John Wesley once observed a disagreement between two women. One was speaking vehemently and gesturing wildly, while the other stood perfectly still—tranquil and unperturbed. Finally the first woman stamped her foot and shouted, “Speak! so I can have something more to say to you!”
This is so true. The more I study the Proverbs I find that the Lord commends to us silence. That is no less true for the passage we come to this evening. In it we find again the wisdom of silence over against a great amount of words. He who says the least shows himself to be the wisest man.
The verse before us begins with the foolish man—the man who is not afraid to use words. It says, “he who belittles his neighbor lacks sense.”
I. The talker
Some of you may have “he despises his neighbor” and you might have noted the difference between our versions. That would be a good translation and get at the essence of what is here. But our versions are not contradictory. To despise someone is to belittle them. That is to say, if you despise someone you look down on them. And the way you show your contempt for them is by speaking or acting in a way that is demeaning.
The Bible frequently draws on nature and the natural world in order to present us with spiritual truth. The book of Proverbs is especially keen on this.
Really, the book of Proverbs is something of a biblical zoo. There are all kinds of animals contained in this one section of Scripture.
All of these are presented to us as pictures. They are metaphors which depict God’s truth. And from these critters we are to gain knowledge and understanding. We are to take to heart the lessons that they teach us.
The passage that is before us this morning passage is one of those you come across as you walk through the proverbial zoo. In this passage we are presented with a case study on a bird that has gone AWOL. And Solomon wants us to think about how foul this fowl really is. And he wants us to understand how foul it is when we demonstrate the same kind of restless spirit.
It is my hope that as we work through this lesson today you too will be convinced of how foolish it is when we senselessly abandon the place God has marked out for us by his Providence or rage against the calling that He has bestowed upon us in respects to our different realms we find ourselves in society.
In order to do this, of course, we first need to make sure we catch the principle that God is laying out here in this passage. It’s important that we break down what is being taught here. And once we get the overall lesson, we can then talk about some concrete examples of how it may be applied.
So what is this proverb teaching us? What is Solomon getting at here? Well, simply put he’s talking about how disastrous discontentment can be. To put it another way, he’s attempting to show the folly of radical independence, or what we sometimes call autonomy.
For those of you who are younger, autonomy is another word for radical independence. It is where you seek to live only for yourself and to be free from any outside control. Literally it means “to be a law unto yourself.” So, to be autonomous, you break away from your parents, you break away from the church. You just want to get away (like this little bird). You want to break away from the nest and all your responsibilities and all your attachments.
And Solomon is trying to point out how foolish it is to do that. And the way he does it is by means of this bird that leaves his nest.
Think about birds for a moment. The thing about birds is that they have nests. God has given them a place in life. That place is their nest. That is its home. Birds are so tightly knit to their nests that they are almost synonymous. Wherever you find a bird, you are going to find a nest not too far away. That’s because the bird’s life revolves around its nest. She works hard to build that nest. Then she lays eggs in that nest. When the eggs hatch, she’s always fluttering to and from that nest in order to feed the little baby birds. Sure, she may fly off to scrounge up some worms, but she always comes back. That nest is her life.
The nest is her source of protection too. If a storm comes along, what does that bird do? It hunkers down in the nest, doesn’t it? You don’t see birds flying around much when the wind and rain start kicking up, do you? If you do, it’s probably because the little guy is high tailing it home. He knows that if he lingers too long at the bird feeder, things are going to go well for him. He builds his nest because he knows that it is not just his home, it is his fortress in times of need. It’s his place of security.
No matter how you look at it birds are naturally connected to their nests. God has knit that into the very fabric of creation. You might even say that God has ordained a natural connection between a bird and its nest.
But what would happen if a bird did wander off from its nest? What if that bird rebelled against its calling to tend to that nest and just took off? What is going to happen to that bird?
Let’s say that the bird just decided, “You know what, I just want to see the world!” “You know, life in the nest: It’s a bit of a drag.” Or, perhaps she got tired of all those silly little chicks squawking at her every time she came home, ranting and raving about trying to be the first one in line to get the worm that she brought. She just gets fed up with it and she takes off. She wants to go somewhere calm. She just has a Calgon moment.
You guys remember those commercials? There’s the mother who is surrounded by a chaotic home and she cries out, “Calgon, take me away!” And poof, she’s whisked off all by herself to a luxurious bathtub where she gets this wonderful, peaceful spa-like treatment.
What happens if a mother bird has a Calgon moment? She just takes off and leaves her home without any intent of coming back? Well, that bird is going to die. At the very least, it’s going to have a pretty hard life. She’s not going to have a secure place when the storms come round. She’s probably not going to have a good night’s sleep either because she doesn’t have her bed. And, quite likely, she’s going to be exposed to predators. Some little kitty cat will find her to be an easy target because she isn’t safely tucked away in her nest.
More than that, her chicks are going to suffer, aren’t they? They can’t survive without mamma. They are dependent upon mamma. Their lives are very much wrapped up in mamma bird. They need her presence. They need her care. Without mama bird, the little babies will languish away.
If she forsakes the place that God has allotted her, then—in all reality—all hell breaks loose. If she has a willy nilly attitude to her calling in life, then every aspect of that nest life will falter and fail. In a word, “death prevails.”
And Solomon says that is what happens any time one of us skips out on our God’ allotted calling in life. If we put our personal pleasure above our God given place in life, things are not going to go well for us. When we run from the calling God has given us, we are running from God himself. And if you are running from God it means you are running right into hell itself.
God has given us a place in life—each of us has a nest so to speak. God has a home for us, and it’s our job to be content there. It is our job to be faithful to that home and to that calling. If we are not, then we will end up flitting away and, as a result, we’ll bring all kinds of havoc upon ourselves.
Charles Bridges, in his commentary, gives the illustration of Dinah from the book of Genesis. Dinah was one of the daughters of Jacob, and it says in Genesis 34 that “Dinah… went out to see the women of the land.”
Now, this doesn’t mean she went out for a stroll through the neighborhood. It isn’t like she just moved to town and she thought, “Well, I’ll go and meet some of my new neighbors.” When it says that she “went out to see the women of the land” it means that she wanted to hang out with them. She wanted to see them and be a part of them. What she was doing was leaving her home. She wasn’t necessarily physically moving away. But something spiritual was happening. She was attracted to these gentile women and the bond she had to her home and to her father began to break down.
You see, Dinah was called to be at home. She wasn’t supposed to be mixing with these heathen people. And you know what happened? She ended up being seized by a man and sexually assaulted! The moment she forsook her calling to be an Israelite, she put herself at risk.
You can understand what happened there. It probably wasn’t that she up and said, “I’m out of here.” It was probably something that seemed innocent to her. She probably thought, “Wow, those gentile women have such nice clothes. They always seem to be having so much fun.” And she might not have set out to do anything terrible. She probably just wanted to make a few friends.
But what was happening was that she was forsaking the safety of her home. God called her to submit to the authority of her parents. She was called to stay free from the defilement of wrong companions. And you might say she didn’t recognize her place as a girl. She probably should have had a chaperone of some sorts—someone who could protect her from perverts like that.
The thing to note though is that it started with a little discontentment. She wasn’t happy in her home. Life just seemed better with these Gentile women. But once she left her nest, she walked right through the gates of hell.
Now doesn’t Dinah’s story sound like the story of every teenager in America? It is something of the college bound boy and girl, isn’t it? So many kids are discontent at home and they can’t wait to go off to college because they’ll finally be free! No more parents looking over their shoulders. It’s time for them to spread their wings and be independent.
Of course, college isn’t altogether wrong. But it can be a time of radical independence and autonomy. And as a result you can fall into a lot of sin and misery. And you have to be careful that you are not breaking with your home and the God ordained accountability system that we have in your parents and church.
You can see the principle though, can’t you? You can see the disastrous effects of discontent. God’s given you a home. God’s given you a calling. And you are required to be faithful to that calling. You need to seek to please God in whatever situation he has placed you. If you try to please yourself and break free from the responsibility that he has placed on you, no matter how bad you think you have it, you will find you will be worse off than where you began.
And I want you to apply this to your relationships, be they in your home or here in your church home.
I don’t think that I need to elaborate too much on what it is like when a husband or wife become unhappy with their relationship. You know, things start getting a little turbulent in their nest. The two of you were little love birds building a nest together. But kids came along. The love life took a dive. Bills started rolling in. Work had its demands. All of a sudden there is the constant bickering. And it seeks like the best thing to do might be to leave the nest. There will be peace, right? Everyone will be happy, or at least happier, right?
That’s what a lot of people think. But it’s not true. There is never peace. I’ve not met one couple who has separated who could say they were better off now than if they had just worked out their problems together. And its not just you, but the baby birds in your nest are affected too. What happens to the chicks when a couple separates? They experience all kinds of problems! Not only are they susceptible to higher rates of divorce, but studies say that they have problems well into their adult years. They tend to have trust issues, they have trouble articulating their emotions, they experience more bouts of fear and anxiety, among other things.
Rather than seek that autonomy, it would be much more profitable for all parties involved to repent and work out the problems as God has called you to.
The same goes for your relationship with the church too. A local church is our spiritual nest, you might say. Each of us is called to be a part of a church home so that we can serve Christ, worship, and be edified by the means of grace. That’s what the early church did all the time. The Christians gathered together in a fellowship under the authority of elders. That’s why you could write to Philemon and the church in his house.
And it is important that we don’t sever that relationship for light and frivolous reasons. Do you know how detrimental it is when someone will not take his covenant with a church seriously? It has huge ramifications, for yourself, your family, and the wider body of Christ.
Now, granted, there are times to leave a church. But that’s after you’ve exhausted the God given path for that. But let’s admit it: most people who leave churches do not do it for biblical reasons. Or they are just jumping ship without following the due process.
At my former church, when I would do the new members class, I would actually give the prospective members a complaint form as part of the materials that I handed out. I wanted people to complain in our church (at least, complain in the right way). I gave them a piece of paper that helped them spell out their problem and present it to us. If someone had a beef with me or something that the elders did, they had a way to call us out and start the process of reconciliation. And if we didn’t respond properly to their complaint, it would be the presbytery’s job to take up your cause for you.
Church hopping is more of the norm today though. Typically people are not willing to put forth the effort that is required to maintain the peace, purity, and unity of the church. People are not content to deal with the problems in a Biblical way and they up and leave the nest without much thought or effort. And that is foolish.
You know, that’s the essence of autonomy. And the whole nest is affected by it. Everyone associated with that church ends up suffering, from the missionary who doesn’t get as much financial support to the guy sitting next to you in the pew who doesn’t have the opportunity to benefit from your gifts and graces. And you too, no matter how spiritual you may be, no matter how well you may “feed yourself” (as they say), there is nothing like the edification that Mark spoke of last week.
In speaking of the body of Christ Paul said, “If one member suffers, all suffer.” That’s how closely knit we are together. And we need to do everything we can to preserve that body. We need to be faithful to that nest.
Imagine if Jesus took that same kind of attitude. I mean, if anyone could have been discontent with his lot in life, it would have been Jesus, right? That cross that he bore wasn’t the nicest thing in the world. And when they taunted him by saying, “If he is God, let him come down off there and save himself.” Don’t think that thought hadn’t crossed his mind. He would have been tempted every moment to leap off that thing.
But God the Father had called him to give up his life. He was called to die so that our sin might be atoned for and the church might be presented spotless before him. Jesus never left the nest—so to speak. The only nest he left was the one he had in heaven—and that was because the Father called him to it. And it was so that he might bring you back to the Father with him.
Well, I could give about a thousand other instances and applications. We could go through every calling God has given us. We could go on to talk about work home and how we have responsibility to be content in our sphere of labor and how we shouldn’t just ditch our commitment to work without the proper planning and such.
We could go on and on. But the thing that we must remember is that this is ultimately pointing to our home with God. In some way or other, we have all played the part of the prodigal son who was not content to live with his Father. Somehow or other we have flittered away from the Lord. And some of you might be in that situation right now. You might be living in rebellion to God and you are not content to serve him. You are more content living your own way than following Christ and obeying his law.
Well, let me just remind you that when you fly from God, you embark on the path that leads to death. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death.
But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. And if you turn from your sin and return to make your home in God, the Lord promises that you will have life and have it to the full.
A parishioner once approached Martin Luther for some personal counseling. He seemed to have been troubled with what was then called “a melancholy spirit.” Today we would call it depression. The parishioner confided in Luther hoping that he could provide him with some solace. The world seemed against him, all seemed dark, and he had no energy or desire for life.
Luther knew the worth of good old fashioned work. He certainly did not wish to downplay this person’s spiritual and emotional struggle. Luther would certainly have acknowledged it. But basically he said, “Life must go on and some physical labor is good for the soul.” (He probably thought that there is nothing that will make one’s outlook on life better than a nice big, old whiff of manure. That will cheer you right up!)
One of the very first institutions of creation was work. Adam’s life was to have a natural rhythm to it: It was to be a pattern of work and worship. Six days he was to handle the plow, the seventh day he was to handle the hymnbook. The Sabbath was there for a variety of reasons. But one of those reasons was to assist him in his work. He rested and was renewed for his job. And the woman that was given to him, she was there to help him in his life’s work.
Adam’s life was to center around the Lord, but it also revolved around the Lord’s calling for his life.
The same is true for us. A seventh of our lives is to be spent in the holy contemplation of God. But the majority of our lives is to be dedicated to our everyday labors and employments.
Our proverb this morning touches on that topic which consumes much of our lives. This morning we are talking about labor. Our life is a life of labor. In this proverb we find three lessons on labor to help us become better servants of God in the work force.
The first lesson we learn concerns the dignity of manual labor.
I. The dignity of manual labor
The first part of our verse talks about a man who “works his land.” It is obviously talking about a farmer.
The ancient world was mainly one of agriculture. Most of the people made their living off of the soil. And, as you know, that kind of work was toilsome work. It caused calluses. It involved sweat and oftentimes created blisters. It was an occupation where one worked with his or her hands, put in many back breaking hours, and involved a great deal of sweat. It was labor intensive labor.
Yet this occupation, as we see here and throughout the Bible, is a noble profession. And this labor, which was Man’s first vocation, represents all physical or labor-intensive occupations.
Each calling in life, no matter how insignificant it may be in our eyes, is blessed of the Lord. As long as it is a lawful employment—that is to say, as long as your work is not illegal—it is a noble work and there is dignity in it.
We are currently living in a day where we deem certain jobs as more noble than others. Many people think that a physically oriented job is “lower,” or “a more demeaning job” than say working in an office or teaching in a college classroom.
We see this often when people are introduced to one another. Someone might look to get acquainted. They might say, “What is it you do for a living?” The person would respond with, “I work for the government.” That sounds like such a dignified profession.
Then when the question is reciprocated, one might find themselves a bit ashamed to answer because they don’t see their job as significant. They might bashfully say, “Well, all I do is pick up trash.” We might even try to laugh it off by saying, “I’m a grease monkey.” With a little joke we hope that the conversation will quickly move to a different topic.
Our denigration of manual labor has become so ingrained in our society that we have sought to make up for it through political correctness. We now label jobs with pretty titles such as “Sanitation worker” or “Administrative Assistant.” We think that these fancy titles will give more meaning and dignity to our work. We think that these titles will make our work more meaningful.
But the Bible shows us that every job, no matter how insignificant, is an honorable profession. Adam was called to tend the garden of God. Abraham was called to watch over sheep. Other Bible figures were called to be craftsmen and artisans. Even our Lord Jesus Christ slung a hammer and dirtied his body while stooping to the ground. He did not enter a more noble calling when he began his public ministry. No, he simply changed from one praiseworthy job to another.
One of the greatest things that came out of the Reformation was the biblical idea of vocation. Before the Reformers emerged on the scene, life was divided into what was called the sacred and secular. People thought that if you really wanted to please God—if you really wanted a job in this world that would really mean something in the eyes of the Lord—then you would get a “sacred” job. You would become a monk or priest. People who worked the land or hammered out steel were considered second class citizens.
But with a return to the Bible, came a return to the biblical understanding of vocation. Luther would note the dignity of manual labor frequently in his ministry. He would say things like, “God himself will milk the cows through him whose vocation that is.” And “He who engages in the lowliness of his work performs God's work, be he lad or king.”
I know that this teaching is still needed today, even in evangelical circles. I was talking with a friend of mine who worked in a local factory. As we talked I came to see that he had a low view regarding his manufacturing job. He said that his real calling (meaning what was in his mind the highest calling), was to preach the gospel and win souls for Christ.
But a preacher’s work is no more lofty than one who turns bolts for a living. Each of us has been called by God to do a special work. God has ordained us to go about each of our callings. He has gifted some particular people with a green thumb. Others he has given the ability to drive a flatbed truck. Some can poke needles; others can change diapers and tend to the affairs of the house. Each of us fulfills a role in this world. And each one should remember that our work is a work filled with great dignity.
But our passage talks about something more. It not only talks about work’s dignity, it talks about work’s diligence. That is to say our diligence will be rewarded.
II. The reward of diligent labor
Look at our verse again. It says that the one who works his land “will have plenty of bread.”
Here is a man who has worked hard. He has poured his energy into his work. He has applied all his strength and knowledge to his occupation. Now, when the harvest time comes, he will not be disappointed. He is going to be rewarded for his diligence. Literally, he will be able to eat the fruits of his labors.
This is God’s ordinary working in the world. The one who punches the clock everyday and works at his job heartily, will find that he will never lack sufficient food. His stomach will always be satisfied.
Why is that? It is because he has obeyed the Lord’s commission to work.
I just mentioned that out of the reformation there came the biblical doctrine of vocation. That is to say, every calling in life, as long as it is a lawful calling, is a noble calling. It has a dignity to it. But hand in hand with that doctrine there sprang up what we now call “the Protestant work ethic.” People saw that God not only called them to salvation through faith in Christ, but they saw that every area of their lives was to be governed by the Word of God. That included one’s occupation.
Preachers began to talk about the 10 commandments again. And when they came to the 8th commandment, the people heard what it really meant when the Bible said “Thou shalt not steal.” And they began to hear sermons on passages like Colossians 3, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your might, as unto the Lord.”
They heard that industry is one of God’s guidelines for life. And as a result, during the time of the reformation, there came to be a rise in economic prosperity. A middle class emerged out of the radically polarized nobility and peasant classes.
What was really happening? God was rewarding the obedience—the diligence-- of his people.
Time and again in the book of proverbs you will find that Solomon talks about the sluggard. He is someone who is idle. He will not work, and even when he does get out of bed and get to work, he won’t apply himself. He will chatter with the other employees’, shoot the breeze here and there, or milk a project for a long period of time. And you find that the Lord condemns that kind of person. He will suffer poverty.
But time and again in these proverbs you see that the industrious person is rewarded. God blesses him for his obedience. And here you see one of those forms of blessing: He may eat. But not only is his stomach full, but he is at ease. He doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is going to come from. That’s because his pantry is full. He not only has food, but he has food in abundance.
Think about the slothful man again. Being a sluggard he may work, but most likely he will not work much. He does enough to get by. But you know, when you’re just doing enough to get by, what oftentimes happens? You get behind. So you end up worrying.
We need to remember that the “life of ease” (i.e. the sluggard’s life) eventually leads to a life of ill-ease. It becomes a life of worry and frustration. But the industrious life—a life that might not necessarily be “the easy life”—that life leads to the more comfortable life.
I really want to press that home to you young people. A lot of young people think that their time in school doesn’t mean much. They think, “Hey, when I graduate, that’s when life is really going to start.” But that is not true. You are preparing for your future right now. And the work that you put in now, will determine how full your refrigerator is in the future.
You don’t have to grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer. Your area of work does not matter. What matters is your diligence. And your present diligence will put you all the farther ahead when you graduate. And the farther ahead you are then will mean the fewer worries you will have when it comes to your earthly needs. If you work now, you will find that the Lord will reward you richly later.
The labor of the obedient will not go overlooked. The Lord always regards the diligence of his people.
So when we think about the labor of our life, we need to remember the dignity of manual labor and the reward of diligent labor. But let’s look at the last part of the verse. It too teaches us a lesson about labor. It teaches us the folly of worthless labors.
III. The folly of worthless labors
It says, “He who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
A. Vain pursuits
Now, here you have someone who is working hard, but he is not getting anywhere. He is pursuing (following like a hound) a most elusive prey. It is a “worthless pursuit.” This venture may seem like it will pay good dividends, but in the end it --most likely—is not going to be profitable at all. It is going to leave you empty.
In other words, it is a gamble. It is the get rich quick scheme. It is the risky business venture. It is investing a lot in something that might end up leaving you with a little.
You might readily think of something like the lottery or the slot machines. You can invest a lot of money in such things. And they tout great prospects, don’t they? But what usually comes of it? The thing that you get is usually an empty pocket.
The Ohio lottery has advertisements on the radio and television. And those advertisements say how great it is to play the lotto. And at the end of every commercial it has a jingle that says, “Odds are, you’ll have fun.” Well, it should say, “Odds are, you’ll lose.”
Now there is nothing wrong with doing this as a leisure activity. Putting your money in a slot machine is just as moral as putting your money in a soda machine. In both cases you are getting a return. For one it is a can of soda pop. For the other it is the thrill of “playing the odds.” In both cases you have to consider whether or not it is proper stewardship of your money.
This proverb is not condemning that sort of recreation. What this proverb is getting at is investing yourself in such a venture. This proverb is telling us not to substitute a “easy, get rich quick scheme” for good old fashioned, hard work because if you do, you will end up with nothing.
Why is that? It is because God doesn’t bless the person who puts stock in that kind of practice. That’s why that person is said to “lack sense.” Because that person is not living by the rule that God has establish.
That’s not only true when it comes to your pocket book, it is true for your spiritual life too. You can follow after worthless pursuits, or you can invest that time in good old fashioned Bible study. You can make a habit of sleeping in on Sunday morning, but what profit is that going to get you spiritually?
A church can follow after drama’s and try to maintain a spiritual diet on 1 line choruses, but what will such labors really get you? It won’t be all that profitable. Not compared to regular reading and preaching through the Scriptures. Those are worthless things. Whereas the means of grace (the word, sacraments and prayer—all of these) are profitable things.
No one will get anywhere by worthless pursuits. Those kinds of labors are foolish. And worthless people are just as bad.
B. Vain people
Some of you may have that in your translations. You might have “He who follows vain people lacks sense.” That would be a right translation too. A literal translation would be “He who follows that which is vain lacks sense.” So you can see how it includes things and people. It is very comprehensive.
You’ve heard the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” That’s true. There are certain people who, if you hang out with them, you will end up being just like them: worthless. They will keep you from going anywhere in life.
They are “empty” people because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit. They aren’t going to help you make the right decisions. They are not going to edge you one in your spiritual life. They are not going to follow Christ. They won’t help you make anything of your life. You’ll just end up wasting away. And in the end your life will become worthless too.
It doesn’t matter if it is worthless people or worthless pursuits. If you follow them, you will find that your life’s labors will not have profited any. It’s foolish.
So what is the final lesson? Saddle up the horses, get out in the field and start spreading the manure. God calls us to a life of labor. Today we are to labor in the work of worship. We rest our bodies by refraining from our regular employments, but we exert our efforts spiritually. Tomorrow and until we meet again, God calls us to diligently pursue our careers or studies. If we honor him with an industrious spirit, he will honor us in return.
In the book The 19th Hole Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about overconfidence:
It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, “Congratulations.”
The lesson Palmer learned that day was the lesson of pride. When he shook that hand he became arrogant. And once the pride had seeped in it poisoned his concentration and made him lose the trophy that he so diligently sought.
All of us must learn that lesson too. All of us must come to understand that pride is a poison that is more lethal than any snake bite or anything one might receive by way of a needle’s injection.
Our proverb for this morning certainly makes that clear. Our proverb makes it clear that pride is a fatal toxin. For once it seeps into your system it has the ability to poison both your relationships and your mind.
Our proverb starts out by talking about how pride poisons our relationships.
I. Pride poisons your relationships
It says, “by insolence (i.e. by pride) comes nothing but strife.”
In other words, it is saying that pride is an irritant. It is, by its nature, an aggravator. It takes what could otherwise be a peaceful and enjoyable relationship and frustrates it.
You see, the thing about pride is that it is focused only one the self and one’s preeminence. And if the only thing that matters in the world is you, then you will become an annoyance to everyone else in the world.
When I was young we used to play a game called, “King of the Mountain.” And that was one of the most contentious games I ever played. Even more than football. You may know what I’m talking about already. In King of the Mountain, everyone starts out at the bottom of a hill or snow pile. When you say go, everyone scrambles to the top of a hill. The one who gets there first tries to push everyone else down so he can be king of the mountain. So there is constant friction. One person comes from one direction and you have to push him down. Someone else comes from a different direction, and you have to push him down (or else be knocked off).
That is what this proverb is talking about. If you are full of pride, then you are going to want to be king of the mountain. So you are going to try to push everyone else down. And there is going to be constant fighting going on because you have to stay at the top. You have to look good. You cannot bear to be the one who is not the winner of the argument, the victor or the one to whom everyone else looks up.
You might remember that this was one of the first lessons of history. Pride poisoned some of the most glorious relationships that ever existed: The relationships that existed among the angels in heaven.
Think about Satan. What was his sin? It was pride! He was the most beautiful of all the angels. He was also the highest ranking angel. The only one above him was God himself. But then he became proud. He wanted to be the “King of Heaven.” He wanted pre-eminence over God and did not want to be subject to Him. And his pride caused nothing but strife. He bucked against God and God bucked back. As a result heaven was divided. Satan was cast down from heaven and so were a third of the angels who had allied themselves with Satan.
That same episode occurs here on earth among us, wherever pride manifests itself. Wherever you find pride, you are going to find people butting heads.
That’s true in marriages isn’t it? Why do married couples bicker so much? Why is the divorce rate in our nation so high? It is because of pride. Men are too proud to say to their wives, “You know, honey. I did was wrong, will you forgive me?” Women are not humble enough to pray for their husbands! The poison of those relationships is pride.
The same is true in the church. The Corinthian church is one example of this. There were a lot of things wrong in the Corinthian church, weren’t there? But what was their real problem? What was the root of all their woes? It was pride! Their fundamental issue was their arrogance.
You could look at almost every issue in that church and attribute it to pride. There was strife over who to follow (Paul or Apolos). There was strife over the gift of tongues. There was strife regarding the Lord’s Table. There was strife over what to eat and where to eat. Why? Because they were full of pride! They were only concerned about themselves—how they looked, about how they felt—and that’s pride!
That’s why Paul says in the famous Love chapter, “Love is not arrogant. It does not boast. It is not rude. It does not insist on its own way.” Pride cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, or endure all things. Pride cannot be patient or kind because it is the incubator of anger, hate and division.
All those things Paul talked about lead to peaceable relationships. Love considers others first and seeks to promote other’s welfare. Love produces a harmonious atmosphere—like that of heaven.
Pride cannot do that. There cannot be peace where there is pride. That’s because pride poisons relationships. It pits people against one another. It creates a hellish environment where there is constant friction and arguing.
You know why that is? Because there can only be one God. Really, that’s the poison of pride. You are trying to become like God. This is why homes are broken and churches are destroyed. Because people have not humbled themselves before God. And since that relationship is distorted, all other relationships are going to be broken as well.
When God is at the center of your life, the God who is Love, will help you to be loving. But when you are at the center of your life, you will be all that matters in life. As a result you will not be able to admit that your wrong, or be willing to be thought of as wrong. You will not be willing to be misunderstood or let themselves be wronged. That’s because a prideful person has to be king of the mountain and he has to beat every one else into submission!
I want you all to be aware of pride. Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought. Otherwise you are going to be riddled with strife. Pride produces rivalries in relationships.
But don’t think it stops there. Pride poisons more than just your relationships. It also poisons your mind.
II. Pride poisons your mind
The second half of our proverb says, “With the well-advised there is wisdom.” Do you hear that? Do you hear how the prideful person is poisoned?
This is saying that someone who is humble is going to be willing to listen to other people. A humble person knows that he does not know it all. And he knows that God speaks through various instruments. Ministers, parents, friends, fellow believers and the Bible. These are all God’s mouth-pieces. And the wise man considers these to be resources of knowledge and he is willing to weigh what they have to say. As a result his knowledge is ever expanding. He is growing ins wisdom. His mind is increasing with knowledge and understanding.
But that’s not happening with a proud man. A proud person won’t listen to others. A proud man is a close minded man. He won’t listen to anyone. He already thinks he knows it all. He doesn’t think he needs people to give him any advice because he is the expert.
So what happens? His pride poisons his mind! Since he is so proud, he will not receive instruction. He ends up being none the wiser. His mind isn’t going grow. His understanding isn’t going to expand. If anything, it degenerates even further than it is. So he goes on acting like a fool.
It is interesting how Paul advises Titus regarding such people. Turn over to Titus 3. In Titus 3:10 Paul gives Titus some advice on how to administer church discipline. He says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”
Do you see the pride in these people? If a person stirs up division in the church—isn’t that the initial sign of pride. That’s exactly what we just talked about. They are poisoning the relationships in the church. So Paul says, warn him once. Warn him twice. If he doesn’t listen to you, have nothing to do with him. In other words, excommunicate him. If he is so arrogant that he will not listen to your advice—and if he is so haughty that he will not submit to your authority—then cast him out of the church.
Paul goes on to say that such a person is “warped.” Have you ever seen a piece of wood that is warped? That means it is twisted or bent really funny and won’t lay straight.
That’s what a person who is prideful is like. He is twisted inside. His mind is perverted so badly that he cannot think straight.
And that is exactly what this proverb is getting at. A proud person doesn’t think right and will not be willing to have others tell him how to think. His mind has been poisoned with pride. Who knows what else might result if that happens?
Former President Richard Nixon was known as someone who typically gave and took a lot of advice. In his presidential campaign against John F. Kennedy however, he paid the price for not listening to the wise counsel of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Otto Friedrich in Time magazine wrote:
Eisenhower and others warned Nixon not to accept Kennedy’s challenge to a televised debate—Nixon was Vice President after all, and far better known that the junior Senator from Massachusetts—but Nixon took pride in his long experience as a debater. He also ignored advice to rest up before the debate and went on campaigning strenuously until the last minute. So, what a record 80 million Americans saw on their TV screens was a devastating contrast. Kennedy looked fresh, tanned and vibrant. Nixon looked unshaven, baggy-eyed, and surly.
Kennedy went on to win the election by a very slim margin. Most analyst say that if it had not been for the televised debate, Nixon would have won. If he only would have listened to those who had tried to counsel him he would have won. But it would not be so, because his mind had been poisoned by pride.
Young people, I want you to realize something. If you ever come to the point where you tell someone, “Get off my case” that can be a dangerous thing. Your mom or dad can nag. That might be true. But when someone comes up to you and has the courage to say, “Hey, I’ve seen that you… and I don’t think you should be doing that.” You can either hear what they have to say, or you can tell them to get lost. If you choose the latter, you may just have drunk the juice. You need to be aware that the poison of pride might already be in your veins. Your mind already may be affected with that devilish serum of arrogance. And you may well be on your way to reaping the effects of your pride.
Martin Luther once said that that the pope he most feared was not the one in Rome. It was the pope in his own heart.
Luther recognized that poison of pride resided within him. Popery is nothing other than a prideful self exaltation to the place of Christ. And none of us are immune to it.
All of us, of course, need to be on the lookout for this venomous vice. You have to remember that Satan is the Great Snake, and he would like nothing more than to sink his teeth into any one of us. He, of all people in the world, knows the devastating effects of pride. And he would like nothing more than to have each one of us become just as puffed up as he is. He would like nothing more than to have our minds become numbed by our own selfish conceit. He loves it when our heads swell with pride. Because when that happens our ears close and the word of God is silenced. And he loves having us pitted against one another. Because if he can drive us further away from each other, he can drive us further away from God.
So beware of the poison of pride.
The history of nations is that they come and go. They rise and enjoy a time of power. Then they crash and fade into oblivion, only to be read about in history books. Analysts have sought to understand what causes such things. They like to find out what creates a world superpower. What are the dynamics that cause one nation to boom and another to bust?
It tells us what many scholars have come to find out only after long hours of dissecting data. It all comes down to this: A nation will stand or fall based on its growth in population.
If a nation has a population that is growing, then it will be a nation that thrives in every way—economically, militarily, and culturally. If it there is a downturn in the number of its citizens, then it is going to be a nation in decline. Growing pains indicate that there is something systemically wrong with the country.
In sum, when it comes to the international scene and who will be the head among the nations, it comes down to sheer numbers. And this passage simply tells us that the future belongs to the fertile.
I. A King’s Honor
The passage starts out by saying that “In the multitude of people is the king’s honor.” Literally it says that the multitude is the king’s ornament. You know, a king is known for his crown. It is that regal piece of apparel—that ornament—that distinguishes him with the honor of his royalty.
This passage is saying that masses of people are the real distinguishing honor of a king. The more people the more glorious will be his reign. As these citizens multiply, his rule will become greater and greater. His kingdom will become stronger and more powerful.
Think about it this way: The more people you have in your kingdom, then the more resources you will be able to cultivate. It isn’t hard to understand that people are your greatest resources. They are economic producers and consumers. And when you get a whole bunch of them together in one place, then you have an economic boom. Prosperity is the natural outcome of productivity. And when you have a lot of people teeming together in one place, you are going to have a lot of productivity. Economic prosperity and a buzzing GDP is the natural consequence of swelling population density.
Of course, this puts those objections that people make about overpopulation to rest. From time to time you hear the scare that the world is becoming too crowded. A number of years ago there was one such man named Thomas Malthus. He said that the world has limited resources and that if we have too many people, then that won’t be a king’s glory. He said that would be a problem. All these people would use up all the resources and the nation would essentially dry up. And people have used that as a way of trying to limit population growth.
But here you see that such a notion is wrong. People are not a problem. They are not going to cause a nation to shrivel up. A growing population is going to cause it to thrive. They are going to produce and expand technology so that there are more resources at their disposal to make more things.
The future belongs to the fertile. And any nation that wants to get ahead should recognize that the key is simply size.
But the contrary is true too. The proverbs are great because they express the most simple syllogism. If a, then not a. If this is true, then this is not true.
If the basis of a nation’s power and greatness lies in a growing population, then it follows that a nation that has a birth dearth is going to have problems. That’s going to be a nation that is in decline.
II. A Prince’s Destruction
The proverb says, “In the want of a people is the destruction of a prince.” You will notice that this isn’t language that is restrained in any regard. It is the destruction of a nation. The prince is going to fall because his kingdom is going to implode.
If you study nations you will find that this is the rule. They normally collapse because of one main factor: they strangle themselves. They cut off their main supply of prosperity because they are not reproducing at the same levels. And as they go through this birth implosion, they eventually experience an implosion of their whole culture. Their economy implodes. Along side that their military force begins to dwindle. All the forms of power and strength begin to fade.
Since they are no longer producing babies, they are no longer able to produce a stable culture.
What essentially happens is that the nation loses the will to live. And it is only a matter of time before she fades into oblivion.
Let me give you a few examples. The ancient empire of Greece is a good one with which to begin. Now, it took a while, but eventually the ancient Grecian Empire dwindled down to nothing. It once was a mighty nation. Alexander the Great came by that name honestly. He conquered vast lands and his empire stretched from Europe all the way over to what is now India and China. And that empire was quite the thing in its heyday. But eventually it started to burn out.
Part of it was because they began to say that the population levels were too high. They went through an overpopulation scare. So they started to encourage people to have fewer children. They encouraged perversion and homosexuality, just so they wouldn’t have as many children. And it wasn’t long before the birthrates started to plummet. And then along came this little group that called themselves Romans, and they basically ran over the Greeks. The Grecian Empire couldn’t stand against them because their country had burned out.
Some of you might find it unbelievable, but there was a time when France was the greatest nation on earth. During the Medieval period, with the Carolingian Dynasty and the like, the Frankish nation really started growing. It was one of the most populous territories in Europe. As a result, they became the dominating power of the world. France was the leader of the world when it came to culture, power, wealth, technology, military advancement and so forth. But again, the lights eventually went out.
I think a lot of that is because France sided with Rome during the Protestant Reformation, and then they embraced the Enlightenment. I think that sent them into a downward spiral from which they have never recovered. Their population shrunk immensely.
At the time of the Reformation France was one of the most ardent persecutors of Calvinists. Thousands of French Huguenots were exterminated. Thousands more left the country. King Louis XIV was perhaps the single biggest persecutor. He alone is said to have killed almost a million French Huguenots. That is a serious ding to one’s country. That alone put the country at a serious decline.
Then, without much of a strong Christian base, France embraced the Enlightenment. That eventually led to the French Revolution. Some of you may know that the French revolution is renowned for the guillotine and the blood that seemed to flow in rivers.
By the 1860’s Germany’s population exceeded France’s. And Germany would have taken control of Europe and become the dominating power of the time. Except there was this rising power called America that they had to contend with.
America’s story is rather amazing. In 1790 the population of America was just under 4 million people. By 1900, the population was over 75 million. The population had been increasing by over 30% each decade since its inception. Not only were people flocking to America from every corner of the earth, but people were having babies. In 1800 the average family had seven children. (That’s your average family!)
So again, you can see what our passage is talking about. The nation with the most people wins. The future really does belong to the fertile.
You know, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. This proverb is only describing what happens when we obey God’s commands. In the very beginning God said, “be fruitful and multiply.” You know, this was the very first command—even before the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree. Our Lord gave us the mandate to have children and to be mass producers. And when we heed that command, we should only expect—as with all his other commands—that he will bless us and cause his face to shine upon us. Becoming a lead country is only the natural outgrowth of being a country that fears God and loves children.
But, of course, this is why we need to be aware of the state of things on this Sanctity of Life Sunday. The world is experiencing a great deal of turbulence. Every day we hear stories of economic upheaval and how certain nations are on the brink of complete collapse. The European Union is virtually in the toilet. Greece and Spain are in the throes of death and the rest of the European countries are not far behind. That’s because those nations have a birth rate that is tanking. Chief among their problems—and boy they have problems in excess—but chief among them is that their numbers are plummeting. They are shrinking and growing old because they are not reproducing.
Much of the western world is going through much the same thing. America too is not what she used to be. Our population continues to grow, but it is not in the same proportions that it used to be when our nation was on the rise and coming to dominate the world.
As a matter of fact, this past census raised a lot of eyebrows because it showed that the population growth in America has slowed significantly. It is now growing at a snail’s pace of 7%. And experts have noted that the growth that did occur in the last decade was mainly due to immigration. Analysts say that this should be a cause for warning because a nation cannot sustain itself by immigration only. I even came across one article that said that France has a higher birth rate than America now. In 2011 America’s birth rate dropped to 1.9, which is not even at replacement levels anymore.
Our nation is losing the will to live. With a birth rate of 1.9, you can’t survive. Our nation is on the decline. The lights are going out. And they will continue to do so if we do not begin to take a different view of children.
Today we grieve 40 years of legalized abortion in our country. We have now been killing our populous for a whole generation, and that in staggering proportions.
In all, surgical abortions number just over 1.2 million a year, a total population loss of 53 million since 1973. And we recognize that number only includes surgical abortions that we can count. There is no way to keep a tally on the vast numbers of children that are lost due to the abortifacient power of the birth control pill and the so called “morning after pill.” Some estimate that the total number of children that are lost each year could reach as high as 10 million (1.2 million surgically aborted, 5 million aborted through the morning after pill, 3 million through “the pill.”). When compared to the fact that America has only 4 million births per year, we see that our nation is putting a knife to its throat.
Accompanying this grievous day are two items of significant regret and sorrow. First is the announcement of Planned Parenthood in their annual report, which came out just a few days ago. In their latest statistics they boast having performed over 300,000 abortions— a number that turns out to be 1 abortion every 94 seconds. The second item of deep concern is that tomorrow the most aggressively pro-abortion president that America has ever had will be sworn into office for his second term.
We might also add that our own state has expressly rejected the desire to prosper. This congregation is familiar with the fact that our leaders in Columbus had the opportunity to almost put a complete end to abortion in our state. They have failed to do so. For this reason Ohio’s economy will continue to be one of the worst in America.
We recognize that there is little to no glory for our kings and princes. When it comes to the macro level, we will continue to go the route of all the kingdoms of man. We will, like Greece and France, gag ourselves and commit suicide as a nation.
But there is good news. Though the macro scene be bleak, there is hope for us here on the micro level. We can recognize that there is a kingdom that will never die out. There is a king who has honor and glory in excess because his dominion is ever increasing.
The kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is advancing and becoming the greatest of nations. It is true, we do not see its full power or glory. But we know that Christ continues to populate his kingdom every day. And one day it will stand as the chief among the nations. All the nations of the earth will come to nothing, and the kingdom of Christ will stand with a multitude so great that it cannot be counted.
We have the great privilege of being a part of that kingdom. And because we do, we operate according to its principles. Instead of living by the scalpel, we do our best to continue to love and heed the command to “be fruitful and multiply.”
We have heard it said that “They will know we are Christians by our love.” We might rightly sing, “They will know we are Christians by our family size.” They will know we are Christians by the way we continue to populate our communities and our church.
On this day, may we renew our commitment to Christ and continue to seek his glory. May we add honor to his name by our commitment to raising up godly seed.
 Swanson, Kevin. The Book of Proverbs: God’s book of wisdom.
 Lois Collins, Desert News. America’s Population now lower than France’s
 Ben Wattenburg, Rise and Fall of Nations.
 Penny Star. Planned Parenthood’s annual report:
They say that the first thing that a public speaker must do is capture the attention of his audience. Well, I think I got it.
Today’s message is another one of those messages that you might feel like it needs a Parental Guidance warning. It reminds me of what the Rabbi’s used to say about the Song of Solomon. They said that no one under 30 years of age should be permitted to read it.
I would assume that you’re not used to this kind of language being used, let alone here in church! It is rather sensual, to the point of making one blush. But at the same time, as we read it, we find that the language is refreshingly direct, isn’t it?
The topic addressed here is one that needs to be spoken to just as directly too. The temptation to an extra-marital affair is a powerful temptation, particularly in today’s sex crazed culture. It is one we can face, whether we are male or female. And many Christian people have fallen into adultery because of this temptation.
The topic is just as necessary today, as it was thousands of years ago. The church is filled with all sorts of immorality. Statistics show that the difference between the church and the rest of the culture with regard to sexual practices is relatively slim.
I have to admit, we as ministers are partially to blame for this. We have not taught what God has called us to teach. As a church, we have been embarrassed to talk about sex. We have seen it as inappropriate to talk about from the pulpit, and we have not spoken about it as openly and frankly as God does here.
But our Heavenly Father does not avoid the subject. He knows how powerful the temptation is. So our God talks candidly about it. God does not want us to fall into the sin of adultery. And in order to help us avoid falling into sexual sin our Lord identifies for us its cause, consequences, and cures.
If you are going to avoid falling into adultery one thing you must understand is adultery’s primary cause.
I. The primary cause of adultery: [1-6]
Looking at verses 1-6 we can ask ourselves, “What causes adultery?”
Well, our first instinct is perhaps to put the blame on the woman who intrudes on the marriage vows. And you can make a strong case for this. I mean just look at her. Look at how our Father describes here in verse 3. She is said to have “lips that drip honey,” and speech that is “smoother than oil.”
In other words, she is a talker, and she is most persuasive. She is described as one who not only let’s her intentions be known, but she comes on strong. Her whole goal is to tantalize and ultimately seduce. She might not be as bold as Potifire’s wife who called out to Joseph “come to bed with me.” She might be more subtle, perhaps starting out with a flirt and then getting stronger as she lures you in.
While it’s no doubt she is in no way innocent in the matter, she is not the main cause of adultery. She’s crafty, yes; she’s implicated in the evil, yes; but the bible does not pinpoint her as the source of blame.
Well, if it is not the woman that is to blame, maybe the cause is the man’s strong sex drive. We all know well a man’s proclivity toward sex. When it comes to physical attraction, we all know that a man’s desires are much stronger than a woman’s. And her words wouldn’t be much bait if he was not drawn in by them, right?
But when you look at our passage you see not even a mention of the man’s sex drive. Certainly, it is assumed. But the passage does not identify it as the real cause of adultery.
If it is not the woman and it is not the man’s sexual urges, what is the primary cause of adultery? You might find this a bit odd (even laughable), but the real cause of adultery is Ignorance.
Look at verses 1-2. We have heard these words over and over, “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.”
When it comes to adultery, the problem does not reside in our bodies or in someone else’s body, the problem is in our minds (or perhaps better said: what is not in our minds). We develop an unlawful relationship or practice some deviant sexual behavior, because we have not the considered the Word of God. It is in the Word of God that we “gain discretion.”
Now, again, that may sound completely idiotic, but think it through with me. When we listen to God’s word, what do we hear? We hear about God’s holiness don’t we? When we hear things like “Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, etc. we are told something about God, are we not? We are told that he is pure—that he is holy. And we should understand that he has ordered things in a certain way—things are supposed to operate according to his design.
Our problem is not a sex problem, it is a God problem. If we do not incline ourselves towards God’s word, we will not understand what is right and what is wrong. But when we do we will understand. And we will see that any other is “forbidden” (or “strange”) as it says in verse 3.
When we consider how sacred the covenant of marriage is to God we will understand an “innocent flirtation” is not in any way “innocent.” And we will understand that no matter what he or she says, he or she is to be considered an intruder into the bonds of marriage.
If I might speak to you parents in regards to this: If it is true that ignorance is the chief cause of sexual infidelity, then consider how important it is for you to teach your children about who God is and what he says about marriage and sex. If you don’t talk to them, they will not have this first and primary wall of defense fortified.
Our culture gets embarrassed about having “the talk”, but we as Christians are not to have just one “talk” about sex. It is to be a regular part of our parental curriculum. We need not just one talk, but many talks. We don't want them learning what they learn from the world, be it NBC or the locker room. Neither do we want them to hear nothing at all! That's a real and present danger. If your child is ignorant of what God has to say, then you are preparing them for immorality.
And that goes for all of us: We all must incline our ears to what God has to say so that we can really see what is right and wrong. Fidelity to one’s wife begins with fidelity to God. If you are going to avoid falling into that temptation, you have to listen to His word.
When it comes to adultery we must not only though consider its cause, we must also consider its consequences.
II. The painful consequences of adultery: [4-14]
One of the ways we protect ourselves from adultery is by identifying the costs of such an affair. Whenever we have a decision to make we make a list of Pro’s and Con’s. After making such a list we weigh whether or not it would be wise to pursue whatever it is before us.
At first you may see a lot of benefits to an extra-marital affair. But you could say that our Heavenly Father helps us to “see the other side” by putting before us a thought provoking list of Con’s.
Some have deduced more, but I see that there are at least 3 that should make you consider how foolish a choice adultery is. The first con is that adultery has the power to…
A. diminish your life 
You see in verse 9 that it says, don’t do this “lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless.”
These two lines are parallel and you have to see them together. In this verse a person’s honor is his youthful years. When we start getting old we feel the affects of age, and we lose the grandeur of youthfulness.
As younger people we have more vitality and zest for life. But we may be robbed of that if we choose to give ourselves over to immorality.
We live in a sex crazed culture. People are living promiscuously all over the place. And we see how much that is promoted (on the TV, in music, etc.), what we don’t often see is how the bloom of youth is wilted by sexual promiscuity.
Let me expose a lie you see on TV too. Illicit affairs are always portrayed in such a way that it gives you more out of life. But that’s wrong. It will do just the opposite, it can rob you of some of the best years of your life.
Not only may adultery diminish your life, it may…
B. diminish your wealth
Verse 10 says, “lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
Now I want to admit that I do not know the full import of this verse. We can understand what it means, but I’m not sure we can understand all it’s implications. One’s strength is the means to their financial well being. You work and you get paid for your energies. And the earnings you gain from those labors will likely end up being depleted if you fall into an affair.
Now again, I don’t know all that this implies: Perhaps back then it had to do with paying room and board for your mistress. Perhaps it has to do with funds that might be forfeited due to legal procedures. Maybe it means having to pay alimony if your spouse leaves you. Who knows? But you think about it, you can see a lot of ways that you can loose money over a one night stand. You must remember: if you fill your lusts, but you may be drained financially.
You may diminish your youth, and you may diminish your wealth. But you may also…
C. diminish your joy [11-14]
This is what verses 11-14 speak about. Read with me about the personal grief you may experience:
“and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed. and you say, "How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation."
Here you are projected into the future and made to look at yourself agonizing in your later years. You can imagine yourself on your bed, with one foot in the grave groaning. You say, “I’m a fool! I should have listened!”
This is not limited to those who have received sexually transmitted diseases, but it is most vividly portrayed in them. These are people who have really diminished their life, aren’t they? But the one thing they really are deprived of is their joy.
You may have even seen such persons grieving over their exploits. How they are filled with pain because of a foolish choice to live licentiously.
That may be an extreme example. But it is an example that can show you how you can loose your joy when you commit adultery.
Before you go out and have an affair, you need to weigh the costs. And right now, you need to make the decision. Don’t wait until you have been put in a situation where you have to decide. Consider right now the consequences, and make your decision. Is it really worth it?
Our passage gives us the causes and consequences of adultery. But it does not stop there. Our Heavenly Father goes so far as to give us cures.
III. Its prescribed cures [15-23]
By cures I mean “the remedies for adultery.” In other words: what will help you avoid falling into this temptation? What will cure you of any thought of following another man or woman. Verses 15-23 show us that if we are going to remain faithful we have to enjoy the pleasures of marriage
The passage almost makes you blush as you read it, doesn’t it? "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love."
Our heavenly Father does not shy away from the fact that sex is to be a wonderful experience. God wants us to find our sexual satisfaction in our spouses, and that without reservation. He gives us no excuse for adulterous affairs, does he? We are virtually commanded to have sex. But he only gives one stipulation: That we satisfy our desires with the one he has given us.
I want to underscore here God’s joy in maritial intimcacy. He created it. And he found it so wonderful that he has even devoted a whole book of the Bible to the subject, wherein the joys of physical love are celebrated.
This is what led the Puritians of old to talk about “Keeping the marriage bed hot!” They knew the glory of what God had created. I know the puritans are typically thought of as prudes, but that’s not the case at all. There is even one case where they excommunicated a man for not fulfilling his marital duties!
I say that only to underscore how weighty a matter this is to God.
And we have to cherish and protect this wonderful institution of marriage. It is being criticized and attacked from every vantage point in our day. We all know the headlines with respect to gays and their (so-called) “Civil Unions.” But think also how marriage is often thought of as the “end of life” for a person. Even the joys of marital bliss are portrayed as “boring” but real excitement is found in promiscuity.
But that is to be the farthest thing from the truth. God created marriage as the appropriate environment for sexual gratification. God has blessed this institution, and has given us wonderful freedoms within it. And We are to take pleasure in it. I might go so far as to say that we are to replicate, in our small human way, the immense pleasure that he takes in his bride, the church.
Having said that, I’d like to take a moment to give a specific application. I would like to speak to you ladies. I know that this passage speaks most directly to the men, but I think that I need to speak to you ladies because very few have in this regard.
Ladies, I know that every bible study that you have done on womanhood has spoken about the importance of being a mother and a homemaker. And that’s good because those two things are despised in our day. But I don’t know of many that have dealt with the duty of being a wife and fulfilling the desires of your man. But this is one of the primary tasks that has been given to you.
As a matter of fact, I think that Paul gets at this in the NT. He says that the older women are to teach the younger women. And they are to teach them to “love their husbands.” I don’t think you can read that and simply talk about making a good meal!
So give attention to this ladies. I want you to understand that this passage is commanding you to go after your man. It’s encouraging you to come on to him and to give yourself whole heartedly to him. It’s telling you that sometimes you need to send the kids outside so that you can just save up energy and think about how you can make your husband intoxicated with your love.
Ladies, the men have a duty to stay faithful to you. I’m not downplaying that. But don’t forget you are his helpmate! So you have the responsibility of helping to keep him faithful. And the best way to do that is to be the lady that turns him on and satisfies his desires.
And let me say this too: I can speak for men since I am one. Men want to be wanted. A lot of men who fall into sexual sin have this as their excuse: “She wanted me” or “she made me feel young again.” A man wants to be desired, just as much as you want to be the object of your man’s affections. And his affections for you will be strengthened through the attention and affection you bestow upon him in the bedroom.
All that is to say that the bedroom is to be a place of physical pleasure. The language here is glorious. It is playful. It is sensual. It is language of pleasure and ecstasy. And we ought to replicate that in our relationships. And when we do, there will be no need for an adulterous relationship.
In sum, let me remind you that what is spoken of here is to replicate the relationship we have with Christ. The intimacy we have here in worship is something of the intimacy we should have in the bedroom. It is two people who adore each other coming together to celebrate their relationship.
Let our marriages be the same. Let us hear what God has to say about fidelity in marriage, and may we apply it to the glory of His name.
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
I was once asked to give my testimony at a gathering of young people. I began my talk with this verse because I was also supposed to share with them my favorite verse of Scripture. I then went into a detailed story about my dog, Penny, and how she illustrates the teaching of this verse. I will spare you the gory details though.
I’m sure you are all familiar with the imagery that is used here. You’ve probably seen a dog that has been sickened. Maybe you’ve even wondered how the furry little creature could turn green. You may even be quite familiar with the foul noise that it makes as its stomach begins to lurch. But what is even more putrid than what has been vomited out is that the dog comes back to it. It may avoid it for a little while. It may take a lap around the yard to regain its composure, but it eventually makes its way back to fill its stomach again.
I have to admit that this is one of the most vile pictures in all the Bible. And each of us will probably acknowledge that dogs, while being man’s best friend, are also man’s grossest friend. What possesses them to do this is beyond me. As a friend of mine used to say, “You would think that with how powerful a sniffer they have they would be more choosy about what they go around smelling.” You would think that they would be repulsed by that thing for which they hunger.
But that’s what makes this such a good Proverb. That nasty dog keenly illustrates how inhumane our craving for sin is. And this morning I want to talk about that desire we have. I want to talk about how base our hunger for sin is.
This proverb might be disgusting. But it accurately illustrates how reprehensible and how irrepressible our hunger for sin really is. And when I say that this is reprehensible, I don’t think that I’m even getting close to really describing how hideous it is.
I. How reprehensible our sin is
When you read this passage you cannot help but be nauseated by it. The thing is foul. What do you see when you read this passage? You see the dog there salivating over a bunch of half digested, dog food. Th Dog food is gross enough. But regurgitated dog food is beyond gross. Its grosser than gross. And you have to remember they didn’t have your basic Purina dog chow back when Solomon was writing this! They were probably eating whatever they scavenged off the streets. You should imagine here some mangy little pooch putting his face down into a decomposed bird and ripping out some of its flesh with its teeth, chewing it up and licking his lips. And after it has been half digested, out it comes again with all the acids and whatever else Fido managed to scrounge up in the compost pile.
Dog food is gross enough. But when you think of the real context and what this might look like, that makes it all the more vile!
But to what is that nasty pile of wretch compared? It is compared to our sin. God wants you to realize something about your sin. He wants you to see it for what it really is. He wants you to recognize something of how really grotesque you are and how vile your sins really are!
The shorter catechism is really good on this. The catechism asks, “Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? Then it answers, “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” That’s a choice word that the Westminster Divines use: heinous. Sin is gross (Atrocious! vile! hideous!). The men of Westminster were acknowledging that, yes, there are some sins that God hates more than others. But don’t forget the fact that every sin, no matter how “small” we may deem it, is utterly repulsive to God.
Every sin is absolutely odious!
We like to say that some sins are lesser than others, don’t we? I mean we almost neutralize how nasty our sins are by comparing them to other sins that are much worse. And it is true. Some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others. But we like to sanitize ours by making the comparison to other people’s sin. We like to think that our “little” sins are nothing compared to those sins. They almost come out looking like a prime rib, rather than a pasty pile of dog wretch.
But no matter how we try to pretty up our sin, it is still infinitely repugnant. The smallest of our sins is so reprehensible to God that we cannot even begin to imagine how wicked it really is.
That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea.” It doesn’t mention any specific sin, does it? It doesn’t say, “if you cause them to commit perjury, then you deserve to drown. But if you only cause them to tell a little white lie, then you only deserve to be water boarded.” No. Jesus doesn’t specify the sin because he wishes to communicate something of how repulsive ANY and EVERY sin is. Sin is sin, and it’s all abhorrent to God. Yes, some sins are worse than others. But all sin is wretched. It is like comparing garbage. Some garbage is more wretched than other garbage, but it is all garbage. You may be in a situation where you are forced to eat garbage and you will say, “Well this one is not as bad as that one.” But you are still eating garbage! And that is gross!
What I’m trying to say is that part of our problem is that we don’t see sin for what it really is. We don’t see it as the contemptible thing that it really is. We don’t see it as God does. To us, the dog’s vomit is an awful thing. But to the dog, he’s saying, “Hmm. It’s not so bad.” To God sin is an abomination. But to us, it’s not that bad.
But that’s the point. We have to pray that God would give us the eyes of Christ. We have to ask God to give us this regard for our evil. Otherwise we will not turn from it in the way we should.
In another place the Shorter Catechism talks about repentance. It says that part of repentance is having “a true sense of his sin.” And it says that repentance consists of “a grief and hatred of his sin.” In other words, repentance involves utter disgust of your sin. Repentance is becoming so repulsed by it that you turn away from it.
And that is what should happen. You need to come to grips with how vile a thing your sin is to God.
But let me also say this. Sin is not just reprehensible because of how vile it is by nature. Part of its repulsive-ness (if I can coin a term) is found in how harmful it is.
This might not be overtly stated in our passage, but I think it is a direct implication that can be drawn. You should ask yourself, “Why did the dog puke in the first place?” It was because something didn’t settle right. Something in his stomach wasn’t supposed to be there. It was making him sick. So, in order to be rid of the irritation, his stomach convulsed and he heaved it up.
You’ve all seen this. The dog goes out in the yard and eats a bunch of grass. The next thing you know they are out there hacking it up. You yell out, “What’s going on with you? Why did you eat the grass, you stupid dog?”
So you need to realize that sin is not just gross, it is harmful. It is harmful because it is gross. And you need to be aware that every time you sin it is like eating grass. We are doing something that causes us harm.
Young people, let me ask you a question. Do you like to sin? OF COURSE YOU DO! You love it! Why else do you do it? You would never do anything you don’t want to do. And why is it that you like to sin? It is because whatever it is is attractive and it offers you some temporary pleasure. Face it, making fun of your brother is fun, isn’t it? It’s a real whoot.
But I want you to remember that while it may tickle you for a moment, but its pleasure won’t last. It will come back to bite you. Its bitterness will cause you some kind of grief in the end.
That’s why a lot of people I see are so miserable. It’s not just because they are surrounded by miserable people. It is because they have not been able to overcome their own sin. If they would just begin to follow what God says about relationships, then they would find that their lives would not be so dog gone miserable.
Let me put it this way: Sin is like the venom of a snake. A number of years ago there was a man by the name of Frank Buckland who made it his life’s aim to study snakes. He engaged a professional viper catcher to collect some for him. The biggest viper in the catch was then chosen for study. While the professional held the animal the scientist placed a glass slide before him. Immediately the viper struck at it with its fangs. When the scientist pulled the glass away he found that the snake had left two translucent drops of fluid. He put it under his microscope and was amazed at what he saw. When he looked through the scope he saw slender fiber-like lines crossing each other. It resembled the crystals of a morning frost on your car windows. But in the beauty of the aurora there was the deadly venom of the viper.
Sin often presents itself as a beautiful and alluring thing. But despite its outward appeal, there is much misery contained within it.
And that’s why you purge it, isn’t it? I mean that’s the point of the passage, right? The dog let’s go of the thing that it ate and walks away—at least for a while. And we’ll all agree: Our sin is gross. We can’t stand it. It causes us pain. So we get rid of it. At least for a while.
And that’s where we can transition to our second point. We may come to a point where we find our sin repulsive, but we can’t avoid it. We all know that sin is reprehensible, but we cannot shake it. We cannot break with it or the pattern of going after it again. The passage is very clear in this and shows us just how irrepressible it is.
II. How irrepressible our sin is
It uses the illustration of this dog coming back to his vomit. And we are just like that dog in that we come right back to our sin—our folly.
Sure, he takes a walk around the yard. At first his ears are back and his tail is between his legs. Oddly enough you can even see through all that fur that he even looks a little green. But it’s not but a minute later that he has recovered and is feeling all jolly again. And he is right back where he started. He gives it a little sniff. He is so tantalized that he gives it a lick. Then before you know it he’s gobbling it all down again.
It is so inconceivable that he would do that. But that’s exactly the way we are! How many times have we turned away from our sin? How many times have we vowed, “Lord! I’m never going to do that again!” But then we find ourselves right back where we started. It is like a magnet, and we’re pulled right back.
And we are just like that dog giving it a little sniff. At first we say, “Oh, its not that bad.” Or maybe we hear the little voice in the back of our heads—our conscience says, “Oh, I shouldn’t.” But the attraction is too much. Before we know it we dive right in again. Hardly any time has passed before we are broken our pledge to stay away from that sin.
Tell me: How many times have you pledged to stop feeding your face like a glutton, but then just a few hours later you right back at the cupboard looking for something to eat? Ladies, how many times have you said, “I’m going to stop spending my money so erratically.”? You said, “I’m going to stop buying things I don’t need and I’m going to be more fugal.” But before you know it you’ve swiped the credit card and you’ve wasted what you were going to save.
Or guys, how many of you have vowed that you weren’t going to let your lust get the best of you? But in no time flat you’re right back at the computer clicking on sites you know you shouldn’t. Or you’ve got the images dancing around in your head.
You can’t get away from it can you? It’s an addiction. It’s just impossible to stop. These things just seem to have a pull on you. You feel so powerless. You felt so zealous at first, but then you are right back where you started.
You know, in a sick sort of way, it’s comforting to know that the Apostle Paul had the same problem. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul admits that he has some besetting sins that he deals with. In verses 14 and following we read how even the apostle Paul succumbed to the same old sins time and again. He was just as vulnerable as we are. He said, “I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” He even compares it to a war being waged within him. And he cries out in anguish, “What a wretched man that I am!
It is like the story that has been told of a blacksmith who was taken prisoner. A famous blacksmith was once taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. As he sat in the dungeon he began to examine the chain in which he was bound to see if he could find a flaw in it that would make it easier to be broken. His hope was in vain. As he examined it he found by the marks that he himself was its maker. All his life he had boasted that his chains he forged were unbreakable.
That is how it is with a sinner. Our own hands forge the sin that binds us. And it is a chain that no human hand can break.
If our chains are going to be broken, we have to admit what the Apostle Paul admits: we cannot save ourselves. In Romans 7 Paul cried out, Who will save me from this body of death?” And his immediate response is, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We are sin-oholics, and we can do nothing to break the chain themselves. We are so inextricably bound to our sin. We cannot escape it by our own power. We need someone to come in and pry us away. The only way to stop the dog from eating its vomit is if you grab him by the collar and pull him away.
So too for us. The only way we will cease our sin is if the Lord comes in by His Spirit and delivers us from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the one who saves us from this body of death. He is the one who sends the Holy Spirit into our lives to grab us and yank us away from our sin.
You see, Jesus not only saves us from the condemnation of sin. He also saves us from its power. Of course, it might not happen all at once. And there are some instances where we will never experience complete victory in this life. But we do have one we can resort to. Christ will one day come again, and he will loose the bonds that now chain us. And by his grace he is even now weaning his children away from their sin.
There is a sweet scene in John Bunyan’s famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress. The main figure, Christian, has come to the house Beautiful and he’s taken to several different rooms and each room has a different scene which is used to pass on a spiritual truth. One room that they came too was filled with dust. A woman came in and began sweeping, but her commotion only caused the dust to fly up and clog the air. The dust clouded up the room to such a degree that she began to choke. She was forced to leave the room to find relief in fresh air. After the dust settled another woman came in to clean. This time before she sweeps she sprinkles water about so as to keep the dust from pluming up.
Christian inquired as to the meaning of the vision. His guide explained that the first person who swept the room was a person who tries to clean up their life. He can sweep and sweep but he can do nothing of his own power. The law will only stir up sin and his efforts will be fruitless.
It is only when the waters of the gospel come in and the Savior cleans the heart can the sin be put away aright.
My friends, the sweet waters of the gospel are here for you today. Your sins can be vanquished and subdued only the saving power of Jesus Christ. And he calls for you to look to him today, to be your Savior. Go to him and ask him to extradite you from the sins that beset you. The victory is not in your hands. The battle can only be won through Him. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ.
"A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke."
Proverbs 13:1 (ESV)
A nobleman was once banished from the kingdom in which he lived. The day before he departed he committed to the care of his servant a casket of very precious jewels. Years went by. Over time the servant became ill. As his health was failing he determined that he needed to find a place of security for the precious stones. He went out to an oak tree on the property and cut a hole in it. Beneath the bark he hid the treasure that had been committed to his care. Years later, the nobleman returned. The steward was gone by then, but the nobleman knew where his gems had been stored. By this time the young tree had grown into a mighty oak. But nevertheless it hade kept what had been deposited within its trunk. The nobleman had the tree cut down, and there within the heart of the oak the jewels were found. All had been kept well, not a single one was missing or broken. They flashed in the light with the same brightness as they did in former days.
Is this not a great picture of how it shall be when our Lord comes again? Every precious gem of truth that has been deposited within our hearts will be found by our Lord. Like that nobleman he will delight to find his treasure (his truth) embedded in our hearts and shining brightly.
Young people, the word of God is of great value. It is the most precious thing that you can obtain in life. Even the book of Proverbs makes this plain. In this book the Lord tells us that wisdom is of greater value than rubies, knowledge is of greater worth than silver and gold. And since it is of such great value, we should prize it above every commodity in this world. We should make every effort to gain this treasure.
You will have many goals in life, all of which may be quite virtuous. If a man makes it his aim to be married and have many children, that is a wonderful goal in life. Success in your business and expertise in your trade are a grand objectives. These are things that God approves of and delights in. But your highest aim ought to be the acquisition of wisdom. This is the pearl of great price. For when you store up truth, you are building a wealth that can never be stolen or spoiled.
And as we come to this passage of scripture, we find that truth to be taught. In this proverb we find that God wants us to have a love for those precious gems. He wants us to learn to love instruction. He wishes us to have a spirit that is willing to receive instruction. In other words, we see here the importance of having a teachable spirit.
In this proverb God contrasts two men. One possesses a teachable spirit the other does not. We might say that on the one hand we have a child of God, whose heart beats for knowledge and understanding. And on the other hand we have one who stubbornly refuses to be instructed. We can call him a child of Satan, for in is pride he mimics the devil. So young people, let us consider well these two figures and see how God values a teachable spirit.
I. A child of God is attentive instruction
Now the first figure put before us is a child of God. We know he is a child of God because he is attentive to instruction. It says, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction.”
This is obviously the one God calls you to emulate. You can easily see why, can’t you? He is not just to be considered a son of some earthly father. He is a child of God too. That’s because he willingly listens to his father to gain the truth God wants him to have.
Now I need to clarify some things here with regard to the kind of instruction we re to embrace. First of all we need to keep in mind that the passage is talking about a godly father who is teaching what is right.
This may be obvious, but I think I better at least mention it. We have to understand that not all fathers are good, and not all fathers give good instruction. Some fathers in this world are wicked. They don’t give godly instruction. And if you have that kind of father you are not expected to listen to anything that he says.
This passage is assuming that your father is a godly man who is teaching you what is in accord with God’s word. If you have a father who is not godly, or not teaching what is godly, then you are not obligated to obey that. As a matter of fact, you are obligated to reject it. You need to remember that it is more important to obey your Heavenly Father rather than any earthly father.
That’s part of what the Bible means when it says, “children, obey your parents in the Lord.” You are to honor your parents and obey them, but you do it “in the Lord.” Or when what they teach is in accord with the Bible.
So as you think about the instruction you should embrace, remember that this passage is assuming you have a godly parent who is teaching you what is right.
But there is another thing that I need to clarify. You not only need to embrace the teaching when it is right. You need to embrace the teaching when it is hard.
When you read this you almost think, “Well, duh.” Of course you are supposed to listen to you father when he instructs you. But we have to understand what this means by “instruction.” The word for instruction actually has to do with correction. It has to do with discipline. It has the idea of being rebuked and perhaps even punished for having done something wrong.
You see how this is a little harder nut to swallow? Nobody likes being corrected, do they? Let me see a show of hands on who likes being punished. Nobody likes that. Nobody likes admitting that they are wrong. But the Bible tells us that if we are wise, we will learn to embrace it even when it is hard for us to take.
Your dad can be hard on you sometimes too, can’t he? He can get on you about your schoolwork. He can get on you about your chores. He can say, “Hey, I don’t like the way you’ve been treating your mother lately.” You might be fed up and say, “What do you mean? I always do what mom says!” Then he’ll say, “Well, when she tells you to do something she usually has to tell you 3-4 times before you do it. And when you do finally acknowledge her you act disgusted (e.g. sigh, roll eyes and say “All right” with a defeated tone.
Now you can think, “He’s just being picky.” And you are right. He is being picky. But he’s right, and you know he’s right. You haven’t been honoring your mother. And, even though you don’t want to, you need to accept the fact that he is right. And you need show that you accept it by fixing it as fast as you can.
It might be hard at times to honor your dad, especially when it comes to him correcting you—and correcting you all the time! But no matter how often he corrects you—no matter how hard he comes down on you—if you are going to be a child of God you need to listen to him and heed his words.
And young people, if you need any encouragement to do this, you can just look at Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus came into this painful world and “learned obedience” by his sufferings. Now we know that Jesus was never disobedient, so he didn’t have to be corrected. But he did accept whatever came his way, even though it might not have been all that welcome to him. His ears were always attentive to what his Heavenly Father was teaching him at every moment and he accepted the Father’s discipline by even going to the cross.
Every child of God will replicate the the Son of God in this regard. Jesus had a teachable spirit. If you are going to be God’s child you must have one too. You must heed your father’s instruction, even when it is hard to take.
Well, if the child of God is one who has a teachable spirit and is attentive to instruction. You would expect that the child of Satan will be the opposite won’t he? And that is exactly what we see in the second half of this proverb.
II. A child of Satan is deaf to correction
The second half of the proverb says, “A scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Here you have one who is deaf when it comes to correction. He is so puffed up with pride that he can’t be wrong. He will not admit that he is mistaken. When someone comes to him and corrects him, he treats it with scorn. Even though they love him and want the best for him, there is no way he is going to listen. He just blows it off. Or worse, he laughs at them. (That’s what a scorner is—he hates the truth so much that he mocks it or ridicules it).
So you see how satanic this guy is. He is completely deaf to the Lord. He wants nothing to do with God’s word or God’s way—just like Satan himself.
Now there are a few things I want you to glean from this second half.
A. Note how general it is
You’ll notice that in the second half of this proverb no teacher is mention. It doesn’t say that anything about a father. The father of the scorner is not even in the picture here. This line is very general as to who the scorner is not listening to. It is very open-ended.
The point that is made is this: If you are not going to listen to your father’s instruction, you won’t listen to anybody. You will have a complete disregard for all authority. If you blow off your dad, of all people—the most important teacher you have in your life—you can grow up to be a complete menace to society because you won’t listen to anybody.
Derek Kidner in his commentary on this verse says, “If you cannot stand home truths from your own father you are well on the way to becoming insufferable.” Nobody will want to be around you because you’ll be like an uncontrollable fire. You’ll be willing to burn anyone.
As you note how general/open-ended it is, note also how picky it is.
B. Note how “picky” it is
I mentioned a minute ago how your dad can be rather picky. Why is it that he is so picky all the time? Why is he picky about my friends? Why is my mother so picky about me placing the decimal points in my home work? You might say, “What’s the big deal, here?
You know when your mom or dad corrects you about something small they are doing that because they know that if you don’t deal with the little things then that will just snowball.
Have you ever heard of the snowball effect? The snowball effect is when you stand on the top of a hill and make a snowball—just a normal sized snowball. Then you take that snowball and put it on the ground and give it a little push. As it starts to roll down the hill it collects more and more snow and gets bigger and bigger as it goes until it has become a gargantuan snowball that can cause a lot of havoc if it crashes into something.
That’s the way sin acts. Little sins can snowball and become big sins. If you blow off your dad or your mom in the little things, then you won’t feel bad blowing him off on bigger things.
I see an example of this each week at my daughter’s soccer practice. I begin each practice by having the girls jog around the field. And when I say “around the field,” I mean around the field. I tell them stay outside the white lines and don’t cut any corners. But almost every week I have some girls cheat by cutting the corners. So I have to tell them to do it again. So they go out and do the exact same thing—they run the exact same pattern and cut the corners. I suppose they think that if you add the two times around the field together they make more than enough. So I have to stop them, get real serious and say, “You are not doing this right.”
What’s the point? The point is obedience. They know that if they can get away with cutting a few corners at the beginning of practice, they can get away with a lot more in the next hour and the next few weeks. If they don’t listen to me in this little thing of running all the way around the field, then they will cut corners in a lot of other things and make life really miserable for all of us.
Let’s talk about decimal points. In your schoolwork, what is smaller than a decimal point? Probably nothing. You might consider it to be the most insignificant thing. And you might have worked hard on your math problems, but your mom looks at it and says, “It’s wrong.” You say, “What? What do you mean it is wrong?” Your mom says, “It is wrong because you forgot your decimal point.”
You will want to complain, “It’s just a decimal point.” But what really is the problem is that you were sloppy with your work. That’s a form of laziness. And your mom might make a big deal out of a little decimal point because it is the principle of diligence. If you are willing to be sloppy with your schoolwork, what would happen if you started working at a bank? If she lets this “small” thing go now, it could snowball later in life.
I taught a Bible class for some recovering alcoholics once. And in talking with those guys I came to see that none of them woke up one day and said, “I’m going to be an alcoholic.” It was a gradual process. It started with something small, like staying out past their curfew. Then they began hanging out with the wrong crowd. They maybe went to a party and someone offered them a drink. At first they said, “No, thanks.” But then their friends pressed them. So they said, “Why not just a couple of sips. That won’t hurt anything and that will get these guys off my back.” These were just what you might call “little sins.” A disrespect for their parent’s curfew. A few friends who you liked to hang out with—so they have a rougher side to them. Not a big deal right?
Well those “small sins” developed over time. These guys who sat there with their Bibles open before me had lived in misery for a long time because their little sins became huge shackles in their lives.
So don’t gripe that your parents are picky. You should be thankful that they are picky. If you don’t have that kind of teachable spirit—if you are going to have that kind of arrogance, then you’ve already started down that leads to death.
Remember that Satan was proud. He was the highest of the angels. But then he thought he could go one up on God. He didn’t want to honor God anymore. He didn’t want to submit anymore. So what happened? He rebelled and he was thrown down. And because he wasn’t willing to submit, someday he will be thrown into the lake of fire. And all his children who have hated instruction will go with him.
One of the most elegant jewels in the world is a diamond. They are simply beautiful to behold. After I gave my wife her engagement ring, she used to sit there and just look at it sparkle in the light. It wasn’t all that big, but it was still quite nice to look at.
But you know how you get a diamond? A diamond is actually formed from a lump of coal—a black, ugly piece of coal. But when you apply a significant amount of pressure to that ugly piece of coal it converts into a diamond. But then, the diamond isn’t yet ready to be set in a piece of jewelry. It then has to be taken to a professional who can cut the diamond. You see, diamonds don’t come straight from the ground to your ring. When they are mined from the earth they are still jagged in form. They need to be chipped into shape before they are set before the customer.
That’s the way it is for a child of God too. You must be like that diamond. When you get pressure from your dad, you must understand that he is seeking to make you better. When your mom starts in on you, you need to remember that she is simply trying to chisel those jagged edges off of you. They want you to be ready to be presented to Christ as one of his precious children.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
As we renew our series in the book of Proverbs it is good to remind ourselves of the familial setting of this book. This is a book from a father to a son. And we should expect that there be “Fatherly advice” in this book.
It is important for us to note that because it reminds us that this is the primary book we are to use when training up our children. It is their textbook. It is the curriculum of God’s choice that we as parents are to be using.
Moreover, we ought to remember that that this book is intimately addressed to each and every one of us here today. For we are to remember that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of God. And by these inspired words our Heavenly Father speaks to us.
And such is the case today. The counsel we receive here is some of the greatest fatherly advice we could ever receive. That’s because it deals with who we regard as our closest companions.
As fathers we are responsible for the nurture of our children. Part of that nurture means we must help our kids discern who their friends should be. That is exactly what the Lord does in this passage.
This proverb calls us to godly fellowship. That is to say, it tells us that we are to surround ourselves with people who are wise. And our passage gives us two reasons why we should do this. The first half of the verse says that we should surround ourselves with wise people because…
I. Wise companions will make us wiser
It says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.”
You know how you catch a cold. You hang around with people who are sick. The same is true when it comes to wisdom. If you want to be wise, hang around with people who are wise.
Now, before I talk about some specific applications, I want you to remember something very important here. This is not talking about people who get straight A’s or telling you that we are to hang around with people who we might consider “bright.” This has nothing to do with someone’s IQ or SAT score. You need to remember that a wise person is not necessarily an intelligent person. A person can know a lot of things, but that does not make him a wise person.
A wise person is a person who is a Christian. He is a person who knows God’s word and knows how to live by the word. To put it another way: A wise man can be someone who flunked out of school or never passed the 8th grade. But despite his IQ, he is a god fearing man who has devoted himself to the study and application of God’s word. Though he might not have read a lot of books, there is one book that he does know—it’s the Bible.
This is the kind of person that this passage is talking about. That is the kind of person with whom we are to “walk”. That is the kind of person we are to seek out and fellowship with on a regular basis. If our companions are wise and godly people, that’s going to rub off on us. We will become wise and godly ourselves.
Now, having clarified that, let talk about some applications we can make. I want you to take a second and ask yourself…
A. With whom do you associate regularly?
Who you are friends with right now? Are you surrounding yourself with godly people? Are the people you are hanging around with right now, are they pursuing a relationship with Christ? I don’t care about their grade point average. Do they have their hearts set upon Christ?
You need godly friends. Because when you surround yourself with godly friends you yourself will become wise. They will rub off on you. They will teach you, by their words and by their actions.
Think about the disciples. How did they become such great men of wisdom? It is because they hung out with Jesus. They were part of the greatest seminary of all time. And basically, all they did was walk with Jesus and hang out with him for three years.
Of course they sat under his teaching, but think about the “down times”—the time when class wasn’t in session. Don’t you think they still would have learned a great deal? In a sense, they were always in the school of Christ merely by hanging around with him. Christ’s everyday conduct would have taught them, perhaps more than his sermons did.
We usually don’t choose our friends with this in mind. We usually just choose to hang out with the people we like to do the same things as us. But that might not necessarily be beneficial for us. That is not the primary way we are to choose our chums. Those we most often associate with are to be critiqued on the basis of their relationship to Christ.
And as you think about those you associate on a daily basis, think too about who you associate with on a weekly basis.
B. With whom do you associate at worship?
This ought to affect your church life too, and how you worship.
I want to apologize to you. People like me, who are leaders in the church, have done a terrible thing to you. We have made you dumb. We have done a terrible thing by separating your from the older people in the church.
Those of you who may have grown up in the church probably went to Sunday school. You might even have gone to youth group. But how much time did you spend with the older and wiser people in your church? Probably not much. We have not let you walk with wise people.
Now there may very well be a place for Sunday school and Youth group. I don’t think that these things are wrong in and of themselves. As a matter of fact, they can be quite useful. That’s because young people need to develop godly relationships with kids their age. But today a lot of churches have gone the route of completely segregating their churches by age. Churches today are too divided today. Not over race, but age. (A lot of churches will even send children out during worship!)
I’m glad this church does not do that. I like that you follow the family integrated model. That’s good because there is that healthy mixture of young people with those who are older and wiser. And know htat your elders have intentionally designed your service this way because they know that if you worship with the wise, you will become wise.
But don’t just think about how this applies to those you hang with on a regular basis or how you worship. Think about what you are doing with your free time.
C. With whom do you associate during your free time?
Who do you hang around with when nobody is around? Are you walking with the characters on the Television? Or are you cultivating your spiritual life with good books? Are you reading the Bible? Are you walking with the apostles and prophets? Are you walking with Jesus?
The home is where we spend a lot of our time, but just because we are at home does not mean that we have to be alone. We can still fellowship with saints who have been blessed with wisdom. We can surround ourselves with Christian literature—devotionals, sermons, books of theology. We can pick up something written by Martin Loyd Jones or Charles Spurgeon. We can walk with these guys. We can gain their wisdom.
You know it is good to read novels. But in the long run they aren’t going to do much for you. Even if it is a “Christian novel.” To some extent it can be like TV-- bubble gum for your brain. It tastes good, but it really doesn’t do much for you. It probably won’t make you that much wiser. But if you walk with people like John Piper or RC Sproul, you are going to benefit from their wisdom.
As a matter of fact I was reading a book by RC Sproul just yesterday. On almost every page I read he was citing someone else, Jonathan Edwards or some other Christian thinker. I thought to myself, “Sproul is just borrowing from everyone else! But I look to him for wisdom!” He had walked with other saints, that’s what makes him so wise.”
Let me make a suggestion to you. Martin Llyod Jones once said that the best thing a Christian can do is read biographies. He said that we ought to saturate ourselves with books about the men that God has raised up throughout history. And biographies are great because they oftentimes read like novels. They have that interest level because of the excitement surrounding their lives. But they also detail the lives and beliefs of these men that can be examples and guidance for us.
I want to encourage you to do this. Pick up a biography of some notable saint and begin to walk with him. Sit at his feet, study his life, consider his doctrine. And as you do you will find that he will begin rub off on you.
If you are going to be wise, that’s the way to do it. It doesn’t matter if it is choosing who your friends are, where you worship, or how you spend your free time. If you want to be wise, you need to surround yourself with people who are filled with godly wisdom themselves.
Now let me just reiterate how important it is to do this. Surrounding yourselves with wise and godly people is of the utmost importance, not just because wise friends will make you wiser, but because but foolish friends will make you suffer.
II. Foolish companions will make you suffer
If you look at the second half of this verse (20) you will see this. It says, “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” If you have a different version it may say something slightly different, but it should still read pretty much the same.
But let me unravel this a bit for you. I want you to notice that last word. The word for harm comes from a word that literally means “to scream.” Doesn’t that bring a new light to the text. “The companion of fools will scream.”
I want you to think about how this applies to your everyday life.
A. Think about how this applies to your everyday life.
Do unbelievers make up your “inner circle” of friends? I want you to understand that if they do, then you will be harmed.
Think about what it says in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6 Paul explicitly says that we are not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). A yoke is something you put on cattle to guide them. Two cattle are strapped together with a special harness so that they can pull a plow. But if one of those cattle is dead, then which way is the plow going to be pulled? It will be pulled in the direction of the dead one.
That is how it is when you become intimately involved with someone who is spiritually dead. They don’t help your walk with the Lord. They will hinder it and pull it in the wrong direction.
I’ve known Christians who have gone of to college and started hanging out with people who weren’t Christians. Perhaps they even joined a fraternity or sorority. As a result their faith was harmed.
I never joined such a group, but I did choose to live with people who were not Christians during my college days. I look back on those days with a great amount of disdain. I had the opportunity to link up with a lot of Christian guys. I could have lived on a hall where my spiritual life would have been valued, rather than disdained. But instead I chose to spend my days with guys whose lifestyle was no wise favorable to my faith.
Now I didn’t go out drinking with them. I didn’t join in with any of their pleasures or crudeness. As a matter of fact I looked on it with a great deal of contempt. But, looking back, I wonder where I would be today if I had chosen the alternative route. They might not have made me a hellion, but they didn’t stir me on in my walk with Christ either. Though they did not harm my walk with Christ, they did not help it either. If I had chosen to make my companions Christians, I could be a lot farther ahead in my sanctification today. I might have been able to conquer some different sins a lot easier or a lot earlier. I can’t say where I’d be, but I know that I would be a lot farther along that I am right now. And I look at that now and it really irks me. Sometimes it makes me want to scream.
I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint either. There were times where I joined in their sins. I laughed at their jokes. I enjoyed it when they made fun of other people. There were all sorts of things that I got caught up in because they were my friends. And I have to say that my soul was hurt because of it—and it still hurts as I look back and reflect on it.
Now, I don’t want you to think that we jump ship and break off all contact with the unbelieving. You know me better than that. There’s no possible way to do that. We mix with the unbelieving all the time. And it is important that we do because that’s the way the gospel advances in the world.
However, I do want to warn you. I want you to make sure your closest buddies are not those who don’t share your faith. You will be harmed if you do.
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life…
B. Think about how this applies to your wedding day.
If this applies to your bosom buddies, of course it is going to apply to who you marry. That’s because marriage is nothing more than the most intimate of friendships.
I have met some quite a number of ladies who I would classify as “spiritual widows” (Christian ladies with unbelieving husbands). Most of them became Christians after their marriage. But I can’t even begin to think about the pain they must experience. They have talked with me and you can just tell they hurt. I wouldn’t doubt that there have been times in their lives where they have just screamed. On the one hand they hurt because the one they cherish the most is not living in God’s grace.
But at the same time, think about how their spiritual lives suffer too. They don’t have a man who will read the scriptures with them. They don’t have a man with whom they can pour out their soul and have pray for them. I can’t imagine the loneliness they feel because they can’t share much of their life—how they are growing in Christ, what treasures they have found in the Scriptures. It’s so sad.
Young people, don’t ever let yourself suffer in such a way. As you grow up, make sure you don’t get caught warming up to a boy or a girl who is not a solid Christian. If you do, you will find that your life will be filled tears and sorrows—and perhaps even some screams. .
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life and your wedding day…
C. Think about how this applies to Judgment Day
If you are a companion of fools, most likely, you are a fool yourself.
Typically, people associate with people who are of the same mind. People who join the country club join it because they have similar interests. People who join a sorority do so because they are of the same mindset as that group. People who join the church do so because they are one with Christ.
So if you like companionship of unbelieving people more than the companionship of the church, most likely you are of the same heart. And the Bible says, if your heart is set against Christ, you will suffer—you will scream.
The story goes that one spring some crows began to pull up some of the farmer’s young corn. The farmer loaded up his gun and made out to frighten them away. The farmer had a pet parrot whom he loved. But when they got out to the field the parrot left the farmer and flew over to the crows in the corn. Bang! The farmer shot and then went to inspect what came of it. He found that he had hit three crows and his parrot.
He took the parrot home and the farmer’s children asked, “What hurt him?” The farmer responded “Bad company.”
That’s how the day of judgment will be for some people. They might have grown up in the church, but they come to enjoy the company of sinners more. When Christ comes, they are severely hurt.
St. Augustine is quoted as once having said, “I would rather have speeches that are true than those which contain merely nice distinctions. Just as I would rather have friends who are wise [more] than merely those who are handsome.”
Augustine knew what he was talking about. He once had some close chums who were not wise. The only way they helped him was to sin. As a result he ended up suffering a lot of pain. Wise friends—wise companions—are to be much more preferred.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 13:4 (ESV)
When I was in school and just beginning to learn my math facts, I often got mixed up. When I had a sheet that was all addition or all subtraction, I was fine. But when the assignment called for a mixture of the two, I frequently got problems incorrect. That’s because I would sometimes add when I was supposed to subtract. Or subtract when I was supposed to add. In the midst of my work I would forget what the problem called for. And as a result, when the paper was graded I would have a lot of red marks on it.
I mention this because today’s proverb is a lot like one of those math problems. It presents us with two equations. The theme of the Proverb has to do with our desires. And it says that we have to be careful to add, and not subtract, diligence because the consequences are radically different.
It is a lot like following a recipe. In college I had a bread maker. I would put the ingredients in before I went to dinner in the evening. Then, about 8:00 that night—when I was getting hungry again, it would be ready. But there were times that I would be goofing around with my friends while making the bread. And I would forget to put in one or two of the ingredients. Now if you don’t add salt to the bread, it comes out tasting funny. But if you do, then the bread becomes quite a delicious treat (and you become the admiration of the rest of the dorm!)
But it was all dependent upon that one ingredient. The determiner was whether I added it or subtracted it.
The same is true for diligence. When it comes to the recipe for life God says that we must add diligence to our desires. Otherwise the consequences can be pretty sour.
As a matter of fact, that’s how our proverb starts out. It tells us that the one who does not add diligence to desire is miserable tormented. In other words, he ends up creating his own little hell.
I. One who does not combine diligence with desire is miserably tormented
The first part of our proverb says, “The soul of the sluggard craves, but gets nothing.” We are presented with the sluggard, or the lazy man. This the man who does not add diligence to his desires. So it is as Charles Bridges says, “He desires the gain of diligence without the diligence.” He’s a man with many longings, but no labor.
So what happens? Well, obviously he ends up getting nothing. The old saying is true, “You reap what you so.” But I want you to understand that there is more here than that. What happens is that he creates his own little hell. His desire becomes God’s curse because he isn’t following God’s call to work.
Think about it this way: What does the lazy man have? Well you say he does not have anything! But that’s not true. He does not have the object of his desire, but he does still have the desire, doesn’t he?
His desire is not satisfied. As a result it continues to burn in his soul. As a result of his inaction the yearning continues to grow, and it begins to pulsate within him. The passion of the desire continues to increase so that it the lazy man gets more and more agitated every passing idle moment. So his craving starts to throb like a migraine headache because the thirst and yearning is not quenched.
You could say that he becomes so consumed with this desire that he ends up becoming consumed by his desire. All this, of course, could have been avoided had he just did whatever it was that was needed to fill his desire.
I like what Matthew Henry says on this passage. He says, “The desire of the sluggard ought to be his excitement, but is instead his torment. That which ought to make him busy, makes him always uneasy, and it is a greater toil to him than labor would be.”
Why don’t I give a little example? Perhaps that will help to clarify things. Let’s say that you want an apple. You wake up one morning and you think, “Boy, I really have a hankering for a nice juicy apple.” Well, what should you do? The first thing you should do is go to work. That way you can make enough money to afford the apple. Then, after you get paid, you take your hard earned money and go get yourself your apple.
But that’s not what a lazy person does, does he? He doesn’t want to work. He doesn’t want to get out of bed and do what it takes to get that apple. So when he wakes up he says, “Mmmm. I want an apple.” All morning long as he lays on his bed and he just dreams about an apple. He’s thinking about how crisp it is. As he imagines taking that first bite the juices start flowing in his mouth and he can almost taste it.
But after a while he starts getting annoyed. He really wants this apple. And everything he does starts to irritate him because he so much wants this apple. He turns on the TV to PBS and they are doing a special on apple orchards. He goes outside to go for a walk and (what do you know!) there are some people walking down his street eating apples. He tries to put it out of his mind and he starts off around the block. He doesn’t get but around the corner and there in the window at the grocery story is a huge sign that says, “Fall Sale: 50% off all apples.” Now he is really irked because he could have an apple at half the price, but he doesn’t have the money to get it. So he storms off towards home, and when he gets home he sits and sulks because he wants an apple but can’t get it.
You see how absurd this is? It is a silly example, but it is a biblical one. What does Paul say in the book of 1st Thessalonians? He says, “If you don’t work, you won’t eat.”
You can have the desire to eat, and that is fine and good. But if you don’t do what it takes to get your food—if you don’t follow the means that God has laid out for satisfying your hunger—then all you will be left with the hunger and craving. And that hunger will get worse and worse. You will become more and more miserable the longer you poke around. So you end up creating your own little, self inflicted hell.
That’s the way God has ordained it. He has called us to diligence. The way we obtain what we want is through work. If we don’t follow his path, then we become the victims of our own desires.
You can understand how this same principle can translate into other areas, can’t you? How many people do you know who want to be wealthy, but don’t want to do what it takes to make money? They don’t want to get the education. They don’t want to go out and get a job. They don’t want to be frugal. They don’t want to waste all that precious time and energy on all that work.
But boy to they want to be rich. They want the clothes. They want the car. They want the house, flat screen TV and I-pod. All the while their craving burns. There is no contentment in their lives. They become bitter toward others. They become envious of those who are rich. They hate others for having, simply for the fact that they have it. Meanwhile the bills keep mounting up (which of course makes them want more money).
It is just a vicious cycle. Their laziness becomes the noose of misery that keeps tightening.
What about the desire to be wise? That’s a good desire, isn’t it? What do you have to do to be wise? You have to study the Word of God, don’t you? But a lazy man won’t do that. He won’t do what it takes. That would mean he may have to wake up a little earlier. It means memorizing and meditating. It means trying to figure out what those Westminster divines meant with that funny language and big words. But that’s way too much effort!
But O, how he wants to be wise! He dreams of being a Daniel or a Joseph. But he’s not willing to do the work.
What about the man who has the desire to go to heaven? That’s a great desire! But woe to the man who will not submit himself to the preaching of God’s word. His desire will haunt him for all eternity! Because he was too lazy to repent of his sins and turn to Christ he’ll find himself sitting right there in hell. And he’ll cry out in anguish, “Why was I so lazy? Why didn’t I seek the Lord while he could have been found? Why didn’t I apply myself to prayer and receive the blessing of eternal life when it was offered to me?” His desire to be in heaven will be floating around in his mind all the time. And that will be just as hellish to him as the fires themselves.
We have to say that this kind of person, this sluggard, is a complete fool. He had the desire. And, at least initially, that desire was a good thing. But woe to the man who does not add diligence to his desire! His desire will become a disease. It will be like a leprosy that causes his soul to rot. It could have easily blossomed into a world of happiness. But instead those desires become a curse to him—a thorn that makes him more and more miserable.
So if you don’t add diligence to your desire, you see how bad it can be. It is not a good thing. But what if you add diligence to your desire? How will things turn out then? Well our proverb says that instead of miserably tormented, you will be richly rewarded.
II. One who combines diligence with desire is richly rewarded
It says, “The soul of the diligent man is richly supplied.” I like the old King James Version on this one. It says, ‘The soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”
We don’t think of fatness as a good thing. But in the Bible fatness is a great thing. It is richness. It is wealth or fullness. When you are made fat are blessed and richly rewarded. And the way gain that fatness is by diligence.
We have the saying, “No pain, no gain.” That’s exactly what is being communicated here. If you are going to gain in life, there has to be a little pain. You have to exert a little effort. You have to do what it takes to gain what you desire.
We typically think that if you work hard then you will loose weight, right? Well what do you gain when you work out? You gain health. You become skinny in body, but you are fat with health. You have this abundance of health that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have the diligence to take care of yourself.
This is the way God has ordered it. The pathway to the good kind of fatness is by way of diligence in our work.
You young people, do you want a fat wallet? Well you have to do what it takes to get it then. You can’t just pray, “God make me rich.” God is not like a slot machine where you put in your prayer and all this cash comes falling down out of the sky. No. You have to work.
Making a lot of money is a fine desire. God doesn’t want you to be impoverished. He wants you to be economically successful. The Bible even says that the righteous man will prosper, and part of that prosperity is economic prosperity.
But you shouldn’t pray, “God make me rich.” You should pray, “God, give me a job.” Or “God, help me to use the gifts you have given me in the way that pleases you God.” That’s the road to fat cash. And when you get that job, you don’t laze around. You don’t spend your time goofing around playing facebook. You work at it with diligence.
Let me ask you older folks: Do you want a fat church? Of course we do. We want our church to gain some weight—we want these chairs to fill up. But how do we get that? What does it take to fill a church?
It takes diligence. Obviously I as a minister need to be diligent in my job. Paul told Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist. Preach the Word.” In other words, the guy who stands here has to prepare his message, practice it and hone his presentation. But don’t think that lets you off the hook. You need to be diligently doing your part! How do I get those opportunities to be an evangelist? How do I get those opportunities to preach the word? How does the word become effectual in people’s lives? It comes by God opening those doors. So if we are going to be a fat church we need to be diligent in prayer. We need to be crying out to God for him to send us those poor souls who need to be converted. We need to be praying that God would open doors for ministry beyond these walls.
As you can see, people aren’t flocking to come here. It is the one place nobody wants to be. It is about as counter cultural as you can get. You have to sit still for long periods of time. We sing songs from clear back in the 5th century. We believe that women have to be submissive to their husbands and men must lead his family. I mean, what sort of crazy goon is going come here and worship with us? I know who will! People like us! Only people who have their hearts changed, and have come to fear the Lord.
Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon why his church was so successful—why was it that so many people flocked to his church each week. You might say, “Well duh! Spurgeon was a great preacher!” But Spurgeon didn’t attribute his success to himself. He responded to the man by waving his hand and saying, “Follow me.” He led him down to the room right below the sanctuary. There in the belly of the church there were hundreds of his congregation members with their heads bowed. They were praying for the service. They were praying for the ministry of the word. They were asking the Lord to bless the means that he had ordained for the conversion of sinners and the building up of the saints.
That’s how a church grows. That’s how a church is made fat. It usually doesn’t happen overnight. But when God’s people are diligent in prayer, churches start putting on some pounds!
You remember how the widow got her justice? She came to the judge again and again. She was diligent. She might have been annoying! But she was diligent in being annoying! So she got what she wanted from the cruel judge.
How much more will our Heavenly Father, who loves us, give us what we ask?
How about relationships? Everyone wants good relationships, don’t they? Especially in the church. But relationships take diligence. That’s because relationships can be broken and you want to give up on them. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to persevere in our relationships. He wants broken relationships to be mended. And that can only be done through diligently abiding by the means he has set out.
Think about Matthew 18. It can seem like an arduous thing, can’t it? First, you see your brother in sin. So what do you have to do? You have to confront him. If that doesn’t work, you have to do it again. If that doesn’t work, you have to do it again. This time you grab a friend who can come along with you. If that doesn’t work, the job isn’t done. Now it is time to hand it over to the church and let them work on it.
But what usually happens? People are lazy. They switch churches to avoid those people. Or they cut off any real interaction. They don’t want to follow the commands of God. They don’t have that kind of diligence. So their friendships end up being few and far between. Many of them end u; being shallow. Most of all their church is as gaunt as an Ethiopian orphan.
That’s not what God calls us to do though. God wants fat relationships. And to have that you’ll have to be diligent in reconciling with your brothers. It’s going to take a lot of work. Reconciliation takes up a lot of time and energy. But No pain, no gain. That’s the way the Lord works. That’s the way relationships are restored. If you desire to have fat friendships and a healthy church, that’s the way you do it. You all have the desire for these things, but the desire needs to be met with diligence. And when the two become one, the desire shall be satisfied.
And, my friends, don’t think that this is something far from God himself. Our being reconciled to God wasn’t something that came easily for the Lord. He desired it from all eternity. But it wouldn’t come easy for him. His desire was satisfied only through the diligence of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus got off his throne and came into this world. He spent himself in prayer in long nights. His desire for our salvation would not be satisfied until every commandment was fulfilled. He would not stop until every nail had been hammered into his flesh. He determined to do all his redemptive work and would not stop until he could say, “It is finished.” His hunger for our souls could not be satisfied without his diligence. And because he was diligent, we know that his kingdom shall be fat! You and I may have opportunity to participate in that kingdom because of what Christ has done.
God’s recipe for success is a simple equation: Desire + diligence. When you put those to things together, you will see that your longings will be satisfied. If you are careful to add, rather than subtract, then God will grant you the object of your desire. Because God has ordained work as the pathway to fatness.
 An old way of saying stimulation. He should have been stimulated to work.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.