The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Finding the truth in good advice

When was the last time you got really great advice? Did you recognize it when you heard it? For me, sometimes good advice doesn’t sound like advice. Sometimes it just sounds like conversation or a story, but recently a very good friend of mine actually sat me down and had a good long chat with me. And he gave me advice.

For-real advice. That doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I don’t shut up long enough for people to tell me stuff.

I appreciated what this friend had to stay to me enormously because he’s one of those people who I really respect, but I had no idea how valuable that advice would be a few days later. I actually got the chance to put his advice into practice.

The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 19:20.

Get all the advice and instruction you can,
    so you will be wise the rest of your life.

The world is full of people with advice. Have you noticed that? Everyone has an opinion about something, even the things that don’t matter.

An example? I was looking for a grammar rule I couldn’t remember. Do you capitalize after a colon or not? And surprise, surprise, everyone had a different idea and ten sources to back them up. Nobody agreed (but this is English, so I guess it’s not a surprise).

Everyone has advice. So whose advice do you go with? And how do you judge what advice is sound and what advice is cuckoo? Obviously what the Bible says is truth, but if you talk to different people they’ll apply that truth in different ways in their lives. So how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong?

Because maybe you’ve got a friend who has given you great advice in the past. That’s awesome. But maybe you’ve got other friends who have given you advice that didn’t work out so well. Or maybe you’ve even got friends like Job had, those cruel people who were so determined to blame Job’s suffering on him.

I’m not sure I know the answer to this. I just know what I have learned.

Lots of people have given me advice before, but the advice I take has to fulfill two main requirements. One, the advice he’s giving can’t contradict Scripture in any way. Two, the person giving the advice has to be a mature Christ-follower with a history of wise choices. Then, and only then, will I consider taking his advice.

Will I listen to advice from people I don’t know well? Sure, I’ll listen. Because I’ve learned amazing things from people I don’t know well. I’ve been blessed enormously by people I barely know. I’ve gotten to see God work in my life thanks to strangers. But when it comes to my own life, my own personal walk with Christ, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to change what I’m doing just because someone walks up to me and tells me I need to do something different.

Advice is important. Nobody is smart enough to make it through this life on their wits alone. We all have experiences and we all have learned things along the way that can help others around us, and we should share and we should listen. The more you listen, the more you learn. The more you learn, the wiser you’ll be.

Job’s friends aside, God has put people in our lives who are worth listening to. And listening to them might mean the difference between success and burn out.

So pay attention. Get all the advice you can find because the truth will probably be in there somewhere.

Living wisely isn’t just for Gandalf

Today’s verse is Titus 2:2.

2 Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

This is a good verse and very true, but I’m not an old man. So I kept reading to verse 3:

3 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good.

But I’m not an old woman either. By this point I realized that this is one of those passages that is directed specifically at certain people and I just needed to keep reading and I’d find the one that applied to me. I found it in verses 4-5:

4 These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5 to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

So, then, just for grins, I wanted to see what he had to say to the young men, which I found in verse 6.

 6 In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.

Okay. Do you see a pattern here? Live wisely. Live wisely. Live wisely. The old women are specifically told to live wisely, but they’re instructed to teach the young women to live wisely, which means it’s something they need to do anyway.

What does it mean to live a life of wisdom? What does it mean to make the wise choice? What is wisdom anyway? It’s one of those crazy virtues people associate with old men and long beards. Like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings or the old knight from the temple in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (“You have chosen wisely!”)., my old standby for looking up the definitions of words, says that wisdom is: “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”

Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and deciding to do it. Even a secular definition of wisdom can’t be separated from truth and justice. Even an online dictionary realizes that there’s a difference between just knowing something and being wise.

I always use William Cowper’s poem, “The Difference between Knowledge and Wisdom,” whenever I’m talking about wisdom because it’s such an amazing example of what it really means to be wise.

Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft times no connection. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,
The mere materials, with which wisdom builds,
Till smoothed and squared and filled to its place,
Does not encumber whom it seems to enrich.
Knowledge is proud, that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble, that he knows no more.

–William Cowper

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about where wisdom comes from because I’ve beaten that horse to death. (Whoever picks the verses of the day at must have decided to do a week about teaching.) But what really touched me about the verses this morning is the fact that no matter what age we are, we’re supposed to live with wisdom.

Granted, it’s not the first instruction for everyone. The old men are to exercise self-control. Old women are to live in a way that honors God, like not drinking heavily. Young women need to learn first to love their husbands and children. And it’s the young men who are instructed first (and only) to live wisely. But if you think about it, all of those things are a part of living wisely anyway.

Wisdom is one of those things you can’t get through life without, and it’s one of those virtues that you can’t get enough of. Solomon had his choice of riches, fame or wisdom, and he asked God for wisdom and in return was given riches and fame (and then summarily screwed up his life, but that’s another story). You can’t ever get too much wisdom. It’s not like knowledge, where I do believe you can get so much education and training that you start to look at yourself like you’re an accomplished person because you have an alphabet of letters after your name. But that’s knowledge. Not wisdom.

We all need wisdom. And we all need to live wisely. And the only place anyone is going to get wisdom is from Scripture, which also happens to be a good source for knowledge too.

Psalm 111:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!”

Want to be wise? Want to live wisely? Learn Scripture. Because the Bible will tell you what is true and right and God will help you have the strength to do what is true and right. And it doesn’t matter if you’re as old as Gandalf the Gray or as young as Junie B. Jones, you’ll live a wise life.

And because I already referenced most of Titus 2, I’m going to end with verses 12-13 on this Friday of the first week of September 2011.

We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.