God's Way to Health, Wealth, and Wisdom
by Dr. Adrian Rogers
There's an old proverb which says, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." We have Benjamin Franklin to thank for this bit of wisdom--but the problem is that a lot of people who go to bed early and get up early are neither healthy, wealthy, nor wise!
It takes more than going to bed with the chickens and setting an early alarm to make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. What is taught in God's Word will make you all three--if you understand what true health, wealth, and wisdom are. That's why we are going to study the Book of Proverbs.
Somebody has said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience. That is, it is a lot of wisdom distilled into a single sentence. Through proverbs, we can learn from the experiences of others. Human proverbs are crafted from experience, but the truths of the Book of Proverbs are not necessarily learned from experience. They are given to us by divine revelation. These are God's words of wisdom, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The proverbs of men are often good, although sometimes confusing or even contradictory. For example, "Look before you leap." But what about "He who hesitates is lost?" This is kind of disquieting, isn't it? You don't know which one of those proverbs to heed. Or you might hear "You only get what you pay for." That sounds good until somebody else says, "The best things in life are free."
Here's another one: "Leave well enough alone." But then you remember that "Progress never stands still." There is truth in all of these proverbs if you see them rightly and understand what the person giving the proverb meant to say. But the Proverbs are not merely short sentences based on long experience. They are revealed truths from God's Word which show His ways for His people to know true health, wealth, and wisdom.
Wisdom is the theme of the Book of Proverbs. As you read it, you may want to circle the word wisdom because God uses it so many times. For example, in Proverbs 1:1-7 you will find the words wisdom or wise occurring over and over again. Wisdom is the key, and we are going to talk about wisdom--what it is and how you can have it.
Of course, we cannot study every verse in the Proverbs. What I want to do is pick out some key verses to whet your appetite for this wonderful book, which is truly God's guidebook to health, wealth, and wisdom when properly understood.
The Incomparable Worth of Wisdom
Proverbs 1:1-2 says: "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding." Here is the basic theme and purpose of the book. Solomon then expands on this theme in 2:19:
"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. "
If God were to appear to you and say, "What do you want Me to do for you? Ask for anything you want," What would you ask God for? If you were hungry, you might ask for food. If you were sick, you might ask for health. If you were an egotist, you might ask for wealth and power.
Did you know that God once came to Solomon and asked him that very question? "In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, 'Ask what I shall give thee' " (2 Chron. 1:7). What in the world would Solomon ask for? His answer comes in verse 10. "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?"
Isn't that tremendous? God's king didn't ask for health, wealth, power over his enemies, or honor. Solomon asked for wisdom. If we can picture God here, I imagine that He had a smile on His face as he replied:
"Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like" (vv. 11-12).
In other words, God gave Solomon wisdom like no king has ever had or ever will have because he had discernment enough to ask for wisdom. And with that wisdom, God also granted Solomon many other things that people have dreamed for and schemed for and sold their souls for. Solomon asked for the best, and got these other things with it.
More than anything, I want my children to have wisdom. As a pastor, I desire wisdom to lead my people, and I want them to have the wisdom of God. There is nothing better you could ask for than wisdom because so many other things are included in it. "Wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it" (Prov. 8-11).
So let's look more closely at the incomparable worth of wisdom. Why should we prize wisdom so highly? I'd like to suggest three reasons.
The Provision of the Father
First, wisdom is worth so much because the Father provides it. Notice Proverbs 1:1 again: "The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel." In 2:1 Solomon says, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words." Here is a father speaking to his son. Solomon loves his son and wants him to be successful, to be useful. So he says, "Son, here is something that I have for you, something that I desire for you, something that I have provided for you. It is wisdom." Wisdom is the provision of the Father.
This is a king speaking to his son--but it is also much more than that. This is God speaking to us as His children. These are the inspired words of the heavenly King to His children. It's important that we understand wisdom because it is the provision of the Father so that His children might be wise. God wants you to be wise. That's why it pleased God so much when Solomon asked for wisdom.
The Product of the Spirit
Look again at Proverbs 2:1-2. Receiving God's words and hiding His commandments implies that there is a teacher. Who is the teacher of wisdom? He is the Holy Spirit; we are to "incline [our] ear to Him," listen to our Teacher. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). This is why the Holy Spirit is called the "spirit of wisdom" (Isa. 11:2).
Did you know that you can get knowledge without the Holy Spirit, but you cannot get true wisdom without Him? What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is learned, while wisdom is given. Knowledge comes by looking around; wisdom comes by looking up. Knowledge comes by studying; wisdom comes by meditation. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge.
There's nothing wrong with knowledge. Don't fail to study. The Bible says we are to study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15). But all of that knowledge is just splendid ignorance apart from the wisdom God will give you to apply that knowledge.
Wisdom is related to the word skill in the Old Testament. For example, the Bible says that God gave the spirit of wisdom to those who built the tabernacle so they could do the job. Some translations even say that God gave them the spirit of skill, or that God gave them skill to build the tabernacle.
So the words wisdom and skill are related. What does that mean to us? It means that wise living is living skillfully, living to the optimum. Wise living is extracting the most out of life. You become like an artist, a practitioner, someone who lives life with skill.
We need to put our lives together this way. We need to learn to live skillfully, which is the product of the Holy Spirit. We know from the Bible that great men are not always wise. There are a lot of people who have knowledge, but they do not possess wisdom.
I think of the great scientist, Albert Einstein, who died in 1955. Before he died he said, "I feel like a man chained. If I could only be free from the shackles of my intellectual smallness then I could understand the universe in which I live. My mind is not great enough. Oh, if I could just take the shackles off, if I could just probe into the mysteries of the universe." But Einstein or anyone else will never know the mysteries of the universe unless he knows the God who made it.
A man can have knowledge but he needs wisdom, he needs understanding. For Einstein to know the secrets of the universe he would have to know Christ, for the Bible says that all of the treasures of wisdom are hidden in Jesus. He is the glue of the galaxies, the secret to it all. This wisdom is produced by the Holy Spirit, and the only way a man can know it is by knowing the Lord. There are some things you cannot learn from experience.
There was once a boy whose father owned a number of successful gold mines out West in the early days. He wanted his son to take over the business, so when his son was old enough the father sent him back East to a great university. The boy studied engineering, mining, and metallurgy; and after graduation came back to the gold mine and said, "I'm ready, father. Put me to work."
So the father said, "Well, son, I believe the best thing for you would be to put on some old clothes and go down into the mines. Work with your hands and gain the knowledge that comes by experience, the kind you can't get any other way."
But the son said, "Dad, I don't need to do that. I've been to school and learned things you have never even thought about. I have experiences I've learned, and I'm ready to go to work. If you will give me the best gold mine you have, I will show you how to really make it produce."
The father said all right, and gave his son a certain mine. The boy did well for a while, but eventually sent a wire to his father which read: "I need help. I've got a problem. The mine is backed up to a lake and the water is beginning to seep in. What do you suggest?" But the father didn't answer.
After a while the son wired his father again: "The situation is getting bad. We have shored it up, but the shoring is seeping and we're not able to stop the water from coming in. I need some advice." Again the father didn't answer.
So the boy wired a third time and said, "Father, the situation is desperate, the lake is coming in. We are about to lose the mine." The father wired back: "Shove your diploma in that hole."
There are some things you can learn in school, and there are some things you cannot learn in school! Wisdom is more than common sense. That son didn't even have common sense, but wisdom is a supernatural gift from God. It is the provision of the Father and the product of the Holy Spirit.
The Presence of the Son
But wisdom is even more. You will never have real wisdom until you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. Proverbs 1:2 says that we are to "know wisdom," and in 2:10 wisdom is to enter into our hearts. Who is the wisdom that comes into our hearts? Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God, and no one has wisdom until Christ enters his heart.
In 1 Corinthians 1:20 God asks, "Where is the wise?" He is talking about the wise men of this world. "Where is the scribe?" That is, the Ph.D., the intellectual. "Where is the disputer of this world?" This is the debater, the philosopher. "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" We would have to say Amen to that! We boast of our wisdom, and yet civilization is caving in on us.
Continue reading in verse 21: "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God." I think this is one of the neatest things in the Bible. God is so wise that he won't let you learn about Him by mere human wisdom. It is the wise choice of God that the world will not know Him by its own wisdom.
We talked earlier about Albert Einstein. For all of his brilliance, Einstein didn't have a leg up on knowing God. Jesus Himself said, ''[God] hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25). Aren't you glad? I am not against intellectualism, but when you come to God you don't come head first, you come heart first!
God has hidden the truth about Himself from the wise and the prudent of this world, and before we can know God we must lay our intellectual pride in the dust. If a person with a high IQ could know God better than somebody else, then God would not be fair. But everybody has a heart, and we can know God with all of our hearts no matter what the level of our IQ.
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 1 by saying, "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom" (v. 22). The Jews were looking for a mighty Messiah, and the Gentiles were looking for something of a double Socrates. They had intellectualized God and had begun to worship at the shrine of their intelligence.
But the Apostle answers, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (vv. 23-24).
Jesus is wisdom personified. Wisdom commences at conversion and deepens by discipleship. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'' A man does not have even a modicum of wisdom until he knows the Lord. God desires wisdom so much for you that He sent His dear Son to die upon Calvary's cross that you might know this wisdom. Then He sent His dear Holy Spirit to teach it to you. This is the incomparable worth of wisdom!
The Infallible Way to Wisdom
Now let's look at the infallible way to wisdom. In Proverbs 2, I see three things that teach us of the infallible way to wisdom.
The Pursuit of the Scripture
First, if you are to have God's wisdom, you must pursue the Scriptures. It's all predicated on Proverbs 2:1. "My son, if thou wilt receive my words." If you won't receive God's Word, you will never know His wisdom. God's infallible and inerrant Word is His handbook of wisdom for His Children. You must pursue it, you must pray over it, you must study it, you must saturate yourself with it. Here are four excellent ways to pursue the truth about God and the wisdom of God.
Appreciate God's Word. The word receive in 2:1 literally means to "welcome" God's Word, just like you would gladly welcome an old friend into your house. Are you ready to receive, to welcome, God's Word into your heart and obey it?
Appropriate God's Word. Look again at the phrase "Hide my commandments with thee" in 2:1. That means not only to let the Word in, but to let it get deep inside you. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart" (Ps. 119:11). If we would possess wisdom, wisdom must first possess us. We must get into God's Word and hide it in our hearts.
Assimilate God's Word. As we get into the Word and the Word gets into us, it becomes like a part of our body's tissue. That's what assimilation means, to take something into the body and so absorb it that it goes right into the tissues and becomes something our bodies can use. That's how the Scriptures are to penetrate our hearts and minds.
Activate God's Word. Go to Proverbs 2:2. Solomon says we are to "Apply [our] heart to understanding." When you apply the Word, it gets off the page and out of the notebook and into your head and heart. Then it gets out of your heart and into your life and you begin to activate it. At that moment, it becomes wisdom to you! James 1 says that when a man hears the Word but doesn't obey it, he is a fool.
Study of the Bible gives you knowledge about God. But obedience gives you knowledge of God--and there's a difference. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). That is, when you keep or obey God's Word, then He begins to reveal Himself to you in wisdom. Be a person of the Book and you will be a person of wisdom.
The Prayer of the Saint
Along with the pursuit of the Scriptures there must be a vibrant prayer life. "Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:3-5).
Notice that we are to pray with intensity (v. 3). This is not a will-o'-the wisp, "Now I lay me down to sleep" kind of prayer. With all of the function and unction and emotion of the mind, body, soul, and spirit, we say to God, "I want to know wisdom."
God does business with those who mean business. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." That's what James told us in James 5:16. Do you really want to know the way of God? Do you cry out after wisdom? Do you seek it? Pray fervently for it. God forgive us our cold, indifferent, half-hearted prayer life!
We are also to pray with insistency (v. 4). Suppose you knew that somewhere on your property there was a valuable treasure hidden. The former owner had put it there, and when you got the house you got the treasure. It's all yours if you can just find it. Would you look for it? Of course you would! I know I would. We'd be foolish not to search for it.
Won't it be a great day when God's people seek wisdom like they seek wealth? Today's athletes get $5 million-a-year contracts. You may say, "I don't believe in paying ballplayers that kind of money." But let me say that most of us have not even begun to pursue wisdom the way those men pursue excellence on the athletic field.
There is something worth more than $5 million a year. It's wisdom. I tell you, these athletes put us to shame. They knock themselves out for a corruptible crown, yet we are supposed to be pursuing an incorruptible one!
Wisdom is more valuable than rubies, the Bible says. We are to search for it as a man seeks and searches for hidden treasure. We are to pray with fervency, with insistency, and with expectancy.
Now look at Proverbs 2:6, "For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." This is a promise. When you get in the Word and couple that study with persistent and expectant prayer, I can tell you on the authority of that same Word that God is going to grant you wisdom.
The Bible says if we ask God anything according to His will, we know that He hears us--and it is God's will that we have wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." But James goes on to say, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord" (vv. 6-7).
When you come to God with intense and insistent prayer after receiving the Word of God, then you can pray for wisdom and it will be given to you. God is not going to scold you. No, He is pleased when you come to Him daily and say, "God, I need wisdom here. Lord, help me. I'm making a decision, seeking a college, I need to buy a home. I want to win souls. Lord, I want to be used. God give me wisdom."
He will give it to you! God wants you to have wisdom. "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again." Hallelujah!
The Presence of the Savior
Finally, in Proverbs 2:7-9 we read: "He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path." The third thing that teaches us the infallible way to wisdom is the presence of the Savior. Who is our wisdom? It is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Solomon speaks of sound wisdom in verse 7. The idea here is "wholeness." In Christ there is soundness, there is wholeness. Solomon also speaks of a "buckler" or shield. In Christ there is strength. In verse 8 he speaks of preserving His saints. In Christ there is security. In verse 9 he speaks of every good path and in verse 10 he speaks of pleasantness. In Christ there is satisfaction.
In Christ there is soundness, strength, security, and satisfaction. Would you know wisdom? You must pursue the Scriptures. You must pray fervently for wisdom. But all of these are no good unless you have the presence of the Savior. It is Christ who is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Oh, to know Jesus, the wisdom of God and the power of God!
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