One of the most powerful expressions that I have heard about what makes teaching effective is that more is caught than taught. You can teach propositions; you can present information; you can tell people facts. But what people get is what they catch. What are you passionate about? What do you emphasize? What affects the way you live? When people see passions, emphases, and life choices, suddenly teaching takes on a powerful dimension.
Just today, I sat at lunch with someone who was trying to work out the details of things that they have heard and seen in ministry. Taking scriptural principles with gospel culture, this person wanted to see ministry formed in a greater way to reflect the glorious truths of Scripture!
Proverbs does the same thing. It is a teaching manual to instruct another generation of leaders. Over and over, the father says, “Hear, my son.” This refrain is repeated about 14 times in the opening nine chapters, telling us that there is something critical to learn that is distinct from what came before.
As I listened to Proverbs, four emphases came out that the father wants his son to grasp so that he might live the good life. He wants his son to catch what is most important by hearing it and walking in the good life.
First, the universe is God’s creation. All throughout these opening chapters, wisdom begins with knowing that God has created all. Because he has made all, his character can be ascertained from the surrounding creation.
Second, the Lord has ordered creation with design and purpose. Look at a sunflower head and you will notice that it fits Fibonacci’s sequence. The human eye is made up of intricate and complicated structures of muscles and nerves. God has designed this world with intention and order, and living the good life means learning to live consistently within the order that God has sovereignly purposed.
Third, we can discover much about God in this world. God can be known to some degree through math, science history, art, agriculture, geology, geography, languages and every other sphere of life. There is not one inch of this creation that does not belong to the sovereign Lord. But we are not capable to know God in his fullness in creation because of sin. Since Genesis 3, humanity’s rebellion against God has clouded our minds and resulted in the curse – weeds grow, mosquitoes bite, cars crash, tornadoes spin. God is knowable, but our ability is limited because of our human limitations, sin, and the curse.
Finally, faith precedes understanding. As Augustine would say, faith seeks understanding. When we begin to reverence God (the fear of the Lord – Prov. 1:7), we can humbly acknowledge our limits and his greatness. Then, and only then, do we see that there is so much more to learn and know.
When we take these four factors into consideration, it is no surprise to discover that the wisest people are the humblest people and the most teachable people. I recall asking a professor – a brilliant, godly, humble man how his fast knowledge had not made his head overinflate. “The more I know the less I know,” he would say. Knowledge produces an understanding that we have more gaps, more limits, more mystery. It keeps us pursuing the Lord, trusting in his ways, and desiring to know him so that we might live the good life and enjoy him forever.
Are you listening? God’s offer of the good life is available for you. It’s crying out, inviting you to join in the rhythms of wisdom that are on offer all around us if we would seek it with our whole heart.
See you Sunday!