Saturday, July 9, 2016

"A good name is more desirable than riches …"

Day #192

Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 22 …

How would those who know you best describe you?  I'm not talking about those who may have thought they knew you and who judge you based on their own misperceptions.  We all have people who judge our character and if asked to give a reference would be anything but positive.  There will always be some who cast doubt on your reputation … if you remember, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles all had their detractors - those who said negative things about them.  But those who are close to you, who have a close-up view not only of your actions, but of your heart … these have an important place in helping you discover who you really are.  It is good to listen to what they have to say because "a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (22:1).

People in the world like to hand out awards, and many people are always seeking awards of one kind or another.  It makes some people feel good to be recognized.  The world of entertainment thrives on such recognition, whether TV, movies, sports or some other forum, it seems that everyone is searching for their fifteen minutes of fame.  As we continue to read through Solomon's proverbs it is important that you understand the reason behind so many of Solomon's "sayings."  These are truths from God that when applied to life help you to see what is important to GOD … and as you do that, you find that the things that count in the world are of little or no consequence to God.

God cares about your character … who you ARE!  Solomon explains why a good name is more desirable than great riches when he says in verse 2:  "Rich and poor have this in common; the LORD is the Maker of them all."  God is not impressed by what you have or don't have.  "Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life" - from GOD!! (22:4).  In the end, it is GOD who gives out awards!!  Remember Paul's words to Timothy:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  And now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the LORD, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day" (II Timothy 4:7-8).  GOD determines who has a "good name," and who doesn't, and the only name that matters is "disciple of Jesus!"

In the church today so many take some other name on them and think that marks who they are, but our identity is found only in Jesus Christ and knowing that we have taken HIS name upon us.  In baptism we are baptized into the name of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus said that we should be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Your name and mine mean nothing if we are not attached to the VINE (John 15:5).  As you read through the rest of Proverbs 22, God's instructions are intended to help you and me think about our "name," our reputation.  How does your life look to those who observe it?  Do your words and actions line up with who you SAY you are?

Verse 6 is one of those verses that everybody knows but most don't know where to find it:  "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  What do you want your children to be known for?  Solomon's proverbs are for those who desire wisdom, and wisdom requires instruction.  If you find someone who thinks they "know it all," beware!  Our society often scorns wisdom passed from one generation to another, but Solomon writes, "Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your fathers" (22:28).  Not all things from the past are bad and not all new things are good.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words long ago, "This is what the LORD says:  'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls'" (Jeremiah 6:16).  When God says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it," that was true 3,000 years ago and it is true today!  When God says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him," that was true then, and it is true now!  When God says, "A generous man will himself be blessed" (22:9) and "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend" (22:11), those principles still apply to our lives and the lives of others today.

You can go through the entire book of Proverbs and separate the sayings into things that give you a good name (in God's sight) and things that don't.  "Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach … so that your trust may be in the LORD!" (22:17,19).  God desires that you live in such a way that you have a good name in HIS sight, so that HE will have a good name through you in the eyes of those around you.  Peter writes it this way, inspired by the same Spirit who moved Solomon to write Proverbs:

"Dear friends (fellow-believers), I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us" (I Peter 2:11-12).  That's another way of saying what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:  "You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before men, that they may see YOUR good deeds and praise your FATHER in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-14, 16).

As a believer, as a follower of Christ, your good name is wrapped up in God's good name.  "Your Name and renown are the desire of our hearts" (Isaiah 26:8).  Listen to the sayings of the wise and put them into practice and God will help you to make a good name for yourself … and for Him!!

"Heavenly Father, You have given me life and breath, and You have transformed my heart and mind to seek Your face, to know Your will and to obey Your Word.  Forgive my sins, for the sake of Your great Name, and fill me, Father, with Your Spirit, empowering me to discern that which is good and right in YOUR eyes and to stay away from those who do evil.  Help me to resist temptation and to find in glorifying You and exalting Your Name my greatest joy!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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