Good Answer – Pastor Robert’s sermon for Sunday, August 19th

Well, the first verse of our Old Testament scripture reading is a real downer because it tells us of David’s death.   We have been spending a full summer exploring this one man’s life.  I hope that we have learned a lot from this incredible man of faith.  He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was known as man after God’s own heart.

To help remind us of what a great person of faith David was, the author of I Kings gives us a small portion of his obituary.   He tells us, “The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.”

We’re going to conclude our series on the life of David by focusing today and next Sunday on Solomon, David’s son who became the new King of Israel.  And right off the bat, we learn something very important about Solomon.  Like his father, he too wants to be a man after God’s own heart.

While Solomon was dreaming one night, God tells him, “Ask what I should give you.”  I know of a lot of people who would love God to say something like this to them.  I mean, how would you respond if you heard God say this to you?

And Solomon asked God to give him wisdom.  Good answer, Solomon!  Very impressive!   You could have asked for wealth or power or fame, but you chose wisdom.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of an angel who appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.

“Done!” says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a glowing halo of light. After a few seconds, one of his colleagues whispers, “Now that you have been given all of this wisdom, say something wise.”

The dean looks intently at his colleagues gathered around him and says, “I should have taken the money.”

Thankfully, I don’t think that Solomon changed his mind after he asked God to give him wisdom.  Actually, I’m thinking that Solomon already had a lot of wisdom since he chose this over wealth or any other type of selfish request.

And here’s what is really impressive; we are told that he’s a child.  Solomon is already showing that he is beyond his years at a very young age.

Even to this day, we sometimes use or hear the phrase “having the wisdom of Solomon.”  It’s because of this story in the Old Testament.  Jesus even refers to Solomon’s wisdom during his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount.  The words, “Solomon” and “wisdom” are closely associated with each other.

But what kind of wisdom are we talking about?  A little later in our scripture reading, we are told that the Lord will give Solomon an understanding to discern what is right.  Wisdom isn’t just about how much information or knowledge we have.  It’s about what we do with that knowledge.

Knowledge is important.  There are some basic things we need to know to help us make good decisions in life.  And so as a new school year begins, I want to encourage all students out there to study hard, hand in your assignments, follow directions, and be nice to your teacher.  Learning can be a lot of fun.  Make this a great year of school.

Parents and teachers, you can thank me later!

Penny also shared with me of something very simple that parents can do to help their children learn. Research shows that if you read to your child even just fifteen minutes a day throughout the school year, they will vastly expand their vocabulary. And you will have a stronger bond with your child.

It’s a double win by simply reading to your child at least fifteen minutes a day.

Penny tells the story of one of her first years in teaching.  She was a first grade teacher at the time.  She asked the class what was the capital of Mexico which is Mexico City.  One of her eager first graders raised her hand and with a grin on her face said, “The letter, ‘M’ is the capital of Mexico.”

Now that I think about it, I know all the capitals too!  Learning is meant to be fun.

And the same is true as we begin a new fall season of Sunday School classes, bible studies, and small groups.  There is so much for us to learn together right here at First United Methodist Church.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was known to tell his preachers to “read, read, read.”  Wesley also emphasized the importance of education.

He earned the equivalent of a PH.D. while attending Oxford and was fluent in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic.  He loved to read ancient, and classical literature which he freely quoted throughout his life.  Wesley read about the latest information on medicine and would share what he was learning with his friends.Wesley’s emphasis on education is why our country has over a hundred colleges and universities that were started by Methodists.

I think about Jesus and how immersed he was in the scriptures.  As a faithful Jew in the first century, Jesus was able to use his incredible knowledge of the scriptures to help people understand how God had sent him to be the one who would bring salvation to the world.  And the more that we are able to know the stories of the bible, the more that we are going to understand who Jesus is.

So from our Gospel reading that we heard this morning, when Jesus is teaching and telling the crowd that he is “The living bread that has come down from heaven and whoever eats of this bread will live forever,” he’s referring to the Old Testament story of how God provided bread or manna to the people of Israel when they were starving  in the wilderness.

I love when I’m part of a bible study and someone’s eyes light up when they learn something new about their faith.  There is so much more that I have to learn about the bible.  Many times, it’s somebody’s comment or insight that helps me to see the scripture in a new way.

A long time church member came up to me and said, “You know.  I’m really glad that I’ve been part of this bible study.  It’s made me want to know more about the Bible and now I’m reading it every day.”

There’s no doubt that knowledge is an important part of what it means to be wise.  We need to know the biblical stories, we need to be aware of the world around us, and we need to be as informed as possible.  Let’s encourage each other to keep learning and discovering new things about our faith.  That’s an important part of wisdom.

In addition to information and content, wisdom is also about discernment and how we use the knowledge that we have.  That’s really the key in being people who are wise.  We can have all of the knowledge in the world, but unless we use that knowledge in wise and loving ways, it really doesn’t mean a whole lot.  St. Augustine from the 4th century said that all true learning starts with love.

This is why I am so impressed with Solomon’s answer.  He didn’t just want God to give him knowledge.  In verse 9 of our scripture reading, Solomon tells God, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be good stewards of all of the gifts that God has given us which include our finances, our possessions, our gifts, our talents, our relationships, and our minds.  Part of being a good steward with our minds is to allow God to help us to do the most loving and wise thing when faced with a complicated situation.

I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times when I’ve been in church meetings and just when it seemed like there were no good answers or solutions to something we were facing, some very wise person came up with just the right idea.  God has blessed our church with many wise and discerning people.

Someone shared with me about a difficult situation he was facing at work. He was dealing with a customer who was very angry and upset at something that really wasn’t this person’s fault.  Even though he said he was so tempted to get into an argument, he kept calm and didn’t lose his temper.  The situation ended up getting resolved.  God gave this church member the strength to be wise and discerning in that situation.

Life isn’t easy.  We all face what seem to be impossible situations.  We don’t always know which direction to take or how to approach things.  Yogi Berra, the famous baseball player known for his quotes once said.  “When you come to a fork in road, just take it.”  If it was only that simple!

I’m pretty sure that there are many of us here today who have come to a fork in the road.  You’re facing a complex situation and it’s difficult to know what the right thing is to do.  It might be a financial decision or a medical decision or a relationship decision or some other kind of difficult decision that is causing sleepless nights and a lot of anxiety.

Who knows, maybe young Solomon was having one of those tossing and turning nights as he was anxious about being the new King of Israel following his father’s death.  And in the middle of the night, God gave Solomon just what he needed; an understanding mind.

No wonder the Psalmist says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  It’s when we go to the Lord in prayer that we receive the wisdom and the guidance we need.

I sense that there are many of us here today, who like Solomon, are in need of God’s wisdom.  I believe that prayer is an important way for us to receive the wisdom and the guidance that God so much wants to give to us.  As you feel led, I invite you right where you’re seated to bow your heads for a time of prayer.

I don’t know what you might be facing.  Maybe it’s a relationship issue that has you tied up in knots.  Or a financial problem and you don’t know where to turn.  Or you’re worried about finding a job or how to handle a situation at work.  Or maybe you’re getting ready to start school this week and you’re a little nervous about meeting new friends and having a new teacher.

Whatever it is, God invites us in these next few moments to ask for wisdom and discernment in facing these difficult situations.  Let’s just take a minute in silence and listen for God’s voice.  And then I’ll close our time together with a prayer.

(Praying in Silence)

As we continue in prayer, one of the prayers that I turn to whenever I feel lost and in need of God’s wisdom and guidance is the one I’m about to offer now.  May it be a blessing to you and may we all seek God’s wisdom, like Solomon.

“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The Life of David: Good Answer!

Small Group Discussion Questions

I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

August 19, 2018

As we near the conclusion of our summer sermon series on the Life of David, our scripture this week tells us of David’s death. This sad news gives way to the story of David’s son, Solomon who becomes the new King of Israel. God speaks to Solomon one night in a prayer and tells him, “Ask what I should give you.” And of all the things Solomon could have requested, he chose to receive the gift of wisdom. Wisdom is more than simply having a lot of factual knowledge. Wisdom is using good discernment. 

Why do you think the Bible emphasizes the importance of wisdom and discernment?

The Jewish/biblical understanding of wisdom is that every new situation we face in life calls for discernment in how we read and interpret God’s Word. This means that God expects us to pray, to be open to other perspectives, to be aware of our own biases, and be willing to wrestle. In other words, applying wisdom in our lives takes effort on our part!

Share a time when you “wrestled” with what to do when you needed to make a difficult decision. How did your faith help you to use good discernment?

St. Augustine from the 4th century said that all true learning starts with love.

In what ways can we use our knowledge in loving ways?

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism encouraged his preachers to read and grow in their understanding of the scriptures.

As we begin a new school year, this is a great time to have a plan for reading the scriptures as well as other resources that can help us grow in our faith. Share a specific way that God may be calling you to increase in wisdom, knowledge, and discernment.

Our church’s disciple strategy is for each person to have a loving faith, a learning faith, and a living faith. Our church will be offering a bible study this fall. This is a great way to have a “learning faith.”