Sunday 12 September 2021: Education Sunday
Trusting God and the people of God
Context: a Pentecostal church in South East London with a significant student population and young professionals
Aim: to encourage the congregation to trust God and the people of God for guidance and direction
Most of the children went back to school last week; and students are making their way back to university after a year or more of lockdown and limited face-to-face teaching. Of course, some of you will be going off to university for the first time. We hope and pray that you have a good experience. And for those who have decided that university is not for them; or that they will postpone it for a while; it is our prayer that you continue to trust that God will lead and direct you. We always encourage students to take their studies seriously; to honour God in this way.
The reading for Education Sunday is a popular one, especially verses 5-6. It is one of my daughter’s favourite passages. I remember when she was doing her 11-Plus, these two verses were plastered on her wardrobe in bold. She kept them there for years, believing that God would guide her in her studies. Even though she failed the 11-Plus, she went on to achieve a First-Class degree and then an MA from Oxford University.
The writer reminds us that we should ‘trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding’ and to ‘acknowledge’ God in everything we do. This is quite a challenge, for it speaks of a dynamic partnership between us and God.
This morning, I want to share briefly with you three things we can learn from this portion of the Wisdom literature. Whether it’s about career choices, courses to study, or relationships, we all need wisdom and guidance for life – intelligent living – and Proverbs, along with other Old Testament Wisdom literature, is replete with polished apothegms. These are tried and tested maxims to help with the proper governance of life and ordering of our desires. Indeed, this kind of biblical genre should be seen as the philosophical literature of the Hebrews, identifying the blessings of wisdom with the knowledge of God and our desire to serve him and keep his commandments.
Firstly, I want to suggest that you can only really trust ‘God with all your heart’ if you have a relationship with God – if you have given your heart to God. This is foundational, for it speaks of our love of God and our genuine desire to serve him and his purposes. When we have a relationship with God, it means that we try to love him in the way we are reminded to in Deuteronomy 6:5: ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’ I believe this kind of love and relationship with God leads to the kind of trust that is ‘wholehearted’, as one translation (The Jerusalem Bible) puts it.
Secondly, I want to say something about reliance here. Of course, we should rely upon God to lead and guide us; we should be ‘confident in the Lord’ (Amplified Bible), believing that he will ‘direct thy paths’ if we have a relationship with him and truly acknowledge him in everything we do. However, I want to suggest that we do not think of this as a solitary exercise. God has placed us in the body of Christ, among people who have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Sometimes it is through them also that God will lead and direct you. We have so many brothers and sisters among us who are highly skilled and trained in diverse professions and vocations. Talk to them, run things by them and listen to the wisdom and counsel God may be giving you through them. And don’t be surprised if you encounter wisdom and guidance in unexpected places, among non-Christians. John Calvin in his ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ reminds us that all truth is God’s truth, recognizing that the ‘admirable light of truth’ displayed in secular authors, ‘though fallen,’ is a gift from God. The secret here is, as the passage later states, ‘not to congratulate yourself on your own wisdom’ (Proverbs 3:7). The search for guidance and wisdom is a corporate endeavour: God, you, and others.
This leads me to my final point: our response. In this corporate endeavour, this partnership, you must play your part. You have to trust God; rely upon him and others; to help you make the right decisions. But you have to study and work hard to get the grades you desire. We used to tell our children, ‘God does not want you to be a slave to books, but he does want you to be a conscientious student.’
And even when you work hard and you don’t get the grades, you must still trust God, believing that it will be well with you – that in his sovereignty ‘all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans.8:28).
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