THINK: Are you a wise guy-or girl, as it were? What does it mean to be wise? Is it just a matter of knowing a lot of stuff? People often confuse knowledge with wisdom. While both are important, one doesn't necessarily lead to the other. For instance, you may know the statistics of seat belt use. You may understand that wearing a seat belt will reduce your chances of suffering serious injuries in an automobile accident. But you exercise wisdom in choosing to wear your seat belt. The same principle applies in our spiritual lives. You can learn about the Bible. But when you honor God, obey His instructions, and follow Jesus' example, you demonstrate true wisdom.
RESPOND: What is a Biblical proverb, what purpose does it serve, and how can it benefit you (1:1-7)? (See 1:1 first note.) What's the difference between knowledge and wisdom? (See 1:2 note.) How is it possible to have a lot of knowledge but very little wisdom? How are wisdom and discipline related (1:2-3)? What does it mean that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge"? (See 1:7 note.) Why is it typically smart to listen to parental instruction and advice (1:8)? In what ways do people entice you to sin? (See 1:10 note.) In these situations, what must you keep in mind and how should you respond? (See 1:10 note.) What eventually happens to those who gain wealth and influence by ungodly means (1:19)? How can you "store up" God's commands, and what will this do for you? (See 2:1 note.) In what ways can you pursue and "search for" wisdom (2:1-4), and what must you do when you find it? (See 2:3 note.) Where does wisdom come from (2:6)? In what ways can wisdom protect and even save you (cf. 2:11-12,16)? What are some of the primary benefits of gaining wisdom? (See 2:20 note.)
PRAY: Ask God to give you His wisdom and insight as you study His Word. Pray for the discipline and discernment to apply His teaching and make wise decisions.
ACT: Use wisdom in all you do, relying on God for guidance and using good judgment to make the best decision in each situation. Apply the knowledge God has already given you in areas where you've tended to do your own thing.
THINK: Who's the wisest person you know - not the smartest, cleverest or most creative - but the most insightfully practical person from a godly, spiritual standpoint? How did this person become wise? Was he or she born that way? Did they go to good schools? Ultimately, true wisdom comes from a personal relationship with God and deep devotion to His Word. It comes as a person begins to see things from God's perspective. However, attaining such wisdom isn't easy. It comes to those who pay the price of learning difficult lessons. And yet, knowledge - even about God and His purposes - doesn't become wisdom unless you apply it - even when it's extremely challenging. Only as you live what you learn from God do you begin to understand what it means to know and follow Him.
RESPOND: How can you keep from forgetting God's teachings (3:1)? (See 2:1 note.) In what ways can following God's commands bring prosperity? (See 3:2 note.) How will love and faithfulness bring "favor and a good name in the sight of God and man" (3:3-4)? What does it mean to "trust in the LORD with all your heart" (3:5), and why is this better than relying on your own understanding? (See 3:5 notes.) What does it mean to acknowledge God in all your ways, and how will this "make your paths straight" (See 3:6 note.) How can you "honor the LORD with your wealth"? (See 3:9 note.) Why and in what ways does God discipline those He loves? (See 3:11-12 note.) Why is wisdom better than wealth? (See 3:16 note.) How can good judgment and discernment keep you safe (3:21-24)? (See 3:23 note.) Why is it important to diligently pursue wisdom? (See 4:5 note.) According to chapter 4, what are the primary avenues for gaining wisdom? (See 4:5 note, subpoints 1-3.) In what ways does wisdom bring life? (See 4:13 note.) What does it mean to "guard your heart" (4:23), and why is it important "above all else"? (See 4:23 note.)
PRAY: Pray that you'll rely on God rather than on your own understanding. Also, ask God to help you guard your heart to ensure that what comes in and goes out pleases Him and promotes spiritual growth-yours and others'.
ACT: Be careful what you allow into your heart. Guard what you watch, listen to, read, think about and talk about. All those senses are ways that images and ideas embed themselves in your heart and affect the type of person you become. Using wisdom about what you see, hear, say and do adds strength and stability to your spiritual life and keeps God's favor on your efforts.