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WISDOM for the wayWISE WORDS FOR BUSY PEOPLE
By CHARLES R. SWINDOLL
J COUNTRYMANCopyright © 2001 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNo Success Without Wisdom
Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. Ecclesiastes 10:10
I don't know of a hotter subject today than success. Magazine articles, books, seminars, and sermons promote it. But success is seldom linked with wisdom. Chances are good that if we would pick up last Sunday's paper and read it through, we'd come across twenty or more references to success, yet find nothing added regarding wisdom. In today's hype about success, wisdom is conspicuous by its absence. Outside of biblical literature and biblically based books, we hardly even come across the word....
[Wisdom] may not give us great popularity and wealth and it may not mean that we will be the most respected in our field or that we will have the most significant voice in the company, but ultimately, as God gauges it, we will be successful.
Living on the Ragged Edge
The ABCs of Love
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgression. Proverbs 10:12
"I accept you as you are."
"I believe you are valuable."
"I care when you hurt."
"I desire only what is best for you."
"I erase all offenses."
We could call that the ABC's of love. And I don't know of anybody who would turn his back on such magnetic, encouraging statements.
There is nothing shallow about authentic love. Nor is it a magic wand we whip out and wave over a problem with a whoosh, hoping all the pain will go away. Real love has staying power. Authentic love is tough love. It refuses to look for ways to run away. It always opts for working through. It doesn't cop out because the sea gets stormy and rough. It's fibrous and resilient.... While the world around us gives the opposite counsel, love stands firm.
Dropping Your Guard
In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3
From the looks of things, you're pretty impressive. You've got a nice place. And I suppose your neighbors would agree that you're a hard worker ... climbing right on up that ladder toward success, right? ...
Your salary is good and your material possessions are growing in number, but ... the truth is you are empty on the inside and you're faking it on the outside. Not one thing you own in your "kingdom" has brought you the happiness you long for. So you're thinking, "Maybe if I could land that better job," or "get into that bigger house," or ... or....
But don't allow the smoke screen of more money to blind your eyes to the truth. There's a lot more to being rich than making more money. Seneca, the Roman, was right "Money has never yet made anyone rich." Do you want riches? Then listen to Jesus: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matt. 6:33).
For the real riches, try switching kingdoms. Living on the Ragged Edge
Power to Overcome
Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12
Can't and won't. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use "can't."
"I just can't get along with my wife."
"My husband and I can't communicate."
"I just can't discipline the kids as I should."
"I just can't give up the affair I'm having."
"I can't stop overeating."
"I can't find time to pray."
Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to agree the word here really should be "won't." Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome....
We're really saying "I won't," because we don't choose to say "With the help of God, I will!" Day by Day with Charles Swindoll
God's Plan for Hope
For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
God knows, right down to the final nub, exactly where you are in life. He sees. He cares. He is aware. And best of all, He is touched by it.
The enemy of our souls wants you to think differently. God doesn't care. He's left you in this mess for so many months. How unfair! Those around you, those at work, your neighbors, live like the devil, and they're making it fine. And here you don't even have a job. You don't even have enough to cover the credit card bills. What kind of God is that?
Or maybe some young mother-to-be, stretched to the limit already with other young children and crushing responsibilities, cries out in her heart, "My situation is more than I can bear!" And God replies, "My daughter, I know what I am doing. I know the pain of your heart right now. I know you feel overwhelmed, overloaded, pressed down. But believe Me, I am touched with your situation. And I have a plan! I am working out the details of your deliverance even now. Trust Me!"
Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication
Five Cheers for Mom
She looks well to the ways of her household; ... her children rise up and bless her, her husband also. Proverbs 31:2728.
What does motherhood require? Transparent tenderness, authentic spirituality, inner confidence, unselfish love, and self-control. Quite a list, isn't it?
Almost more than we should expect. Perhaps that explains why Erma Bombeck used to say that motherhood takes 180 movable parts and 3 pairs of hands and 3 sets of eyes ... and, I might add, the grace of God. If you happen to be a mother, here's one guy who applauds your every effort. Five cheers for all you do! ...
Remember the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit? All his stuffing was starting to come out, his hair had been "loved off," but how valuable he was! ... Carefully kept mothers don't have secure kids. Carefully kept, untouchable "velveteen mothers" turn out fragile, selfish, untouchable children. But unselfish, giving, secure moms somehow manage to deposit healthy, wholesome kids into our lonely, frightened society.
Growing Wise in Family Life
God's New Morning Message
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. Psalm 146:8
Do you know what God's fresh, new morning message is to us? Whether the sun is shining brightly or whether it's pouring down rain? Whether the morning is bright or whether it's gray and overcast? His promise is the dawn itself.... Every morning the Lord comes through with His encouraging message, "We're still on speaking terms, you know! I'm here. I haven't moved. Let's go together today." ...
Trust God to remember you. He won't forget your name. He won't forget your circumstances, He certainly won't forget your prayers.... Trust Him, He remembers you.
The Mystery of God's Will
No Fear of Failure
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1
When will we ever learn that there are no hopeless situations, only people who have grown hopeless about them? What appears as an unsolvable problem to us is actually a rather exhilarating challenge. People who inspire others are those who see invisible bridges at the end of dead-end streets.
There was a Cabinet meeting in London during the darkest days of the Second World War. France had just capitulated. Prime Minister Churchill outlined the situation in its starkest colors. Quite literally, the tiny British Isles stood alone. Grim faces stared back at him in stoic silence. Despair and thoughts of surrender were written in their looks. The visionary statesman momentarily remained silent, lit a cigar, showed a hint of a smile, and with a twinkle in his eye, responded to that dispirited company of officials, "Gentlemen, I find it rather inspiring." ... What a great line! No wonder people followed the man. Fear of failure never entered his mind!
Dropping Your Guard
A Loving Father
How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! ... O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance. PSALM 89:15
Contrary to popular opinion, God doesn't sit in heaven with His jaws clenched, His arms folded in disapproval, and a deep frown on His brow. He is not ticked off at His children for all the times we trip over our tiny feet and fall flat on our diapers. He is a loving Father, and we are precious in His sight, the delight of His heart. After all, He "has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12). Think of it! He's put us in His inheritance!
Remember that the next time you think God is coming down on you. You have reason to give thanks. You don't have to qualify yourself for His kingdom. His grace has rescued you.
Precepts and Principles
Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Thy commandments. Psalm 119:66
Whenever you see the scriptural phrase "This is the will of God," you know for sure that's God's will. You also know that to disobey is to break His Word. Other clear indications of His leading are the precepts and principles in the Scripture.
Precepts are clearly marked statements like "Abstain from sexual immorality." That's like saying, "Speed Limit 35." What is speeding? Anything over thirty-five miles an hour. That's a precept.
Then there are principles ... and these are general guidelines that require discernment and maturity if we are to grasp them.... Like the sign that says, "Drive carefully." This may mean forty miles an hour on a clear, uncongested highway, or it may mean ten miles an hour on an ice-covered curve. But it always means that we must be alert and aware of conditions; it always means we have to be discerning.... These principles require wisdom and discernment.
The Mystery of God's Will
Friendly People, Thoughtful People
There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
If I have learned anything during my journey on Planet Earth, it is that people need one another. The presence of other people is essential—caring people, helpful people, interesting people, friendly people, thoughtful people. These folks take the grind out of life. About the time we are tempted to think we can handle things all alone—boom! We run into some obstacle and need assistance. We discover all over again that we are not nearly as self-sufficient as we thought.
In spite of our high-tech world and efficient procedures, people remain the essential ingredient of life. When we forget that, a strange thing happens: We start treating people like inconveniences instead of assets.
Don't Get Burned!
Bad company corrupts good morals. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:33
Compromise never works. We always get burned. Even though we rationalize around our weak decisions and tell ourselves that wicked associations really won't harm us ("they'll get better, our good will rub off their bad!"), we get soiled in the process.
If you put on a pair of clean white gloves on a rainy day and then go out into the backyard to the flowerbed and pick up a glob of mud, trust me, the mud will never get "glovey." The gloves will definitely get muddy. Every time. In all my sixty-plus years on earth, I have never seen glovey mud. Not once. In simple terms, that's what 1 Corinthians 15:33 is saying: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'"
Dropping Your Guard
Pull in the Anchor
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12
Have you done someone wrong? Have you been offensive? Have your actions caused hurt? To do nothing is not only in direct disobedience to Jesus' teaching, it also complicates your life. It adds heavier mental weights than you are capable of carrying.
It is like dropping an anchor and then cranking up your boat's engine and putting it in gear. The anchor keeps catching and snagging on the bottom, making for a terribly uncomfortable ride across the water. How simple the solution! Just pull in the anchor....
Let me give you a simple tip: We cannot be right with God until we are right with others.
Segments of Solitude
My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5
Henri Nouwen called solitude ... "the furnace of transformation." This doesn't refer to mere personal privacy for a twelve-second pit stop where we get a quick fix to reenter the race. It's more than that. It's an oasis of the soul where we see ourselves, others, and especially our God in new ways. It's where much of the "clutter" of life is identified and exterminated, thanks to the merciless heat of the "furnace." Soul surgery transpires as serenity replaces anxiety.
In solitude, struggles occur that no one else knows about. Inner battles are fought here that seldom become fodder for sermons or illustrations for books. God, who probes our deepest thoughts during protracted segments of solitude, opens our eyes to things that need attention. It is here He makes us aware of those things we try to hide from others.
Intimacy with the Almighty
God's Hand on Your Life
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15
Perhaps you never knew what it was to nestle securely in a parent's love. Your home life may have been strained or even fractured from your earliest memory. From a human point of view, your birth might have come at a difficult or awkward time in your parents' lives. It may be that you've never known the reassurance of a faithful mother and father who built their faith into your heart. When you think back on your growing up years, you realize you don't have much to shout about.
I'd like to deliver a beautiful message to you, my friend. God's hand on your life may be just beginning to make its mark. That steep hill you've been climbing for such a long time may be the ramp to a destiny beyond your dreams. I do not believe there is any such thing as an accidental or ill-timed birth. You may have arrived in a home that was financially strapped. You may have known brokenness, hurt, and insecurity since your earliest days— but please hear me on this: You were not an accident.
Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication
Giving God First Place
The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. Proverbs 8:22
If some corporate position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your career, however, is simply a part of God's plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle a demotion just as well as you can handle a promotion. It all depends on who's first and what's first.
Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process.
There is a line found in the Jewish Talmud that puts it well: "Man is born with his hands clenched; he dies with them wide open. Entering life, he desires to grasp everything; leaving the world, all he possessed has slipped away." ...
Just remember: Whatever is in first place, if it isn't Christ alone, it is in the wrong place.
Living Above the Level of Mediocrity
Alone with God
Thus the Lord GOD, ... has said, "... In quietness and trust is your strength." Isaiah 30:15
Some of the most profound ministries of the Spirit of God are not public or loud or large. Sometimes His most meaningful touch on our lives comes when we are all alone.
I urge you to include in your schedule time to be alone with God.... You do have places where you can get away for a long walk, don't you? I hope it's in a wooded area. The gentle breeze blowing through the forest is therapeutic. Sometimes just being alone out in God's marvelous creation is all that's needed for the scales to be removed from your eyes and for you to silence the harassment and the noise of your day and begin to hear from God.
Flying Closer to the Flame
It Is Finished
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:2324
Stop and think: Upon believing in Jesus Christ's substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, the once-lost sinner is instantly, unconditionally, and permanently "declared 100% righteous." Anything less and we are not righteous ... we're almost righteous.
If we are declared 99.9% righteous, some verses of the Bible would have to be rewritten. Like Isaiah 1:18, which might then read: "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'though your sins are as scarlet, they will be light pink.'"
Nonsense! The promise of sins forgiven is all or nothing. Eighty percent won't cut it....
When our Lord said "It is finished," He meant "finished."
The Finishing Touch
Two Are Better Than One
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. Ecclesiastes 4:9
Independence is our watchword and "Think for Yourself" is our motto. Declaring a need is a sign of weakness, an open admission of failure and lack of character. Furthermore, we are on the move so much, who has time to share and to care? It has been my observation that we Christians are not immune from this hurry-up, hassle-hustle mentality....
Even though it is easy to buy into the selfish lifestyle and opt for isolationism instead of involvement, the consequences are bitter and inescapable.... Swimming with the current of today's me-ism mindset has a way of eclipsing the contrasting light of Scripture.
"Two are better than one ..." because:
they have a good return for their labor—mutual effort
one will lift up his companion—mutual support
they keep (each other) warm—mutual encouragement
they can resist an attack—mutual strength
Dropping Your Guard
Excerpted from WISDOM for the way by CHARLES R. SWINDOLL Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Swindoll. Excerpted by permission of J COUNTRYMAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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