There is always something significant about the transition from an old year to a new year. The old year is a time for reflecting on the past 12 months, remembering significant events in our lives. The new year is a time for new beginnings. Perhaps it’s a time to try to make good on some previous resolutions that were not kept. It is a time to look at the coming year and try to change things that need to be changing. Maybe for some, like me, it will be a year of significant changes.
However, how do we handle all the changes? Sometimes we look at changes and we become afraid. What do we do about a future that may be uncertain or perhaps even frightening? The proverbs we will read this morning contain some good advice for us as we enter a new year which may have some uncertainty in it. How are we to cope? Proverbs 3:1-10 gives three simple answers that will help us in this new year. Let’s read Proverbs 3:1-10.
I. First, we must learn.
At first, this advice in verses 1-4 seems to be just some good fatherly advice being passed down from father to son. “Follow all the rules, then you will be wealthy and everyone will think well of you.” Something like, “Always maintain your car and it will serve you well.” But these teachings of the father are not just bits of human wisdom. The father’s teaching is based firmly on what God commands in God’s law. If the son does what God commands in his word, then these blessings will be his. What is central to God’s teaching? Verse 3 says, “Love and faithfulness.” God commands that man love God above all and his neighbor as himself. God also commands that man be totally faithful to and committed to God.
And the result of following this word of wisdom is being richly blessed. The son will have long life and prosperity. He will have a good reputation and have good favor in the eyes of God. These are beautiful things, but are they guaranteed to the one who is faithful? We will discuss these blessings a bit later. But for now Solomon says, “Remember the lessons you have received and learn from them to live a life that is good and well-pleasing to God.”
It would be well for us as well at this time to reflect on this past year and remember and learn from the lessons of the past year. Perhaps a few things stand out in your mind that you learned and remembered. Maybe it was something from a Sunday School class or small group Bible study. Or perhaps it was something you learned from your own devotional life. Perhaps you heard something in a sermon or worship service that stuck with you. I hope that we all have learned a lot and benefitted from the opportunities for learning and growth this past year.
One tendency we all need to overcome is to hear something good and important, comment on it and then fail to do anything about it. This proverb urges us to remember what we have learned and keep on applying it. While we all have made all kinds of mistakes, we must learn from these as well and press on in our life of faithfulness. Moreover, keep learning in this coming year so that you can continue to grow. Attend Sunday School classes, Small groups and worship services. Remember the lessons we have learned and learn from them using God’s word.
II. A second word of advice is to trust as we see in verses 5-6.
First, notice in whom we are to trust. We are to trust in the Lord who: created the entire universe and rules over it continually; who promised to save his people from their sin; who sent his Son into the world to bring those who believe in him eternal life; who is the only King over all and who has all things firmly in his mighty hand. This is the Lord the Bible here urges us to place our trust in.
But what does it mean specifically to trust? Literally it means to fall forward and lie face down before someone. Now that may seem to be an odd definition at first. But think about it: you don’t do that with someone you don’t trust. If you were in a room with a known and very scary hardened criminal, face down at his feet would not be a preferred position for you to be in. He might hurt you, steal your money, or humiliate you. And you don’t do this with someone you don’t know either.
But the beautiful thing is that we can do that with God. We can fall down on our faces before him and he will not only not harm us, he will love us and he will care for us. We can have that complete trust in the Lord knowing he will care for us.
Moreover, Solomon says that we must not lean on our own understanding. We should not rely or depend on our own skills and intelligence. One thing we like to do is get all involved in trying to fix things and then if things get really messed up, we pray and ask God to help us out. Solomon says that we must trust in the Lord alone with all your heart.
In fact, in verse 6, he says, “in all your ways submit to him.” To “submit” reflects an ongoing relationship between God and us. The word actually is “to know” -- a key word which describes the close and caring covenant relationship between God and us. To submit to God is to walk with him daily, making God your conscious companion whom you rely on and walk with daily. You trust in that ongoing relationship with God.
And the result of this close continual trust is even more blessings. God will lead, guide and direct us; and more than this, he will fulfill our lives. He will fill our lives with purpose and meaning, and he will give us direction. He will bring our lives to where they should be. Finally, Solomon takes this advice one step further and spells out in even more concretely how we are to walk with God and submit to him.
III. We must obey the Lord, which is what we see in verses 7-10.
We demonstrate our trusting relationship with the Lord by “fearing the Lord and shunning evil.” If we are to walk in a trusting relationship with the Lord, then we must turn to him and we must fear him, respect and worship him. And the way we can do this is to turn away from evil. We must renounce the old sinful person and embrace the new person recreated to be like Christ.
If we are to live in a trust relationship with God, then we must seek out the things in our lives that are causing us problems as we live our lives with God. Our tendency is to be selfish, greedy and focused on our own comforts and needs. And of course, we all have our own hidden secrets and sins. We must shun these things and turn to fear the Lord.
God’s question on the last day will not be, “How much were you noticed?” or even “How much did you do?” Rather, His question will be, “Were you faithful in fulfilling your calling where I placed you?” The words in verse 8 assure us that God will bless us for turning to him and will give us good health and nourishment in the deepest sense.
But we must obey the Lord in the use of our material possessions as well. To trust in the Lord with all your hearts means that you trust him enough to take care of you that you are willing to give him your first fruits. This refers to the ten percent tithe mentioned in the Bible. If you are going to live and walk with God in a truly trusting relationship, you must give back to God from what he has given to us. Solomon’s point is that trust in the Lord is not just for spiritual things. It includes every part of life including our money, time and our abilities as well. And the result, according to verse 10 is full barns and overflowing wine.
Now we should take just a minute to look at these blessings. It sounds like if we truly trust in the Lord, then according to verses 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, our lives will be free from trouble and trial. We will have long, healthy and happy lives filled with material riches. We will never have to worry about anything.
But the blessings in these verses are not always there for believers. Sometimes a Christian’s life is tragically cut short. Many Christians today are living in absolute poverty. Many Christians are being oppressed and persecuted for their faith, not being respected and admired by their fellow citizens or neighbors. Christians too are often riddled with sickness and disease.
However, let’s remember that these are not promises in the sense that they will be true for every single believer if they only trust and obey God. These are general descriptions of God’s blessings upon the ones who trust him. God must never be viewed merely as a sound investment: “If I tithe now, I will get more than what I had in the first place!” Or “if I live just right, then I’ll never have any problems.” God does promise this: If you trust in him and obey him, he will bless you and keep you.
And so as we begin 2018, will we trust the Lord? As individuals, I challenge us to keep on learning, to keep on growing in your trusting, obedient relationship with God. There comes no promise that you will find earthly peace and prosperity. But we do have God’s promise that he will be with us, no matter what we go through and he will direct everything to our ultimate good.
To you as a church, I challenge you to trust the Lord this year. Be eager to be used by God in this year. Trust in that God will provide for you what you need. May we remember this word and follow it as we being this year of continued service to our God.