Survivor Series: The Fork In The Road
There is a point where everyone comes to a fork in the road of life. We all have asked ourselves, do I choose the high road or the low road? Do I take the wide path or the narrow path? Do I take the road less traveled or follow the footsteps of the masses? Since the beginning of the ages, Wisdom has called out, “turn to me and embrace my way,” even as the siren call of the foolish and crooked beckon seductively. This is the fork in the road.
We embark on an eight-week journey through the Book of Proverbs and I could not be more delighted. I have found Proverbs to be so impactful I have often thought of writing a book on leadership and management based on the book of Proverbs. So, I am anticipating insights into living, pathways for successful relationships and warnings of life’s pitfalls.
As we apply Proverbs, I see this as the contrast between surviving and thriving. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines survive as follows: (intransitive verb) 1 - to remain alive or in existence: live on; 2 - to continue to function or prosper. The same dictionary defines thrive as: (intransitive verb) 1 - to grow vigorously: flourish; 2 - to gain in wealth or possessions: prosper; 3 - to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances. I believe this is what all of us desire in life – to flourish and grow, to prosper and reach our goals even in the face of adversity. We do not want merely to exist and call it a day. As Christ-followers Proverbs can direct us there.
It starts with the choice. Pastor Ed remarked we must make the decision to acquire wisdom. Then embrace life principles to live by, not merely rules to mindlessly check off. And as circumstances that surround us ebb and flow, make wise adjustments. A great place to start is, as Ed mentioned, read one chapter of Proverbs a day using the corresponding day of the week to match the chapter number. Thus, today is April 23 so read Proverbs chapter 23. This is a practice I have maintained for over 45 years. I cannot count the ways it has changed and improved me. God has a way of using Proverbs in very personal applications. Allow me to share a very important one.
In verse 27 of my favorite chapter of Proverbs, Chapter 3, reads: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Using these words, The Holy Spirit unleashed in me the understanding and motivation to be different in all my relationships, especially with my family. So many times in my relationships I neglected to express words of gratitude, appreciation, encouragement or compliment when I so easily could have done so. It is a universal truth that we thrive when given positive input or feedback. And without it we merely survive the day. I was struck with the truth that I had been withholding good with many that I loved dearly or worked with closely. So now, when the opportunity comes, I seek to say thanks, or appreciate a good job or deed, or express encouragement and compliment. It has extended to all daily contacts and not just the folks I am close to. I no longer want to withhold “good.” You may be thinking what if the person is not one to whom it is due. In response, simply put, because of Jesus Christ, I do it anyway since even when I was undeserving, He died for me. Please understand I fail often in this but at least once a month, I am reminded of this truth because every month has a third day and day three means Proverbs Chapter 3.
True story: I was on my way home from meetings in Washington DC and arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbour airport to transfer to my connection to Fresno. It was the last flight to Fresno that day but we arrived on time with plenty of room to make the connection. To my surprise when I reached the boarding gate, my flight had been canceled and I was directed to the ticketing desk on the next level. The prospect of not being able to get home that night was frustrating and when I learned the cancellation was caused by the flight crew needing to sleep it was simply ridiculously irritating. I couldn’t understand why the airline could not plan better for schedules or have a backup crew ready for this. Fuming, I walked to the ticketing desk and upon arrival, I saw lines of angry people accosting several airline ticketing agents. Apparently, my flight was not the only one that was canceled. As I waited in line, person after person venomously complained and angrily voiced their opinion. I was astonished at the level of animosity. I cannot say everyone was like that but from where I stood, it sure seemed that way. In a Holy Spirit prompted moment when it was my turn, I smiled as sincerely and said, “Wow, this is really crazy for you. I am so sorry you have to listen to all of this when none of this was your fault. Thank you for helping me. I am trying to go home to Fresno.” (Not withholding good . . . when it is in your power to do it) She smiled back and sighed and said it’s been a long night. We talked a bit more about travel and our families as she worked on the computer. Finally, she said there are no other flights to Fresno but she booked me on the first flight out in the morning. With a little gleam in her eyes, she said, “kindness has its dividends.” With that, she directed me to the closed Burger King since they had padded bench seats around the perimeter of the eating area and I could lay flat for the next several hours instead of trying to sleep sitting up and set me up in the seat with the most legroom on the small commuter jet. With my special boarding pass, I was the first on and on arrival in Fresno, the first off and without cramped legs. I just didn’t survive that flight home, I thrived.
I look forward to what we will learn in the upcoming weeks. I am certain you will gain immense knowledge, guidance, practical truths, and instruction for a successful life while avoiding many calamities of life during these weeks when we delve into the truths of Proverbs together. Bring it on Pastor Ed!