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A Warning Rejected, All Hope Abandoned

In Acts 27, as Luke narrates Paul’s journey to Rome, the centurion and ship’s pilot disregard Paul’s advice not to set sail in winter. Paul made no claims about receiving a divine revelation of trouble ahead, but he had traveled thousands of miles by sea in his life, and had already survived three shipwrecks. Verses 4-8 explain how the voyage had been getting harder, more time-consuming, and more dangerous. Paul was simply paying attention and applying the wisdom of experience and good sense to the situation by advising the men not sail on. When his advice was rejected and the storm hit, the risks he pointed out in vs. 10 began to come true: the sailors ditched the cargo (v.18), the ship’s tackle (v.19), and finally gave up all hope of being saved (v.20).

Note this connection: the more you walk in wisdom, the more hope you have. But when you walk away from wisdom, you walk away from hope, too. God has given us basic instructions about how the world works, both in the Bible, and in the world itself. In our sinfulness, we rebel against the way that God has made the world, and yet somehow we still expect things to go well. Entire countries spend far more money than they make, and expect economic success. Powerful organizations crush unborn babies and sell their organs, and are surprised when people are revolted by such barbaric evil. People mutilate their bodies in an attempt to change who God made them as men and women, and the suicide rate among those who have undergone transgender surgery is astronomically high. These people have rejected wisdom, and they find themselves without hope, because they have tried to live as if they make the rules for the world, rather than God.

But since it is so painful and costly to reject wisdom, why do we keep doing it? Here are three sins that lead us to reject God’s wisdom: pride, greed, and sloth.

The first is pride. Pride that refuses to listen to others. Pride that desires to impress others. Pride that expresses mastery or rule. In the church, it looks like pride that rejects or does not seek wisdom about a stubborn sin, a struggling marriage, or a difficult child. Pride that refuses to acknowledge destructive behavior as sinful and repent. Whatever form it takes, the end of the way of pride is hopelessness.

The second is greed. In an effort to make more money, you find it increasingly easy to ignore warning signs that stand between you and profit. Or maybe it’s time greed – you can’t wait or be patient because you need to be somewhere else, doing something else. If these sorts of considerations lead you into excessive risks and blind you to contrary advice, beware the beast of greed. God has made the world to run on contentment. He’s built limits into the world, including the need for bodies to rest. In our fast-paced, more-is-better world, we need to hear wisdom calling out to us, saying, “Slow down. Do less. Be content.” Listen to wisdom, and don’t let greed blind you to her beauty.

The third is sloth. Sloth that refuses to grow in wisdom by not making the effort to learn from God how His world works. It takes wisdom to recognize wisdom, but folly is always downhill. How much time and money and effort have you devoted to getting wisdom this year? This month? This week? Wisdom abundantly repays your efforts to find her, but if you neglect wisdom, you will end up driven along wherever the storms of life take you, facing injury and loss, in danger of losing all hope.

If the cost of rejecting human insight into God’s world is so high, how much worse is it to neglect God’s Word? Foolish decisions can cost you dearly in terms of property, relationships, and even your life, but rejecting the voice God speaking clearly in the Scriptures will cost you your soul. If you reject the wisdom of God, there is nothing left but hopelessness and despair. The good news is that although we are quick to ignore the wisdom of God, our sin does not stop the grace of God from saving fools like us. Our God is a God who brings hope to the hopeless through Jesus Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by CJ Bowen