This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for October 2) is written by Mark Ingmire, small groups and adult education pastor with Savannah (Georgia) Christian Church.
Living an Ordered Life (Proverbs 28:1–29:27)
By Mark Ingmire
I live an ordered life. For example, today’s calendar was full of things I had to do. This morning I washed last night’s dirty dishes, serviced my computer, and then went to work. At work I had meetings, tasks, and plenty of people with whom to speak. After work, I stopped by the supermarket, helped make dinner, dropped off my wife at church, delivered tickets to a friend, took my kids to their friend’s house, stopped by the bank ATM, and returned home for the night. Based on today’s events, I feel my life is very ordered. Right now, I’m thinking I’m the perfect person to write about the ordered life, and my wife is thinking this should be my portion of next year’s Christmas letter! I figure all my ordered activities are going to prove me to be like the wise man described in Proverbs.
In reality, however, a well-scheduled life isn’t the ordered life God desires from us. God doesn’t want us to be lazy, but he doesn’t want us to simply be busy doing good things. Even calendars full of good things don’t guarantee blessing and productivity.
The fact is everyone lives an ordered life. The question is whose order? The type of order will determine whether it’s a life of blessing or just a busy life filled with heartache.
Proverbs 28 and 29 are a series of antithetical sayings that promise an ordered life of blessing and fruitfulness. These verses don’t focus on a specific issue; rather, the verses appear to be random. But when you put them all together, they summarize what our lives should look like when all is in proper order.
When most people read these Proverbs, they immediately put themselves in one of two categories: good or evil. I think it’s safe to say that most people, if not all, place themselves in the “good” category. Therefore, we think we are living the ordered life we should be living. The truth is much different because we compare ourselves to our own standards rather than God’s standards.
How do we take all the various phrases in Proverbs 28 and 29—which can seem like disjointed pieces of wisdom—and make a holistic application in our hearts? It may seem overwhelming, but in these passages are instructions about the process of growing in wisdom and a God-ordered life.
No one learns anything without first listening to someone. I find the discipline of listening isn’t easy. You might think being quiet and attentive would be easy; however, it takes great mental and emotional energy. In Proverbs 28 and 29, Solomon implies that listening involves the following attitude and action:
1. Fear of God. I don’t listen to authority I don’t respect. Proverbs declares that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. To fear God means I respect God and know I am not him. Proverbs teaches that for our lives to be ordered after God’s wisdom, we need to fear him. “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord” (Proverbs 28:14); “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
2. Seek. Just because I respect someone doesn’t mean I go to that person for guidance. Therefore, another facet of listening means I spend time seeking him out to order my ways after his. “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully” (Proverbs 28:5).
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” (Proverbs 28:9).
The second step in shaping a God-ordered life is meditation. Biblical meditation is not emptying your mind of thoughts. Rather, it’s filling your mind with God’s thoughts. Those who attempt to empty their minds during nonbiblical forms of meditation will fill their minds with something, even if it is their own errant notions. Proverbs exhorts us to process God’s wisdom. “A man of understanding and knowledge maintains order” (Proverbs 28:2); “A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him” (Proverbs 28:11).
We can only process God’s wisdom when first we listen and then reflect on it with our minds.
The final step to living an ordered life is to follow through with how we know we should live. Proverbs calls us to keep God’s commands. This is how wisdom is applied in our ordered lives. “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father” (Proverbs 28:7); “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11); “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).
Application always takes discipline. No one’s life has ever been changed unless he or she was willing to make changes. Making a change means there is an area that is now under a different control.
Living an Ordered Life
When we listen to God, meditate on his Word, and discipline ourselves to follow his wisdom, we find our lives take on an order that is not our own. It’s an ordered life that brings lasting blessing, lasting fruitfulness, and lasting peace.
As you read Proverbs 28 and 29, make a list of bad qualities mentioned there, along with a list of the good qualities. From these lists, create categories—such as family, money, leadership or government—in which to put each item. Consider which category you need to strengthen, and then spend time this week using a concordance to look up Scripture about each topic. Listen to what God has to say, meditate on his wisdom, and then make an action plan to help bring order to this area in your life so it is more in line with God’s will.
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©1984.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|September 26: Deuteronomy 1:9-17|
|September 27: 2 Chronicles 32:20-26|
|September 28: Proverbs 28:1-5|
|September 29: Proverbs 28:8-16|
|September 30: Proverbs 28:20-28|
|October 1: Proverbs 29:2-11|
|October 2: Proverbs 29:16-27|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER:
Mark Ingmire is married to his wonderful wife, Margaret, and they have two great children, Collin and Olivia. They live in Savannah, Georgia, where they enjoy their church, their friends, and the mild winter weather. Mark serves as the small groups and adult education pastor at Savannah Christian Church.