Coming off a major election cycle is a time of special concern and care for any pastor who desires to shepherd those serving our nation. It’s a pivotal time: Whereas a win can lead to an adrenaline rush absent of rest, personal inventory, and humble reflection, a loss can lead to months, sometimes years, of debilitating depression.
How specifically can the Scriptures help you after the rigors of campaigning and the adjustments you need to make after months of always-on-the-go, necessarily imbalanced living?
Let’s turn to Proverbs and contemplate the sobriety of King Solomon and what he has to say about a sense of normal living — one that garners His blessing, spiritual, mental and physical health, and meaningful relationships. Sound good? This is an important study for someone who is always on the go; certainly that was the case by the one who penned the following Proverbs that we will be studying.
I trust this study will help you navigate to a more balanced way of life. Read on my friend.
The main thesis of the Bible pertains to God’s exaltation through man’s redemption. Ephesians 2:7 states, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. God’s whole economy of salvation is meant to show forth His attribute of grace. The context of this statement has to do with the redeeming work of Christ — in that the cross displays God’s grace — that He would save anyone from personal rebellion toward Him reflects on His very nature; it is by His abundant grace alone that anyone is saved. Through these salvific kindnesses, God’s goodness and glory redound to all mankind in the past, present, and future. Why the Fall? Why the Cross? God’s economy of the Fall and the Cross (compared to if man never fell and God didn’t graciously save through His Son) serve to illuminate the grace of God, which, otherwise, His attribute of grace would be inconspicuous to man. The point is that nothing else in the Bible eclipses this overarching theme. Make no mistake here: The big picture? It is all about the greatness of God!
A. THE BIG PICTURE
But what does all that have to do with this week’s Bible study? There are many other truths within His Holy Writ that comport with this theme, such as one’s health, peace of mind, and well being. They are not the central focus of Scripture but nonetheless, serve to illustrate as well “the surpassing riches of His grace.” The Scriptures for sure instruct one regarding a variety of things: such as self-help; relationships; ancient history; and they provide a roadmap for a happy family, among many other things. In that God was in no way bound to provide us with all of the above, they too, serve to a lesser degree to illustrate “the surpassing riches of His grace.” (I say “lesser” because the former, in order to provide redemption, cost Him far more.) These somewhat hierarchical truths need to be clear at the introduction of this study, because:
THERE ARE MANY “MINISTRIES” THAT WOULD HAVE YOU SEEK HEALTH, WEALTH, AND PROSPERITY AS IF THEY WERE PRIMARY OBJECTIVES OF THE BIBLE
Such ministries represent an aberrant man-centered, not God-centered, theology. It’s not about you; it’s about Him! And that is the essential reason why one must begin a topical study on health, wealth, and prosperity with Ephesians 2:7 in view.
B. PROSPERITY AND PERSECUTION
The Proverbs which follow are general principles of Scripture, not promises, and importantly, one must synthesize this subject theologically with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1- 12), wherein Jesus deems persecution as normative for all believers who live godly lives. Generally speaking, the following Proverbs are true – if not externally because of persecution, then internally due to the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This seeming dichotomy is captured in Proverbs 14:13: Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.
C. SUMMARY OF INTRODUCTION
With the big picture of the preeminence of God’s glory noted, and the tension between prosperity and persecution better understood, Proverbs states, in those contexts, much about health, well-being, and blessings: How one gains and how one loses them, both as a recipient and as a giver. What follows herein is an attempt to unfurl the breadth and depth that this preceding sentence in and by the following outline — with the hope that it will minister to your present needs given your ultra-fast paced calling in life.
II. PERSONAL BLESSINGS
A. THE PRECURSOR TO GOD’S BLESSING
Everyone wants God’s blessing in his or her life. But disobedience regarding obedience to Him and His Word often plays into Christians’ lives. Obedience is the precursor to blessing. People sometimes wonder why they are not being blessed. For example, lazy believers may live with a prepossession of obedience to God’s Word when, in fact, they lack habitual industriousness. There is a disconnect. Perhaps they’ve developed a skill of “spiritualizing” their way out of hard work (as if Gen. 3:17-19 were not in the Bible). Many wonder why their lives are not characterized by God’s blessing and well-being, when, in fact, they are disobedient to His principles that are plainly revealed in Scripture! Being a hearer of the Word and not a doer ( James 1:21- 27) leads to a jaundiced Christian life; those people who struggle with the connection between hearing God’s Word and doing His will, will experience respective difficulties instead of blessings in this life.
BLESSINGS FROM GOD ARE DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL TO OBEDIENCE TO GOD IN EACH AREA OF OUR LIVES
James 1:25 is a wonderful passage that has often and continually sobered me to the gravity of obedience. Memorizing and meditating on this verse has helped me to be serious about applying what I learn from Scripture — versus going through the motions and nonetheless expecting God’s blessing:
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
This NT passage summarizes well what Proverbs states is the key to personal blessing. Effectual doers of the Word are those who are serious about obedience, who struggle and war against their sin nature, whose lifestyles are characterized by constant repentance, change and growth. These are the people who make the tough choices to abide by God’s precepts. A key word to understand in this passage is abide (parameno) which means, “to remain beside or near.” The word translates as effectual doer. Their other English equivalents are “work” and “making” respectively. It follows that if you fail to continually work at making God’s Word beside or near your life then you are to some degree disobedient to Christ’s Lordship and therefore should not expect His abundances of blessings as listed in the following Proverbs. This cause and effect relationship should not be underestimated.
Accordingly, in your post-election exhilaration, the degree to which you are obedient to God’s Word is the degree to which you will experience the following aspects of His blessings as depicted by these specific Proverbs. Don’t be self-deceived into thinking otherwise my friend.
B. GOD’S BLESSING OF PHYSICAL HEALTH
In Proverbs, the spiritual/mental well being of an individual is often indicated by the blessing of physical health. Again, that is not always absolutely the case, but in principle it often is. Ask yourself if any of the following health-robbers apply to you? Here are some of the mental/ spiritual causes of problems that diminish physical health and this sense of personal blessing. Again, note the connection between the spiritual/mental to the physical in each of the subpoints that follow.
1. Arrogance Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. ( 3:7-8)
The second stanza of this Proverb provides a remedy for the first stanza. After winning a campaign or two, it is easy to fall into the trap of self-importance. Instead, fear the Lord: Why? Because He is the one who appointed you to office — it’s not your cleverness. Do not forget Romans 13:1 in this regard:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
You did not gain office by yourself ! Remember that God establishes all governing authorities. Such meditations will greatly curtail being wise in your own eyes. Whereas arrogance leads to ill health, to fear the Lord instead will prove healing and refreshment to your bones.
2. Disobedience My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. (4:20-22)
This is the Proverbial passage that parallels and amplifies the passage we have previously examined, James 1:25. Notice the verbs, give attention; Incline; Do not let them depart; keep them. All such words are cherished in the hearts of effectual doers; take them seriously: The result? They are health to all [your] body.
3. Jealousy A tranquil heart is life to the body, But jealousy is rottenness to the bones. (14:30, HCSB)
Prolonged attitudes of jealousy, like desiring the office that another possesses, Proverbs states, can lead to personal health issues and the lack of blessing. What are you doing conscientiously after the election to guard against this?
4. Self Pity A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (17:22) The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it? (18:14)
Melancholy dispositions, sunken by afflictions such as the loss of an election, are herein referred to as a broken spirit. If harbored, self-pity can lead to physical ailments. This mindset must be eradicated and superseded by an immediate, habitual trust in the sovereignty of God. Don’t allow the loss of an election to equate to a loss of life! There are so many other opportunities out there that God expects you to fulfill for His glory! The sooner you get over pitying yourself the better off you’ll be.
SOLOMON SAYS ARROGANCE, DISOBEDIENCE, JEALOUSY, AND SELF-PITY ARE GANGSTERS WHO ARE OUT TO ROB YOU OF YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
Arrest these culprits today and you will experience God’s blessings to a greater degree tomorrow!
C. GOD’S BLESSING OF JOY AND HAPPINESS
Another form of blessing that inures to the effectual doer is peace, joy, and happiness. When followers of Christ walk in obedience, they set in motion a sowing and reaping kind of blessing. The idea of obedience to God’s commandments is personified with a feminine pronoun in chapter three of Proverbs:
For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. (3:2)
Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast. (3:17-18)
Several other Proverbs that equate obedience with peace and happiness are as follows:
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (16:7)
All the days of the afflicted are bad, Bur a cheerful heart has a continual feast. (15:15)
God’s blessings come in the forms of health, peace, and joy, and:
D. GOD’S BLESSING OF PROSPERITY
Effectual doers are blessed with prosperity; The Proverb that follows visually depicts this by the growth of a tree, which naturally expands and gets larger, bearing more fruit. Prosperity and increase should be understood not just in a material sense, but also in the sense of growing God’s kingdom, as per the second stanza in the context of the first:
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. (11:30)
Notice that part of God’s blessing is our sense of being used by Him to geometrically expand His kingdom: what an inner joy that brings every believer! Notice this idea in the first part of the following Proverb.
Desire realized is sweet to the soul, But it is an abomination to fools to turn away from evil. (13:19)
E. GOD’S BLESSING OF LONG LIFE
The Bible is replete with this wonderful promise.
For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. (3:2)
Again, the “they” above is a contextual reference in chapter three of keeping God’s commandments. Ephesians 6:3, which is a quote from Exodus 20:12 in the OT Torah, promises long life to those who obey their parents: SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.
Summarily, health, joy, and happiness, prosperity, and long life, are all forms of blessing that Solomon says come to roost in the life of the effectual doer of the Word of God.
POST ELECTION, SHIFT YOUR PRIMARY FOCUS BACK IN THIS DIRECTION
III. CORPORATE BLESSINGS
Proverbs provides the formula for well being, not only for individuals but also for society as a whole. Here are some of the ways you can be a blessing to others who voted you into office.
A. THROUGH RIGHTEOUS LIVING
In the passage that follows, Solomon indicates that it is the personal righteousness of individuals who engender health, peace and well being to a city, or society:
When it goes well with the righteous, The city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, There is joyful shouting. (11:10)
Individuals, be they righteous or wicked, are the building blocks of culture; a country is no greater than the sum character of its individuals. Much more could be exposited from this Proverb, but of special insight is the following: People yearn for righteousness in society! That attests to the truth revealed in the first chapter of the book of Romans: that God’s laws are written on man’s hearts. Internally, people possess a moral compass and even though they may suppress that morality in their personal life ( John 3:19 states, “and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”), they give away the fact that they inherently know right from wrong by the mere fact that they yearn for righteousness in their city! While they may suppress their personal conscience, they tend not to suppress their corporate conscience!
B. THROUGH RIGHTEOUS LAWS
Whereas the first way for a Public Servant to bless others is through his or her personal character and righteousness, the second way is through the policies he enacts: Laws that are just (which means they reflect the attributes of God).
The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity. (21:15)
When you, the Public Servant, live both personally and vocationally in obedience to God’s Word, God will use your life as His surrogate to give health, peace, and prosperity to others. Are you a person who brings corporate blessings to others?
Notice from the Proverbs that follow the many ways in which you are blessed as you bless others: via your counsel of others, the use of your home, the proper raising of your children, and the manifest characteristics of nobility and loyalty. To concentrate on sowing blessings on others, will reap personal blessings on you!
Use your position to speak into others’ lives; bless others by sharing precepts from God’s Word with those whose lives you influence. King Solomon speaks to the idea of being a counselor to your colleagues:
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy. (12:20)
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad. (12:25)
A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word! (15:23)
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (16:24)
Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land. (25:25)
A sated man loathes honey, But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet. (27:7)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (27:9)
The abundant passages regarding speaking into other’s lives indicate what a blessing such actions can be to both you and others!
Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. (15:30)
Be a good counselor and encourager to others! It’s all a part of creating a corporate blessing in culture.
C. THROUGH HOSPITALITY
A home with hospitality can be a wonderful blessing and ministry tool to those with whom you personally interact. The spirit of a home where Christ dwells is far more impacting and comforting than that of a materially opulent home where He is nowhere to be found in the speech or atmosphere. People pick up on the spirit of a home almost immediately.
Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, Than a house full of feasting with strife. (17:1)
D. THROUGH CHILD RAISING
Do not sacrifice your children on the altar of your career. If you invest in your kids consistently, they will become a lifetime blessing as the years roll by. Invest in your future by investing in your children today! Notice the plethora of Proverbs that portray the blessing of your offspring. Keep in mind that they will represent the corporate culture of your nation tomorrow.
A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises his mother. (15:20)
He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy. (17:21)
My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad. (23:15)
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. (23:24-25)
This next Proverb is of particular importance to the credibility of a Public Servant. What better way to quell the character assassins than to be able to point to the nobility of your children:
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, That I may reply to him who reproaches me. (27:11)
A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, But he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth. (29:3)
E. THROUGH NOBILITY
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles. (24:17)
Those who spike the ball in the end zone lack nobility. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Remember: It is your personal dignity that leads to our culture’s dignity, or lack thereof.
F. THROUGH LOYALTY
A wicked messenger falls into adversity, But a faithful envoy brings healing. (13:17)
This Proverb speaks to the opposite end of faithfulness in relationships: betrayal. Someone with whom you thought you were close, likened above to a messenger (a word portraying someone with whom you’ve become vulnerable) suddenly turns on you (contr. 1Peter 2:18) for no biblical reason. Such actions create adversity: emotions and distance that are not easily remedied. In contrast, steadfastness in your relationships, genuinely caring for others, depicted below by the picture of one meticulously tending a fig tree, aka loyalty to colleagues creates a bountiful harvest in the future and is befitting of personal honor:
He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored. (27:18)
Loyalty is an inestimable characteristic that not only heals and blesses others but honors you as well.
IV. PERSONAL CURSINGS
The opposite of blessing is cursing. Now notice how King Solomon speaks to the flip side in both a personal and corporate sense of prosperity. The practice of any of the following hinders God’s hand of blessing and will serve to thwart your future.
A. NO HEALING
Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing. (6:14-15)
PERHAPS YOU JUST CONCLUDED YOUR RACE AGAINST SOMEONE WHO IS CHARACTERIZED BY THESE PROVERBS?
The underlying Hebrew word for perversity (iqqeshuth) means “to make crooked; to distort; to twist.” Such a heart manifests itself in devising evil and spreading strife. Biblical synonyms for strife are “contentions” and “quarrels.” Whereas Scripture says the pure in heart manifest peace (Matthew 5:1-6), the idea here is just the opposite: “cursed are the quarrelsome!” Continual agitation and healing are juxtaposed to one another’s interests; you can’t do both at the same time! After all the fighting, mud slinging, and devising of evil during a campaign season, ‘tis the season to switch gears and heal up from it all! Elsewhere in Solomon’s wisdom writings, Ecclesiastes 3:3, he appropriately states:
(There is) a time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
B. BURNING OUT
God promises refreshment and rekindling to men and women who meditate on His Word. Those who are steeped in obedience to it tend more so to live stable lives void of emotional highs and lows. They are invigorated and refreshed by His presence in their inner soul. Again, notice the same Proverb that emphasizes this:
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. (3:7-8)
During the days of November and December after an election, always plan to drink deeply from His well as you recover from your deleterious marathon: you are most likely depleted. Fearing the Lord and imbibing from His Word will be refreshment to your bones like nothing else.
V. CORPORATE CURSINGS
A. THROUGH RASH AND PERVERSE WORDS
Be especially careful with words:
There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit. (15:4)
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, Or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart. (25:20)
This is the season to bring healing and blessing to many with your words. Take to heart James 3:4-5: Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
B. THROUGH UNKEPT PROMISES
It hurts your spouse, child, peer, employee, or constituent when you keep not a promise:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (13:12)
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. (15:13)
Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, But a man of understanding walks straight. (15:21)
The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it? (18:14)
As a leader, it is important to follow through so as to not crush the spirit of another.
Most everyone wants to experience God’s maximum blessings in his life. In order to best understand that, we need not only survey what it is He indeed blesses, but also come to grips with what God indeed despises. What does He curse? Be especially diligent to avoid the things that diminish His blessings in your life and your country.