Teaching Series
Wisdom That Works
Wednesday—Wisdom for Life at the Extreme

Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: Wisdom for Life at the Extreme
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Proverbs 3:9-12 in the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: “Then your barns will be filled to overflowing,  and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:10).

I was home late one night waiting for my wife to get home from a trip. We had just recently changed cable services and I was scanning channels to see where all my favorite networks were when I stumbled upon some religious programming. It was this guy with way too much hairspray sitting behind a desk and talking to the TV camera. On the bottom of the screen was an 800 number and information about how to give to his ministry. I was hooked. I watched for about an hour as this person shared the “Gospel.” His version of the Gospel had to do with a reciprocal relationship with God. If you gave money to his TV ministry, God would take that “seed money” and grow it so that you would have no financial worries anymore. What a deal! I almost called and surrendered my credit card number so I could be blessed too! After all, this pastor was claiming that his TV ministry was leading thousands to Jesus every day!

This, of course, is no different than the pitches of all the multilevel marketing gurus out there. If you believe with your seed money, you will become rich beyond your wildest dreams.

I got curious and did some research on the pastor pitching his TV program. I found that he had his own private jet (for purposes of spreading the Gospel around the world, of course), several mansions in different choice locations, and a fleet of expensive vehicles.

Proverbs says if we honor the Lord with our wealth and with the firstfruits of our crops our “barns will be filled to overflowing” and “our vats will brim over with new wine.”

I would like to remind us all that the Proverbs, indeed the whole Bible, is not prescriptive knowledge, but life-shaping wisdom. God isn’t a Dow Jones generosity ATM machine. We can’t buy His blessings. In fact, I’d like to go as far as to say if you are giving to the Lord with any other motive than a sense of gratitude and a heart moved to bless others, your giving is in vain. Your money still may do good in the world, but your giving will do nothing to bless you and draw you closer to God. Every selfish motive, even giving, is destructive to the soul. 

So give! Give and keep on giving! But do so out of a thankful and joyful spirit.

Recalibrate: Have you ever been tempted to think of God as a tit-for-tat kind of God? In other words, have you ever thought that God will act better towards you if you behave the way He wants you to?

Respond: Pray these words: “Thank you Father for sending your rain on the just and the unjust; for loving sinners and saints.”

Research: Read The Prosperity Gospel, Explained: Why Joel Osteen Believes That Prayer Can Make You Rich by Tara Isabella Burton.

Remember: ““The Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects the child that He likes” (Proverbs 3:12, ICB).

Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.

Here’s an activity for you and your child: Put a plastic cup under the tap and fill it with water. If you are in drought conditions, like we are at the moment, make sure to put the cup in a bucket so the water isn’t wasted. Let your child play with turning the tap on and off. When the cup is full, don’t turn the tap off. Let the water keep running. Watch how the water pours over the side of the cup and fills up the bucket. Watch what happens to the cup when the water reaches the top of the cup. This game is fun because the water is pouring in and out and over. Life and blessings are just like this. Let God's priceless blessings pour into you; don’t miss a drop. Watch as they pour over and out, filling up the spaces you are in and lifting you up as they go.

Has anyone ever told you you were wrong? How did it make you feel? Maybe in school you spelled a word wrong or didn’t do a math problem correctly. I always felt so awful and embarrassed when I got corrected in school. The Bible tells us that we shouldn’t feel bad when God corrects us. Not doing something right can be embarrassing, but when someone corrects us, we learn the right way and that helps us in the future! There are some times when people correct us to make us feel bad about ourselves, but the good news is that when God corrects us, He does it because He loves us! He wants us to do the best we can always!

I remember when I first got into local church ministry and thought everything would be so incredibly easy now that I was a real life pastor! I had just finished college and was making my way in the world knowing that I knew everything there was to know about God and could preach on the entire Bible without missing a beat.

I met the teens at my first church on a Friday night and sat with them in a vespers program as they watched a video. I spent the entire time being critical in my own head thinking how dumb the video was, and how much better I could do this program. And unfortunately, I didn’t keep those thoughts to myself.

The next morning I met with the pastor, the head elder, and the youth leader and told them we wouldn’t be using the videos on Friday anymore. Not only that, but I thought the videos were stupid and did not condone them being shown to the teens ever again. I had been on the job all of twelve hours, and already I was making changes. How responsible of me taking control so early and making my vision for the church known!

Yeah, right . . .

The next words out of the youth leader’s mouth were instructions for me to leave the office and stand outside. The next words after those? Those words he used to tell the pastor to fire me.


“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline . . . ” (Proverbs 3:11)

I wanted to hate the leader, and I wanted to be mad at God for putting me in this church if I wasn’t going to be respected. I wanted to be angry—and so I was. It took a long time for me to get over that experience. It wasn’t until long after I left that I finally reconciled with the leader and with that moment. But I had to first reconcile with the fact that not everything I think is right, not everything I think should be said out loud, and not everything I know is all there is to know. It hurt to be disciplined, but it was a good start to my career in ministry to be reminded that discipline is not the end of the story even if it feels like it sometimes.

What are some ways you’ve been disciplined? How did they make you feel? What did you learn from the experience? And how have you grown since?

One of my favorite movies of all time is Cars. I pretty much have the entire film memorized and I never grow tired of watching it. I mean, what other movie has cars falling in love with each other? In one of the scenes, the main character, Lightning McQueen, is learning how to drive on a dirt track. He is used to racing on paved race tracks and so trying to maneuver around on a dirt track is a brand new concept. As he is rounding a corner, he ends up accidentally driving off track. Then his coach, Doc Hudson, tells him that to successfully make it around the corner, he needs to turn right to go left. Makes no sense, right? But McQueen ends up listening, and after turning right to go left, he makes it safely around the corner.

In God’s Kingdom, things are often upside down. Kind of like how Doc Hudson told McQueen to turn left to go right, God tells us to love those who hurt us. He also says that in order to fully live, we must first die, or if we want to have an abundance of blessings, we should give to Him first. Proverbs 3:10 says that when we give to God first, we will receive an abundant blessing. You might say that as children of God, we are in an upside down kingdom. The way God does life isn’t the way the world does life. In His world, you turn right to go left. But in this strange, upside down kingdom, I think you will find a life unlike anything this world has to offer.

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Emily Ellis is a senior studying theology at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.

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