Julius Caesar is the one who said that experience is the best teacher. At least I think he did. I’ll check on that after I finish typing this morning. If I’m wrong, I’ll fix what I wrote. If it’s still here when you’re reading it, then I was right.
That being said, the thing about experience is that she’s a relentless teacher. And the strangest part of being in her class is that she does almost everything in reverse. What I mean is that she tests you on the material before she teaches any of her lessons. I suppose the comfort in this is that if you fail, you don’t get put back a grade, and it’s not necessarily the end of the road. Although, I did see a church sign in Linden last week which read, “If at first you don’t succeed, just make sure it didn’t happen while skydiving.”
Or something like that.
The COVID-19 classroom of experience has been a tough one. We’ve learned a lot from its devilish curriculum. Some of what we’ve learned has actually been good. Just as much of it has been bad. All of it has more than added to the storehouse of knowledge.
While sitting in this particular class, I have to believe that most Christians with any sense for the necessity of God’s Word are likely to have stopped by the Book of Proverbs for a visit sometime during the past few months. I know I’ve found myself there, and I’ve shared some texts I’ve pondered. The Book of Proverbs is filled with important instruction. It’s overflowing with opportunities to meet with experience in ways that will make whatever lesson is being learned something that keeps our hearts and minds where they belong: Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen for the transgressions of the world.
In other words, the point to all of Proverbs’ wisdom is Jesus.
Of course the most essential and thematic verses in Proverbs are the ones I would imagine most Christians know fairly well, texts such as, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7), and “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (2:6). The Church of all ages has known texts like these to be in place to, as I said already, set our hearts in the firm location of faith. But the Church has also known these texts to reveal the pragmatics of faith—or better yet, what faith actually looks like. Having these texts in our pockets as we proceed, our hearts and minds are readied for everything else in the book that follows. Since at the moment I’m thinking on the topic of experience, I know these same texts help us take proper aim at the results experience might bring, helping us to better extrapolate words like:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding… Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (3:5,7).
These holy instructions remind us to trust in the Lord in all things. We shouldn’t be so quick to trust ourselves. We shouldn’t begin by looking inwardly. We should begin by looking to the externals of God’s faithful Word. Don’t trust what you think you know. Go with what God says, even if it is counter to your understanding. Hearing such things, at least for me personally, gives texts like the following some uncomfortable traction:
“Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools” (14:33).
Wisdom is made known in the midst of fools. Fools will prove their foolishness by scoffing at Godly wisdom. They’ll despise it. They’ll actually move in active opposition to it. Seven verses into the very first chapter of the Book of Proverbs, the stage is already set for us to expect this.
Of course these days, according to the Sin-nature, we’re all proving just how hard it is to trust God before we trust ourselves. At one point or another throughout the COVID-19 ordeal, we’ve all demonstrated just how easy it is to align with foolishness. Still, God’s Word remains the same as it meets with our experiences and the lessons learned throughout. In all of it, He continues to offer the clarion call to trust Him no matter what. “Don’t be a fool,” He says to the Christian. “You already know by my Word that I’m trustworthy.” In tandem with His powerful Word, He urges this trust knowing you’re already more than capable of matching that Word to plenty of moments in your own life proving His dependability. Thirty seconds alone to think, even with a migraine, and I can come up with plenty.
God has never let me down.
Having those experiences in mind, we have a far better perspective on His countless mandates to be with Him in worship—in person, together with other Christians—to receive His holy gifts of Word and Sacrament. While it might not make sense to our Governor, it makes perfect sense to us. And with this knowledge, we can easily know and accept that apart from natural incapacity (which is to say we’re a shut-in), nothing should keep us away, and anyone or anything confessing otherwise is claiming a level of trustworthiness above God and is in alignment with foolishness.
In particular, Hebrews 10:19-31 reveals such obstacles—human or not, real or imagined—will be judged accordingly.
In the meantime, we simply take God at His Word, knowing it is immutable. He knew what He was saying when He spoke. He knew the situations we’d be in. He knows everything, sees everything, and yet is above everything. He gives us the promise that He’s working for the good of those who love and trust Him by faith. He’s not even remotely interested in allowing anything into our lives that would keep us from Him. He’s actively seeking us, and with the fullest measure of His divine heart, is wanting us to look to Him as the better bet in every situation.
Every. Single. Situation.
My prayer today is one of hopeful thanksgiving for the Christians who know and believe this. But also, my prayer is that if you somehow missed it before, you won’t miss it now—and I suppose I should add that if you don’t feel comfortable worshipping at Our Savior, I’m very near the edge of begging you to go somewhere you do, that is, if you can find a place that’s actually open. You need to be fed. You shouldn’t stay away from the Lord’s gifts for you. When the feast is both bountiful and available, a starved soul is an unnecessary tragedy.
Remember, no poison can be in the cup the divine Physician sends. Do you believe this? I sure do. I hope you do, too.