Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; (Proverbs 8:1-2)
As some are aware, I have been on vacation the last couple of weeks. We traveled over 2500 miles to visit family in Iowa and Minnesota. Of course like most, we utilized “Google Maps” for our journey. We placed our confidence and trust in this modern technology to help arrive at our destination safe and sound.
As we were entering Minneapolis, the voice sounded, telling us there was a delay ahead and to save time we should exit at the next ramp. Of course, I promptly disregarded the voice as it would have led me downtown, a place I certainly did not want to venture to on a Thursday at 4:30 in the afternoon.
However, what I discovered was I-35 North soon became a parking lot, and there we sat. It appeared Google Maps was correct, there was a delay. A delay I did not see coming, yet it was a delay nonetheless. The longer I sat in traffic, the more I regretted not listening to the voice speaking through the speakers in the car. But how could Google Maps make a decision in my best interest when it did not have all the facts about my situation? How could it tell me which direction I needed to go in order to avoid the biggest problem?
What I failed to remember was Google Maps was able to see things I could not see. Through some strange process, none of us completely understand, Google Maps attains information about traffic patterns and accidents we cannot see. It then places this information in a program to figure out the next quickest way to arrive at our destination.
All throughout our lives we come to crossroads where we must make decisions. When we were young, many of the decisions were made for us by parents or other adults who played a part in our upbringing. As young adults, we grew up making some of our decisions and often times had to suffer consequences for some of the wrong choices we made.
Even as older adults there are choices we must make in taking care of our parents or planning for our personal lives after retirement. These are choices which often become more and more difficult as we age due to our faculties beginning to decline and fears about our future increasing. The need to make choices never ends and there is literally a crossroad at every corner.
Fortunately we see from the passage above we do not have to make these choices in a vacuum. We can make these choices with “wisdom” and “understanding” by our sides. But where does wisdom come from? In Proverbs 9:10, we are told fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This fear does not mean living in terror but instead having a reverence for a gracious loving God who cares for us.
Is it any wonder it seems the world is full of people making bad decisions? Our culture continually pushes God to the side and says He is not needed, yet we see poor choices made repeatedly. James tells us, if any lacks wisdom we are to simply ask and God gives it generously (James 1:5). Sadly, most will not ask God for wisdom and understanding concerning decisions or circumstances because we believe we have become more wise than God.
The results can be much like those I found myself facing on the outskirts of Minneapolis. Even though a voice was telling me over the speakers to turn at the next opportunity in order to avoid troubling circumstances which would delay my arrival, I chose to follow my own path and ended up being delayed over an hour.
While Google Maps has the ability to see things we cannot see, God has even greater capabilities to see things we cannot see and He desires for us to follow His instructions and listen to His voice as He calls out to us about the direction we need to go.
However, much of the time things of the world have our attention and we are not listening for His voice. We instead would rather follow our own path and lean on our own understanding instead of seeking wisdom from above.
Ask for wisdom and listen for His voice.
Have you ever thought about the people you have known in your life time and how they have influenced you? Who is in your life keeping you sharp for God? If your answer is no one, then how do we find someone we can rely on to help us along our spiritual journey? Someone to keep us sharp as Christians to become the people Jesus desires us to be?
(Proverbs 27: 17) As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
This proverb is widely recited and memorized within the Christian circles as a plug for disciple making. A group of Christians who “sharpen” one another have a better chance in becoming that which God desires us to be. The application of this truth can affect our lives in a positive way, men and women alike. As we think about this subject, we should ask ourselves one fundamental question.
Who is keeping you sharp?
Who asks the tough questions? “How’s it going at home? How’s your thought life? Are you walking too close to the edge in any area?” “Who is keeping you sharp?”
Most of us have some casual acquaintances, which pass in and out of our lives and though our lives are impacted by all of our relationships, the greatest influence comes from those we call close friends.
People who help us try again when we fail, encourage us when we are discouraged, lighten our load when it gets too heavy, and give us strength against the evil forces we all face.
Our friends either help us stay sharp or they facilitate our remaining dull. It’s like there is an invisible membrane between friends, and what passes between close friends are values, convictions, morals, habits, and goals.
If you want to know what kind of person you are becoming, ask yourself: “Who are my friends?”
We all need a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy to be sharp in our Christian faith.
First, you need a Paul: a mature believer willing to invest in your life. Someone who has been down the road and is willing to share the lessons they have learned and the experiences, which shaped their lives. An mature person to spend time with you, and show you the ropes of the Christian walk.
You also need a Barnabas: a brother who loves you where you are and encourages you to become the person you can be. People seemed to have changed for the better when Barnabas was around. We need to surround ourselves with people known as encouragers. This is important as you more likely become like those who surround you. If you are surrounded by positive people, typically you will be a more positive person. The opposite is true if you surround yourself with negativity…you naturally will become more negative.
Finally, you need a Timothy: a younger believer to whom you can offer help. A person you can help reach their potential. Every young believer the faith today needs someone who will care about them enough to get invest time with them.
Having these three types relationships is really what becoming a disciple is all about and also the process through which it typically takes place. Sadly, too many people try to go it alone in their Christian walk. When you attempt this, you quickly become dull. Who are you spending time with? “Who’s keeping you sharp?” Who is your Paul; Who is your Barnabas; and who is your Timothy? Just some thoughts to ponder…
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (I Corinthians 3:6-9)
Many times in our Christian walk, we may feel we have no part in what God is accomplishing in the world. We feel we are inadequate to have a role in growing Disciples as God has commanded us to do. Often we feel this way because we take things personally and are afraid of rejection or failure.
Each of us are to sow seeds. We are to do this by verbal presentation of the Gospel as well as living it out. We do not do this, as we should because as mentioned earlier we are afraid of rejection or isolation from others. Nevertheless, we cannot take it personal. This is the Lord’s work not our own. When they reject the Gospel or shun us, it is not personal but instead, against God.
We are also to water the seed, planted by others. Many times this comes in the form of lifestyle evangelism. Someone plants a seed and then the unbeliever watches to see if Christians handle things differently. They want to see practical ways in which Jesus makes a difference. They want to see how Jesus affects our decision-making and how we handle situations differently than they would.
If we are going to do lifestyle evangelism, we have to remember people are watching us all the time, not just when we want them to. It is easy to do lifestyle evangelism when things are going well, but how about when things are not going well. This is when they really watch! They want to know if our Jesus makes a difference when difficult times come not just when we experience the good times. Therefore, if we are going to water, we have to drip Jesus all the time not just when times are good.
God gifts each of us differently. Some have the gift of evangelism while some have the gift of watering. We are ALL TOLD TO DO BOTH, but we are usually gifted more at one than the other. Just remember as Paul said, do not take it personally, God is the one who provides the growth. We do our parts, but God changes the hearts of man.
Think about planting a garden or flowers. You plant the seed, you water where you planted but you are not making the crop or the flower grow because God controls the process. God’s law of nature is what produces a crop and then we are a part of the harvest. Without God’s part, we could plant and water but would see no crop.
This is important because it keeps us from being discouraged when we do not see people accepting Him as Savior. It also should keep us from being prideful when we see God move. It is God working in them not man. We will receive our rewards as Paul points out, but it will be from God not from man.
Keep planting and keep watering and watch God change hearts!
Into the Light