Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs
..[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 13 ESV”] 1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
2 From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
5 The righteous hates falsehood,
but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
6 Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
but sin overthrows the wicked.
7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
8 The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
but a poor man hears no threat.
9 The light of the righteous rejoices,
but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15 Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
16 In everything the prudent acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
21 Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
but it is swept away through injustice.
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want.
Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Once again we have this parallel between the spiritual and the natural. So good is our God, that He surrounds us in the created order with multitudes of practical illustrations to reinforce spiritual realities. In this case, the topic is growth. And just as virtually nothing in the natural order grows in uncontrolled fits or miraculous jumps, neither do we grow spiritually in sudden spurts and jumps. Sure, there are seasons of accelerated growth, but not huge, unaccounted for leaps. No overnight nor miraculous transformations into spiritual maturity. Maturity comes with time and experience.
We do not synthesize Biblical truth in blocks as much as assembling bit by bit in solid, well cemented units of tested reality. Every child yearning for the privileges of age, still needs to mature to where those privileges are matched with willing responsibility. And this is true spiritually as well. It is why elders are called elders and not youngsters. Leaders are those who rise to that place not by random appointment, but by living the Christian life – with all of its joys, sorrows, hardships, struggles and battles consistently over time. It is why Paul warns Timothy to not “be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22) – most likely referring to ordaining someone to an office in the Church. Time is a great revealer of hidden things. And those who look ready, may well not be.
So too Believer, do not look to sudden spiritual experiences, to movements, conferences, retreats, books or prayers as means to short circuit the kind of growth that only comes with time and experience. Those perceived “gains” usually dwindle before too long. Mountain top experiences fade so rapidly. But if you will give yourself to gather, little by little, you will be shocked at how solid and well-rounded and lasting such growth will be. Do not be afraid of giving God the time He needs to shift and shape and mold you afresh. One expert noted that when straightening teeth with braces, the average course runs about 4 years: two with braces, two with a retainer. Some shorter, some longer. How much more when dealing with bent characteristics of our fallen souls. Saved in an instant, but shaped in a lifetime. And perfected only at Christ’s return.
Do not be over anxious Christian – anxious yes, over-anxious, no. Take the time to saturate yourself in God’s Word as a habit of life. Learn to turn the heart to Him in prayer by instinct, and not just in set times to get your praying done or agenda accomplished. Cultivate the habit of gathering often with the saints in worship, filling the soul with nourishing things for the heart and mind that lead you back over and over to contemplate and glory in Christ. Do not worry about holding positions or filling roles in the Church, strive to grow in the character of Christ. Opportunities to serve will come most naturally to those who are seeking Christ more than the opportunities.
Grow. Steadily. Naturally. Trustingly. And what you gain, will never be lost. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
If hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life – then change your hope to those things which will be fulfilled. Seek after those desires God delights to fill – and you will know true life. Continue to hope after what may never be yours, and you will sink in a bottomless abyss of disappointment and aching unfulfillment. Set your desire on the good things in Christ, and you will be satisfied beyond your desires.
I knew a man once who had suffered the loss of a limb. But he never accepted it. Deep inside he simply wanted to will his situation away, and to be whole like he was before. I would want that too. He never relented and grew more and more often resentful and despairing. He knew that his limb would not be replaced. He knew this was to be his lot. But oh how he resisted it. And the pain he suffered from his inward resistance against the unchangeable circumstance, was far greater than the loss of the limb itself. And far more lasting.
No wonder then the Scripture reminds us to “hope in God.” This is the state of the Psalmist when he pens:
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
The picture of a deer panting for water is of one nearing death – panicking lest none be found. Crying out and tormented, shut out form the congregation the Psalmist then turns from all of this and comes back to himself saying “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Why indeed, when he can turn and then say “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation.” My outward circumstance may not change, but my soul can praise again – and THAT is where real hope is.
Hope in the Lord Beloved, and you are sure never to be disappointed.
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Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.