Most people don’t expect to strike it rich by pursuing wisdom but that’s God’s promise:
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! (Proverbs 16:16)
Pastors work the mines of wisdom day in and day out without realizing just how rich we’re getting. Studying, contemplating, and applying Scripture as we do takes us deep into the treasures of God in Christ. What’s more, as both Solomon and Lady Wisdom insist, listening to wise instruction warns us away from the whispers and waggling finger of Folly. Pastors pocket that wisdom not only from our own experience but from all the people we’ve shepherded.
Proverbs was written to keep us out of trouble and to persuade us that the virtuous life will be richly rewarded. That’s what makes wisdom such a treasure. But the motherlode of wisdom is actually easy to miss.
Some years ago while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I was walking a gravel road along a little stream called French Creek in the shadow of Calamity Peak. I noticed a fading wooden sign mostly obscured by the tall weeds. It said, “On this spot gold was discovered in 1874….” Seemed like a very unlikely spot to strike gold. Wisdom has a spot like that.
My preaching hero is Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910). In one of his last sermons, “The Collapse of Self-Confidence,” based on Jesus’ warning to Peter in John 13:38, Maclaren said, “We may be the stronger for our sins, not because sin strengthens, for it weakens, but because God restores. It is possible that we may build a fairer structure on the ruins of our old selves. It is possible that we may turn every field of defeat into a field of victory.”
I learned the workings and wonder of God’s grace from Scripture but I felt his grace when my sin weighed heavily on me. I crouched in hiding and when I finally came out to face God, not at all boldly, I remember being bewildered by his embrace. I felt, not the frown of God, but his welcoming smile. It was disorienting. I was the prodigal yet the Father ran to meet me. He threw his arms around me, kissed me, and celebrated my repentance. It’s happened more than once, I assure you.
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom I wonder if his grace is its destination? When we first think about it, wisdom seems like a virtue far removed from grace. Live wisely and you won’t need grace. But that’s crazy talk. Understanding the Holy One leads inexorably to his forgiveness, restoration and life in Jesus Christ. The fear of the Lord leads us to his mercy.
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
To find God’s mercy in our own need is to find the motherlode of wisdom. That, in turn, becomes the treasure we dispense. It isn’t just the lost who need it either; God’s people never get enough of grace. We are God’s philanthropists, and the more of his grace that we distribute in Jesus’ name, the richer we become! In all this generous work to which God has called us, we seldom realize what a nest egg we are accumulating.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV)
Be ye glad!
Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He is the author of Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything and Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers), as well as being a frequent contributor to Preaching Today and CT Pastors. To learn more about his Pastors' Gatherings visit www.leeeclov.com.