Introduction: One tip I share with young pastors is that sermons need
to be filled with stories. This may seem illogical. If you have 20-30
minutes for a sermon, you need to pack in as much “meat” as possible,
and avoid the fluff, right? Wrong! I recall one preacher who went
from Bible text to Bible text to pound out his points. Not an ounce
of “fat” in his sermon. But, an hour later, no one could recall what
he said. If his sermon was heard, it did not stick. Stories make
people listen and make your points stick. Remembering a point helps
it to shape your decisions. Jesus demonstrated this with His
parables. Listening is the starting point for our study this week
about making right decisions, so let’s jump right into our study of
the Bible!

  1. Paying Attention and Health

    1. Read Proverbs 4:20. What is the most important thing about
      speaking? (Having someone “pay attention.”)

      1. Do you think this is easier today then it was when
        you were a young person? (These days video and smart
        phones are real competition for paying attention.)

    2. Read Proverbs 4:21. What is the next important thing about
      speaking? (Having your words remembered. Putting your
      words into practice.)

    3. I recall a study finding that the attention span of jurors
      is seven minutes. Imagine that! In a strange setting, a
      courtroom, when lives or property turn on your decision,
      and your attention span is only seven minutes! Imagine
      what it is in church. I’ve mentioned stories, what else
      might you do to promote paying attention to your words?
      (In both my Bible and law school classes I move around a
      lot when I teach. Asking a lot of questions, audience
      participation, humor, and visual aids are all part of my
      strategy of keeping the audience focused. You may have
      noticed that a great deal of the Bible consists of

    4. Read Proverbs 4:22. On the face of it this is an odd
      statement. You want others to learn from you, yet the
      outcome has to do with life and health. Are you teaching
      about nutrition? (Recall that the subject is God’s wisdom.
      Following God’s plan for your life promotes longevity (see
      Proverbs 3:1-2) and better health (see Proverbs 3:7-8).)

      1. When Proverbs 4:22 promises “health to a one’s whole
        body,” do you think this includes mental health?

    5. Read Proverbs 1:1, Ecclesiastes 9:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:9.
      Proverbs tells us that Solomon was the writer/editor of
      the Proverbs. Do these texts in Ecclesiastes sound like
      they were written by someone with perfect mental health?
      (My reading of Solomon’s writings make me think he
      suffered from depression. Ecclesiastes 9:5 is often cited
      regarding the state of the dead, but that makes no sense
      to me because the next phrase is that the dead “have no
      further reward.” No Christian who believes in heaven
      thinks the dead in Jesus have “no further reward.” This
      is the statement of a depressed man.)

      1. If I’m correct that King Solomon suffered from
        depression, what does this say about Solomon’s
        statement that wisdom gives “health to a man’s whole
        body?” (This gives his words more credibility. A
        person suffering from depression would understand the
        advantage of following God’s wisdom. We know Solomon
        did not always follow his own advice. Thus, he
        understood how following God’s way helps us deal with
        health issues.)

    6. Read Proverbs 4:23-25. When you are hearing words of
      wisdom and trying to put them into action, what should you
      be doing at the same time? (You need to take some
      defensive actions. You need to guard what comes into your
      mind (your heart). This has to do with what you see, what
      you have as your goals, and what you say.)

  2. Fidelity and Prosperity

    1. Read Proverbs 5:1-4. Why do people have sex outside of
      marriage? (We like honey. These verses suggest an

      1. Why is “smooth speech” part of it? I doubt most
        people who have affairs do so because of public
        speaking skills! (I think most people have affairs
        because of ego. It is a great compliment that someone
        other than your spouse is attracted to you. That is
        where “smooth speech” is relevant.)

      2. What is at the end of the honey and ego boost?

      3. What do you think is meant by the double-edged sword?
        (The one with whom you have an affair hurts you.)

    2. Read Proverbs 5:7-8. What is the practical advice for
      avoiding an affair? (Don’t go near, stay away.)

      1. Is that the reaction of most people? (You like the
        honey, you like the ego boost, so the natural heart
        gets as close as possible thinking that danger can be

    3. Read Proverbs 5:9-10. How does this fate fit with the idea
      of an ego boost? (Just the opposite occurs. You lose your
      honor, your dignity, and your wealth.)

      1. Is Solomon just making this up, or does this match
        your perception of reality?

    4. Read Proverbs 5:15-18. This is an interesting word
      picture. What does water bring? (Life. Intercourse brings
      life. The idea is that sexual intercourse is something
      special between a husband and wife.)

      1. My wife (I’ve been married over forty years),
        regularly points out women whose husbands left them
        when the wife was in her 50’s. These men did not
        rejoice in the wife of their youth. Why not?
        (Generally, they find a more youthful wife. This is
        the “honey” aspect of things. The Bible says it turns
        to gall. Perhaps the gall comes when the new wife
        realizes she is married to an old man! Couples who
        have been married for a long time realize the
        enduring joy in the relationship – at least that is
        the goal.)

  3. Prudence and Money

    1. Read Proverbs 6:1-2. What is the problem? (You have made a
      performance promise for your friend or neighbor. A common
      example would be co-signing on a loan for a friend.)

    2. Read Proverbs 6:3-5. What is the solution to this kind of
      problem? (Don’t do it in the first place!)

      1. What if you already did it? What is verse 3 telling
        us when it says “give your neighbor no rest?” (You
        need to hound the one who you agreed to support to
        make sure that he performs the obligation. The
        friend needs to be hounded to pay off the loan.)

      2. What other solution does this text give us? (To act
        quickly. Be prompt about addressing this problem.)

    3. Read Proverbs 6:6-7. Who is counseled to consider the ant?
      (The lazy person.)

      1. Why does the text point out that the ant has no
        ruler? (The ant is a “self-starter.” He does not need
        someone to urge him to work.)

        1. Do you think these verses say anything about
          God’s preferred form of government? (It tells
          us that success in work does not depend on
          government intervention.)

    4. Read Proverbs 6:8. Why is it important for the ant to
      gather and store in summer and the harvest? (When the work
      is there, when it is available, the ant does what is

      1. What is the lesson for us? (Don’t procrastinate.)

    5. Read Proverbs 6:9-11. I recently read a study that found
      that Americans do not sleep enough. Should those in
      America reading this text pat themselves on the back?

      1. Why is sleep like an armed robber? (Laziness will
        deprive you of things – just like a robber. Despite
        the sleep statistics, this is a caution about putting
        off work. If you get into that mind set, then poverty
        is an issue.)

      2. We just finished a study of James, where James has
        some cutting things to say about the rich. While
        Americans may not be getting enough sleep, a 2013
        study shows that only 58.6% are working. What does
        this suggest about the source of poverty? (People
        need to look at the ant and to work when they can.)

    6. Friend, we have covered a lot of ground! What is our
      lesson in one sentence? Listen to God, put His words in
      effect, and you will enjoy health, have a better marriage,
      and have more money. Will you take this path to success?

  4. Next week: A Matter of Life and Death.