January Magazine Article

A little bit late in the day, but this was my church magazine article for January.  Maybe you've already broken the resolutions!

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The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction... The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.(Proverbs 1:7; 9:10 NIV)

New Year is traditionally the time for resolutions and of course a couple of weeks into New Year is traditionally the time for broken resolutions! But even if you're not one for making New Year resolutions, the New Year is a time where we naturally set new goals. I want to suggest a goal for 2014 that is more important than losing a few pounds or doing a bit more exercise. I want to suggest that in 2014 you make it your goal to be wise, which Proverbs tells us starts with fearing the LORD.

Wisdom in the Bible isn't just being clever or having lots of facts at your finger-tips. Wisdom is understanding God's world and how to live in it. And when the Bible talks about the fear of the LORD, it's not a cringing terror. I think the Church of England vicar Charles Bridges described it well back in 1846 when he wrote: “It is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father's law.” So humble submission to God and his law is the start point or the foundation of really being wise.

Now if you make that your goal this year, you will be quite unusual. We live in a society that has made of virtue of being free to do what we want (sometimes with the rather vague – “so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else”). To suggest that the wise way forward is to submit yourself to anyone, let alone God, is laughable to most people.

However, did you notice what the alternative was? It's to be a fool. It's uncomfortable, but it makes sense. If you exclude God from the picture, then you've got no beginning, no foundation – however clever you might be. And we know what happens to houses that don't have any foundation. Which reminds us of Jesus and what he said about the wise man.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24 NIV)

Fear of the LORD is ultimately to be expressed in fear of Christ, i.e. listening to him and doing what he says. This makes even more sense when we realise that Christ is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24 NIV). In other words, if I want to be wise then I want to know Christ better and I do that through the teaching of his word – the Bible.

So when I'm suggesting that 2014 is a year where you become wiser, I'm suggesting that your reverence for God increases as you seek to live more and more in his ways. I'm suggesting that, at heart, that's about following Jesus more faithfully, which means knowing the teaching of the Bible and living it out.

Now that's all very well you might say, but how do I stop this being just another broken resolution? I tried to get wise, but by the end of January I got lazy! Well James gives us the answer in his letter.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)

We won't do it by ourselves. We need to ask God. There's a reason why both prayer and Bible study are the heart of the Christian faith. We need both to be wise!

So will you join me in trying become wiser in 2014?

What might that look like for you? Well here are some ideas:

  1. Pray and ask God for wisdom – a lot!
  2. Pray that God will help you get wisdom as you study the Bible.
  3. Find a daily time to read the Bible and have a plan for what you're going to read.
  4. Make sure you ask yourself how what you've read works out in practice.
  5. Pray that you'll do what the Bible says.
  6. Make the time to come to church and Prayer and Praise where we can do all of 1-5 together!


Let me wish you a happy and wiser New Year!

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