being taught every day.  We can make our plans but wow, life doesn’t always unfold the way we would like, does it?  Do you know what is interesting?  As we learn to truly let go of control and trust God, we start to understand that is actually a very good thing.  As we spend time with God, we get to know Him.  As we get to know Him, we begin to wrap our hearts and minds around just how much our Heavenly Father loves us, cares for us, and provides and protects us in our lives. We can get to this place where we can admit that God may see things better than we do.  I can tell you there have been so many moments in my life where I have walked in so much pain or hurt over things not going the way I thought they should…only to later realize how grateful I should be that they didn’t go the way I wanted!  All the stress, tension, and pain of wishing things weren’t the way they were, while God was protecting, providing, and doing what truly needed to be done.  This is another great benefit of trust and wisdom, the wise make plans but understand that in the end God determines how it will go, and sees a much bigger picture, much clearer than we do!  This realization is a game-changer for every aspect of our lives from our physical, to our emotional, to our spiritual health.

We learned that how we respond to life in both good and bad times is very important.

Solomon talks so often about how we respond to life.  He often talks about how we relate and respond to people.  He also talks a lot about our heart condition and how it is revealed in how we respond to life, and people, and is most definitely seen, felt, and heard in the challenging moments of our lives.

Proverbs 17:3 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart. NLT

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.  None of us like adversity and tension but it is an important part of our lives.  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?  Through the trials and challenges of our lives, we are developing and growing into the very people God called us to be, mature and complete, not lacking anything.  We learn a lot about who we are as we walk through adversity, and we know and can count on life challenges continuing to hit our lives.  The wise learn and grow from these moments of their lives, and while they still hurt and must deal with it all, they are better for it all.

We learned the importance of having people in our lives.

You know life with people isn’t easy, and in so many ways it can feel like life would be easier without all the people in it, but life with people is so important.  It will be messy and cause tension in your life at times but just like other forms of challenges and adversity that hit our lives, these messier moments with people are essential for our development as people.  I say that confidently while also wanting you to know that it isn’t easy for me to engage people at times either, but it is so important.  Nothing reveals to us our relationship with God more than our relationship with people.  This doesn’t mean it will go well all the time because we people all have hurts, insecurities, and wounds in our lives that can block us from the deep and pure relationships we all desire and need in our lives but as Solomon says we need people in our lives, and they help us grow into the very people God created us to be all along.

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.  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?  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

We continued to learn the importance of seeking God.

You know we just never seem to drift too far away from this idea of seeking God, do we?  It is so important, yet something that so few people truly seek God in their lives.

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. NIV

This is such an essential part of our faith, to seek the Lord in all things, with all our heart, mind, and soul.  Well, how do we do that?  We immerse ourselves in God’s Word, we pour out our hearts to the Lord.  We stay connected to Him because when we do, we can do things we could never do or be without staying connected to Him!  Remember Jesus’ words?

John 15:5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” NLT

What Jesus means by that last sentence when He says apart from me you can do nothing is that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  We must seek Him, when we do and find Him, we can experience our best lives possible…when we are seeking God, we can be people who bring life, not take it from others!

We learned that those pursuing God and Wisdom are energy givers, not energy takers.  

There are benefits to this way of the wise, like having the ability to see others, connect better, and an ability to prioritize our heart, mind, and soul.  This leads to a healthier inner world.  When we are healthy, we have margin and life to bring to others, without this health in our lives we not only struggle but we also take energy and life from other people.  We just have nothing to give, and still have things that we need!

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. NLT

I love this verse and it is so true, we learned in this study that our hearts are felt by those around us, and I want you to see that those who give energy have life and energy to give because they are walking with God, seeking Him!  Those who take energy have no life or energy to give so they take it from others because they aren’t seeking God.  Think about your choices.  Do you choose to build into your inner world and relationship with God?  Those who take energy do nothing to build into their own heart condition, so they sap the strength of those around them, and the shame of it is, they probably don’t know that they are sapping the strength of those around them because they walk away feeling so good and so energized…while the person they just took from walks away feeling drained and exhausted.  So, which are you?  Do you bring life to people or take it from them?  This is important because a disciple of Christ is walking with God who has filled their hearts with love and gives us life to overflowing, so they have plenty to give.  A follower of Christ is not a taker of energy but should be a bringer of life and strength to those around them.  Remember there is no such thing as a “non-practicing” Christian.

Listen, we love you all so much and we are so grateful to have spent the last few months working through the book of Proverbs with you.  This truly is a manual of living.  It can lead us to our best lives possible on this side of eternity, which is such a big deal.  Hopefully, you have learned a lot throughout this series, this is just a list of 10 things we learned but this book and this study have given us so many insights for our lives.  In every area of our lives from our inner worlds, our emotional, spiritual, even physical worlds, to our relationships, right down to very practical parts of our lives from work to choices, and on and on I could go.  So, what impacted you the most?  What will you take with you from this study?  How did Solomon impact your heart, mind, and soul?  Why do you think that particular statement or teaching was so impactful to your heart and mind?  Keep pressing in on that!  Proverbs is loaded with so many thoughts, and so much insight that it would take a lifetime to truly engage it all well, and we want to encourage you to keep pouring into God’s Word, you will find something new and important each time you invest into God’s Word, it is so important to our lives.  You have this manual of living, and you do not have to put it away, keep going back and engaging it as needed! Thank you for studying this manual of living with us, we hope you enjoyed, learned, and grew and are truly walking the way of the wise!