Planning, Integrity and true Purity (Proverbs 16)

Anyone been for a health check-up recently?  Eyes, teeth, heart … maybe the full MOT.  How did you get on?

Have you ever done one of those life check-ups? How’s your overall well-being? This isn’t just your physical health but how are you doing emotionally, is your life a success, what’s your status -financial prosperity etc?

One of the things that God’s Word does for us as we gather each Sunday is it provides a life check-up. Earlier this year we did a “whole church health-check when we looked at Revelation 2-3. This one is a bit more about each of us as individuals. So how are we doing against the following markers of a “healthy life.”

  1. Seek God’s will and follow his ways

The writer talks about human plans as we set our sights on what we want to achieve (16:1,9). Note that each of these verses contrast our attempt to make plans with God as the one who determines how things will go. True sovereignty lies with him.

So, the responsibility is on us to commit our plans and ways to God (16:3). This is not about going to God with my agenda and asking him to bless is. Rather it means that I am to seek what pleases him (v7). This means looking to do what is right not just what works for me It means seeking first God’s Kingdom. It means looking for what will last and have eternal value.

Unless You build this house   I am building it in vain

Unless the work is Yours   There is nothing to be gained

I want something that will stand  When Your holy fire comes

Something that will last   And to hear you say well done[1]

 

Therefore, it is God’s plans and purposes that are at work (16:4, 8). Notice that God uses all of our circumstances, good and evil. He uses even corrupt and wicked rulers to fulfil his eternal plans (e.g Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus). He will even use our enemies, suffering and struggles to teach us and  to grow us.

  1. Prioritise the heart – not outward appearances

It is better to have little materially but for your life to be characterised by goodness and righteousness. It is better to go without the trappings of success (16: 9, 15, 19).  Appearances can be deceptive and what looks like success may be something very different. This applies to what we do together as a church -are we building something that will last or just a name for ourselves. It also applies to our personal choices. We can throw our every effort into achieving sporting success, popularity with friends, material provisions for our families.

I am reminded of two things.

First of all, hearing a man who had spent most of his life working long hours, travelling with business later telling his children that what their kids needed most of all was for their parents to be there for them not all the presents etc.

Secondly, Rob Parsons once said “You never hear someone on their death bed saying ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’”

  1. Find hope in God’s Righteous judgement

There’s a clear promise running throughout that our deeds will receive their deserved reward.

–          God will bring you peace with your enemies (16:7)

–          The King is to show pleasure and delight in good and wrath/judgement on evil (16:13-15)

–          Pride leads to a fall (16:18)

–            Grey hair, the mark of a long life comes because of righteous living (16:31)

How does this work?  Well whenever we’ve looked at other proverbs we’ve seen that:

–          The Proverbs are generally true. Remember this is about wisdom not about predictions/promises

–          That for the people of Israel physical/temporal blessing acted as a type pointing forward not to material prosperity now but to spiritual riches in Christ now and the promised hope of eternity in God’s new creation.  The King points us to Christ. (NB Bruce Walke sees this as part of a section of Proverbs (15:30-20:22) about God and the King)[2]

 

  1. Trust in Christ’s grace, mercy and forgiveness

Steadfast love or unfailing and faithfulness provide atonement for sin whilst those who fear God turn from and stay clear of evil (16:6). This reminds us again that God looks on the heart so outward ceremonies including your circumcision, your sacrifices etc were no use. Even in the Old Testament godly people got this.

We have a problem though because the Bible also tells us that there is no-one who is righteous. Our love fails, we prove unfaithful (Romans 3). That’s why we need the steadfast love and faithfulness of another. Jesus was obedient unto death so that I receive a righteousness not my own  (Philippians 3:10).

Conclusion

So, how did you do?

Now, there are two aspects to this. First of all, its very tempting to create a spiritual check list and see how we score isn’t it. But the last point reminds us that this leads to legalism and that we will all fall short. It doesn’t matter how we score.

Unless we have responded to point 4, then it does not matter whether you think you are scoring 20%, 50%, 60% on the test. Some of you will know this well from your physical health. If you’ve been faced with a cancer diagnosis. The cancer gets staged and graded to show how deep and wide it has spread. However, to you, all that really mattered was that you had cancer and unless you were treated and the cancer removed, you were living with a killer resident in you.

The Bible is of course even stronger than that. Unless we have received Christ’s forgiveness we are dead, flatling to God.

So, some of us need the urgent surgery of salvation.  Put your trust in him today.

However, this doesn’t mean we stop there. For those of us who belong to Christ, there should be fruit from our salvation. There should be signs of healthy Christian living. We are not perfect but we should be growing. Are you?

–          Think back over the 4 key areas we talked about

–          Where is the specific area that you need to see change?

–          Make a note of it

–          Pray with someone

–          Plan to follow up with them – 1 month/6 months/1 year

[1] Lou Fellingham, Mike Busbee & Nathan Fellingham, All I am and all I have is yours (Build this House).

[2] Bruce S Walke, Proverbs 15-31 (NICOT), 7.

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