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Out with the New…In with the Old
December 29, 2010 - Dennis Gingerich
Everyone is wishing each other a long life, peace and prosperity for 2011. And we are being bombarded with offers of new gadgets, products, programs, books, videos, apps and memberships to help us lose weight, be more productive, organize our closets and our time and to have better relationships with our families. New things, new goals, new resolutions and new commitments aren’t necessarily bad things but I’ve been thinking about this…maybe we just need to go back to the “old” things to have a long life, peace and prosperity. My guess is that there are some foundational things, tried and true proven principles that we may be neglecting, which could help us make the changes we long for in the new year.
Let me suggest we go back about 3,000 years to remind ourselves of what will help us to find long life, peace and prosperity. King Solomon, the guy who is described as the wisest man who ever lived, gives us some wisdom in his book of Proverbs that you would think came off the current best seller’s list. In chapter 3 of the Hebrew scriptures of Proverbs, Solomon writes, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity (Proverbs 3:1-2). So what is the age-old teaching he is referring to that will bring this promised long life, peace and prosperity? I found at least four key principles mentioned in this third chapter of Proverbs that will make a huge difference in our personal and family life if we put them into practice in the coming year.
Love and faithfulness is the first principle that assures a positive direction for our lives in the new year. King Solomon writes, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck write them as a tablet on your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4). What if these two qualities would be the guiding lights in our lives in everything we do this coming year? Do you think it might change the quality of your relationships in any way? What would happen to your tenuous relationships if there was intentionality to always act in love and a faithful commitment to work through any problems that arose? Do you think maybe the emotional health in those relationships would begin to improve and even thrive? Do you think the stress level in your home or work place might possibly go down if love and faithfulness was the predominant atmosphere that everyone inhaled?
There definitely would be more peace in the new year if love and faithfulness were regular companions at all levels of our relationships. We might even prosper more financially if we could focus on our jobs more intently and have less distractions from all of the petty bickering and relational drama that invades so many work places. Love and faithfulness will make a difference. And we certainly will have better health and live longer if love and faithfulness infiltrate our environment. It is estimated that 40-80% of all doctor visits are stress induced. Relationships without love and faithfulness lead to stress. Stress leads to a shorter life, lower productivity and lack of peace. This is 3,000 year old wisdom being confirmed by modern medicine and sociological research. I suggest you start the new year seeking greater health by facing the issues and circumstances that bring you stress. Complete trust in God is the second principle that King Solomon calls us to consider for having a long life, peace and prosperity. He writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Are you trusting in something else more than in God? Are you leaning on your own understanding more than on God’s understanding? Are you acknowledging God in all of your ways? This is no small thing…to trust God with all of our hearts. And acknowledging God is more than nodding our heads in agreement…it is to submit to all of God’s ways.
I’ve noticed that most of us want the results of God’s blessings but we don’t want to talk about submitting and obeying God. We like the idea of receiving God’s direction and guidance but we tend to avoid God’s authority over every area of our lives. We can’t have it both ways. And that notion is true in every area of our lives. If we consume more calories than we burn, we gain weight. If we spend more than we make, we go in debt. If we trust completely in ourselves, lean on our own understanding and don’t submit to God’s ways, we end up with human-sized results instead of God-sized results. The greatest step you could take as you move into the new year is to begin to trust God with your whole heart and to begin to dig into His understanding of things as revealed in His written road map for life (the Bible) and acknowledge Him in every area of your life. If you don’t already have one, why not find a great place of worship for your entire family and try that age-old practice that has the potential to help you grow in your relationship with God? A Teachable Spirit is the third principle that Solomon promotes as a doorway to long life, peace and prosperity. “Do not be wise in your own eyes…” is the opening phrase of Proverbs 3:7. Humility is the core characteristic for teachableness. Arrogance will keep us from experiencing God’s best. The people who prosper in life are learners. The people who flourish in their relationships are learners. Solomon speaks much of searching diligently for wisdom. He writes, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:13-17). Wisdom is the greatest commodity you can gain in life but it always takes a teachable spirit to find it.
Generosity is the final principle that Solomon upholds as the way to experience a long life, peace and prosperity. He unashamedly writes this command, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). We speak of laws of nature such as the law of magnetism and the law of gravity. God has a law of generosity, a law of harvest or a law of sowing and reaping. I don't have to understand how electricity works to benefit from electricity. And though I don’t fully understand how God’s law of generosity works, I’ve experienced it and repeatedly watched it in operation in the lives of many others. God honors the law of giving. My wife and I have given away 10-25% of our income for the past 36 years of our marriage and we have been incredibly blessed!
From what I know about God, you can’t expect the blessing of God on your finances and God to meet all your needs if you don’t trust God with all your heart and acknowledge Him in all your ways – including your finances. Generosity opens the door for God’s blessings. And furthermore, you will be remembered most by what give, not what you keep. Winston Churchill said it this way, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
As we move into 2011, let’s not be afraid to embrace the new but let’s make sure we are living out these four age-old foundation principles and God assures us we will experience a long life, peace and prosperity. Happy New Year!
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