Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Goal Worth Pursuing for a Month – or More

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet? Have you broken any yet? Perhaps, if you’re like me, you formulate goals for the new year instead. I much prefer goals over resolutions, since once they’ve been broken, resolutions are done. Finis. Kaput. Finito. Goals, however, can be ongoing – works in progress.

If you’ve procrastinated and are still in the process of goal-setting or resolution-making for this year, I have a suggestion: How about aiming to read one chapter of Proverbs, the number of which matches the day’s date, for a month? Better yet, for at least two months? 

By doing that – for instance reading chapter 1 of Proverbs on Jan. 1, the second chapter on Jan. 2, and so on – you’ll be reading the entire book from the Bible twice. I guarantee, you’ll discover a fountain of wisdom that might leave you in amazement.

While writing this, I was reading through the 17th chapter of Proverbs. It was filled with pithy statements that are deserving of being taken to heart and letting them guide our thoughts and actions. Here are some examples:

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). Living in an environment with continuous conflict does more than unsettle one’s stomach. It would probably be better having humble provisions with tranquility than to possess lavish provisions amid great turmoil.

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3). Just as precious metals are refined by intense heat, sometimes God turns up the “heat” of our circumstances not only to see what’s in our hearts (innermost motivations), but also to shape them into what He desires for them to be.

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children” (Proverbs 17:6). This gives us a double-pronged view, noting the joy grandparents can feel once their own children have grown and they can enjoy the next generation of offspring. At the same time, the godly influence of parents who have espoused lofty virtues but strived to live up to them leaves an indelible impact.

“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9). When we were kids, no one liked a tattletale. This holds true even for our adult years, when we confront the temptation to talk negatively about others even to the point of tearing them down in the presence of others.

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14). We live in a time when everyone seems eager to give a piece of their mind they can’t afford to lose. Arguments seldom resolve problems, so a calm spirit and well-controlled tongue can do wonders for preserving the peace.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). We hear so much about social media “friends,” as well as people whose friendships are restricted to certain activities. It’s a true blessing to have genuine friends we can count on during tough times as well as happy times.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). The problem with everyday life is that it’s so…daily. It can be discouraging and disheartening, especially when hopes, dreams and aspirations remain out of reach. Rather than adding to the gloom, we can do others a good service by offering words to encourage and uplift them.

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28). As someone has observed, it’s better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Words well-chosen and used with discretion are preferable to abundant words without substance.

These are just eight of the verses from a single chapter. And every chapter of Proverbs is packed with similar wisdom. If you’ve never tried it, I’d recommend reading one chapter from this book every day for a month. Then repeat the process for a second month. You might decide to make it a habit.

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