In my regular, daily Bible reading over the past year I read through Proverbs 3, a passage I've studied and preached through many times. But during this reading, I realized that in verses 3 through 12 we have all the themes of the rest of the book, and therefore a kind of mini-guide to faithful living. There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life:
1. Put your heart's deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)
2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don't think you know better than God's word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.
Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)
3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)
4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)
5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.
My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)
As I meditated on these five elements--rooted in his grace, obeying and delighting in his Word, humble before other people, sacrificially generous toward our neighbor, and steadfast in trials--I thought of Jesus. The New Testament tells us that the personified 'divine wisdom' of the Old Testament is actually Jesus (Mt 11:19.) And I realized that a) he showed the ultimate trust and faithfulness to God and to us by going to the cross, b) he was saturated with and shaped by Scripture, c) he was meek and lowly in heart (Mt. 11:28-30), d) he, though rich, became poor for us, e) and he bore his suffering, for us, without complaint. We can only grow in these five areas if you know you are saved by costly grace. That keeps you from idols, from self-sufficiency and pride, from selfishness with your things, and from crumbling under troubles. Jesus is wisdom personified, and believing his gospel brings these character qualities into your life.
For a number of weeks I have been spending time praying for these five things for my family and my church leaders. There's no better way to instill these great things in your own heart, than to pray intensely for them in the lives of those you love.