fear of the Lord

Avoiding Bad Advice

Listen to advice and accept discipline so that you may be wise the rest of your life.

Many plans are in the human heart,

but the advice of the Lord will endure.

The fear of the Lord leads to life,

and such a person will rest easy without suffering harm.

If you stop listening to instruction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:20-21, 23, 27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:15-29 GW)


Unsolicited advice is cheap and plentiful. Just like opinions, everybody seems to have advice to give about—life, diet, exercise, business, politics, religion… you name it.

Equating advice as wisdom would be an oxymoron. Not all advice is wise. Go to a racetrack and ask for tips on which horse to bet on. You’re sure to get plenty of advice but the majority of it is useless or worse.

This is true for many other scenarios in life. And yet, people keep handing out free advice that others try to follow. I suppose some of the advice may be useful but I wouldn’t count on it.

So, how can anyone be sure of any advice? Of course, it’s important to consider the source of the advice. Is the person trustworthy? Does the one giving advice follow it themselves?

GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out. This term was coined in the late 50’s as computers began to make their impact in mathematics, science, and business. Simply put, sloppy input produces unreliable output.

Just because a computer spits out calculated information, no one should blindly accept its output as true. Look at all the political and election polls and how skewed or far off they are from actual results or from one poll to another.

If the data input is incorrect, the output will also be incorrect. If the program calculating or analyzing the data is flawed or susceptible to glitches, then the output shouldn’t be trusted.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The only way to avoid bad advice is to be discerning enough to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable advice. Understand the origin of the advice. Where is it drawn from and who is giving it?

As explained before, the Proverbs of Solomon are often expressed as guidance from a father to a son. Solomon, the primary author, sees God as the father and Bible narratives provide scores of life examples of sons to learn from—both good and bad.

Here is reliable guidance for avoiding bad advice based on these 4 selected verses—

verse 20– Two things are recommended to gain lifelong wisdom—listen to good advice and make a continuing commitment to apply it in daily life.

verse 21– Others may have advice to offer and our own heart will generate plenty of plans and ideas but only advice that originates from the Lord will last.

verse 23– Good, reliable advice is grounded in a genuine awe and respect for the Lord. The fear of God leads to life because of the confident trust we have in Him.

verse 27– Commitment and discipline to the truth of God are essential for us to maintain the discernment needed to avoid listening to bad advice and holding to good, reliable guidance for our life.

Reflection—

Avoiding bad advice requires discernment to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable. When you listen to good, reliable advice and commit yourself to follow it, you can gain a life guided by sound wisdom.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment to help you know what is good advice to follow. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom daily and for understanding of what you read in the Bible.

©Word-Strong_2018


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When Fear Is Strong

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In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

and his children will have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:14-33 GW)


The fear of God is often misunderstood. Western culture typically portrays fear as a weakness. It's certainly not seen as a strength. Think of the stories in horror and sci-fi movies that feed off fear as the main attraction and intrigue to keep viewers watching.

Some relegate the fear of God to being an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to followers of Jesus under the New Covenant of grace.

After all, when we see Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man who gives Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of humanity—a gift of perfect love, and who heals people and has concern for the outcasts.

2 different fears

It's common for people to confuse the general idea of fear with the fear of God but they're different. The fear of God is not what is more typically in mind which is a fear of anxiety.

The simplest definition of the fear of God is reverence. But the fear of God, as expressed in several places in the Bible, speaks of respect, awe, holiness, and so much more. Similar phrases are found throughout the Bible, such as godly fear or the fear of the Lord, probably more than you might think. 

In these verses in Proverbs, the fear of God is "a fountain of life," and a place of refuge and strong confidence. The fear of God as a fountain of life is based in relationship with God and a personal response to His sovereignty as Almighty God.

The "strong confidence" comes from a trust in God because of who He is—much like a young child who looks up to and trusts in the strength of a parent. How many times has a child said something like, "My dad is bigger and stronger than your dad!"

Many times in Scripture, the Lord is described as a place of refuge. This is not an actual physical place of security but a sense of safety and rest based on a trusting relationship with God. God is sovereign, He rules over all and is greater than all and He can always be trusted.

How can the fear of God be a "fountain of life?"

God is the Creator and Originator of all life. When a person has a worshipful awe and respect of God, they tap into the One who truly holds our life in His hands, as the children's song goes.

Here is something Jesus said about fearing God and anxious fear—

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 10:28-31 GW)

Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others. So, the fear of God—reverence for God—is a counter to anxious fear.

This is what the apostle John refers to when he says—

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

One last thought on the fear of God as a fountain of life—the book of Proverbs begins with this—

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov 1:7 GW)

The fear of God—or the fear of the Lord—is a loving awe and respect for Him—a perfect love that pushes out anxious fear when we choose to trust in the Lord.

(see below for more on the fear of God)

Reflection—

Which do you choose to rule over your heart and life? Anxious fear or the fear of God? Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others.

Prayer Focus—

If anxious fear seems to have a strong grip in your life, consciously and prayerfully remind yourself of God's greatness, His sovereignty over all, and His perfect love. Look up all the references to the fear of God (fear of the Lord) and consider these truths as you pray and entrust your life to the Lord.

©Word-Strong_2018


Here are some previous posts related to the fear of God—

The Purpose and Value of Proverbs

Honor and Respect

Taste and See

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A Cure for the Heartsick

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

Delayed hope makes one sick at heart,

but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.

Whoever despises ⌊God’s⌋ words will pay the penalty,

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:12-13 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:1-13 GW)


The heart of a person can't be expressed with an emoji and it's far more complex than the outline of a heart made with two fingers and thumbs.

When we talk about a person's heart, we speak of a person's inner being. It's deeper than our emotions but certainly affects us emotionally in ways that are good, bad, or indifferent.

Indifferent is worse than bad. Indifference to emotions indicates an emotional blankness—what psychologists call a flat affect—having no response to external stimulus or situations. It can indicate shock, numbness, or even clinical depression for example.

An indifferent nature is far worse. When a person is indifferent to others, it often indicates anti-social behavioral tendencies. Being sick at heart indicates a profound sadness and a sense of hopelessness—a human spirit that's crushed.

What causes someone to be sick at heart? According to this verse in Proverbs—a delayed hope. A hope that is set aside by circumstances beyond a person's control. It's more than unfilled expectations. It goes deeper.

This type of delayed hope comes in many ways. A refugee in a worn-torn area longs for peace and safety. When someone longs for a marriage partner or having a child, they also can become heartsick.

Obviously, some life situations are more dire and pressing than others but a person who is sick at heart focuses on whatever hope seems most important to them.

This proverb goes on to say, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. This isn't the longing of a selfish desire, it's much deeper.

When refugees find peace and safety, it's certainly more fulfilling than a good meal or gaining any possession. When we witnessed adoptive parents uniting with the child or children they were adopting through our ministry, it was a sweet and emotionally fulfilling time.

The key or cure for those who are heartsick is a change in what they're focused on. This is indicated in the following verse—

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Prov 13:13b GW)

The fear of God isn't a state of anxious fear but trust—a personal trust in God. I heard an interview of a journalist who was kidnapped by Muslim pirates and held several years for ransom. He hated his captors and longed for freedom.

When he heard a religious leader speak of mercy and forgiveness, he began to change his view of his captors by forgiving them.

He said it began to change his attitude towards his captors and seemingly hopeless situation. His heart and outlook lightened up. He acknowledged it required discipline. He had to work at forgiving them each day. Eventually, the day came for him to be freed—a longing fulfilled.

Are you sick at heart because of a longing in your heart or a hope that seems to get pushed back over and over again? The cure is a change of focus.

This is similar to what King David and the Lord Jesus said—

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Set the eyes of your heart on the One to whom nothing is impossible. Not just once but daily, even many times within a day, till it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart.

Reflection—

Set your heart on the Lord as your primary focus—not on what you are heartsick for or about. Do this so it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart—and trust whatever you are longing for to God.

Prayer Focus—

Learning to trust God in a deep way requires commitment and discipline in prayer. Prayer is the lifeline for communication with God—to share what's on our hearts and to spend time to wait and listen for Him.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Our Responsibility of Choosing

Some choices are easy while others seem impossible. On any given day, we make hundreds of choices, often without realizing it.

We choose when to get up—even though it may be out of obligation or commitment. What we eat, drink, wear, and where we go or don't go are all choices.

But it's easy to choose without choosing—to settle into a routine—even to let others make choices for us. Whether we choose or choose not to choose—we alone are responsible for our choices.

Hating Evil

Evil is real and present in our world. Evil is typically characterized as moral vileness or violent and intimidating power. But not all evil is that obvious.

Evil is often more subtle and secretive. It doesn't want to be exposed. It doesn't want to be discovered nor accept responsibility for its own evil nature and actions.