Notes on Wisdom – Taken from Andy Stanleys Book, “The Principle of the Path”

“The prudent see danger and take refuge” (Prov. 27:12a)

In light of my past experience, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

“…but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Prov. 27:12b)

“Simple” is used interchangeably with the term naive. Most people believe that there is a connection between the choices that they make today and their future, they just don’t live as if it is. Every time you talk yourself out of doing something that you should or should not do (exercising, lie to your spouse, spending money you haven’t got) you act as if today is in no way connected to tomorrow.

What are we going to suffer? For being oblivious to the obvious.

When it dawns on us that the undesirable but ever-so-predictable outcome of own choices is bearing down on us, we move into victim mode. Christians start talking about forgiveness as if somehow forgiveness serves as an escape hatch from the outcome of bad decisions. This is when people threaten to sue or countersue. Suddenly we want a second chance. We began talking about turning over a new leaf. This is when the formerly religious start showing up in church. We are quick to remind the world that nobody is perfect. If all else fails we play the fairness card: “it’s not fair that this is happening to me!”

Ignore the signs, and pay the price. When it dawns on you that you are addicted, that’s not the time to start thinking about more accountability and increased discipline. It is too late for that. When your credit cards are full and you are afraid to check the answering machine, that’s not the time to consider developing a budget and altering your spending habits. When your spouse serves you with papers, that’s not the time to begin working on your marriage. That opportunity is in the rearview mirror.

Our greatest regrets are all our fault.

Our problem stems from the fact that we are not on a truth quest. That is, we don’t wake up every morning with a burning desire to know what’s true, what’s right, what’s honourable. We are on a happy quest. We want to be – as in “feel” – happy. Our quest for happiness often trumps our appreciation for the pursuit of what’s true.

Why do we knowingly choose paths that take us where we already decided we don’t want to go? The answer is, when we stand at a crossroads between prudent and happy, we lie to ourselves. We turn into dishonest salespeople. We begin selling ourselves on what we want to do rather than what we ought to do. We listen to ourselves and, we believe our own lies, and then we opt for happiness.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jer. 17:9)

How many times have you looked back on something you’ve done and thought, “I don’t understand why I did that. What was I thinking?” Think of the times you’ve watched smart people do dumb things and thought, “I don’t understand why they do that.” The reason you don’t understand some of your decisions is the same reason I don’t understand many of mine. According to Jeremiah, no one can understand the heart.

The truth is, your heart can’t always be trusted. The truth is, there are better decision-making strategies than simply following your heart. The truth is, if you let it, your heart will direct you down a path that leads to the very spot you most want to avoid. Now that you know the truth about your heart, you don’t have to be deceived!

Three questions to help keep your heart and check:

  1. Why am I doing this, really?
  2. If someone in my circumstances came to me for advice, what course of action would I recommend?
  3. In light of my past experience, my future hopes, and my dreams, what is the wisest thing to do?

Choosing the right path begins with submission, not information. Not even direction. Submission. Specifically, submission to the One who knows were each path leads, as well as where it doesn’t lead.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lead not on to your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5)

Choosing the best path then begins with submission. Use this prayer:

“Lord, I’m leaning on you, not my experience, my insight, or my education. When conventional wisdom conflicts with what you have revealed through Your scriptures, I’ll lean hard into your revelation rather than my understanding. When my emotions are in conflict with your law, I’ll lean on your law and harness my emotions.”

“In all your ways and knowledge Him, and he will make the your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:6)

One never accomplishes the will of God by breaking the law of God, violating the principles of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God. Therefore, apply these three questions to every option that comes your way:

  1. Does this option violate God’s law?
  2. Does this option violate a principle of God’s?
  3. In light of the story I want to tell, what is the wisest thing to do?

Consumption does not lead to contentment.

The great thing about having friends who share your season of light is that you have so much in common. The downside to that is they are much further down the road of life than you are. Friends are great for friendship. They aren’t always that great for advice giving. Often it is not their advice that gets us into trouble – it is the assumptions we make based on what we observe about our friends. These assumptions become a map we inadvertently follow. I call this the “herd assumption.” The herd assumption happens when you assume that since everybody you know is doing something the same way, it must be right. If everybody you know is mortgaged to the hilt, driving two leased vehicles, and applying for a home equity line of credit, then it can’t be all that bad. If everybody you know a sleeping with whoever they happen to be dating at the time, and it’s just the way the world works. If everybody you know works 60 hours a week and sees their family primarily on weekends, then it must work out. Somehow. The problem, of course, is that everybody is headed for a similar destination at which no one knows and like you will discouver their mistakes, the hard way…

Spiritual development operates like the principle of the harvest. You sow early and reap late.

If you and God care about your future, why would you resist Him? When we resist God’s will for our lives, we are in essence resisting God. Pay attention to the things that are competing for your attention. Pause before devoting your attention to anything. Devote special attention to those things that deserve your attention. Beware of things that take your attention off of God.

Have a richly blest day!