As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I imagine we would have some interesting answers to that question! Many of us might be still waiting to feel grown up!
We might have all sorts of ideas of what we wanted to be when we grew up. But how about your parents? What were there expectations of you when you grew up? If you are a parent, what are your expectations for your children? Your hopes and dreams and desires for them?
Now not everyone knew their parents, or are able to be parents themselves. But I guess we all know what it’s like for others to have expectations of us in some way. But what are the right expectations to have of a child? What’s a good ambition for us to have for ourselves and others? And what are God’s ambitions for us? What does our good Heavenly Father hope for us his children. We find the answer given to us in Proverbs chapter 23 verse 15:
My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed
Here is a father speaking to his son; quite possibly King Solomon speaking to his family. But in it we hear our Father God speaking to us. What is it that makes God’s heart glad? What is it about his children that makes his inmost being rejoice? It is when we are wise and living a life of wisdom.
The Bible defines wisdom as knowing and walking with God. The fear of God is beginning of wisdom says both Psalms and Proverbs. Fearing God is really about knowing God, recognising his power and staying close to him. The New Testament takes it one step further. Paul, in writing to the Colossians, says that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and found in Jesus. A life of wisdom is a life following Jesus.
I wonder if that is what our parents wanted for us, or what we want above all else for our children? A life of wisdom spent following Jesus. There’s so much that a parent can wish for their child. Health, security, peace. A good education. A fulfilling career. A joyful marriage maybe. But Proverbs tells us to prize wisdom above all else for our children.
And to prize it about all else for ourselves as well. Look back a few verses we read this:
Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12)
Wisdom isn’t just something to wish for a child or for someone else. Wisdom is something we should want for ourselves and actively pursue.
‘Apply your heart to instruction’ is actually a really curious phrase in Hebrew. It really means ‘cause your heart to come into constraints.’ The word for instruction is a word that was used for the restraints that might be put on a horse or wild animal to tame and control them.
So what Proverbs is saying is this: we should be given to wisdom not wildness. We should listen to wisdom not our own will. We should follow Jesus rather than ourselves.
“Follow your heart” isn’t really a Christian idea. Because our hearts can go off on so many different directions, distractions and diversions. Our wills are easily tempted away by shiny things, by the goods of this world rather than the hope of heaven. We are not to follow our heart without restraint, but restrain and re-train our hearts to follow Christ. “Control your heart and follow Jesus” is more the way to go.
Is that our prayer? And our prayer for those we love? For our children if we have them? For family and friends? For church family and close loved ones?