KEY SCRIPTURE Proverbs 1:2-5
1. To know wisdom and instruction;
2. to perceive the words of understanding;
3. To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
4. To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
In every life situation, such as marriage, salvation, friendships, workplace relationships, etc., we want the best outcomes—those blessed by God. Are the things of God—stuff that works— what you reach for when struggling with something? Or do your instincts still grab onto the tools of the old life?
This chorus from the song Stuff That Works is provoking about why some things go wrong in our lives.
Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don't hang on the wall
Stuff that's real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
God's Word is full of instructions, and He hopes we don't hang them on the wall but absorb them into our lives.
For instance, something as simple as traffic lights reminds us of what works and what doesn't. The red light tells us to stop, but some of us may speed up on the orange to get through before the change. We're fortunate to have some seconds before the opposing lights turn green. With God's signals, we may not have those seconds. The orange is the significant signal, yet many of us proceed through in presumption or pride, and the outcome is primarily bad. Yet, we still wonder why.
To really enjoy a Godly life, we put His wisdom and principles on the outside and inside. So that we're not merely Christians in public with our cloak of righteousness but changed to the degree that life's incidents and situations produce Godly instinctive reactions instead of worldly ones.
God made us. He knows the stuff that works. Our key passage says a wise person will hear and increase learning. That is not merely mind-education; our hearts that drive our reactions need tutoring more so; sufficient enough to enable reactional change.
When I was about fifteen, an older mate and I did some Karate lessons under the Mighty Apollo. The Bruce Lee movies were out, and Karate and Kung Fu dojo's sprung up everywhere. From Keilor, we hitchhiked into Niddrie, then caught a tram to Elizabeth Street in the heart of Melbourne. Then did the reverse to get home until my mate got his licence. We would practice highly unfamiliar moves until they became our reactions. Under this regime, our old responses of defence and offence had to go. We were learning a new system, and practice was paramount. Many of God's moves are unfamiliar, such as peace instead of anger, love in place of bitterness or secret hatred, a calm response instead of yelling and swearing. The old man within us reacts the old way. But we now have the Holy Spirit, and His character replaces those old thoughts and methods. However, He can only do that if we humble ourselves to accept and practice the new moves.
We pray for God to shape us, but are often too resistant to be shaped. We don't want to be obedient and practice God's stuff that works, and we wonder why our outcomes aren't Godly and why we continue to have problems. It's because we keep reaching for the things we've used in the past—the stuff that has never worked for us, yet we still use it. In these cases, God cannot do anything with us, and we repeat the same failures. We keep offering the same wrong responses yet cry to God that life is hard and miserable. But He's already shown us the stuff that works and told us to use it. What more can He do?
When we don't bend ourselves to change and are too stubborn to absorb His principles, what we reach for when we fall is not of God and therefore fails us.
Next time you're reading your Bible, pause on the stuff that works. Think about the success of those principles which are all through the Word —the stuff God has told you to put on, and put them into practice. And the stuff you use that doesn't work, you can throw them in the Brook Kidron where King Hezekiah through all the idols he smashed to powder.
Precious Lord, so many times I have not abided by your principles—the stuff that works in all of my situations. Each time, I have paid the price, things have gone sour, far different than I hoped. Upon later reflection, I see my folly. Please help me put these things so deep in my heart that all my reactions and instincts are pleasing in your sight.
Photo by Madeleine Ragsdale