How to Be and Stay a Fool (Part 1)
This Wednesday, the Cornerstone Youth Group began a new series entitled Graceful Wreaths of Godly Wisdom: 11 Words of Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs. I wanted us to study Proverbs for a few reasons:
First, we live in a foolish culture. Solomon’s wisdom runs counter to just about everything American culture promotes. We love youthfulness, Proverbs sees grey hair as a crown of glory. We love self-promotion; Proverbs commands us to wait for others to praise us. To live biblically and live American are increasingly at odds with one another.
Second, Proverbs is poignantly practical. The rhythm of the verses stick in the head (and hopefully heart) easily. And almost every verse is immediately applicable. It seems to be a good book to start at the beginning of a school year, as pressures of all kinds mount for our students.
I hope to post each week’s message here within a couple days of teaching it on Wednesday night. Some of the messages (like this one) will be split into two parts for the sake of length. For those of you from Cornerstone, I hope you’ll continue to talk about what we’re learning at Youth Group with your children. My prayer is that we all would be doers of the Word as well as just hearers. For those not from Cornerstone, I trust this study on Proverbs will be helpful as well. The truths certainly extend beyond the immediate context of a Youth Group.
How to Be and Stay a Fool, Proverbs 2:3-19
1. Assume you are wise. (v3-5) The Bible is just not generous in its assessment of our ability to figure life out. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov 16:27). Being foolish is a side effect of being born. The Fall has so radically poisoned our hearts against wisdom, that when Christ (who is wisdom incarnate) showed up, we crucified Him. (see 1 Cor. 1:18-21)
2. Do not pray and ask for wisdom. (v3) Since we don’t naturally posses wisdom and are told to pursue it by Solomon, Paul, Jesus, etc. than it follows that wisdom can only be found outside ourselves. (see James 1:5) I’m completely unable to engender wisdom within myself, yet the Scriptures call me to live wisely. I desperately need help to live wisely. The good news is that God has given us a command that we could not possibly follow without His help. Which really is the story of redemption, sanctification, and glorification from beginning to end.
3. If you’re lame enough to have to pray to get by, then at least doubt whether God can or will give you wisdom. (v3) It is a terrifying Scriptural reality that our prayers can be hindered. We can pray and God choose not hear us because of our sin. We need to know what can hinder our prayers, as these are things we can control. Everything that can hinder our prayers as seen is Scripture is active disobedience to the Lord. A husband’s prayers are hindered if he does not show his wife honor and respect (1 Peter 3:7). God calls the prayers of the disobedient an abomination (Prov 28:9). That puts these prayers in the same category as child-sacrifice and homosexuality.
Likewise, James 1:6-8 says that our prayers will go unanswered if we doubt God’s ability to give us the wisdom we ask for. A natural question is “why?” Why does a little bit of doubt poison the well so much that God will not give wisdom to someone who understands his desperate need for wisdom, but doesn’t have the faith to be confident in God? It’s because fundamentally, doubting God’s ability to keep His promises is rank unbelief. This kind of unbelief makes light of the Cross, claiming that the guarantee of the death of God Himself isn’t enough to convince us of God’s love and trustworthiness. (Romans 8:32) The Cross is meant to provide us with confidence that God will keep His promises. “I gave you my Son, the greatest sacrifice a Father could ever give. How is it that you still doubt me?”
I don’t mean to imply that God only hears our prayers if our hearts are purged of all unbelief. I’m so riddled with sin and unbelief that I’ll never have a pure heart to bring before God until glorification. Rather, God expects honesty and dependence upon Him. When there is doubt, the proper response is to say with the doubting father in Mark 9:24, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” That’s a shout of contradictory desperation. “I trust you! Help trust as I do not trust you!” And yet the contradiction is reality, as the war between the grace of God and broken power of sin still rages in our hearts.
4. Book a trip on the USS Leisure. After all, wisdom isn’t too hard to find and understanding comes without effort. (v4) Just glancing at this verse doesn’t communicate ease. “Seek.” “Search.” These aren’t cushy desk-job verbs. They’re back-breaking, sweat-producing activities. Buried treasure is not found next to your Rolaids in the top drawer of your roll-top. It is not an accident that Solomon describes searching for wisdom in these active terms. If you are not actively seeking wisdom, you aren’t gaining wisdom. Plunking yourself down in front of Facebook or YouTube does not teach you how to live a life that is God-glorifying and self-satisfying. If you aren’t making an effort to know Scripture, than you aren’t making an effort to be wise.
5. Search for that buried treasure infrequently and randomly. You’re bound to get lucky eventually. (v4) People who recognize their desperate need for something aren’t identified by their dispassionate indifference. No, desperation is marked by an all consuming obsession with fixing the problem. When the doctor comes back with a grim look on his face and says “Cancer,” the patient’s life is completely reoriented around the primary goal of killing off the life-threatening cells. He wouldn’t dare miss a chemo treatment, hoping that one of the treatments would just get lucky and heal him.