Faith Works: Be Disciplinable

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Here’s a hard idea: God disciplines his kids. That includes you if you’re trusting in Christ for your salvation. Listen close, though: God does not punish his kids for their sin. Jesus has already been punished for our sin. The punishment for sin is death and hell. God has zeroed out that debt for Christians.

fw_350But God does discipline his kids – and that is a huge difference. His discipline seems to involve allowing enough pain to come our way to get our hearts back in line with him, to get our feet back on the path he has called us to.

Not all kids take being disciplined very well. Some get angry and resentful. Others rebel even more. Some get discouraged and want to give up at the very thought that they aren’t perfect, after all.

Faith that works says, “I was wrong. God loves me and is right to correct me or discipline me. I will accept that and move closer to him by obeying him.”

Think: How do you receive being corrected, rebuked, or disciplined? Why is it so hard to take it well? How is correction and discipline evidence of God’s love for you?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to resent his discipline or correction, but to received it well because you know he loves you.

Do: Read more about God’s discipline in Hebrews 12:1-13.

Faith Works: Give Him Your Stuff

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Too many people have read these verses as some kind of formula for getting rich, as if God has set himself up as the best currency exchange system ever: “Put in $10, get out $100.”

fw_350But this chapter is about trusting God’s way, not using him to get rich so we can live our way. To honor God with my “wealth” means that I understand it all comes from him, that I refuse to use any of it to dishonor him, and that I give part of my income back to him somehow. Then God promised Israel to respond with abundant crops.

Jesus challenged his followers to even deeper faith, to see money as something to be used as a way of storing up wealth in heaven, not fickle fortunes on earth. He praised a poor woman who gave all she had because it showed she was trusting God to give her all she needed today and forever.

Think: How can you honor God with your wealth? Why would you do that? What would you expect to happen as a result?

Pray: Ask God to help you to show your trust in his ability to provide for you by willingly giving away some of your money and stuff to and for him.

Do: Ask a wise Christian you trust how they decide how much is right to give to God in dollars, time, energy, and attention.

Faith Works: Trust His Eyes

“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 3:7-8)

It’s not that you and I don’t have any of our own wisdom apart from God. We do. It is based on our unique perspective of the world. Our experiences. Our point of view. And God tells us not to trust any of that.

fw_350Wow, is that a different message from what the rest of the world tells us. “Trust yourself.” “Don’t let anyone tell you that what you have to offer isn’t valuable.” And then God says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes.” Your perspective isn’t reliable.

How much humility does it take to trust God’s perspective instead of mine? (Hint: Lots!) That’s what “fear the Lord” means. Whenever my POV doesn’t line up with his – his wins. Period. If I go my way, I go the wrong way.

The payoff here is that God’s way leads to a healthy life. Mine — when it’s different from his — leads to sin. And sin breaks things (including my mental, emotional, and physical health). Why not trust his eyes, instead?

Think: Has anyone ever given you the exact opposite advice from this, telling you to trust your own wisdom first in life? What’s wrong with that idea?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be wise in your own eyes, but to fear him and shun evil.

Do: Ask a wise friend to tell you about a time with they trusted their own perspective and made a foolish choice. Or did the opposite.

Faith Works: Live Simple

“. . . in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Want your life to be complicated? Really confused and stressful and messy? It’s easy to accomplish: Just give some of your life to the Lord. Just acknowledge him in some of your ways. And then save the rest of your ways for yourself.

fw_350Trust me. It’s like signing up for a multiple personality disorder. Why? Because God’s way is not your way. If you make a commitment to trust him in some things and not others, you’ll always be trying to keep the parts of yourself a secret from the other parts of yourself.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. Most of us do it every day. I’m just saying it sucks. James called it being “double minded and unstable,” this trusting in God some and me some. And it leads to foolish living and giant headaches.

Want to live simple? Want to walk a straight-ahead path that’s going somewhere? Trust God with 100 percent of your heart and acknowledge him in all of your ways.

Think: What would you lose if you trusted God by obeying him in every part of your life? What would you gain?

Pray: Ask God to help you to acknowledge him in all of your ways.

Do: Make a quick list of parts of your life that you tend to keep away from God, that you’d rather not let the “God part” of your life know about.

Faith Works: Burn Your Plan B’s

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Is there a harder thing in life to do than this?

fw_350The verse starts out like a cheesy Valentine’s Day card: “I trust in you with all my heart!” In modern language, that has come to mean, “I trust in you a whole bunch.”

What it really means is, “I’m not saving any part of my heart to trust something else in case you don’t come through.” Or, “Yeah, I just torched all my Plan B’s. I’ve got no back-up plan. Your map is the only one I’m following.”

Then the punch line: “Don’t even lean on your own understanding.” Ignore what “feels right” and/or “feels wrong.” Ignore your math worksheet. Ignore your instinct; trust God’s path instead.

Think: If you’ve made a commitment to live this way, how hard are you working to know God’s path for you from his Word? What are some of the things we tend to want to trust instead of God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust in him with your whole heart and not to lead on your own understanding.

Do: If you have memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 (or not), write it out on a piece of paper without looking. Peek if you have to, then start again.

Faith Works: Tattoo Your Heart

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)

It’s too easy to just nod along with your pastor when he’s breaking down truth from God’s Word: “Yup, I believe that. What’s for lunch?”

It’s much harder to cross over to, “Now, what am I going to do about it?”fw_350

In today’s passage, the father tells his son – and God tells us – to make an absolute, unbreakable commitment to “love and faithfulness,” to remembering and obeying God’s instructions because you love him and you’ve promised.

How committed? He tells us to tie love and faithfulness around our necks and tattoo them on our hearts. In other words, make them your permanent attitude and motivation.

The payoff for living that way: You’ll gain the respect of God and the people in your life.

Think: You can’t really tattoo your heart, but how could you make your commitment to love God and to follow him faithfully in Christ more permanent in your life? What would keep you from doing that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to make your love for him and your faithfulness to follow his direction more and more permanent.

Do: Make a quick list of three things you could do this week to keep God’s Word (maybe Proverbs 3:5-6?) right in front of you as much as possible so you can’t forget it.

 

Faith Works: Remember & Obey

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)

Do you ever wonder what it means to “trust God” or “have faith”? Those are kind of squishy words that can mean all kinds of things to lots of different people. You can say to yourself, “I will start trusting God . . . now.” And then what?

fw_350We’re going to spend this next week getting practical with Proverbs 3. It is full of wisdom from a father to a son (and from God to us) about what we should do to trust God. How do we put faith into action?

Step one, says the wise father (and God), is to remember. Remember his teachings. Remember the words and commands of God. And then store them permanently in your heart so you can obey them. That’s bottom line wisdom: “Remember and obey God’s Word; it leads to good things!”

Want to get practical about your faith? Find a way to keep from forgetting what God teaches and to do it. More tomorrow.

Think: Do you do anything on purpose to try to get God’s teaching into your head so you never forget it? Practically speaking, what could you do to make that happen?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to forget his teaching and to keep his commands in your heart.

Do: Install a couple of God’s commands in your heart right now by memorizing (or brushing up on) Proverbs 3:5-6.