Full Confidence

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” (Proverbs 31:11, NIV)


I have blogged my way through the entire Book of Proverbs, writing about the conversations I have with the Lord in my quiet time. My goal over the 31 weeks was to take a chapter each week and meditate on it, listening to what God might be saying and sharing it with you. And now we’re on the final page of Proverbs! I hope you’ve found this little series helpful.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a very famous passage describing a “wife of noble character” (v. 10). Most Old Testament scholars agree that these verses do not describe an actual woman, but rather combine the strengths of several women into an “ideal woman” who can serve as a role model for all women. Reading through the passage, she can serve as a role model for men, too!

Verse 11 caught my attention. Often (not always) when I am reading the Bible devotionally to meet with the Lord, a verse seems to “wiggle” or stand out, like it was highlighted or bold font. Of course, it’s not actually wiggling on the page, but it catches my eye and doesn’t let go. That twinge in my heart when I read it, the way it draws my eyes to it, these are signs that perhaps the Lord wants to speak to me through that verse. So, I read it again, more slowly, in context, listening. Why did God bring that verse to my attention? What is it saying that I need to hear? I reflect and meditate on that verse, and talk to the Lord about what comes to mind. It is during that time that He sometimes speaks directly to me through the still small voice in my heart (read 1 Kings 19:9-18 for more on the still small voice, or the “gentle whisper”).

This morning as I pondered Proverbs 31:11, the word trust came to me. The woman described in these verses has the full and complete trust of her husband. Trust is foundational to every human relationship, not just marriage. Trust takes a long time to earn but can be broken in a moment. Once trust is shattered, it may never be rebuilt to the same extent it was before, or it may take years to regain what was lost.

Trust must be given to you, you cannot take it for yourself. I cannot force Corinne or anyone else to trust me. I have to demonstrate through integrity that I am worthy of her trust, and then I must walk in integrity in order to keep her trust. It is the same in every marriage, every friendship. The challenge is this: If you were your spouse or your friend, would you trust you? Knowing what you know about yourself, what you say when that person isn’t around, what you do when no one else is watching, what you think about that no one else ever knows… would you trust you? Are your thoughts, words, and actions full of integrity and honor? Do you live a life worthy of full confidence?

My prayer for the week is that the Holy Spirit will reveal an area of our hearts that lacks integrity, that we will confess that and become more trustworthy.

Guilty Conscience?

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”

Proverbs 28:1 NIV

Ever get called into the principal’s office? Or have your boss leave you a message: “I need to chat with you for a few minutes when you get in”? Then you probably know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you know you’ve done something wrong, but you can’t figure out what it is. You have a guilty conscience. Or maybe your spouse or a good friend suddenly becomes sickeningly sweet and does something too nice. Immediately, you think, I wonder what they did? They must have a guilty conscience.

All of us struggle with feelings of guilt from time to time. If you don’t, beware! You may be infected with the sin of pride more deeply than you realize. A guilty conscience can come from three sources, and it is important to discern the source so that you can deal with it appropriately.

The first source of feelings of guilt (also known as conviction) is the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8), who convicts us of sin that we need to confess. The Holy Spirit is never wrong, and He often brings to my mind sins that I had forgotten about, or areas of my life that I haven’t ever fully surrendered to God. We feel guilty because we are guilty, and God is bringing that conviction to our hearts so that we can confess our sin and be set free (see 1 John 1:9). If we don’t confess the sin in our lives, we cannot receive His forgiveness, and that will lead to worse things in us than just a guilty conscience.

One way you can recognize the conviction of the Holy Spirit is that He will bring specific things to you to confess. He will remind you of an unkind thing you said to someone, reveal a pattern of pride, show you that you’re not generous, or bring to light a hidden sin or habit. This most often happens when worshiping, listening to a sermon, reading your Bible, or praying–God speaks directly to your heart with conviction. Now, God is not in the business of convicting us for no reason. When He convicts, it’s for the purpose of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and freedom. His conviction will never come with condemnation for those who belong to Jesus (see Romans 8:1). So, when He convicts, it will be specific and will put in your heart a desire to come to God, rather than run from God.

The second source of a guilty conscience is our own conscience! God has given us all a conscience to detect sin in our lives, but we must remember that our conscience is not always right. Sometimes my conscience detects “sin” that isn’t really sin. And sometimes my conscience doesn’t pick up on sin in my life because I’m blinded by pride. When you’re feeling guilty about something, it’s important to process that with the Lord in prayer, and turn to Scripture for guidance. A pastor I know once said, “Your conscience isn’t always right, but it’s always wrong to violate it.” Often, my conscience isn’t very specific, but when I pray about what’s bothering me, the Lord reveals the specific sin causing the guilt. In this way, our conscience really can be a guide that brings us to God.

The third source of guilt is spiritual attack. The name Satan literally means “accuser,” and he loves nothing more than to accuse us so we feel guilty and unworthy of God’s love. He will bring up past sins and try to convince you that you haven’t been forgiven and God could never love someone like you. He may try to falsely accuse you, but he doesn’t have to–we’ve all sinned enough that he has plenty to work with! The surest way to detect this form of spiritual attack is that it comes with condemnation and leads you away from God. Rather than inviting you to come to God, confess, and be free, it pushes you away from God into a pit of despair that leads to further sin.

Whatever the source of your guilty conscience, the answer is always the same: bring it to the Lord. If you’ve already confessed that sin, thank God for His forgiveness and walk boldly in your freedom. If you haven’t confessed that sin, thank God for the conviction (whatever the source), confess, repent, be forgiven and set free.

My prayer for the week is that you get to walk in the freedom of forgiveness that cost Christ so much.

Tested by Praise

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.”

Proverbs 27:21 NIV

Although I don’t have any firsthand experience with refining metals, my secondhand understanding is that they are refined by fire. You take a piece of ore, which is rock or sediment that has traces of the gold or silver in it, or a chunk of metal with impurities, and throw it into a smelting furnace. The metal melts into a liquid, and the impurities (also called dross) can be separated out resulting in pure gold or silver.

Gold’s and silver’s impurities are revealed by the fire in the furnace. Your and my impurities are revealed by praise. Compliments test our humility and can expose such dross in us as pride, selfishness, vain ambition, jealousy, and more. It’s not wrong to take pride in a job well done or to receive a compliment from someone else. The question is, what do I do with that praise? How does it cause my heart to react? Do I return the praise to God, giving thanks for the work He has done in and through me?

Remember James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Nothing we have is from our own hand. God gave us the skills, talents, abilities, and opportunities. Receive a compliment for being faithful with what He’s given, but don’t forget that He’s the one who gives–and takes away.

Perhaps the most telling test of praise (in my experience) is how a person reacts when someone else receives praise, but they don’t. We’ve all been there. Someone comes up and compliments the person standing next to us, but neglects to give us the same regard. When someone else is praised and you aren’t, what happens in your heart? Jealousy? Anger? Discouragement?

Here’s the thing. As Christians, we should really only care about the praise of One: our great God and Savior. If we never receive a single nice word from another human being, but the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then we have received the highest praise of all. So, when someone else is complimented and you aren’t, give thanks that God allowed that other person to be encouraged, and remember that one day the One who alone is worthy of all praise will tell you just how proud of you He is.

My prayer for the week is that some praise or compliment will reveal to you an impurity so that you can confess and be free.

Moderation

 If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit.

Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house— too much of you, and they will hate you.

Proverbs 25:16-17 NIV

Is it safe to say that many of us struggle with moderation? One soda isn’t bad for you, but two or three? One glass of wine might even be good for your heart, but four or five? Occasionally eating a few caramel M&M’s won’t kill you, but a whole bag for breakfast? (Okay, it wasn’t really a whole bag. The bag was already 1/2 empty by the time I finished it off for breakfast.) Even good things that would normally be healthy can be harmful when not practiced, used, or consumed in moderation. I love smoked meat, ribs, brisket, pork, chicken… Eating a well-balanced diet that includes those kinds of meat in moderation is healthy. But gorging on too much meat can be very unhealthy. Sleep is good, but too much sleep leads to poverty (see Proverbs 6:9-11). No doubt there are many more examples coming to your mind.

A lack of moderation has a subtle way of sneaking into our Christian faith as well, turning good things into idols that steal glory from God. The church I grew up in was so obsessed with living a moral life according to “holiness standards” that they went overboard with rules and regulations, adding far more than was ever in Scripture. This resulted in a brittle, easily broken faith that was based on keeping the rules, rather than a strong, enduring faith built on the foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Many Christians idolize their spouse or their family, often putting family ahead of God in an effort to be a good spouse or parent. But, making God a lower priority never results in greater godliness! In our churches today, we highly value friendship. But sometimes we take it to an unhealthy level and become codependent on one another when we really should only be dependent on God. Of course, the opposite can also be true–sometimes we idolize solitude to the point of neglecting life together, and that can be unhealthy, too. Church is great, but being too busy with church is not. We need space to rest, spend time with the Lord and our families, and interact with unbelievers who need to see Jesus in us.

The point of all this is self-control and the worship of God alone. God is our “magnificent obsession,” and He is the only one worthy of our unceasing worship and devotion. For everything else, even the good things, even the church things, we need to exercise appropriate self-control. My prayer for the week is that God will bring to our hearts an area where we struggle with self-control and moderation, so that we can become less dependent on that and more dependent on God.

True Riches

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Proverbs 24:4-5 (NIV)

Granted, this Proverb is talking specifically about money. And, money (or wealth of some sort) is a universal idol for people of every culture throughout history. Jesus said that the love of money is so strong it threatens our relationship with God to the point where we must choose who will be our master–God or money (see Mt. 6:24). As I’ve heard more than one pastor say, “You will either love God and use money, or love money and try to use God.”

But it wasn’t financial wealth that God brought to my attention when I read these verses in Proverbs 24. God reminded me this morning that I need to trust and rely on him for success in ministry. “Rich” doesn’t just mean money. For a pastor, “rich” can be any number of things, but it’s most often numbers. It’s a struggle for pastors to avoid the comparison game, looking at other churches to see how many people they have and what they’re doing to get those people through the front doors. We are very tempted (and it’s not easy to resist) to slightly exaggerate our average attendance when we meet other pastors and they ask, “How big is your flock?”

In my time with the Lord this morning, I was praying for LakeView, thinking about the direction God has called us and the transition coming as we begin to follow his lead. As with any big decision or course change, there is always a little anxiety. What if it doesn’t “work”? What if we’re not at 500 in five years? Did we hear you correctly, Lord?

I prayed, “Lord, don’t forget your servant.”

And he replied, Servant, don’t forget your Master.

I remembered something Dr. Mathews said in one of my classes at Moody Theological Seminary. “You worry about the depth of your relationship with God. Let God worry about the breadth of your ministry.” My role, and our role as a church, is to remember our Master, to worry about the depth of our relationship with God. We’ll let him worry about the numbers as we faithfully worship, pray, meet with him in his Word, and share his love with others in our lives (both inside and outside the church).

What do you wear yourself out to obtain? Where do you find yourself tempted to trust your own cleverness? Money? Reputation? Your position at work? Success? Experiences in life? However you define “rich,” my prayer for this week is that we remember our Master. God’s love is true wealth, and we have it in infinite abundance. Let’s focus on spending time with him and let him worry about the “riches” of this life.