Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Proverbs 4:20-27 Plan Ahead!

Today is 12/12/12, which just happens to be the 35th birthday of my younger daughter, Emmy! Remembering that amazing morning when I barely made it to the hospital, because Emmy, always in a hurry, was born after only one hour of labor! Thank yo, LORD, for 35 years of pure JOY with her! Her older sister, Molly, is pushing 38, so I’ve reminded them that they both now round to 40 - because they also remind ME that I round to 100!!  Happy Birthday, sweet Emmy!

I want to ask you to continue to remember my former student, Jacob, in your prayers. He begins round 6 of chemo tomorrow! This has been a long three months! Pray for continued encouragement and strength for both Jacob and his mom, and for a good result from these treatments!

Today we are going to talk about purposeful living. In this last passage of chapter 4 of Proverbs, Solomon uses lots of very active verbs to show the need for intentional planning if we are going to walk the straight path:

My son, pay attention to what I say;

    listen closely to my words.  
Do not let them out of your sight,

    keep them within your heart;  
for they are life to those who find them

    and health to a man’s whole body.  
Above all else, guard your heart,

    for it is the wellspring of life.  
Put away perversity from your mouth;

    keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 
Let your eyes look straight ahead,

    fix your gaze directly before you.  
Make level paths for your feet

    and take only ways that are firm.  
Do not swerve to the right or the left;

    keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27)

You can sense the intensity of Solomon’s plea here. He desperately wants his son to truly LISTEN to his words. The emphasis on guarding and keeping seem to indicate a battle in which soldiers need to be constantly alert to danger and be ready to defend. The Message states verse 23 this way:

Keep vigilant watch over your heart;

    that’s where life starts. 

We are in the midst of a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-18), and we are to be constantly prepared. Paul exhorted us to put on the whole armor of God to protect our hearts and minds. He lists several defensive pieces of armor, and one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This aligns with Solomon’s argument that is it by listening to and acting on God’s Word - His Wisdom - that we will be prepared.

If we want to stick to the right path, we can’t just wander aimlessly or passively. We need to be intentionally planning where we set our feet. We need to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead in order to avoid the distractions and obstacles that would entrap or trip us. The author of Hebrews tells us that even Jesus kept His eyes fixed on the goal in order to complete His task:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Paul tells us to maintain our focus on the prize that awaits us:

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

And again:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

The Christian life is a battle and a race. We need to PLAN AHEAD!

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