Timeless – The Source of Wisdom

We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin called Timeless.

Things aren’t always as simple as black and white. So how do we navigate the gray? In our series called “Timeless,” we will explore wisdom from different cultural proverbs and how they connect to the truths of God in the Scriptures as He seeks to lead us to Him.

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If we are often our biggest problem then wherever we go, our problems go with us!

We kicked off the year with a series on prayer. Our hope was that we would be equipped with ways to connect with God when we mess up, when we don’t have words, when we consider the future, and our last one was a prayer for wisdom.

We need God’s wisdom.

Things aren’t always as simple as black and white. So how do we navigate the gray?

Today we kick off a series called Timeless where we will explore wisdom in a nuanced world. We will be drawing inspiration from popular sayings and proverbs worldwide. You see, we believe God loves people from all nations and has created everyone in His image. He is pursuing each and every one of us! And there are elements in every culture that connect to the truths of God as He seeks to lead us to Him.

In each message we start with a cultural proverb and then show how it aligns with Biblical wisdom. In order to maneuver through life’s complexities, we want to bridge the gap between human insight and the guidance that God’s Word and His Spirit offers us.

  • Next week we will look at some wisdom from India with “What goes around comes around.”
  • And then the Nigerian proverb “The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat.”
  • Then a modern proverb which says: “Words once spoken cannot be taken back; like an arrow released, they find their mark.”
  • Finally the Latin American Proverb “Con los años la viña da mejor vino.” (With years, the vine yields better wine) 

Today we are looking at the Chinese proverb “When you drink the water, remember the spring.”

This Chinese proverb reminds us to not just appreciate what you have but where it came from. To remember the source of what you’re benefiting from. We need to be grateful for the people, places, or circumstances that have contributed to our well-being or success.

This is good advice, right? It reminds us that everything has a source and to cultivate a mindset that remembers and is grateful for the provision of and the people who labored to provide you this luxury. Ideally, this proverb would cultivate a heart of thankfulness and draw it away from self-sufficiency toward dependence. 

I want to press into this a little bit more and with a spiritual lens.

Biblical wisdom is knowing our source is God.

There are a great number of proverbs throughout the Scriptures. Proverbs follow the rule of “this is generally how the world works” They are principles for living, not promises. Proverbs are short, pithy statements of general truth. They are meant to be memorable and to stick with us. 

Wisdom is no minor theme or character in the Scriptures. Often “wisdom” is the way the Bible describes itself. There are a handful of books in our Old Testament that are considered wisdom literature, which, altogether give us a picture of what a wise life looks like. Wisdom is seen as precious, of great value, and worth seeking after. 

Most of these little nuggets of wisdom are found in the book of Proverbs and in the letter to followers of Jesus from James, the half brother of Jesus. James was skeptical that his half brother was the Messiah until he saw him crucified and resurrected from the dead. He actually became the leader of the Jerusalem church and he said this:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

Ultimately, the One to whom we should be most grateful is the One who created us and the One who pursues us in order to adopt us into His spiritual family – God, our Heavenly Father. Ultimately, He is the source of all we need to become the person He created us to be. Ultimately, He is the source for our wisdom.

Two weeks ago we pointed out that biblical wisdom assumes these premises: Truth is deeply embedded in who God is, how He created the world, and how He has designed us (His image) to live in it. Remember the definition of biblical wisdom is “truth applied in context.” It isn’t about flashes of brilliant insight, it’s about knowing “Truth” in context, combined with the discipline to act.

The world does not operate by God’s design, so life is messy and complex. We need God’s wisdom to navigate the complexities of life. 

Are you looking to God for wisdom?
Are you asking Him to just bless what you are doing or are you telling Him what to do?
Or are you even going to God at all?

James also said: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8a
The level of intimacy in your relationship with God is up to you!

God is inviting you into a level of spiritual intimacy and closeness that you need.

Here’s what’s fascinating: most of the time we don’t even know we need it because we think we are getting along just fine as we are, but I’m here to tell you: there is so much more God has for you!

  • The deepest longings of your heart can be met in communion with God.
  • The healing you need from the painful losses in life can be healed in relationship with your Heavenly Father.
  • The meaning and adventure in life you desire can be found as you grow in intimacy with the Spirit of God.
  • The sense of identity and confidence and clarity can be discovered in Jesus.

When we pursue God, He reveals Himself to us!

When we go on with life without pursuing God, we drift. He seems more and more distant but it’s not because He’s gone anywhere. He’s right there waiting for us to turn back to Him!

I think back to a quote from my sabbatical last summer from Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton.

A quote that jumped out at me was this:

“Spiritual intimacy with God…. involves bringing more and more of myself into God’s presence and receiving more and more of God’s being into myself…. Intimacy always leads us to a place where we are not in control…. Relinquishing control can be difficult or even impossible. If we have a high need to be in control in our human relationships (and most of us do), intimacy with God will be very challenging for us.”

– Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

Last summer, on one of my walks in the 105 degree heat, I was walking in the wilderness and I was asking God to show me my blind spots to show me how he wants to grow me. All of a sudden I heard a rustling up ahead of me. I looked up into the tree about 20 yards away and a huge owl jumps out of the tree and starts flying towards me!!

I couldn’t help but ask God: “Is this the answer to my prayer? Does my blindspot have to deal with this owl? Because when I think of an owl, I think of the word wisdom.”

And then another thought came to mind, and it was a proverb which says: 

“Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,  but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7 (CEB)

I have not communicated enough on the importance of the fear of the Lord. Now this does not mean being scared of God. 

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”- ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭28‬-‭31‬ NIV

In other words, we do not need to be afraid of people. Only “to fear God” means “to respect, honor, trust, and obey.”

We have no need to be afraid of God because He cares for us!

Now, obey is not a popular word or idea, but think of it more like this. Has anyone ever thrown you a surprise party? You follow them around and it doesn’t fully make sense but you trust that person so you do what they ask you to do. And in the end you are rewarded with your level of trust.

God is inviting us into an adventure, but we need to trust Him because He will ask us to do some things that go counter to what we want to do or even what the world says we should do.

All this starts with fearing God. When you don’t fully understand something in the Bible, it’s always good to look up other verses about the same subject. Let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures.

In the book of Proverbs the fear of the Lord is a continual submission to God in humility and faith (Prov. 23:17) and consists of a hatred of evil and the desire to turn away from it (Prov. 8:13; 16:6). Fearing God is better than all earthly treasures (Prov. 15:16) and leads to greater love for and knowledge of God (Prov. 1:29; 2:5; 9:10; 15:33)….”

Here’s one of my favorite verses about fearing God.

“Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear him. With them He shares his secrets.” – PSALM 25:14 (NLT)

Fear keeps us from pursuing harmful things. It gives us a healthy respect for the things that are bigger, stronger, and mightier than we are. Solomon writes that if you want to be wise, you have to fear the LORD, and if you want to fear the LORD in the way He intends, you have to know Him.

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” (Proverbs 9:10 NLT)

Moving from Knowing about God to Really Knowing God.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better [personally]. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV)

The word “know” is the word “genosko.” It means to know deeply and personally. What Paul is praying for here is that you wouldn’t just know about God, but that you would know God intimately.

In a great article by David Lindell, he described how the great reformer Martin Luther struggled with the concept of fearing God. As Luther studied the Scriptures, he distinguished between two types of fear. One is called servile fear and the other, filial fear.

Lindell writes:

“Servile fear is a fear of punishment for wrongdoing. It’s a fear of getting caught; a selfish fear – one motivated by self-preservation. Filial fear, on the other hand, draws from the Latin concept where we get our idea of family and refers to the fear that a child has for his father.”

– David Lindell

Luther, regarding filial fear, thinks of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father and who desperately wants to please him. He doesn’t want to offend the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is his source of security and love.

You see, when you fear God, you don’t have to fear God

The first fear is one that we have outside of knowing God through Jesus. It is the fear that every person who will be judged by God should have. When you see the mightiness, greatness, and holiness of God, how could you not be afraid?

Lindell continues:

“As followers of Jesus, servile fear is not what sustains us. It’s in Christ that we have filial fear. Your fear is not about the judgment of God, but rather a fear of being distant from Him. You want to be with your Father who is your security and love. Our fear of the LORD is then based on our knowledge of His love, mercy, and goodness. It rests on the fact that God is our Heavenly Father and it is our desire to please Him. Our fear is healthy, good, respectful, and driven by our love for Him.”

– David Lindell

To fear God is to take refuge in Him – to draw close to Him (Psalm 31:19). Those two things may seem like opposing forces as typically you run from the person you fear to your place of refuge.

But when we see that this fear is a fear, not of being punished, but of not being with the Father, it changes how we think about God.

Therefore, fear God. Because when you fear God (filial), you don’t have to fear God (servile).”

When we delight in fearing the Lord, we will be controlled by an unspeakable and glorious joy. Why? Because when we fear the Lord, there is nothing else to fear! When we acknowledge God for who he is and regard him as holy, and when we trust his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we can face whatever the future holds with our heads held high.

To fear God is to desire to live in harmony with His righteous standards and to honor Him in all that you do. We do not naturally seek to honor God, because our sinful natures lead us to pursue selfish pleasures instead of delighting in God and discovering the joy of knowing and loving Him.

God’s way is the best way. He will guide to the right decision that will bring more life and joy and hope and peace – even if how you get there is counter-cultural or even something you do not want to do.

In what areas of your life are you navigating things all on your own? 
In what area are you resisting surrendering the situation or the relationship or the problem over to God and asking for His wisdom?

To fear God is to center your life completely around Him including your thoughts, motivations, and actions.

I want to end with one of my favorite proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 NIV

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