Wisdom for Watertown

Rarely does God’s Word seem so practical as when we go through deep waters. Solomon has much to say to the current dilemma surrounding MBBC, and I hope to share some words “fitly spoken” (Prov. 25:11) to help hurting souls react in a Christlike manner. I read many websites, blog comments, forum posts, and personal emails related to the situation. Some were healthy; some were toxic. I have received phone calls from those on “both sides” of the issue. It’s not the volume of correspondence that concerns me. It’s the passion behind them. What does God want us to do? It’s not a secret, but rather openly revealed to us in the Word of God. I would like to take our readers on a journey through the writings of Solomon, and perhaps he can shed some light and leadership upon our hearts.

First, Solomon encourages us to pursue wisdom.

A godly mindset realizes that every time I am perplexed about a situation, God is endeavoring to show me my need for wisdom. The all-wise God promises wisdom to those who ask Him (James 1:5), but regretfully many stumble through trials, leaning on their own logic and understanding. They waste their trials and learn the bad habit of trusting their flesh. Proverbs 1 personifies wisdom and describes her as crying aloud for the simple ones to stop loving simplicity, for scorners to cease from their spiteful speech, and for fools to embrace knowledge. I think she is crying today.

When the shrapnel of a grenade of trial embeds in us, God is trying to show us something about ourselves and, more importantly, about Himself. So if your passions are engaged, your antennae should be up. God desires that you “wise up.” Our fallenness seduces us into believing that we possess wisdom when in actuality we are merely self-deceived. A wise man will hear and increase in learning (Prov. 1:5). Could it be that the most valuable time we can spend is off the phone, email, and the blogosphere and on our knees praying to God, asking Him to burn wisdom truths into our souls? Many have picked up swords and wielded them with precision. Did you ask God before you did it? God, the One who assigned the sea its limits so that its waters would not transgress His command (8:29), stands ready to counsel you. As I write this, I am sending “arrow” prayers up to heaven, pleading for wisdom.

Sometimes we think that wisdom comes from experience; however, that’s an inaccurate conclusion. Experience without applying wisdom results in bitterness. This situation is littered with lessons that are waiting to be taken to heart. Proverbs 15:31-32 says, “The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise… . But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (NKJV). Personally, the greatest benefit of being close to this trial is the advantage we all have to make some decisions in our lives that will prevent us from future harm. When you go through trials and do not spend time evaluating your thoughts in light of God’s thoughts, you are wasting your life. While old age should be a sign of wisdom, it often is not. Some elderly people have the wisdom of high-schoolers. Solomon warns us not to waste these precious days. “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (19:20).

Where do you get wisdom? The most reliable source of information can be found in Proverbs 30:5. This verse reveals the only source not tainted with a sinful nature. Now is a great time to admit your need to learn some wisdom through this situation and to seek after it. Why? Wisdom is more precious than all the world has to offer. Its value supersedes riches (8:11). Solomon advises, “The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook” (18:4b).

Second, Solomon exhorts us to use discretion.

How do we avoid making mistakes? “Discretion will preserve you [us]; understanding will keep you [us]” (2:11). We must pursue discretion. God promises us that if we cry out for discretion, we will understand the fear of the Lord (2:4-5). Discretion operates in the arena of what is best, not what is always logical. Sometimes discretion just advises us to leave the problem alone and to trust those involved to handle it wisely. “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (19:11). Sometimes, the most courageous thing to do in battle is to lay down your sword. “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel” (20:3).

The most wearying side of running a site like SharperIron is constantly processing things through the grid of godly discretion. In a year and a half of operating the site, we have failed many times. I used to think that I would reach a stage in life when all decisions came easily and when discretion would be second nature. However, I have come to realize with time that the wrestling over decisions never stops. In fact, the gravity of them seems to intensify the longer I’m in ministry. However, that is the life of faith. I’m convinced that living in a world where everything is black and white is the simplest way to live the Christian life. With this ethos, everything is as simple as an on/off switch. All you need is a guru to tell you what goes on the bad list and what goes on the good list. However, that life is bankrupt of joy and growth. I have found that in the crucibles of life where discretion must be exercised, I am forced to pray, study, trust, and act. And that produces growth in grace and abundant joy. Hebrews 5:14b tells us to exercise our senses to discern both good and evil.

Third, Solomon warns us to flee the enemies of righteousness.

Proverbs 12:5-6 tells us that the words of the wicked urge, “Lie in wait for blood.” They stand by, ready to pounce on the latest information that will bolster their misguided cause, their fleshly arguments. These folks are doing nothing but dancing while upheld by the puppet strings of Satan himself. There’s a difference between emailing someone in authority with a genuine question for the sake of clarity. It becomes sin when the responses are used as weapons to discredit those whom God has placed in positions of leadership.

I am disturbed by the “causes” that have sprung up on the web. Be careful, Christian. You can always smell enemies of the cross. The first scent you will pick up is one of vengeance. By their actions, they testify to the simple fact that they have a small view of God. Vengeance is nothing more than impatience with God. The last time I checked, vengeance was His job. Self-initiated vengeance sticks a label on its chest that reads, “God.” The second sign of an ungodly man is laid bare by Solomon in Proverbs 16:27. He says, “An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.” Find the man who is digging for more information, and you will find a man Solomon tells you to flee from. “Go from the presence of a foolish man” (14:7a). The third sign of a fool is that he asks for a fight. “A fool’s … mouth calls for blows” (18:6). Before you sign up for a cause, make sure you are on the Lord’s side. Biblical literature is replete with evidence stacked against those who make wrong choices here. Solomon reminds us that “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (13:20). A fourth sign of a discord-sower is that he talks much but listens little. Limping emotionally through a trial is one thing. Learning lifelong lessons, though, is an exhibition of wisdom. “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (18:2). The causes may sound just and right, but Solomon warns, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil” (12:20a). “The mouth of fools feeds on foolishness” (15:14b).

If there are any fools reading this, I have some encouraging words for you. “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (17:27-28). Shock the world and stop talking.

Fourth, Solomon urges us to be careful with our words.

Wisdom, or the lack thereof, always demonstrates itself in words. Sadly, some commentary has openly displayed a lack of the fear of God; and without that, there is no chance for wisdom to take root in the heart (1:7). We have chosen not to open up comment threads on SI in regard to the Maranatha situation for this very reason, much to the chagrin of fools and scorners. We have many members who have no control over their tongues, and we don’t have enough discretionary hours to police them.

Solomon gives several cogent thoughts:

  1. Talk less. “He who restrains his lips is wise” (10:19b). “He who guards his mouth preserves his life” (13:3a).
  2. Talk after you spend time studying right words. “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer” (15:28a).
  3. When you talk, feed people godliness. “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom” (10:21); “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life” (15:4a).
  4. If you feel you must speak to the issue, make sure you are equipped with the truth. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Speculation is rarely accurate.

Also, be careful what you listen to. In all the conversations you have had about this issue, who has ministered wholesome, life-giving words to you? Stick by their side. They will show you the path of life. Proverbs 10:11a says, “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life.” Then follow their lead. Administer the fresh water of God’s words to famished hearts. “The mouth of fools feed on foolishness” (15:14b).

The ultimate key to controlling your words, though, is not by sheer willpower with duct tape wrapped across your mouth. Solomon says in Proverbs 16:32 that if you have control over your own spirit, you are stronger than he who conquers a city. Spirit-controlled living will always evidence itself in the type of words that come off your lips.

To those who have been slandered by words. I know of no greater comfort than to point you to Christ. He was the slandered One. He was the victim of unjustified attacks. First Peter 2:21-25 can be a life-saving balm for the hurting soul. Look to Christ. “When he was reviled, [He] reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to [the Righteous Judge]” (vv. 23, KJV). Nothing escapes His all-seeing eye.

Fifth, Solomon advises us to support our leadership.

“Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and they love him who speaks what is right.” (16:13). Dr. Oats has been suddenly handed a large responsibility with little warning in a less-than-ideal transition. Now is the time for spiritual people to rally behind this man and to “lift up his arms.”

Leaders do not sit in the seat of power without the providential hand of God allowing it. We often parrot that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (21:1). It’s time for everyone to reach out, to claim that verse, and to believe it by faith.

I have spent hours on the phone with Dr. Jaspers and the Executive Committee. While I would hesitate to put words in their mouths, I can safely say that they desire reconciliation and resolution in the proper way at the proper time. They desire God’s best for the school, and they want to see God glorified through a difficult situation. Let’s let the men do the work necessary to bring that about.

Sixth, Solomon shows the nature of true leadership.

True leaders rise to the challenge when crises occur. I speak to the student body here, especially upperclassmen. This could perhaps be one of the greatest growth opportunities in your educational career. Education can become very head-centered. Leadership is heart-centered action while using your head as a compass. I urge you to act righteously. “He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward” (11:18b). “But He [God] loves him who follows righteousness” (15:9b). The apostle Paul has something to add here. He starts off 1 Corinthians by encouraging believers to avoid factions. Why? Because of Jesus Christ. He didn’t die so we could act like the heathen. He wants us, through His power, to deny the flesh and to walk in the Spirit. So exert Christ-impassioned, unifying leadership for the cause of Christ.

Here are a few practical ideas:

  • Begin prayer meetings now. Start a prayer email list. Combat the forces of darkness with divine intercession.
  • Begin praying for opening revival services. I spoke with the speaker for that week, and he is already burdened to lead you in right paths. That week is of crucial importance.
  • Send letters of thanks and encouragement to those on staff who have been a blessing to you. Pick up the phone, call the faculty and staff, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Shrapnel wounds can discourage many. Esprit de corp starts with you and can travel like wildfire.
  • Student leaders, get on the phone with each other now. Strategize on ways to lead the student body spiritually. Put it down on paper. Commit it to prayer. Be aggressive. Fight for your school, not because it’s a school but because it’s been used for decades to train servants who are scattered across the globe giving witness to the praise of His glory.

I close with a story that I hope will encourage the leaders (students, staff, and faculty) who will take this challenge to heart. Almost 150 years ago, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was called upon by Queen Victoria to preach at an event she titled, “The National Day of Humiliation and Prayer Service.” Britain was experiencing a national crisis as India, a colony under their rule, was experiencing mutinous uprisings that had taken the life of many soldiers and British loyalists. Spurgeon walked into the newly built Crystal Palace in London on October 7, 1857, to the largest crowd he would ever address in an enclosed building–a total of 23,654 people. He became the spiritual leader for a nation that day as he sought God’s help, called for repentance, comforted the hurting, and provided hope for the future. He closed his prayer that day with these words:

“Our God delights in mercy, and in the deliverance of Britain from its ills. God will be as much pleased as Britain; yea, when Britain shall have forgotten it, and only the page of history shall record his mercies, God will still remember what he did for us in this day of our straits and our difficulties. As to the hope that he will help us it is a certainty. There is no fear that when we unite in prayer God will refuse to hear. It is as sure as that there is a God, that God will hear us; and if we ask him aright, the day shall come when the world shall see what Britain’s God has done, and how he has heard her cry, and answered the voice of her supplications.”

Spurgeon carried the burden of his countrymen on his shoulders before the Lord. And he took it seriously. It was vital to the future health and spirit of the country. After leading the proceedings that day, Spurgeon left exhausted and slept for a solid day and a half. He said it was the only time in his life that ever happened.

Spurgeon was 23.

God bless you, Maranatha.

Sayings of the Wise

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your heart to my knowledge;
For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you;
Let them all be fixed upon your lips,
So that your trust may be in the Lord;
I have instructed you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may answer words of truth
To those who send to you?

Proverbs 22:17-21

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