When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

Positive or Negative?

Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

As I peruse the internet, listen to people chat, watch interaction between people with each other, as well as interaction within the church, I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in this age that seems to lend itself to credibility even from Scripture.

I’m sure we have all seen this to some extent or other and maybe even agreed with it to a certain extent.

It is the “Get rid of all those negative relationships that don’t build you up” meme or quote.

It’s interesting how this generation views negativity. When I was younger, quite a bit more than I am now, there was nothing wrong with negativity, to a certain extent. If we look in the Bible at Exodus 20, we will find that God was negative towards His people and demanded complete perfection. Seven of these commandments say, “You shall not,” and one says, “You will have no…” The other two were about the Sabbath and obedience to parents.

I used to think, every time I saw one of these, “Yeah! I can see what they’re saying. You don’t want someone pulling you down to sin and do things wrong before the Lord. Those are negative people and, as such, you need them out of your life.”

wisecounsel

As I’ve studied people’s responses towards things they want to do, my eyes have been opened, through the years, into what was really being said. Years ago, we lived in England and I became friends with someone through the internet. She homeschooled her children, just as we homeschooled ours. One day, out of the blue, she contacted me to tell me her child was looking to become an actress and had the availability to act in one of the newer style family movies which in the early days was not of the quality they are today.

She told me how much they were doing and then began complaining about other people who had been friends and, “…were so negative towards me about this that I had to cut them off.” I was troubled by the fact that people would give her a rough time over it so I started sympathizing with her. After a few days, she began giving me a detailed schedule of what would be happening and, it was at this point I realized the people who were supposedly negative may not necessarily have been.

I struggled to know what to say to her while wondering if what I was going to say would make her think I was being negative, as well. As I had very few friends, anyway, I didn’t want to lose her friendship and kept quiet for a time. The more I thought about her ‘predicament’ (my understanding) the more I became concerned over the situation and how it would affect them spiritually.

I eventually shared with her to be careful that she guard her time with her daughter and their time with the Lord so they didn’t fall by the wayside spiritually. She said she was was stunned and accused me of being negative. At that point she cut me out of her life and refused to talk with me for many years. Eventually, she did speak with me again but only for a short time. The evidence of her new life was painfully apparent in her dress, her speech, and her lifestyle.

As I think of other similar times that this has happened, I’m saddened by what is considered positive influences and what isn’t. I’m also very concerned when people try to use the Word of God to make all this seem as if it were credible.

The truth of the matter is, if you only want yes individuals within your life to give you the nod over whatever it is you want to do then you are headed down a dangerous path. You see, we are sinful creatures and we sin. When we only allow people to advise us who refuse the truth how can we expect they will give us godly advice?

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

We, as true believers and children of the Sovereign Lord, are expected to share the truth, in love, with each other. We cannot expect others to give us what we want to hear no matter how much we want it. The truth of the Scriptures is the only way we can know how to do what is right. If we choose the right way that means we have to keep our eyes on Scripture regularly and know what direction we must go. If we don’t follow the Lord, He will discipline us to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and to keep our feet on the right path. Heb 12:11.

If you find someone willing to share the truth with you, don’t cut them out of your life. Proverbs 9:8 makes it clear that if you rebuke a scorner, he will hate you but when you rebuke a wise man that person will love you. If every time someone seeks to give you godly advice and you cut them out of your life the question must be asked, “Are you a true believer?” If you are then why aren’t you listening to godly advice? If you aren’t then today is the day of salvation!

Big Mouths

big-mouths

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip” –Proverbs 20:19 (NASB)

As Christians, we should not only be able to rightly discern sound doctrine, but we need to be able to discern sound character. There are many things we all may fail in, but that doesn’t mean we should never be corrected and rebuked for bad character. As we are cautious about heresies that tend to infiltrate our western churches, so we also must be cautious concerning red flags about other people’s character.

In this particular portion of Proverbs, Solomon warns us about a particular problem in human nature – gossip. Particularly, it is gossip that spreads (mis)information, truthful or not, that brings a stain upon another person, intended or unintended. Whether done ignorantly or maliciously is not the warning here. The warning that this proverb is trying to help us understand is that a slanderer comes with a warning sign: A mouth that doesn’t shut.

I picked the Scripture version above because it is the best translation that I think projects the concept of this passage. Although not word for word, if I had to summarize and use the GRV (George’s Revised Version), I would say something like this:

“He who is gossiper reveals secrets, therefore do not have fellowship with or share information with those that are constantly opening their mouths.”

The reason why I worded it this way is because there are a few words in this Scripture that give the picture of someone who is always saying something, or sharing information about others, who will inevitably spread information about you.

The first Hebrew word, רָכִיל rakiyl (talebearer, gossiper, informer), is a word that describes someone that tells others information  or “tales” (thus the term “talebearer” in certain translations). Chances are, it will  be about things that they have no right to share, or were told in confidence something that they should not tell others. Everyone knows someone like this, so this should be of no surprise that these kinds of people have been around for ages. The next word is פָּתָה pathah (one who opens his lips). This word gives a linguistic picture of something spacious and wide, but is used idiomatically to speak of someone who can’t keep their mouth shut. It relates to our English idiom of disgust when we say, “You know, you got a big mouth!” There are no limits, self-control, or barriers to the kind of information that this person will share! Finally, the last word is עָרַב `arab. This word conveys fellowship and sharing. Other uses include giving a pledge, but in this context, it is like exchanging pledges. In other words, there is a trade or transaction of information, which always happens if you are going to communicate meaningfully with another human being.

warning-label

If you notice, the gossiper has to open their mouths and tell someone something that they should not. And this is the WARNING SIGN that we should all take heed to. If there is someone who spreads information about someone else, they will spread information about you. The best way to confront the person is to ask, “Am I supposed to know this information?” Or, if you hear information that may not be accurate, you can correct or inform the individual, taking into the consideration that it’s information that you are not able to openly express as well. Sometimes, a gossiper shares misinformation to gain more information to use it at their whim, so be careful!

The point is primarily this. Scripture warns us to be discerning of individuals that just can’t seem to keep their mouth under control, especially when it comes to information that we should not be privy to. Now, I am a talker. I love linguistics. I love communicating with my brethren about what’s on my heart and how I feel, but I usually only speak to a small circle of discerning friends about certain individuals that have caused me angst. The catch here is that the kind of speech that I should not exchange with someone else is information that may defame, stain, or hurt another individual’s reputation, or spread information that a person has confided with me on. I am not to divulge or indulge anything that I discern to be slanderous. This discernment is a muscle that we need to exercise and make stronger in our day and age where clicking “share” or sending emails without face-to-face conflict is so prominent. And our spiritual palates need to be trained to refuse the juicy morsels that so often cause our gossiping ears to salivate.

Even though I have painted an evil picture upon a person whose disposition is as I previously mentioned, I need to make it a point to inform you that gossip is forgivable. Oftentimes, slander is not tolerated, and it shouldn’t be. But we must remember that we are obligated to show forgiveness toward those who are of this kind of character. If a person is repentant about it, we must show mercy. While it is true that we will probably be more discerning in the future, we should never shy away from offering reconciliation, even if it may take a little while to come to fruition. The sin of gossip is a sin of the heart that is manifested in the tongue, and Christ died for that sin too.

I leave you with Psalm 15 as an exhortation of what a godly character should look like. Of course we know this is not an exhaustive list, but it is still an important one nevertheless. I have highlighted verse 3 in reference to what I have written thus far for your instruction.

Psalm 15 (NKJV)

The Character of Those Who May Dwell with the LORD

A Psalm of David.

1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?

Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

2 ​​He who walks uprightly,

​​And works righteousness,

​​And speaks the truth in his heart;

 

3 ​​He who does not backbite with his tongue,

​​Nor does evil to his neighbor,

​​Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;

 

4 ​​In whose eyes a vile person is despised,

​​But he honors those who fear the LORD;

​​He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

 

5 ​​He who does not put out his money at usury,

​​Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

​​He who does these things shall never be moved.

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs

Any preacher worth his office will tell you that proper handling of wisdom literature (particularly GWIP_thumb[2]Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs) is most difficult. Even “simple” Hebrew narratives do not always flow in chronological form as does western literature. Wisdom literature adds another twist in that it not only is designed to impart wisdom, it requires wisdom from God to rightly draw out the meaning. In his book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, Dan Phillips leads us by the Word of God to rightly understand this part of the His Word. And he does it with a good sense of humor that should have you smiling broadly, if not laughing out loud. This is not a commentary – it is a guide-book to this overly familiar book in God’s Word.

This book has eight chapters:

  1. Essentials for Understanding Proverbs

  2. The Stated Design of Proverbs

  3. The Foundation of Wisdom

  4. WISDOM: Seeking and Finding

  5. Relating to God by Trust and Worship

  6. Skill in Godly Relationships

  7. Skill in Godly Marriage

  8. Skill in Godly Child-training

There are four appendices, covering the question of human authorship, word studies in Proverbs, an examination of Proverbs 22:6, and preaching and teaching from Proverbs.

Throughout this exceptional book (I only regret not reading it when I first bought it a couple years ago), Phillips keeps front and center the need we all have for a healthy fear of Creator God as the beginning of wisdom and as the posture that keeps us from being full of self and/or comfortable with sin. Says the author – “A God-fearer today is the man who has repented of his good works as well as his bad, trusted Christ alone as his Savior, relied on Christ’s righteousness alone, by the grace of God alone, and taken God’s Word alone as his marching orders, with God’s glory alone as his uniting motivation. That is the man who fears God.” AMEN!

Brothers and sisters – this entire book is founded on this very perspective. It will serve the body of Christ very well.

In telling us how to gain wisdom, he compares it to getting bread. Though the Lord’s prayer includes “give us this day our daily bread”, one doesn’t merely wish or pray for bread. He works for it, goes to where it is, buys it. The same principle, he tells us, applies whether we are after wisdom or whole wheat – pray and work. Creator God rules by means as well as ends.

In helping us understand the large volume of verses expounding foolish behavior, having just discussed the child who honors his parents, Phillips writes, “By contrast, in Proverbs the foolish child is neglectful during his years of instruction and learning (10:5), disregards what he has been taught (19:27), is abusive and insulting to his parents (19:26), is stupid (17:25, 19:13), ignores correction (31:1), and hangs around with sorts of people his father warned him about (1:10. 24:21, 28:7).” Which of us see our younger selves in this summary? Perhaps we are grieved by a close friend or a child of our own who embodies this whole-hearted foolishness. Our hearts should break – yet we should trust in God and cry out to Him for mercy on the fool. For no man can rescue a fool from his God-hating position, none of us can debate or argue the spiritually dead man to come to life. Let us continually thank the Lord for having delivered us from darkness and pray without ceasing for those who are perishing, while we proclaim the gospel to them.

I am tempted to tell you all the good things in this book – but then I would violate the reason for this review. Let me be content to assure you that each chapter and appendix will prompt you to think biblically, will cause you to repent of foolishness or a casual attitude towards the Word of God, will encourage you to trust God all the more and show you the joy that is ours as we walk as children of the light.

The chapter on child-training is worth the retail price of the book. Among the many good things he teaches us, Phillips says, “We must not rear our children in a certain way because it will work (pragmatism); we must rear them in such as way because it pleases and honors Yahweh (fear of Yahweh). God’s pleasure and glory must be our focus. Then we can trust the results to Him with a clean conscience (Prov 16:1, 3, 9).”

One of the comments that made me smile with irony – his style is priceless while the observation is sobering – is in the chapter on marriage. “Modern Christian thought often drinks long and deep at the trough of sociology and psychology, adds a sprinkling of Christainoid pixie-dust, and then merely closes in prayer.”

Lastly, I will tell you about the 3rd appendix, covering Proverbs 22:6. You know the text – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. How many of us have given serious thought to this verse? Do we know what Solomon meant, or our we content to merely see the words and allow our culturally trained brain and self-righteousness nature to guide to a conclusion? I’ve read of the interpretation Phillips argues for here and found it to make much more sense than the way I’ve been this verse all my life. He will make you think deeply, even if you do not agree with him.

I’ve been in contact with Dan Phillips and found him to be very cordial and brotherly, even though I told him I abhor dispensationalism (which he holds to). I dare say we would be friends if our paths crossed. He passed this along to me –during November the Proverbs book is actually on sale for 65% off. You have to order it from Kress here in Texas (http://bit.ly/18iX5b5), and use the coupon code BR60833557256.