I remember the first piece of advice I ever got as a kid. It was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” I wasn’t sure what a wooden nickel was, but I knew not to take one. Ever since then, people have been giving me advice, whether solicited or not. Some of it has been good, and some of it has been terrible. I discovered it was terrible because I followed it not knowing better. Over time, I’ve learned (mostly) what is good advice and what is not.
Since we don’t know everything, it’s important to seek advice in matters where we are unsure of what to do. When seeking advice, we should look for people who have wisdom, experience and are grounded in God’s Word. It’s also good to get advice from multiple people if you can. If they all give the same advice, you can bet it’s the right thing to do. If they give different advice, go with the one who has experienced what you’re going through.
Seeking advice is one thing. Following the advice is another. Proverbs 13:13 says, “If you refuse good advice, you are asking for trouble; follow it and you are safe” (GNT). There have been times when I’ve received great advice, but I refused to follow it. I either didn’t like it or I didn’t like the cost of following it. It turns out, the cost of not following it was even greater. Not following good advice has its consequences.
I love the Proverbs because they bring to light simple truths like this one. When I was a teen, I received some other advice. It was to read one chapter of Proverbs a day. There are 31 chapters so it will take you a month. Reading it throughout the years has helped to increase my wisdom because I’m learning from the wisest person who ever lived. There’s a lot of great advice in this book of the Bible. In fact, my advice to you is the same. If you want to grow in wisdom, read a chapter of Proverbs a day.
I’m curious, what’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the Bible verses my wife and I pray often is James 1:5. We are constantly asking God to give us wisdom liberally. When someone needs counseling, we pray that prayer before, and during, the meeting. When we’re trying to make ends meet, we ask for wisdom. When have decisions to make, you guessed it, we pray for wisdom. We often gain knowledge about things, but we understand we don’t know all the facts and that wisdom is knowing what to do with information. We never want to do things out of our own wisdom or knowledge, so we seek God to give us His knowing that He will supply it.
Proverbs 2:6 says, “Wisdom is a gift from a generous God, and every word he speaks is full of revelation and becomes a fountain of understanding within you” (TPT). God wants to give us wisdom, but we must seek it, then listen to what He says. There’s a period a quiet after asking so that the Holy Spirit can call to remembrance verses in the Bible that may apply (John 14:26). How can we hear the Holy Spirit if we’re still talking or praying? He gives the right words at the right time. People need a word from God more than they need words from us. Listening for scriptures or Bible verses is a way to do that.
Also Proverbs 20:45 says, “A man of deep understanding will give good advice, drawing it out from the well within.” We have to dig deep for wisdom. God has put His kingdom within each of us, but it is up to us to seek it and draw it out. When we read the Bible, meditate on it and put it in our heart, we are feeding that well deep with us. The story’s and words we read become a fountain of understanding that God will use in our own lives and in the lives of others. I pray each day for God to give me a deep understanding of His Word and for Him to help me read it with fresh eyes so I can see things I’ve never seen and make connections within it that I’ve missed. I know that when God reveals His Word to me, it isn’t just for me. It’s for anyone I come across who needs a word from Him. By putting it inside of me, I can draw on it through the Holy Spirit when needed.
When you’re in over your head, who do you seek guidance from? I’ve made a few of these calls, and I get a few of these calls from time to time. Each time I’m talking with someone who is asking for guidance, I immediately start praying, “God, give me wisdom. Give me the right words that will help them make the right choices. Give them the courage to make the hard choices necessary. Amen.” I know that my wisdom is flawed, but God’s wisdom is perfect. He sees the whole picture and knows what they need to do. Too often we seek His guidance, or other godly guidance late in our journey rather than at the beginning.
In the books of Chronicles and Kings, you can read about many of the early kings of Israel and Judah. In almost every case, the writer quickly tells you whether they were a godly King or whether they did things that were evil in God’s sight. There were a couple Kings who took the throne when they were kids. In at least two of the cases, they were heavily influenced by godly people. They were taught and encouraged to lead with godly principles. They also continued to seek God’s will and direction for their nation as they ruled. Because they followed God’s plan, they prospered during their reign.
2 Chronicles 26:5 says, “And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success” (NLT). That’s an important lesson for us to learn. If you and I will seek God’s guidance and wisdom, He will give us success in the things we do. God loves to give us wisdom, but it’s our choice whether to follow it or not. The path God gives is rarely the easy path and requires us to make tough decisions. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us, but remember, He’s not looking at what you see now. He’s looking ahead to the parts of the road you can’t see. The guidance He gives is based on His plan for you, and we know He has good plans for each of us. No matter where you are in your journey, there’s still time to start seeking God’s guidance.
What would you change if you knew the day you were going to die? How would it change things if that day was years in the future or next week? I always wonder why God allows us to know when someone will be born, but not when we will die. He already knows the date, so why not let us know? For me, that leads back to the first question. Would we live differently if we knew the date? I think human nature dictates that we would live differently. Unfortunately, many people would live their lives for themselves, then at the last moment, give their lives to God. Since we don’t know when, we must live our lives being ready to meet our maker at any moment.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years. With that kind of average, we all assume we will live that long, but the truth is that we don’t know. 78.6 years seems like a long time when you compare it to people you know, but what if we compare it to eternity? 78.6 years is nothing. It’s not even a second. What we do, and how we live will have an eternal impact. Why would we then try to live that second for anything other than our creator?
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). Thinking about how short life is should push us to think eternally and make us live wisely with eternity in mind. The problem is that most of us don’t want to live our lives with the end in mind. We only think about today and what we need for it. God has planted eternity in our hearts, but He has left the future unclear (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He doesn’t want us to live our lives short sited. We need to live with eternity in mind.
We live in an interesting time. For the first time in the history of the world, people value knowledge over wisdom. They are two very different things though. Knowledge is all about what you know. Wisdom is how you use knowledge. I like to tell my son, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Wisdom is not putting in a fruit salad.” Knowledge is gained through learning (or in today’s world, Googling), but wisdom is learned through making mistakes or learning from other’s mistakes. To value knowledge over wisdom is very dangerous, and I believe it will have serious repercussions on the future.
The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, who is considered the wisest person to ever live. He recognized early on after becoming king that knowledge would on,y take him so far as a ruler. He asked God for wisdom in how to lead his people and God opened the flood gates. His example is one you and I should follow. Knowledge is good, but we need godly wisdom in how we steward everything God has given us. God imparts wisdom to those who ask because He values wisdom and He has plenty to give us.
Proverbs 2:6-7 says, “For the LORD gives [skillful and godly] wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores away sound wisdom for the righteous [those who are in right standing with Him]” (AMP). Just like parents on earth want to give their children the wisdom to make the best decisions in life, God wants to give wisdom to us as His children. All we have to do is go to Him in prayer and ask Him to help us make the best decisions in our relationships, our finances and in our choices. He has a storehouse full of it to give out once we seek it.
If you’re human, you have to make a lot of decisions. There are some small decisions we make daily that don’t really affect much. Then there are those life altering decisions that have to be made and require wisdom, outside perspectives and prayer. Those are the tough ones that you want to make sure you get right. As I face a few of those right now, I can easily fall into the paralysis through analysis trap. That’s where you are so afraid you’ll make the wrong decision that you want more information, but you never have enough information to make a decision. To prevent that, I do a couple of things to help make the right decision.
The first thing is to pray. I ask for wisdom because James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him” (AMP). I then ask for signs like Gideon. They’re usually impossible things that only God can do. I’ll usually pray, “Lord, if I’m to choose this, then make that happen by this date. If you don’t answer, that means I should choose the other.” It’s always incredible to watch God do the impossible.
Finally, I look at the situation through the lens of God’s Word. Psalm 119:105 says, “Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of your word makes my pathway clear” (TPT). God’s Word will shine a light on a future that’s hidden and guide you along the path God has for you. The more I put God’s Word inside of me, the more it illuminates my life. Decisions are often difficult. I don’t want to make them in the dark or without God’s help. I’ve done these three things for years and have watched God point the way each time. If you’re facing an unknown future right now, try them out and let God guide your life.
Have you ever had to borrow someone’s car that was nicer than yours? How did you drive it? For me, I had my hands at 10 and 2 the whole time. I took extra caution because I didn’t want to wreck it. If it had been my car I was driving, I would have just used one hand on the wheel and been less cautious when driving. Why is that? I think it’s more to do with the ownership of it than the familiarity. If I wreck it, then it was mine to wreck. It’s a whole different story if I wreck something that belongs to someone else.
Now think about the decisions you make regarding your life. For many of us, we treat them like we do driving our own car. It’s our life and our decisions, so if I mess it up, at least it was my life that I messed up. With that kind of thinking, we tend to make quick decisions with less thought than we would if we were giving that advice to someone regarding their life. Can I challenge that link of thinking for a minute? Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price, so it is no longer your life you live, but Christ’s. Sound familiar? Check out 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 if not.
Thinking about that, let’s look at Proverbs 28:25. It says, “To make rash, hasty decisions shows that you are not trusting the Lord. But when you rely totally on God, you will still act carefully and prudently” (TPT). Are you trusting the Lord with your life? Do you believe that it belongs to Him? Then we need to take our time with the decisions we make regarding it and seek His wisdom. It’s time we started treating our lives like they belong to someone else. God created you with a purpose and has a plan for you and your life. Today, instead of making decisions like it’s your life, ask God what His plan is for you.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom. I tried looking up the scripture where he asked God for “wisdom”, but the Bible doesn’t put it that way. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so he could judge the people well. In essence he was asking for wisdom, but as I dug deeper, he wanted more than just wisdom. He wanted to do well in God’s sight and to care for His people.
When I looked up the word “understanding” as it was used in this context, it had three meanings. The first was to hear. Solomon wanted a heart that could hear not only God, but what others were saying too. He didn’t want to just rely on what his ears heard, he wanted to really hear what people meant. Wisdom comes in not just hearing what is spoken. It comes when we can discern the true intent of the words spoken.
The next meaning of “understanding” was to listen. Almost everyone is born with the ability to hear, but only a few ever learn to listen. I believe that God is always speaking to us. We hear Him, but we don’t really listen to what it is that He’s telling us or showing us. Solomon was concerned about the ability of his heart to listen to God. He wanted God to know that he understood the only way to truly govern the people well would be if He could listen to His voice.
The third meaning of “understanding” in this context is to obey. It’s not enough to hear or listen to God. We have to obey what He tells us. I’m sure that Solomon had been told of Saul’s disobedience and of God’s response in I Samuel 15:22. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God is more concerned with our obedience to His word than in our obedience to religious rituals. Anyone can walk through the motions of a ritual, but only the wisest among us obey a God at all costs.
Wisdom was a by product of what he truly wanted. Hearing the voice of God, listening to what He really said and acting on it from his heart is what made Solomon truly wise. You and I can experience that wisdom. Solomon’s request for an understanding heart is one that you and I can ask for today. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God would love to give each of us the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.
Has anyone ever given you bad advice that you’ve taken? In my life, I’ve accepted plenty of bad advice because it sounded good, and rejected a lot of good advice because of pride. I’ve taken advice on investing, trying to affect change in an organization, in my career, and in handling relationships. Most of the time when we seek advice, it’s because we are in a situation where we unsure what to do. Who we get advice from matters because the wrong advice can really mess things up.
The first part of Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm]“ (AMP). Getting no advice, or just the wrong advice, can set you back from your goals in life. Before seeking any advice, I like to pray and ask God for wisdom in choosing the right advice as well as whom to seek it from. I don’t like set backs, and sometimes the wrong advice can seem wise. I want to make sure I’m not relying on my own feelings or the words of a misguided friend.
The rest of that verse says, “But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory.” We don’t need to seek wisdom from one source. We need more than one person giving us advice because most difficult decisions have many facets with many different outcomes based on our decisions. If you’re looking for victory over a situation, pray that God would help you find godly counselors who will see the things you can’t, and that He would help you make the right decisions. Don’t let pride and ignorance keep you from victory. Stay on the course God has for you and look for godly counselors along the way.
Recently I was talking to a group of people on the Importance of the words you use when talking to yourself. Many times when we mess up, we pound ourself on the head and say something like, “Stupid!” It’s not good to do that. The more you say something, the more it gets into your subconscious. The more it gets in there, the more you believe it, and we always act according to what we believe. So it’s critical that we are intentional about the words we use because they determine our success in life.
It’s also a good habit to consider the words we use when we talk to others. Are we more apt to lifting up or putting down? This one is tougher for me to follow. It’s natural for me to quickly take a shot at someone rather than to intentionally build them up. It requires using a filter and repetitively replacing positive words for the negative ones. Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life and his words of wisdom are a source of blessing” (AMP). Are the words you use a fountain of life to yourself and others?
There really is the power of life and death in the tongue. According to James, none of us will ever tame it completely. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make sure we are a fountain of life, wisdom and blessings. The words you use today towards yourself and others are important. You can choose from millions of words to speak into someone’s life including your own. Choose to speak life. Choose to be a blessing rather than a curse. Watch and see how your words can change someone’s day or how they see themselves. The life you change just might be your own.