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Growing In Character Through The Proverbs

A systematic approach to applying the wisdom of Proverbs to daily life

The book of Proverbs is a 31-chapter catalog of short, pithy statements revealing God’s perspective on daily life. You'll find maxims on everything from keeping a lid on your temper to the side effects of drinking too much. Proverbs also comments extensively on relationships, mentioning more than 180 different kinds of people.

The study that follows is a systematic approach to examining Proverbs chapter by chapter. It will prompt you to look for several different kinds of content and spur you to think more deeply about the daily contexts in which they're applied. This study uses nine words to help you to observe the text from different points of view.

These key words serve the same purpose as a metal detector: They enable you to locate treasure that’s buried just beneath the surface of the biblical soil. Let’s take a look at each word and illustrate the process using Proverbs 15.

Communication

Start your devotional time with a moment of communication with the Lord. Ask Him to increase your powers of observation and to show you how the verses in the chapter relate to your life. Make the psalmist’s prayer your own: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" (Ps. 119:18). When you finish praying, read the proverb that corresponds with the day of the month.

Home

Home is one of the primary contexts in which we apply biblical truth to our lives. As you read a chapter, try to link its content to situations around the house. Does a verse make you think of your relationship with your spouse, roommate, or one of your children? Many of the passages in Proverbs could be applied to your home life. To keep from getting bogged down, look for one verse that gives insight relevant to your life at the moment.

As I read Proverbs 15, I pondered this question: Which verse speaks loudest to the things I'm currently experiencing at home? God’s Spirit directed my attention to verse 1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." I recalled a recent incident in which I had reprimanded my two sons for arguing, using harsh words of my own. What an example! I had yelled at them for yelling at each other. I quickly saw a connection between this verse and my experience. It nudged me to confess my outburst to the Lord and to apologize to the boys.

Attitudes

An attitude is a feeling or internal reaction we have toward a person or circumstance. Terms such as humble, joyous, teachable, pessimistic, and thankful describe a few attitudes. As you read each chapter of Proverbs, consider these questions:

  • What attitudes does the text compliment?
  • What attitudes does it censure?

These questions made me sensitive to Prov. 15:31: "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise." This verse exalts a teachable spirit—a willingness to learn from others. The Lord reminded me of how valuable feedback can be, even if it seems painful at times. He doesn't ask me to agree with everyone, but He does expect me to listen and consider what has been said.

Relationships

Relationships are one of the most common subjects in Proverbs. What connections do you see between the chapter and your relationships outside your home? Each chapter may speak to the way you relate to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even your enemies. Does one verse prick your conscience and convict you to make specific changes in the way you're relating to someone?

When I viewed Proverbs 15 with relationships in mind, I stopped at verse 22: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." I had been wrestling with a decision for days but couldn't sort through the issues to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This verse convicted me about my solo effort to make the decision and prodded me to make an appointment with a close friend to talk about it. His input clarified my alternatives and helped me work through my fuzzy thinking.

Actions

Some proverbs refer to behavior patterns that God either applauds or denounces. In each chapter, try to pinpoint one behavior that God wants you to implement or curb. However, don't compile a long list of action plans from each chapter. When we try to make many changes at once, we'll likely overload our capacity and fail to make meaningful changes, resulting in frustration instead of increased obedience.

Sometimes the action we need to take will be related to one of the other observations we’ve already made in the study. For example, the Home phase of the study had already convicted me about speaking harshly with my boys. A few minutes later, as I meditated on the chapter in light of my actions, God reminded me again to apologize to my kids later in the day. Two steps in this study worked in tandem to move me toward one concrete action.

Consequences

Other passages in Proverbs describe the positive or negative consequences of a particular course of action. They cause us to consider the ramifications of our decisions, motivating us to discard unwise behaviors.

Proverbs 15:25 warned me about the damaging consequences of pride: "The Lord tears down the proud man’s house." This verse reminded me of a similar passage I had previously memorized: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). After reflecting on these verses, I thanked the Lord once again for the success of a seminar I had just led. These proverbs reminded me of how dangerous it is to accept the credit that the Lord deserves.

Tongue

Over 100 verses in Proverbs talk about the tongue. Identifying these verses will help you understand God’s "philosophy of conversation." These verses describe both conversational sins and ways to minister to others with our words.

When I focused on the subject of speech, verse 23 grabbed my attention: "A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!" Providing an apt answer or a timely word requires a listening posture. I asked the Lord to help me overcome a tendency to interrupt others during conversation.

Expression

The word expression refers to something we voice or convey to others. We express our faith when we witness to an unbeliever, lead a Bible study, or share a truth that has impacted our lives.

As you probe the proverbs, pick out a truth to express to someone else. Did a verse encourage you? Did the Holy Spirit expose a problem that you need to discuss with a friend? Did something remind you of a wayward friend who needs your loving reproof? Ask the Lord for an appropriate opportunity to express something you learned in the chapter.

Remembrance

Which maxim from the chapter challenged you the most or left the biggest impression on your conscience? Spend some time meditating on that verse and committing it to memory. Memorization gives the Holy Spirit fuel to work with throughout the day and increases the likelihood of applying biblical truth to your life. The verses you’ve already identified in your study are strong candidates for memorization.

Since the Lord had used Prov. 15:1 to convict me of my rude tone of voice around the house, I decided to memorize it. Now when I'm tempted to overreact during a clash, I recall that verse’s words: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." These memorized words spur me to whisper an S.O.S. prayer and keep me from a major blowup.

Growing in Character

The first letters of the words in this study form an acronym: CHARACTER. Applying truth from Proverbs to your life daily will stimulate character growth in your walk with God. As you use this study, remember that it is a tool to enhance your vision as you read, not a legalistic straightjacket. Think of it as a kaleidoscopic approach that enables you to see many facets of truth in each chapter. Some days you may discover verses for each word. Other days may not yield as many observations. If necessary, take two or three days to explore a single chapter. Take as much time as you need to soak deeply in the wisdom of this practical book.

Proverbs Character Study Questions

Communication

Begin your study by communicating with the Lord. Ask Him to help you see and understand the chapter.

Home

Which verse speaks most clearly to what I am experiencing at home?

Attitudes

What attitude described in this chapter do I need to cultivate or discard?

Relationships

Which verse could be applied to my relationships outside of the home?

Actions

What behaviors described in this chapter should I either adopt or curb?

Consequences

What positive or negative consequences of a particular behavior or attitude does God want to impress upon me?

Tongue

Which verse dealing with the tongue did the Lord impress on me?

Expression

What verse or truth does God want me to communicate to someone else?

Remembrance

Which verse from this chapter would be most helpful to memorize?

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