Proverbial Wisdom

Proverbs 3:5-6, Luke 14:28-33

Summer Requests – FBC Laurens

August 4, 2013

Like many of you this summer, our family recently enjoyed a week of vacation at the beach. The condo where we were staying was 14 stories tall and our unit happened to be on the very top floor. One day as we were exciting the condo, I became mesmerized by a site that quickly caught my eye. What so quickly grabbed my attention was a window washer who was suspended from the very top of the building and who was working his way to the bottom while cleaning all of the exterior windows. This worker was secured by nothing more than two or three ropes and pulleys that were harnessed to a belt at his waste. Beyond those few ropes, there was nothing but air between him and the ground which again was 14 stories below. The more I thought about that window washer, the more I became convinced that he provided a great example of the important balance of faith that I want to call all of us to consider for a few minutes this morning.

Here is what I mean. This worker had struck the perfect balance between precautionary planning and unbelievably courageous faith. On the one hand, he had obviously done everything within his power to be safe. The ropes, pullies and harness around his waist in conjunction with the brace on top of the building as well as his attire and safety helmet had all been carefully set in place and utilized in order that he might do everything in his power to be safe. At the exact same time that he taken the necessary precautions, he had also willingly and knowingly stepped off the top of the building and into thin air. He had placed remarkable trust in the ropes and braces and he had taken the ultimately leap of faith. Again, at least from my perspective, as I watched and actually waved at him when he caught my gaze, he provided the ultimate example of planning and trust coming together and working in tandem with each other.

This, I think, is the wisdom that we find called for in our text from Proverbs today in conjunction with Jesus’ words from the gospels. Each day as we individually and collectively seek to be all that God wants us to be as people of faith and as a church of believers, it seems to me that God calls us to hold these two ideas in tension with each other—careful planning and profound faith—as we seek to be all that God desires for us to be. Indeed, it is when we combine full use of our brains with the deepest beliefs of our souls that God can use us to do remarkable things.

Why do I emphasize this balance? I do so because it seems to me that our tendency is to often run to one extreme or the other rather than holding the two in tension with each other. What I mean by this is that most of us are either naturally precautious or we are naturally courageous and our tendency is to embrace our natural disposition rather than being attentive to both sides of this equation.

For those of us who are naturally precautious, our tendency is to overanalyze things and out think ourselves. We want to turn over every rock, think through every possibility and wrestle with all scenarios. As a result, we tend to hesitate or be so cautious that we struggle with ever actually acting because there is always some other aspect to think through.

For those of us who are naturally courageous, our disposition is to jump in with both feet immediately. For us, we don’t see a need to really think about it or to work through what could happen or how things may turn out. We simply want to get on with it. We just want to embrace the moment and seize the opportunities before us. Our danger is that rather than acting too slowly, we act too quickly without ever really thinking through or considering fully the road that we so quickly have chosen to take.

This is why Proverbs 3 and Luke 14 need each other. We do need to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and, at the very same time, we need to consider the cost. We do need to plan, think through and pray over all that is involved but we also need to ultimately be willing to pull the trigger when the time comes. We do need to be willing to jump but we also must have a sense of where we are going to land when we do. It is not one or the other but it is both working in conjunction with each other that ready us to be all that God wants us to be.

Let me also suggest to us this morning that the proper balance between the wisdom of Proverbs 3 and the sage advice of Luke 14 is not just good guidance for us as individuals it is also wonderful, wonderful advice for us as a church. All churches are made up of folks who drift more towards Proverbs 3 and other people who more eagerly adhere to Luke 14. What happens though is that our diversity in this regard often frustrates us. For those of us who want to take tremendous leaps of faith, we often get impatient with those whom we feel want to overanalyze everything. While at the same time, those of us who want to think through decisions, can quickly become irritated by those who want to do something and get to work without doing the proper due diligence. As a result, what we sometimes fail to see is that the best churches and the best church committees and teams have an equal representation of both. We need people to help us really think through what we feel led to do, and, we need folks to keep calling us to ultimately leave the drawing board behind and put the plan into action. We need thinkers and doers. And again, as individuals, we need to find a way to balance thinking and doing too.

There is a wonderful story about a mountain in the German Alps that has long been a favorite with beginning climbers. Evidently this particular mountain in challenging but not overly so which lends it to being a very good spot for amateurs to try as a way of getting their feet wet. One of the interesting aspects of the mountain is that it has a rest stop at the midway point which is referred to as the “half way house”. It is said, however, that something quiet expected often happens there particularly for those who make the journey up the mountain in the winter time. When the weary climbers reach the half-way house, they suddenly encounter warmth, a comfortable place to sit, hot coffee and good food. The half-way house also has a roaring fire in the winter and beautiful windows providing great views of the valley below and the summit above. Without fail, every group has a few members who never move beyond the half-way house, they reach that halfway point and there they stop. There they spend the rest of the day, while watching as the rest of their group summits the mountain. (C Roy Angell, Baskets of Silver, Broadman Press, 1955, pages 79-81)

This is in a nutshell is what happens for so many of us when it comes to following God. We often reach halfway. We take the profound leap of faith but because we didn’t really think through what we were doing or what was involved, we fail to ever accomplish what it was that God called us to do in the first place. Or, we begin well by thinking, planning, preparing and going over all of the elements in the task that God has called us to,, but unable to actually step out on faith, we never put our plan into action and thus we too only go halfway when it comes to being who and what God wants us to be.

Faith and trust, however, are about doing both. Faith and trust are about using our brain and also letting go and trusting our belief. Not one or the other but both working hand in hand with each other.

Today, what it is that God is calling us as individuals to do? Today, who is God calling us as a church to be? As we listen, may we be faithful to the full work at hand. May we willingly and carefully, tie the ropes, secure our belts and take every necessary precaution. At the same time, when all of the planning and preparing has been done, may we with great courage, look over the edge and take the leap of faith while trusting our Lord every step of the way. Amen.