WISDOM SETS GODLY GOALS
Dear friends in Christ.
We lived in Atlanta when Ted Turner began CNN. The day was one to remember. Turner took a big step to build a 24 hour seven day a week cable news station. Cable was very new. Not many people had it. I wondered if it would work.
A week ago as I was driving, I heard something interesting on the radio. The host made the point that most news that gets reported is news less than one percent of the population makes. If they reported on the 99%, that could be done in thirty seconds. Most people simply go to work, work hard, go home and interact with their families. They repeat the procedure the next day. A small percentage of people make the headlines and give the impression the world is falling apart.
Another thing I see is that news agencies fill their news time by manufacturing news. How do they do it? They create a poll and then spend all kinds of time reporting on it. Pollsters ask the question what matters most when voting for president. They give choices: 1) the economy and jobs, 2) terrorism, 3) corruption in government, 4) immigration issues, 5) law and order, 6) national debt or whatever. If they hadn’t conducted the poll, they wouldn’t have a news story. Even at that, why do I need to choose one? They all matter to me. Actually what matters most to me in choosing a president isn’t even on the list. I want the President to love the Lord and practice his faith with a life of integrity. I want the President to take time every day asking the Lord for guidance and wisdom. That’s never on the list.
This reading from Proverbs addresses every person’s need for Godly wisdom including the President. We pray for godly wisdom. Godly Wisdom Sets Godly Goals. 1) Those goals begin at the end; 2) Godly wisdom seeks godliness in the meantime.
We need to set goals beginning at the end, because the end of life comes quickly. Economy experts say that a huge percentage of Americans have less than a thousand dollars in savings. Insurance companies and investment companies are always giving out advice to plan for the future. It needs to get done now, because life is short. You need to plan for your retirement days.
Life is short. The lifetime of a lightning bolt is 45 to 55 microseconds. Time wise, one microsecond is comparable to one second in 11 ½ days. A lightning bolt is powerful but it passes so quickly. The average running shoe lasts 350 to 500 miles. A hard lead pencil can write up to 30,000 words or draw a line more than 30 miles long. Those are fun facts about lifetimes, but let’s get serious. Worldwide, the average life expectancy is 71.0 years (68 years and 6 months for males and 73 years and 6 months for females). In the US it’s about 78.5 years. Men can expect to live less time than women. In the grand scheme of things the book of James warns “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
How are you planning for the end of your life? Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for the deaths of 500,000 French men when he tried to conquer the world. That was approximately 1/6 of the population of France. Eventually he was exiled by the British for the last 6 years of his life to the prison island of St. Helena. His wife Marie Louise never wrote him. She even married another man while Napoleon was still living. He never heard from his son again. He was confined to the house and grounds. When he died, the tombstone where he is buried reads: "Here lies." That’s it. He did say good things about Jesus along the line. I pray that he repented. From a human point of view the last six years were as lousy as they could be. But God in his grace gave him opportunity to repent.
The Proverb tells us there is no better use of the time than to seek wisdom from his word. To seek God’s wisdom is “like honey for you.” When the LORD is part of your life, it will end sweetly. The writer adds “your hope will not be cut off.” The wisdom garnered is the sweet wisdom of knowing God does not leave us without hope. Because of Christ, dreadful sinners can know the best is yet to come.
God’s wisdom assures us that what the sinful flesh considers valuable and loves to chase will crash and burn. But for the repentant sinner who has come to know Jesus as the greatest treasure of all, knows the end is the beginning. It’s not gloom and doom but the best is yet to come.
C S Lewis once said that Christians are gun shy to talk about the end and the promises of heaven. He said, “We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about "pie in the sky," and of being told that we are trying to "escape from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere." But either there is "pie in the sky" or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced.” We can face the end face on. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” To back his bold claim and to prove he wasn’t just blowing smoke, he went to the grave of his good friend Lazarus and called him to come forth. To the amazement of his enemies and friends alike, his good friend came forth. Not just word ever come from Jesus. With Jesus, promises made are promises kept. We aren’t even talking about Easter and what Jesus did there. Promises made are promises kept. “Because I live, you will live also.” Godly goals begin at the end. Know Jesus, know his peace.
Godly wisdom also sets godly goals for the meantime. “Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous, do not plunder their dwelling place. When I translated that verse, I got the impression that these words seem to be more violent than a thief sneaking into a house to steal something. My translation was this: “Do not ambush as an evil person the house of someone righteous; do not assault a dwelling place.” It is more like a home invasion than a burglary although both are wickedly evil.
But Pastor, I have never thought of committing such a crime. God be praised! An English preacher and reformer by the name of John Bradford is credited with saying, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.” In other words any of us might be doing some damnable things if it were not for the grace of God. We have the potential inside of us. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Who knows what might have happened to any one of us if our God had not given us the parents he did, the spouse, the church, a teacher or pastor whom he used to influence us. Think where we would be, and what are destiny would be if by God’s grace we had not gotten to know God’s Son, our Savior. “There but for the grace of God go I.”
In the mid-seventies in the city of London, some gunmen broke into deposit boxes and stole more than seven million dollars’ worth of valuables. A woman had a half a million dollars’ worth of jewelry stolen plus other valuables. She wailed. "Everything I had was in there. My whole life was in that box." No question that was a horrendous loss, but “My whole life was in that box?” Really? What a sad commentary on her values! We have been redeemed, not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus.
“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” A righteous person is perfect person. That is also the title of every believer. But a righteous person knows he didn’t become righteous on his own. That’s a bestowed title, not a personally earned title. The title is bestowed by Christ who lived righteously and perfectly for all. The title becomes personally ours when, purely by the Holy Spirit’s power, by gives us the faith to believe he did this for each of his children.
While we have the title of righteous, we still stumble and sin. The lives of the righteous are filled with troubles and hardships - trips to hospitals, doctor’s appointments. There is left a trip to the funeral home for all of us. But the Lord lifts us up. He says seven times – the number of fullness. We remain forgiven. We remain the objects of his love. He promises nothing we face will be so overwhelming we won’t get through it without his help. He promises to make all work out to be a blessing. He gets us through it all. Some of you are living proof. Make a goal to seek the Lord’s wisdom to see it and believe it.
Another goal is not to do cartwheels when someone “gets what they deserve.” “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” Don’t gloat when the Lord brings down the one who hates you. In fact, from this verse there is reason to believe that he might turn his wrath toward you if you do gloat. Finally vengeance is in the Lord’s hands, not ours.
A chapter ahead in Proverbs the holy writer speaks about our responsibility toward our enemies, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” Jesus repeated those words in the Sermon on the Mount in which he includes, “Love your enemies.” He even makes the point that to love someone who loves you is not a challenge at all, but to love someone who detests you is true love. To win that person for Christ is the goal. Hating and fuming against someone will never win a person over.
Our goal is to live a level headed life. “For the evildoer has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” There is a theme that is found in the psalms that asks the question, “Why do the heathen prosper?” Why should we even ask the question? The Proverb says, “For the evildoer has no future, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” That’s nothing to celebrate. That’s something to be very sad about when we think about their eternal future.
I read a story about a man who was celebrating his 100th birthday. "What are you most proud of?" a reporter asked. "Well," said the man, "I don't have an enemy in the world." "What a beautiful thought! How inspirational!" said the reporter. "Yep," added the birthday boy, “I outlived every last one of them." It brings a kind of smile to our face, but think about what he said. I guess I would agree that we ought to outlive our enemies, but that has nothing to do with quantity of days but with quality of days. Quality means having the goal of living for the Lord. Lord, give me wisdom to set those kinds of godly goals and then live them.