Do you want to know how to handle relationships better?
How to better handle finances?
How to develop more self-control?
You need wisdom.
Note that wisdom is not the same as information. We are awash in information. Drowning in it. Humanity is producing nearly 1.7 megabytes of data per person every second. By 2020, our accumulated amount of data will be about 44 zettabytes (that would be 44 trillion gigabytes). Every minute, up to 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. (Source: Forbes Magazine)
If you want information, you can easily find it and consume it, from the meaningful to the trivial.
What you need is wisdom. Wisdom is the art of applying information. Wisdom is the art of skillful living.
The Proverbs of the Bible are an ancient curriculum for growing in wisdom. You can benefit greatly from applying yourself to the study of this ancient literature.
Here’s the challenge for you:
Take a chapter a day of Proverbs and enjoy fifteen to twenty minutes of focused, detailed study. Thats 31 chapters for 31 days. One month. Fifteen to twenty minutes every day. How hard can that be? Surely you can do it.
It’s that simple.
Try me on this. You’ll be amazed at the kinds of things that sink in.
A few tips to help you wildly succeed:
1) Schedule the time. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t do it. Many people find that the most effective way to do this is to get up 15 minutes early and tackle it first thing in the morning. This has the added benefit of giving you something to think through throughout the day. Another possibility is to do it on your lunch break (but you have to commit to telling your co-workers “no” when they invite you out this month). Right before bed is another popular time. Pick a time. Write it on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself. Its just for 31 days.
2) Make this focused time. Turn off the cell phone, tv, computer, radio, and any other distracting devices. Go to a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. We live in an age of distraction. Bracket yourself from distraction. It’s only 20 minutes. You won’t miss out on much.
3) Take notes. Seriously. Bring a notebook and jot down insights. The proverbs are meant to be puzzled over and pondered. I’ll give you some tips on pondering below. Take notes on insights, and especially applications. Before you finish, settle on one application that you’ll strive to act upon for the next 24 hours.
4) Pray. The proverbs are not simply fortune cookies of good advice. They are counsel from God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would lead you and guide you and speak to you. This is an opportunity to draw closer to God.
5) Review. At the end of the 31 days, review your notes and see how far you’ve come. Jot down a few successes and areas of insight. I’ll bet you’ll find the exercise so helpful, you’ll want to do it again. Maybe make it an annual discipline, or maybe try it three months in a row.
Now, here are a few guidelines to help you as you ponder:
1) Chapters 1-9 are introduction. They are poetic material talking about the value of wisdom. These chapters are the 101 course in wisdom, with longer units that focus on a single theme. They help get your mind in the right frame, so that you can tackle the rapid pace proverbs beginning in chapter 10.
2) Beginning in chapter 10, you’ll find that the easy to follow structure goes away, and you’re confronted with a rapid-fire barrage of proverbs. At first, it feels overwhelming, but part of the fun is considering how the proverbs all relate to one another.
3) Hebrew poetry is built around line structure, rather than around rhyme or meter. Each verse has 2 parts, and the real trick of the proverbs is in pondering all the different ways the parts relate to one another. Does the second half build on the first? If so, what does it add that was not said in the first half. Does the second half contrast with the first? If so, what is the nature of the contrast?
4) The proverbs are not in some random order. They’re designed to provoke commentary and questions. For instance, you may find one proverb that essentially repeats what another proverb said 10 verses earlier. This is by design to prompt you to consider how all the proverbs in between might relate to those two bracketing proverbs. Or you might find a block of similarly themed proverbs right in a row. This is where the real fun of the proverbs can be found. This is also the source of some of your greatest insights. Push yourself to ask “how do these relate to each other” and you will be richly rewarded.
There you go. Let me know if you take the challenge. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Soli Deo Gloria