Proverbs 17 – The Medicine

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones – Proverbs 17:22

 One of my pet peeves is to begin to share something with someone, particularly if they ask me about a difficult situation and just as I begin, they launch into their own issues, past or present. Instead of being encouraged, I walk away feeling as Proverbs describes, “dry.” So, I’ve made it a point to gravitate to happy people – especially those who can listen.

I like to be around people who enjoy life. Their overall demeanor is happy and encouraging which is something I need to be around.  On the other hand, being around someone who engages in endless complaining, tirelessly sharing their hurts, injustices and hardships is draining.

I realize we all need to unload sometimes and yes we do need to vocalize our hurts etc. But life is too short to spend it looking for ways to be offended or hurt. Often, when I am in a wounded situation, being around those “happy” people does the exact thing Proverbs claims, it becomes “good medicine” for me.

This verse has three major applications:

First, I need to seek out those with a merry or joyful heart. Being around people with a cheery disposition can do wonders for us. I wonder if there are times when if we would be better to just make a point to be around happy people when we’re feeling blue as opposed to seeking out a therapist. I’m not talking about major issues which require serious counsel, but I am talking about forcing oneself to seek out friends who are encouraging. Going to a fun event with fun people, laughing and having someone encourage us to find the positive in our situation rather than just concentrate in removing the negative.

The second application I see from this verse is how deflating a negative comment can be. This is especially true when the comment isn’t limited to one remark but opens a door for someone to vomit their negative outlook on anyone within earshot. At times, I have to make a decision to not be around people who seem to relish polluting anyone around them with their constant negative outlook on things.  It really can drag me down.

Finally, how do I come across to others? I can be one who continues the down the road of discouraging others or I can be the person brings “good medicine” to a situation. It’s a choice we can make, we can bring either darkness through negative comments and opinions to a situation or we can bring light or “medicine” to our sphere of influence by a positive outlook.

So, next time you are tempted to add your two cents worth someone else’s problem, maybe a better approach would be to keep a positive outlook on things. Listen, but keep it positive. Then go out and do something fun together! Me? I like going to hockey games, but that’s another post!

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Proverbs 16 – The Warning

A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.                                                                                                              – Proverbs 16:27-29 (ESV)

 “He’s such a troublemaker!”

I can still hear my late grandfather describing one of his co-workers like this. I really don’t know any details, but somewhere long ago, my grandfather and another man had a disagreement which never seemed to be resolved. I just remember my grandfather saying this other man liked to “stir up trouble.”  Even though I was a relatively young child, I sensed most anywhere this other man went, there often seemed to be stress and friction.

From my personal experience as I’ve grown older, I have noticed there are people who enjoy stirring up strife. This often manifests itself as saying or repeating things which are unnecessary. Passing on a form of gossip or worse, passing judgment on someone with very few (or no) reliable facts can be quite damaging.

Many a “prayer concern” for someone has been shared in a church group setting that was nothing more than gossip.

In our modern culture, I’m seeing this often displayed in a public manner via social networking vehicles. Somebody “hears” something and it becomes a post on an internet site, with little – usually no – fact checking. Further, there often is an implied recruitment going on. An attempt to win others to their side and soon a false, misleading or unsubstantiated comment is deemed “true.” It can be devastating and as King Solomon writes, it can separate “close friends.”

It’s been a common theme in Proverbs to watch our words. While not mentioned directly, I think the printed word would be included in his warnings.

King Solomon labels persons who engage in that activity with three pretty harsh terms. He calls that person, “worthless,” “dishonest” and a “man of violence.” It might be hard thinking of yourself this way, but if you are tempted to engage in this kind of activity, either spoken or written, you might want to pause a moment and consider your next step.

So before you pass along your opinion (few of us will admit to judging others, but we do love to share our opinions!), ask yourself if your comments about someone are:  1) true, 2) necessary and most importantly, 3) glorifying to God.  If you just take a few moments and think through those thoughts, you may end up not saying (or writing) much.  Our speech or written words can be violent weapons with disastrous consequences.

 

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Proverbs 15 – The Chase

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.– Proverbs 15:16-27(ESV)

 “Show me the money!”

It’s a famous quote from a movie. And all too often it’s an attitude many of us have. Money and its acquisition consumes a considerable portion of our time.

Of course money is necessary. Proverbs speaks of how we can gain wealth and says the ability of acquiring money is actually a gift from God. Money isn’t really a problem. But our devotion to it can be a serious issue.

Here the writer of Proverbs 15 uses this contrast where Solomon claims it is better to have little, but have the fear of the LORD. He claims having little wealth is a better situation than to have great treasure and have trouble with it. Presumably, the trouble one has from his great treasure is a result of not having a fear of the LORD.

What kind of value do we assign to the fear of the LORD? Are my values shaped by a moral code I’ve gleaned from His Word? Does living a life devoted to Him overshadow my desire to accumulate wealth?

I realize we need to provide for our families. We need money and a level of resources to live this life.  King Solomon isn’t telling us to be lazy, but we do need to check our attitudes concerning the acquisition of wealth. Not only in the time and effort we put into that task, but are we reflecting God’s character with the manner in which we earn a living?

Some of the world’s unhappiest people are often those of great wealth. Many of us on the outside look at those of Hollywood or sports figures who have tragic or unhappy lives and cannot understand how someone with that amount of financial status could be so miserable. We think we’d be better at handling large sums of money. Yet, the missing ingredient isn’t raw knowledge of the handling of wealth. Rather it’s the knowledge of God and submitting to His principles that is missing.

Those with great wealth do face problems that those of us without wealth don’t really understand.  But the happy person is the one who “fears the LORD” and is consumed by following Him and not chasing after great wealth.

 

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Proverbs 14 – The Smell

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. – Proverbs 14:4(ESV)

When I was in high school, I periodically worked on a dairy farm. I think there was in the neighborhood of 150 milking cows, plus quite a few calves etc. One of my main responsibilities was to clean out the stalls. These are the small pen-like structures the cows seemed to call their home when they were in the large barn.

All these cows producing all that milk generated a considerable amount of by-product. This by-product, known as cow-pies, cow dirt, manure or some other less acceptable terms, needed cleaned out of the barn on a regular basis. Since I was one of the many high school kids working on the farm, cleaning out these stalls and the rest of the barn was my number one priority.

I remember one hot day as I was cleaning out the barn looking up at my boss, “old man Weaver” (not his real name).  We never called him “old man Weaver” to his face, but that was how we referred to him among ourselves.  This particular day I was complaining loudly about the smell and how I was standing ankle deep in cow…. stuff.  I remember looking up at him as he was sitting on the tractor saying “do you ever get used to this smell?” He didn’t answer me directly, but he did inhale a big breath. Then he said, “I love that smell.  When I smell cow stuff (not the word he used), I know my cows are making milk.  And if they are making milk, I’m making money.”

Have you ever realized when you are productive, there is usually a by-product?  It can be rather messy – even smelly. Sometimes we want our lives to me nice and tidy. Not messy, just nice and clean. But that seems to only occur when nothing is going on.

When God is truly working in my life, there is a good chance I am going to face some difficult things. Whether its things in my own heart or something I face as a result of my Christian walk, serving Him can have a messy by-product.

When we begin to open up God’s Word, when people we are serving come to understand their need of Him, when we begin to make serious progress as believers we often end up with some cow… stuff to handle. Serving Him can be messy.

But that’s really a good thing. It means we are making a difference.  We are having a direct impact on someone’s life.

So instead of becoming discouraged when things get messy in our life, maybe we should expect some by-product of ministry that smells just a little. Maybe “old man Weaver” was right when he said, “I Love that smell.”  It’s the smell of changed lives.  It’s the smell of successful ministry.

 

 

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Proverbs 13 – The Fountain

Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. – Proverbs 13:13-14(ESV)

While there are some exceptions, few people would say they “despise” God’s Word. Most people claim they respect the Bible to some degree. We use the Bible to swear in witnesses in trials. Some courthouses have Bible verses etched in stone on the building. Many people keep it in a prominent place in their homes and would never think to set a cup of coffee on it. They may even diligently carry it to church. Yet in spite of all this alleged respect for God’s Word, I wonder how many people actually “revere” as stated here in proverbs?

Many of us get rather upset when we hear about a plaque with the Ten Commandments getting removed for a public setting or we become insulted when we see video from a faraway country where a copy of the Bible is being burnt. But do we revere the Word in our life? Is it more than just a fancy book in your home?

I think we are facing an epidemic in our churches with drastic consequences. It’s an epidemic of the lack of reverence for His Word. No, I don’t mean the stories of having a courtroom plaque removed, but I do mean the lack of effort His people put into His Word. The lack of effort in trying to make time for reading it, the lack of effort put into studying it and living out the principles in His Word.

Notice I said this epidemic is in our churches. I’m much more concerned with the level of Biblical illiteracy in our churches than I am about the treatment of God’s Word by the world. I expect the world to have a distain for the Bible, but I’m bothered by the level of mediocrity people are comfortable with concerning their own Biblical knowledge.

Here in Proverbs we are given a simple promise, he who fears (or respects) the commandment will be rewarded.  It’s a promise from God; the time we spend in His Word is beneficial to us!

I tend to watch quite a bit of sports on television, but it’s not something I can ever be rewarded for! But time I invest in His Word does come back to me as a reward. How does that happen?  Well you might find you are more at peace with difficult situations or you may gain some insight on relationships.  Actually, the potential for rewards is unlimited.

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” as His Word is full of wisdom, encouragement, instruction and it gives us life!  Rather than treating His Word as a large paper weight, show some serious respect for His Word.  Diligently read it and soon you will be able to see that promise of a reward. His Word is a fountain of life.

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Proverbs 12 – The Worry

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. –  Proverbs 12:25(ESV)

 I am embarrassed at times with the amount of energy I spend worrying.

Worry or as King Solomon puts it, “anxiety,” pulls us down.  Some Bible version use the phrase “causes depression.”  Why is anxiety such an issue?  Bottom line, it’s really a lack of trust.  When I am overly worried I am saying in effect, “God, I can’t trust you for this issue.”  When I cannot mentally walk away from an issue and leave it with Him but continue wrestle with the “what if’s,” I am running a major risk of pulling myself down.

While I can’t prove it, I am convinced a significant portion of those fighting depression are having a deeper spiritual battle with trust.  I’m not talking about clinical depression as a result of a chemical imbalance or those suffering during a period of severe trauma. I am however thinking about the many times we speak of someone being worried to the point where the situation consumes them.  We often treat the symptoms of depression, but miss the real issue of trust.

How can we gain a degree of encouragement when we are feeling down?  Look at the last half of verse 25, a good word makes him glad.  What is meant here by a “good word?”

There are at least 3 ways you can look at this phrase.  The first is a word or encouragement from others.  Simply put, sometimes the best way I can feel encouraged is when someone comes along beside me and mentions a few good words.  There have been many times when I’ve been on the receiving end of a few encouraging words that have really hit the mark and lifted my spirit.  These words were not deep theological treatise on suffering or depression, but a few simple encouraging comments.  Notice Solomon says a good “word,” not “a long litany of opinion” makes one glad.  I think brevity is an important element in offering a good word to someone in need of encouragement.

The second way I think this verse can be applied is finding those good words.  Specifically, I am meaning we gain encouragement from the Scriptures.  Spending quite time in bible study and letting Him speak to you through His Word.  By the way, this probably isn’t a 3 minute devotional reading, but a time of study and quiet reflection of what His Word is speaking to you.

Thirdly, I think we need to realign our thinking.  Philippians 4:8 is the blueprint for the thinking we need learn.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 When I am worrying, I am not living out this verse.  I’m not filling myself up with “good words.”

The advice we glean from King Solomon is guard ourselves from anxiety.  It pulls us down.  It discourages us and keeps us from being the person God wants us to be.  But get that “good word” in our heart.  Through encouragement from others, reading His Word and re-aligning our thinking, we can make our hearts glad.  Often, when we follow these directives, we worry less and think more.  I’ve solved many issues thinking, but very few worrying.

 

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Proverbs 11 – The Blessing

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

– Proverbs 11:24 & 25(ESV)

 It just doesn’t make sense.  Give away riches and gain more.  Withhold what you have and suffer want.  God has different methods of economic growth than what we usually think.  He blesses us when we give it away.

The temptation is to think of this Proverb applying to finances but ignore other areas of life.  Sure He does take care of us and bless us and it is true when we give to Him, He has a way providing for us.  But I think we limit ourselves when we think of these verses only in the context of money.

How friendly are you?  How often do you go out of your way to hold a door open for a stranger when you are out shopping?  Or give up you space in the check-out line for someone?  Or shovel snow for someone you don’t even know?

I ask these questions because I think when we go out of our way to bless others we end up being blessed ourselves.  In God’s economy, He often rewards us when we bless other people which includes works we might do for them.  Especially, and maybe only, when we will get nothing from that effort ourselves.

Yet holding back on doing good – whether it’s a financial matter or something else – ends up hurting ourselves.

Don’t believe me?  Try this today, when you are out shopping, give up your space in line to someone.  Or randomly pay for someone’s lunch.  Make it somebody who doesn’t know you and wouldn’t be able to pay you back.  Begin to make a habit out of doing something – even something little for someone.  Now watch, you will be the recipient of some sort of blessing in the near future.   It may or may not be a financial blessing.  But you will find yourself being surprised by some good fortune that you were not expecting.

On the other hand, withholding what is “yours” will result in more stress for you as you try to hold on to it, more time invested in worrying about it and in the final analysis you may end up with less than you thought.

Nothing on this Earth is really “yours.”  It’s all His.  We just manage it for Him.  He’s entrusted us gifts, talents and abilities.  What are we doing with them?

We are to be wise stewards.  We are to be diligent and hard working. We are to be frugal.  But we also are to be a blessing to others.

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