You reap what you sow, and the decisions you make today will shape your future. In this message, we look to the Proverbs for wisdom instead of learning things the hard way.
Hey, hey! Porch, how are we doing? It's great to be here with my friends in Dallas and Fort Worth and spread out all over Texas and the southwest and every other place you listen we know around the globe and overseas you're tracking with us. My name is Todd. I love when I get to jump in with you guys. We are going to, just this week, take a little bit of time looking at a section of God's Word that has really, really been useful in my life.
I often get asked the question, "Man, what's your favorite book of the Bible?" For me, if I had to be honest, (I say this all the time), it's whatever book I'm studying because there's always more there than I think. I mean, books that I've been around for a long time, when I really begin to just sit on them and study and reflect and ask questions, I always see so much truth I either missed the first time or just forgot was there.
Whatever book I'm spending the most time in at any given time when I'm teaching through some series at Watermark or wherever it might be, that becomes my favorite book, but if I had to just say, this one book that has been the most useful in my life, not in order to help me understand my own sin and my own need for Jesus but a book that has changed me more than any other book in the Bible, it would be a book called Proverbs.
It's the book that is written for idiots like me who have a very short attention span because it kind of just speaks to you in jabs and quick punches and little pithy statements. This is the way the book of Proverbs starts. This is chapter 1 of a collection of wisdom sayings. Now all wisdom is, is knowledge wrapped up in understanding, which is to say a life that takes truth and rightly applies it is a life that's marked by wisdom.
This is what it says: "The proverbs of Solomon…" If you know the story about Solomon, he could ask God whatever he wanted, and what he asked for was that he would have wisdom, that he would not just know things. Here's the deal. Most of you guys know more than you're applying to your lives already. We all know what we're supposed to eat if we want to feel like and look like who we want to feel like and look like. That doesn't mean we always eat that way, exercise that way.
We all know a lot of times what's good for us, and we just don't apply it correctly to our lives, so what Solomon asked for was wisdom. He didn't just want intellectual understanding. He wanted intellectual truth applied, so he says this, "This is why I wrote this," so this is why it's been a book that's good for me.
It says, "To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity…" In other words, so you won't screw your life up, so you won't have more scars than joy. "…to give prudence…" It doesn't say it will make you a prude. It says it will give you prudence, which means wise living, the ability to do the right thing at the right time in the right way.
Then it says, "A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles." Sometimes, when you read this, it doesn't quite make sense. You're like, "What's that mean? I have to pick the lock on that." All through Proverbs, you're going to find out what God's trying to do because he's a loving Father.
See, I didn't know that for a long time. This was my view of God. Everything I wanted to do, he was going to say, "Get your hands off that," and everything I didn't want to do, he was like, "Get out of bed! Let's go!" I was like, "Really? I mean, I don't think that's what I want." That was because I made God in my own image. I never really stopped and asked God who God was. I never listened to what God said he was. I never let him reveal himself to me.
This book is revelation. It's showing me what I otherwise wouldn't know because, even though I'm made in God's image, I've left him, so what I usually do in my broken and fallen state is I make God in my image. God's not broken. God's not selfish, and God's not impetuous. God's not controlling. He's sovereign. He loves me, and he loves you, so he put together this amazing book. Listen to these little pleadings.
This is Proverbs, chapter 22. In verse 17, this is the loving Father, and he's just begging you to just tune in. He's saying, "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise…""Because I'm not looking to rip you off. I'm looking to set you free." "…And apply your mind to my knowledge…""Because I love you." "…for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you…"
Let me just tell you something. If, when you think of following God, you don't think of pleasant and good things, then you have been deceived just like I was for a long time. That's what the Deceiver is. He's a liar. He's been a liar from the beginning, and he always wants you to believe that God is not good, his Word is not true, and disobeying him is not going to cost you that much, so listen to this pleading.
"So that your trust may be in the Lord…" The Lord who is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, compassionate, gracious, full of grace and truth. He says, "…I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth…" Jesus says it's the truth that's going to set you free, and it's going to break you out of this rut we always get ourselves into.
Here's what I want to do. I want to read to you not just a proverb by itself, but every now and then, there are groupings, and there's a group of proverbs that are together. Then what I want to teach you to do is how to read your Bible in a way that's going to make it meaningful to you. The little section of Proverbs that I want you to get with me tonight and learn from, one that's been really helpful to me, is found in Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 30 through 34. Just hang with me. Here we go. I'm going to just pray.
Father, if there's truth, if you're good and you love us and there's something you want us to see, would you just show it to us tonight? Wherever we are, whether we're just trying to figure out who you are for the first time or whether we've known you for a while and want to learn to love you more so we will love that which will lead to life indeed, would you just show it to us?
I thank you that the way you describe yourself, if we would listen, is as a loving Father who has our best interests in mind, so we don't have to figure this thing out, you just say, "Come here. Are you weary? Are you heavy laden? Are you burdened? Then just come, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." \
Father, some of us are hungry. Our souls are starved, and we're going to knock tonight on the door of your grace. You tell us if we knock on that door, you're going to open it, you're going to invite us in, we're going to dine with you, and we're going to feast. It's going to make it better for us.
Lord, we just acknowledge we've been lied to a lot. We think you're sometimes oppressive and controlling and all you want to do is slap our hands. We realize, when we look at your Word and see who you've been through history, we're just victims of a lie, so help us see truth tonight. Teach us. Make us wise sons and daughters who learn from you. Amen.
Now check this out. This is a little section of Proverbs. It's unusual because it's really a story, and what he's trying to show you in this story are some things that, if you'll just pay attention, your loving Father wants you to learn from them. I'm going to read it all to you. This is Proverbs 24:30-34. It says,
"I passed by the field of the sluggard and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles [the sluggard's vineyard and field] ; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. 'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,' then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man."
You read something like that. Now let's just say, for a just a second, you're going to go, "Okay, Lord, teach me something," and you read that little story, and you're like, "What gives? That's the thing you want me to be encouraged by? How can I learn from that?" Now here's how. Whenever you read your Bible, you want to just stop, and you want to just start to make some basic observations.
Then from those observations, you want to go, "Now I've seen these things. What am supposed to learn from things I've seen, and how can I apply them to my life?" It's a simple thing called observation, interpretation, application. When you read a story like that, you have to go, "What's there? What's he want me to see?" What he's telling you is this guy is walking through life, and as he walks through life, he is observing things in other people.
Can I just tell you something? This is a fact. Every single person you meet is either a wonderful example, or his or her life serves as a horrible warning. They're one of two things. In some way, every man is your teacher. Everybody you meet is a teacher. Sometimes, you know, when I'm around people, they go, "Man, I don't like my coach. I don't like my teacher. I don't like my boss."
I go, "Well, then learn from them because you're going to be a boss one day. You're going to be a dad one day. You're going to be a husband one day. You're going to be a friend, so if that friend is bothering you and badgering you, learn from them, and go, 'I don't want to do that.'" All he's just saying is this. Here's the very first thing I want you to get out of what we're doing right now. That is just this little statement that experience is a good teacher, but it's a very expensive one.
Experience, while it teaches you in an amazing way, it often gives you the final exam before the very first lesson. I mean, you can learn that mines blow you up and cause you to lose your leg by stepping on a mine. You've learned that. As well as anybody who has learned that, you know you don't want to step on a land mine, but that's a very expensive way to learn that you don't go stepping on land mines.
Some of you have learned a very expensive lesson that when a guy says he loves you and if you love him you'd share yourself with him and that he'll always be there and you're now a single mom, you have learned that guys say whatever they need to say to get whatever they want sometimes and you know you can't always trust a man in the heat of a moment. You've learned that, and you've learned it in a very expensive way.
Some of you guys have learned from Planned Parenthood that it's not just a small procedure with no lasting consequences. You know that's a lie. You know that, this Mother's Day, when it comes around, there should be a life that should be looking at you with loving eyes and be grateful for you, and there won't be, and it's going to haunt you on Mother's Day. You've learned it's a lie that it's just a clump of cells and it's not a life inside of you, and you've learned it in a very expensive way.
God just wants you to know there's a better way to go about learning things. The trouble with using experience as a guide, again as I said, is sometimes you get tested before you get instructed. We say this all the time, right? "Experience is the best teacher. Nothing beats experience." Yes, something beats experience. Do you know what beats experience?
What beats experience is learning from other people's experiences, so you don't have to step on a land mine, have a child out of wedlock, or have a child taken out of your womb and realize there's more truth than you were told. A wise guy said this a long time ago: wise men learn more from fools than fools learn from wise men, because while wise men will learn from the follies of fools, fools will not learn from the wisdom of the wise.
Can I say that to you again? Wise men learn more from fools than fools learn from wise men. Doesn't that seem backwards? Like, if you're a fool, you're like, "Man, let's watch this guy's life," and the truth is fools never learn from wise men. They only learn when they get beaten to death. In fact, this is what it says in Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 10. This is just a wisdom principal that is true.
It says, "A rebuke…" Which is a simple admonishment like, "Bro, I wouldn't go there. Don't do that. It's not going to go well with you." "A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool." A fool continually thinks, "Well, that didn't work out that time, but I'll do it again." It's like the guy… You can tell this joke a thousand ways. I was just with a couple of guys who were in Special Forces.
They were both in Special Forces, one kind of in the naval branch and one in the army branch, so I was with a Navy SEAL and with a Ranger. They're always jacking it with each other. The guy told a story. He said, "You know, there was a Navy SEAL and a Ranger who were together." Often you hear this like with a Marine and a guy who's in the infantry. It's however you want to tell it. You can tell it like the normal world and Aggies, just anything like that, two different people.
Let's just tell it that way. There's a guy sitting there next to his Aggie friend. They're sitting there watching TV, and it shows a guy on a roof, and he's looking to jump and commit suicide. The two guys are watching it, and they're leaning in there, and they go, "Oh, my gosh!" The one guy leans over, and he goes, "I bet you $20 the guy jumps." The friend saw they were getting people all in place to talk to him. There were folks on bullhorns. They were trying to get a net.
The guy looks at him, and he assessed it, and he goes, "No." He goes, "I'll take that bet. He won't jump." Then, sure enough, man, the guy jumped about three minutes later. The guy reached in his pocket, and he slapped down and gave the guy $20. The guy put it in his pocket, and a few minutes later, he leaned over to his friend, and he said, "Listen, I can't lie to you, bro. That was a replay of the news that happened at noon. I knew what happened. I knew the guy jumped, so I want to give you your money back."
The Aggie says, "No, man. I'm not going to take your money back." He goes, "I saw the guy jump at noon too. I just didn't think he was stupid enough to do it twice." It's funny. Explain that to your friend later, your Aggie friend. Sometimes, that's the way it is with a fool. They keep doing things like a hundred times, and if it doesn't kill them, they're going to just keep going back again, and they're going to think the problem is that the world's unjust somehow.
Proverbs is just saying, "Man, it's better that you learn a different way. Experience is not the best teacher, or at the very least, it's a very, very expensive one. This is what the Bible says in Proverbs 22:3. "The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve [the fools] go on, and are punished for it." Haven't we all seen people who date bad boys and it not work out well for them?
Haven't we all seen people who try and get their validation by other humans and find their meaning in fleeting things of the world and it doesn't work out for them? Haven't we all seen people who try and deal with their sorrows with drinking and with drug use or with isolation and it doesn't work out well for them? The prudent see that, and they go, "Okay, I'm not going to go that way," but the naïve, they just go on.
That's part of the deceitfulness of sin, that we all think we're going to be the one who can handle it and go this way, and it's not going to really affect us. It's just a fact that experience in a sense is a good teacher, but it's a very, very expensive one, so a wise man does learn from his mistakes, but a wiser man still learns from the mistakes of others. What this little section of Scripture is all about is like, "Hey, be that wise man and always be looking, always be observing."
What you're going to see in this story is there's a guy, and he's walking by, and he's going to discern. That's the field of a sluggard. It's the vineyard of a guy who has no sense. Watch what happens. As he walks by, this is what he's going to tell you. He says, "It's a field, and that field which is supposed to be a source of life and produce and prosperity, is overgrown with thistles, and it's covered with nettles or with weeds."
Then it says this, "The walls are broken down." Now why do you have walls around a vineyard? You do it to keep predators out, foxes that'll come in and rip off fruit around the tree. What kind of wall is it? Do you remember? What kind of wall is it? Look at your Bible, if you have it, in Proverbs, chapter 24. It says right there in verse 31 it's a stone wall. Now how long does it take for a stone wall to fall down?
This isn't a wicket fence that's just leaned up. This is a stone wall, so this is something that has been neglected for a long, long time. What he's going to say right here is, "When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked…" These words just talk about how, "I glanced at it, but then I stopped, and then I just stood there." What he was going to be was a student of somebody else's life and the fruit of it. Have you guys ever done this?
Are you looking at anybody's life and you're kind of going, "Okay, man, I don't really know what I want to do, but I don't think I want it to go that way"? Vice versa, have you gone, "Hey, man. Look! It looks like there's something there worth following. It looks like there's life indeed there. I might want to be a student of that"? It would be wise if you see a person's life that has thorns and thistles and nettles and is not protected from every whim and fancy and every enemy that comes marauding along, then you might want to go, "I have to learn from that."
This is what he says. He says, "As I walked, I saw this." The proverb says, "'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…'" That's backwards, isn't it? When you go lie down, you don't go to sleep and then you slumber and then you rest. You usually go, "I think I'll just sit down here, and I'll fold my hands." Then you kind of go, "Oh, yeah. I'll just lean back. I'll just slumber for a little bit," and then you move to a sleep.
That's the way you would think it would be, but that's not what it says in this proverb, so you want to observe this. What's he saying there when he says, "'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…'"?You have trouble. Well, what kind of trouble? It tells you…poverty, and it comes like a robber. What's a robber do? You make yourself just a simple observation.
Robbers, when they come, don't usually pick up the phone and go, "Hey, I don't know what you're doing tonight. Are you going to The Porch? What time are you taking off? Good. You'll get home around what time? Awesome. I'm going to drop by around 7:45 or 8:15, clean your house out, take your goods, and then be out of there." Robbers don't do that. They come when they're not expected, and you're devastated.
How about an armed man? How does an armed man come? An armed man doesn't negotiate with you. He'll show up right to your face, and you're powerless and defenseless. You have no ability to prevent what's about to happen from happening, so you don't get that that life you always wanted. Why? A little sleep, and then a little slumber, and a little folding of the hands to rest, and you are completely exposed.
Proverbs 29:1 says, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." Some of you guys have experienced that, and some of you are just a little folding of the hands away from it. I mean, you're on the brink. How'd you get there? You got there because, for a long time, you have been naïve. You haven't been prudent. You haven't been paying attention. You have been sowing into your life disobedience and flippancy and arrogance.
Here's the deal. You've been kind of getting away with it, so you think you're going to keep getting away with it. I can remember, when I was in college, one of my favorite classes was Constitutional Law. I was headed to law school, so I took Con Law. It was a great class because, unlike most classes, Con Law, had no midterms, no papers, and no tests. I loved Con Law in September. It was the best class I had all of October.
I didn't have to jack with Con Law a bit in November, and I slept through it. I put it aside while I did other things that were more pressing. Then all of a sudden, Thanksgiving was over, and I was two weeks away from one exam that was my entire semester. There had been sleep, and there had been slumber, and now I couldn't do anything but Con Law. If I so much as folded my hands, I was done; no law school, no heading that direction.
Do you see what happens there? A little sleep, a little slumber, and you've lost all flexibility, man. You're on the brink because the smallest variance from perfection is going to cost you significantly, and what he's saying is, "I don't want to do that. I don't want that to be my story." Here's just a simple observation. I've already given you one, which is that experience is a good teacher; it's often a very expensive one.
Here's just another observation I made when I was just looking at this little proverb. It is just simply that a lot of damage can be done a little at a time. A lot of damage can be done just a little bit at a time, and then, all of a sudden, these little decisions all add up and they reap big destruction, big problems. I say to people all the time when they think they've gotten something for nothing… I go, "You haven't gotten something for nothing. You just haven't gotten the bill yet."
It's like the guy… A lot of you guys have done this. Again, part of the deceitfulness of sin is that sometimes we do things, and we kind of get away with it, so we become a little bolder in it, and we kind of go, "We got away with it," so we do it again, and we got away with it. All of a sudden, we're developing a pattern, and then a broken, impoverished life is going to come like a robber when we never expected it.
Here are a couple of truths. This is Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, verse 11. This is what the Bible says. The Bible just loves you, so the Bible is going to tell you the truth, and that's this. "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly…" In other words, because God doesn't strike you with a lightning bolt the first time you cuss, because you don't necessarily get pregnant the first time you cross lines, you get a little bolder in your sin.
"Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." Here's the thing. I just will tell you this all the time because I love you. You sow a thought, and that little thought will eventually reap an action. That action you sow will eventually reap a habit. That habit you sow eventually reaps a character, and that character you now have will eventually be your destiny. This is what is called the law of the harvest.
The Bible talks about it. In Galatians, chapter 6, this is what it says. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." You want to be really, really careful with what you're doing. The law of the harvest… We say this I think here a lot because it's so important because this right now is sowing season in your life, and what happens a lot of times in our 20s, we think, "Well, I can plant whatever I want, and it's not going to really cause me a lot of problems," and we're tell you, "No, it is."
We're tell folks all the time this is true. You're not going to have married problems. You're going to have single-people problems that you drag into your future relationships. You might as well learn right now to live in a way that's going to make the relationship you dream about work. The law of the harvest is this. You reap what you sow. If you put a tomato seed in the ground, you're going to get tomatoes, so you reap what you sow.
Secondly, you reap it later than you sow it. If you put a tomato seed in the ground, you don't get a tomato tomorrow. You don't get it next week, but eventually, you're going to get a tomato plant, and then you're not going to get what? You reap what you sow. You reap it later than you sow it, and you reap more than you sow. This is the law of the harvest. The return on your investment is always there.
Does one tomato seed give you one tomato? No, it gives you one tomato plant which gives you multiple tomatoes. That's the law of the harvest. A lot of trouble comes a little at a time. Now the inverse is also true. When you sow things in your life, it's going to produce good things. What this guy is saying is he's walking by the field of the sluggard or by the vineyard of the man lacking sense.
He's going, "I'm going to observe. I'm going to look. I'm going to reflect. I'm going to study. I'm going to make a decision. I don't want my field to look like that." Do you guys do that often? Here's what's so amazing. They don't usually show you the backstory in movies in love scenes. They don't show you the guilt and the sexual disease. They don't show you the unwanted pregnancy. They don't show you the tears.
I mean, go watch Juno. Go watch Fatal Attraction. That's the truth about affairs, but those movies, you can make one of those and get away with it, but you know, it's not what really typically sells. It's like, "Man, what happened to that one love scene on the elevator that turned into just horror?" See, here's the thing. God's not mad at you. He just wants to rescue you. He's kind to you, and so he's saying, "Listen. Learn from fools.
Wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men still learn from mistakes of others." A lot of damage can be done a little at a time. This is just true. Until it hurts more to stay the same than it hurts to change, most people never change. I tell a lot of people this, "Man, if you like what you have, keep doing what you're doing, but I'm just going to tell you, if you keep doing what you're doing, you're not going to like what you have."
While you're over there working in your field and doing the right thing, that sluggard is over there playing Xbox, watching Game of Thrones, throwing a kegger, and it's not a problem the first day he does it, the second day he does it, the third day he does it, other than he's developing a pattern, an action that's going to turn into a habit that's going to turn into a character that's going to turn into a destiny. You just keep doing what you should do.
You know, this is the deal. Some people have jumped off like a 100-story building, and they're mocking people who believe in the law of gravity because, when you first jump off a 100-story building, it's like a major adrenaline rush. It's a lot of fun. You're like, "Wow! This is awesome! Who needs elevators? This is incredible. I've never felt this free before!" Sooner or later, the reality of your experience is going to catch up with you. I think sometimes you see people free-falling, man.
They show you a lot of the free fall and the fun, the joy, the adrenaline rush. They just don't show you the splat a lot. What you need to do is you need to walk by splats and go, "How'd that guy get here? I don't want my life to end up like that." Some of you guys are in this room tonight, and you're saying, "Man, how did I get here?" When I was out with my kids when they were younger a lot, whenever we had a chance to engage people who were on the streets, we just never gave them something to make ourselves feel good.
What we would do was we would engage them relationally, and I would just sit there, and I'd say, "Man, tell me your name. You're a person. You have a story." I'd introduce myself. I'd introduce my child. I would just say, "Can you do me a favor, man? Just tell me how you got here," and they said the same thing every time. You know what everybody I have ever sat with on the street has told me?
They say, "You know how I got here? I got here one bad decision at a time and then another bad decision, and another bad decision, and another bad decision, and another bad decision, and here I am." There's a way out. We offer it to them. We offer to get involved in their lives and not just give them a little Band-Aid but to really say, "Man, if you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, let's go. Does it hurt more to stay the same than it does to change?"
Sadly, there are so many people in Dallas who mean well that'll offer a handout that really isn't a handout. It's holding them down because it's enabling them in a lifestyle that's not good for them, and a lot of them go, "Man, this is working for me. I'm making $80 a day working two hours, just hitting the streets. That's enough," and we're stringing them out. A lot of damage can be done a little at a time. I learned that from Proverbs 24:30-34.
Experience is a good teacher; it's often a very expensive one. I learned that from Proverbs 20, verses 30 through 34, because I could be a sluggard. I could let my vineyard be overgrown with thistles and thorns. Here's another one. Your soul is like a field. I've thought, you know, this is not about a vineyard. God's trying to teach me something here. My soul is a field, and I ought to pay attention to it.
The way I lead my life is going to lead to prosperity. It's going to lead to blessing. It's going to lead to, in a sense, more joy, or I'm going to have myself more pain. One of my favorite verses… It's just true. In Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 22, it says, "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it." I have one of my kids who now is your age. She's 24 years old.
She just said, "Dad, can I just tell you something? Because by the grace of God you told me what was going happen if I lived the life of a sluggard, and you helped me see what was true about God, and I came to know him at an early age…" She said, "Dad, this is the story of my life. I have more joy and less scars." That's her testimony. I mean, some of you guys in this room, that's also your testimony. It's amazing.
Don't ever think that, because you don't have some dramatic story, that you didn't show up at the Porch smelling like smoke, hung over in the back, you can't be used of God. The most powerful testimony God can give you is that, early, God showed you his kindness and you have more joy and less scars. That is a testimony, that all your days God has walked with you. It's largely David's testimony, and he's worth following.
Here's the other thing. If you do have scars, if your field is overgrown with thistles, if your stone walls are broken down, God's just saying, "Hey, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Then come on. Let me rebuild those things. There's grace here, and the only power you have over the past is purity in the present, and let's get busy." Your soul is a field. Pay attention to it. This is what comes after that verse in Galatians 6 we just read. This is Galatians 6:8-9.
It says, "For the one who sows to his own flesh…" In other words, who does what his flesh wants to do. Our flesh is a part of this world, and this world is broken. The world is broken because this world and everybody in it and the prince of this world, the Enemy, is a liar. We have given ourselves over to him, so we are descendants of broken people; therefore, our flesh longs to do what it wants to do and doesn't care what God says and who God is.
That's the nature of man. All of us, in and of our nature, go, "I want to do what I want to do," but God in his kindness says, "That's not going to work out well for you, and anybody who doesn't like the family you were born into, I will rescue you." Did you hear that? Even you people who were born into a family where somebody like me is going to teach you it's the blessing of the Lord that makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it, you have to make a decision.
You're still a son of Adam and a daughter of Eve, so your flesh is going to go, "I don't know if I want to listen to my old man. I don't know if I want to listen to wisdom. I think I like my own knowledge," and there's a way that seems right to you. It's going to lead to death, and you can either learn it leads to death through your own choices and your own experiences, or you can go and look at people who already rebelled against God.
You can walk by their splat and go, "I think I will take the vineyard of the man who was diligent and sowed in the spring and reaped in the harvest and planted the right things and built up walls of protection and followed a wise Father who called them to work and not be lazy and give themselves over to their flesh." See, Proverbs is just a loving Father trying to help you, and we all need to learn. We all need to learn.
There was a guy named John Wesley who was a great leader and a godly man, and he studied. He disciplined himself to learn as much as he could, and somebody wrote him a letter one time and said, "The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn't need your book learning, your Greek and Hebrew." Wesley got that letter, and he wrote back.
He said, "Thank you sir. Your letter was superfluous [it was unnecessary], as I already knew the Lord has no need of my 'book learning' as you put it. However, although the Lord has not directed me to say so, on my own responsibility I would like to say, the Lord does not need your ignorance either." That's a fact, but you need to learn.
This is another proverb. Proverbs 20:29 says, "The glory of young men is their strength…" When your strong, you can kind of jump off taller things than you should and kind of bounce back, and the glory of young men is their strength. The glory of young women is their strength, but it says, "…and the honor of old men is their gray hair," which I am increasingly seeing is mine, but it means I haven't ruined my life, that I'm around to have hair that turns gray and I've lived a life that has largely been defined by wisdom.
Underneath that graying hair is a life that has more joy and less scars, and the Lord is my strength that has kept me from ruining my vineyard, and your soul is a field, and right now, you have to have the strength of early spring, so you can be a little lazy, and it doesn't look like it's a problem, but let me just tell you something, it's a problem.
Those exercise habits, those eating habits, those dating habits, those thinking habits… Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny. You don't want thorns, thistles, and broken walls.
I was speaking at a deal in Laguna Beach, which is not a bad place to say "yes" to speak, last week. I was there, and one of the guys who I was dealing with, I'm going to call him Ken (that wasn't his name), but Ken and I got in a conversation. He was there. He just got a new job, and I just kind of went, "Ken, tell me what's going on," so he and I were just interacting while I was there.
He was actually serving me and taking care of me, and I said, "Hey, Ken. Let me ask you a question." As we talked a little bit more, you could tell this guy was flying high. He'd made a lot of money in the oil fields, and now he was out in California, and he was doing well. He was living in Laguna and had a new job on the beach, and I go, "Man, tell me about your belief. What do you believe? Do you have a faith?"
He said, "Well…" He goes, "I'm spiritual. You know, I love being in the ocean. Man, when I'm in the ocean, I'm one with God. When I'm walking out there in nature, I just feel good. My girlfriend and I, we're in love." I just said, "Hey, Ken. Here's the deal, bro. You do know that that's not the way it's always going to be. Sometimes, that ocean swells up. Sometimes, there's an undertow that sucks you out. Sometimes, there's sharks in there that eat you. Sometimes, you get old, and you can't swim.
That girlfriend you're sleeping with where everything's going well, sometimes that doesn't… You do know that it's not always your first two weeks in California where you're spending your money, sleeping with your girlfriend, hanging out in the ocean. You do know things are going to change. What are you going to do with your spiritual joy then? What are you going to do when some of this behavior is no longer bringing the blessing it is now?"
He was a really humble guy. He didn't say, "I'll deal with that when it happens." It just made him stop and think, and I just said, "Let me just ask you a question. You say, when you're in the ocean, you enjoy it, do you know the God who made you made that ocean? He wants you to enjoy it. Do you know the God who made that girl? He wants you to enjoy her.
Do you know the God who made you right now at this age and young? He wants you to enjoy it, but I'm going to tell you that, right now, the way you're running your life is not going to lead to the life you want. I'm just going to ask you to start thinking about what you're sowing into your life because here's what you need to know. Even if it never turns around in this life, it's appointed for this for men to die once, and after this, comes judgment. What's your plan when judgment comes?"
Then I just asked, "Has anybody ever told you what the central message of the Scripture is? God is not just here to give you your best life now. God is here to rescue you from a life that doesn't want to deal with tomorrow. He doesn't want stone walls to start to crumble, and he doesn't want thistles to grow and nettles to inhabit. He wants blessing for you, but to do that, you have to be connected to him, and sin keeps you from him."
I just asked him, "Has anybody ever told you what the central message of the Bible is?" He didn't have any clue. He kind of threw out some churchy ideas of "God wants this. God wants that." I just asked him, "Can I just tell you what God wants?" I told him the story that God loves the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam, and he's not mad at them. There's a way that seems right to them, but it leads to death.
I said, "It doesn't lead to it right away, which is what makes the wrong way seem so deceptive, but God wants you to have a way back. He wants that relationship with that girl to work. He wants that ocean and you not be something you worship but something you enjoy. Your soul is a field. Pay attention to it." Eventually, who you are in private will always show up and affect the way you are seen in public. It always happens that way.
As I read this, I just learned for myself not only that experience is a good teacher, that a lot of damage can be done in a little time, that my soul is like a field and I have to pay attention to it and walk around, and that I have to not sow to my flesh because when I sow to my flesh I reap corruption but the one who sowed to the Spirit will reap life indeed, I also learned that procrastination today will result in unsolicited, unwanted, unexpected, and often unavoidable consequences.
That's that little piece I already told you. "…your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man." Have you ever been there, where you're just defenseless against this life? You always do this. You go, "How did I get here? How did I get here?" This is it. This is Proverbs, chapter 19, verses 2 and 3. It says, "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs."
In other words, the one who just hurries his footsteps a certain direction is going to make mistakes. You have to stop, and you have to think. Listen to what happens, though, when you make mistakes. Verse 3: "The foolishness of man ruins his way…" Then what do we all do? You ever been here, when you just haven't done what you know you should do, or you haven't done what God says is the way to life? "God how could this happen to me? How did I get here?"
Then we usually start cutting deals with God, "God, get me out of this, this one time, and I swear, I'll never do it again!" God is gracious, right? God is gracious. He doesn't erase always the consequences, but he lets you stop the life of destruction when you start to look to him, but procrastination is not the path towards prosperity.
When you say, "Someday, I'm going to change." Somebody is not a day of the week. It never gets here. Have you noticed that? Can I just tell you something? The Devil doesn't care how much you pray. The Devil doesn't care how much you study your Bible. The Devil doesn't care how much you choose to love God and follow him, as long as you don't do it today.
He loves when you say, "I'm going to get serious with God one day. I'm going to do my work and really one day figure out if God is good. One day, I'm going to read my Bible. One day… One day, my relationships are going to be different. One day, I'm not going to give myself away because it seems right to me."
He loves when you talk like that, but the truth is that today is the father of tomorrow, and tomorrow is the road to despair. The Bible says, "Today is the day of salvation." When you keep putting it off… I mean, procrastination is the Devil's Prozac. It makes you feel better that eventually you'll feel better, but the Scripture just exhorts us to be about it.
So many of us say, "Man, I'd give anything to have a life like that." What we mean is, "I'd love to be able to do whatever I want and wake up tomorrow and my life has a field that's overgrown with prosperity, that's secure, and that is wrapped around strength and dignity as my clothing, nobility and wholeness and purity and strength and kindness," and that's not how you get that life, by just wanting it.
I think the last time I was with you guys I gave you this little syllogism, and I think I might have said it wrong, but here's three questions I love to ask people. I'll do it again, and I'll see if I can get it right this time. Do you want a life filled with blessing? Do you want a life that would be defined as a godly life, a rich life, a life that is going to have prosperity, and not just in terms of wealth and health because you may not be wealthy and healthy?
You might have cancer and die, but have you ever seen people with cancer who have joy and still sing? Have you ever seen people who are single deep into their 40s who have more security than a woman who has been in and out of relationships continually? Do you want to be a godly man? Do you want to be a godly woman? Yes or no? Ask yourself that question.
Here's the second question. Does God want you to be a godly man or woman? Does God want you to be a godly man or woman? We go, "I think so because God loves me, and when I'm a godly man, it's a life that leads to a blessing, and he adds no sorrow to it." Then here's the third question. Are you a godly man, and are you a godly woman?
I'm going to tell you, if you answered that third question "no," and you answered the first question "yes," you lied to yourself on the first question because God wants you to be a godly man or a godly woman, and you would be a godly man or a godly woman if you wanted to be. The reason you're not is because you're hiding behind that lie that, "Yeah, tomorrow, I think I'm going to do the things that will make my life the life that is reconciled with God, forgiven for my sin because of what Jesus has done.
Any God who would reconcile me to him and pull me out of judgment and take me out of death into life is a God worth following and knowing, and now dignity and honor and strength and nobility will be my clothing, and I will not live a life of malice and hatred and hateful envy. I will, by the grace of God, sow into my life the things of the Spirit, and goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control will be the fruit of that." Do you want to be a godly man or woman? You can be.
This is Proverbs 13:4. "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing…" See, the sluggard doesn't want to feel that it has walls that are broken down and thistles that cover it and nettles that are everywhere. The sluggard wants to eat. The sluggard wants a good life, but he doesn't do what he needs to do to get it. He doesn't walk with God and follow the law of the harvest. "…but the soul of the diligent is made fat."
Jesus says, "Come. Come. Are you hungry? If anyone hears my voice and knocks on the door, I will the door, and he will come in with me and dine with me," but you have to knock. You have to say, "Hey, I'm sick of living outside the counsel of God. I'm sick of living apart from you, God, the one who cares for me and blesses me." Here's what you need to do. We're just going to end with this.
Here's a statement. I want you to take just a second. This is what you do when you read your Bible. I just made some observations. You can do that. Stop and go, "What's that there for? What can I learn? I can learn that I can learn from other people. I don't want that life. I see his life got that way a little at a time. You know what? My soul is a lot like that guy's vineyard. Experience: I could learn that's a bad life by doing it myself, or I could learn from his life."
Here's what I want you to do before you shut your Bible tonight. I want you to answer this question. "To avoid potential or further ruin in my vineyard, the vineyard that is my life, today, I will… Today, I will…" Then plug it in today, not tomorrow, not next week. Not next week will I come up front and say, "Man, would you help me.?
Would you help me to put this life together because I think I've made one decision and another decision, and I'm not far from poverty and soul despair and anxiety ruling my life like a robber. I don't even know how I got here, and I'm angry at God, but I find out that maybe it's not God's fault, maybe it's because I just lived the life of a sluggard and did what I wanted to do instead of living a diligent life of discipline, and I don't want that to be my destiny."
You're going to find a lot of grace here because a lot of us didn't grow up in homes with dads who taught us about the goodness of God. We had to be re-parented, and we had to be rescued, and somebody had to show me who God was. I had to see the wonders of grace, and I had to move towards him and be rescued. I'm just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, and I'm saying, "Let's go."
The only power we have over our past is purity in the presence. There's a cross that will deliver us from judgment, and there's a King who will lead us in the way. I say to you, "Come." In order to avoid potential or further ruin in the vineyard that is my life, today, I will… I will at least go, "Hey, what's the central message of the Bible? Who is Jesus? What's the big deal about the resurrection?
What's this thing called community? How do I study my Bible? Is there a place I can learn to read it, Todd, and do what you did in this little 30 to 45 minutes we had together tonight? I want to learn to feed myself. Can I can do that? Today, I will." The first step is just to say, "God, I've avoided you because I've made you to be something you're apparently not. You're a loving Father. I didn't have a loving Father. I put on you the attributes I saw in my dad.
I don't want the life my dad created for me for my kids, so can you make me a man? Can you make me a woman? Can you teach me how to have relationships that work?" Today's the day. God loves you. That's why I love being with you, because I love when 20-year-olds run with Jesus because you're going to get to enjoy God for decades and be a source of grace to others. God is a young man's God.
Psalm 23, one of our favorite psalms: "The Lord is my shepherd…" When do we read that to most people? When does Psalm 23 get pulled out most of the time? What's the answer? Funerals, right? "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. […] Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil…" Let me just tell you something. David did not write that psalm on his deathbed. David wrote that psalm when he was younger than you, fighting the terrors of youth.
David wrote that psalm when he was in his late teens or early 20s before he was a king, while he was still out in the fields just working, being left. When the prophet came to anoint the new king, his dad didn't even think enough about him to come, and David said, "I don't care. I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and my God loves me. He will lead me to pleasant places, and he will fill my cup, and I will not forsake him."
Psalm 23 is a young person's psalm, and this is a young person's God. Enjoy him now. I promise you there's nothing on Lower Greenville that can offer you what God offers you, starting with grace and forgiveness and redemption. I, when I was your age, met Jesus, and I am 30 years ahead of you, and I'm just telling you, "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it."
I delight myself in the wife of my youth. My kids and I have a great relationship. My community largely thinks I'm a blessing. I'm just telling you, I've gone through cancer. I've gone through despair. I've gone through dysfunctional family relationships with God, and he is good. The wisest man who ever lived, the one who wrote Proverbs, didn't live with understanding, lacked wisdom, and paid a deep price.
Solomon became this fool, and the last stroke of his pen was not Psalm 23. It was Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, and this is what he says. Verse 1: "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth…""Don't be a fool like me. Don't be the sluggard, and don't let your vineyard be overgrown with thistles and the stone wall of God's Word be broken down." "…before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them'…"
In verses 2 through 12, he describes aging and graying hair and teeth that fall out and ears that can't hear and eyes that grow dim and backs that are crooked and feet that are weak and feeble and legs that can't jump. No, you learn to love God when you're young and you can run with him and enjoy him in that ocean and with the wife of your youth, so you have decades together of blessing and prosperity.
Verse 13: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God…" Which means just that you don't want to miss a single part of his goodness to you. "…and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."
The life which you're living in private right now is going to be very quickly dragged into the public relationships you're going to live for decades to come. God loves you, so walk with me by the field of the sluggard and by the vineyards of those who are not tending to their souls. Maybe it's yours, so today's the day of salvation. Come home to your King. Let him pull the weeds of sin and let him sow the Spirit of fruit of righteousness in your life.
Father, I pray for my friends, that they would just learn to love the wisdom and the truth that's in your Word the way your grace let me so they can begin to walk with you, first of all, that they can begin to throw themselves at you in their despair and their sin and their sowing rebellion, just like I did, and they can find forgiveness at the cross, just like I did.
I pray that when seeing that you're a God who demonstrates his love for us while we're still sinners, they could then go, "What kind of God is this that he would love me and give his life for me?" and that they would then begin to want to run with you and run to you and be around your people who will encourage them day after day so their lives are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Lord, I pray that tonight in this room and all across the Internet with those who are listening that there would be people who would just go, "Lord, thank you! I'm going to be one of the wise who learns from fools, maybe the fools of my own life. My heart's not going to rage against you. My heart in its brokenness is going to run to you and find forgiveness."
Maybe for the folks who already know you, they're going to run that much more, and they're going to say, "Father, thank you that your desire for me to be a godly son of Adam or a godly daughter of Eve is always going to be greater than my own desire, so Lord, draw me to you. Don't let me miss who you are. Let me trust in you. Let me know the blessing of your way and take away the sorrow of my sluggard rebellious soul." Be gracious to my friends. Show them who you are, Father. In Jesus name, amen.