Live Long And Prosper
I grew up with Star Trek. I was nine years old the first time Star Trek aired on NBC in September 1966. It was one year later when the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock raised his left hand in the now famous Vulcan salute and said, “Live long and prosper.” How cool! Trekkie fans have been doing that now for 55 years. Maybe you have too.
Here’s a surprise! “Live long and prosper” doesn’t come from Mr. Spock or Vulcan or Star Trek and it has been around for a lot longer than 55 years! We discover these words in the ancient words of the Proverbs of Solomon written 1000 BC!
“My child, don’t forget what I teach you. Always remember what I tell you to do. My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life.” Proverbs 3:1-2 GNTA
We are told that King Solomon actually composed over 3,000 wisdom sayings, or proverbs, over his lifetime. Then, 300 years later under the reign of King Hezekiah, the best of these were selected to be included in what we now have as the Book of Solomon. The third one begins with the Vulcan salute: Let me teach you how to live long and prosper.
Today we’d like to talk about the 5 ways to live long and prosper!
#1 - Start With LOVE and LOYALTY.
“Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in
God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.” Proverbs 3:3-4 MSG
Love and loyalty. Let these be your core values. If you want to know who is a God-person - you can start by looking for love and loyalty. Because this also defines the core character traits of God Himself. Love and loyalty! Love deeply! Stick with those you love. Be loyal! Here’s another way of saying “be loyal”: Remain faithful!
Here’s how important love and loyalty are. If you struggle to remember this, then take out a piece of cardboard, write two words in large magic marker: “Love” and “Loyalty.” Then put two holes in the top of the cardboard and tie a connecting string. Then put the string around your neck and wear the sign until you get it! “Love.” “Loyalty.”
You might think this sounds ridiculous until you think about it for a moment. Think of all the hurt in your life that has come from a lack of love or a lack of loyalty, either on your part to others or others to you! This is so important to get… to accept… to understand… to grab ahold of… that Solomon has a second way of remembering. Hire an open heart surgeon and a tattoo artist and tattoo “love” and “loyalty” onto your beating heart! It’s that important!
Here’s what will happen if you work first on love and loyalty in your life: “You will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:4 ESV. So I just got to ask you, do you want to find favor with God? With your fellow human beings? Do you want to be successful? Don’t worry about how you dress or what your job title is or whether you’re the cool kid or whether you make people laugh or being really good at whatever it is that you do or even your health. Start with love and loyalty. When people think of you, you want them to say,”He/she loves deeply. He/she is absolutely loyal. You can count on them. What they say they will do!”
#2 - With All Your Heart TRUST GOD.
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Any good evangelical preacher is going to start with this: put your faith entirely in Jesus! He came to save you! He died for your sins! Accept his gift of salvation! Change from your way to God’s way! And of course this is all true. However, if we limit our teaching of these two most famous verses (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding…”), then I think those who are already Christ-followers miss out on this all-important lesson of “live long and prosper.”
You see, it’s possible to be a Christian - to trust Jesus for salvation - and then go through life without really trusting God. I know this is not popular to say and hard to hear. Some would even suggest that it’s impossible to trust Jesus to be saved yet not trust God for living life. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And so have you!
How many times have you come into a challenging situation and thought to yourself: ‘I’ve got this.’ ‘I can handle this.’ ‘I’ve dealt with this before.’ How many times have you not really prayed about something? You just dove right in on your own! We all have!
The wisdom writer of Proverbs tells us NO! Trust God! From the bottom of your heart. That means there is no reserve for self-thinking. For I got this. Maybe 80% of my heart goes to trusting God, but the bottom 20% of the easier stuff - I can handle that. No! Trust God from the bottom of your heart. For everything! Then God “will keep you on track!”
A,B,C’s To Stay On Track With God:
A. Accept Help. “Don’t try to figure out everything on your own.” We have two words for people who won’t accept help. “Prideful.” And “Ignorant.” “I don’t need help from anyone or from any God.” None of us are an island unto ourselves. God has given us other people who can help us figure it out. God has also given us His Holy Spirit Who speaks to us and helps us.
B. Benefit From My Work. “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do.” We often think of praying as the time when we stop everything and just listen for God. But the truth is we can be in communication with God at all times (“never ceasing” 1 Thess. 5:17), and this is especially true in our doing! Stop and think about it this way: Everything you have ever done in life has been done right or done wrong! The difference between learning from your work or not is the difference in hearing from God. “Lord, what do you think? How could I have done that better?”
C. Concentrate During My Journey. “Listen for God’s voice… everywhere I go.” All of life is a journey. Sometimes it’s a trip to the grocery store. Sometimes it’s a trip down the altar. Sometimes it’s move across country. Wherever I go I can be listening for God’s voice. I can be learning. The key here is openness of mind. Am I listening for God? Or am I filling my mind all the time with noise so that I’ll never hear Him?
#3 - Grow Through HUMILITY.
“Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!” Proverbs 3:7-8
Don’t be a donkey! Don’t assume! Don’t make an ass out of u and me! Yet we all do this from time to time, don’t we? Don’t think of that other person who acts like he/she “knows it all.” Know-it-all’s abound in our lives. But let’s not point the finger the other way. Let’s turn it around towards us. When have I assumed that I know what I’m talking about? Usually when it’s in my own field of expertise. When it’s something I have studied and thought about. But humility is admitting that God always knows more than me and that His wisdom is always the best!
When I first looked at this I was surprised by the connection between assuming I knew it all to my health. The MSG says, “Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!” The ESV says, “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” What’s the connection?
God’s wisdom for us extends even to our healthy living. We think we know everything there is to know about our health. After all, we are scientists now. We have modern medicine now. We know how our bodies work now. We’re good! We got this! And yet, in the wealthiest country to ever exist, many (most?) of us are in the poorest health. Overweight. Over stressed. Over worked.
Recently I have been admitting that maybe everything I thought I knew about good eating habits and good exercise habits is nothing more than my own lack of humility. Did you know that there are 70 different times in the Bible that it teaches us about fasting? Times of NOT EATING? Many of those Scriptures talk about “prayer” and “fasting”, yet most of my adult life I have taken the “prayer” part and left the “fasting” part. Is it possible that the God Who created me might just know more about how my body is designed to function than I do? This year I’m admitting my own lack of knowledge, admitting my own presumptions and need for humility and taking the “fasting” part to heart. And you know what? I believe the result has been that my “body will glow with health” and my “very bones will vibrate with life” as a result!
#4 - Give to God with GENEROSITY.
“Honor God with everything you own; give Him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.” Proverbs 3:9-10
This is the principle of tithing. Of giving our “first fruits” to God. Before we get into the details, there are two things I find truly interesting about these two verses. First - this is written by the wealthiest guy who ever lived in the history of humanity. Think Elon Musk rich! Except Solomon was even richer! It’s estimated that Solomon was worth $2 trillion in today’s money (compared to Jeff Bezos $204 billion, Elon Musk $189 billion, Bill Gates $144 billion). King Solomon is said to have received 25 tons of gold for each of the 39 years of his reign, which would be worth billions of dollars today! Yet here is this richest of the rich saying, “Give [God] the first and the best!” Seems like good financial advice!
Second, these tithing verses come almost immediately after: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Yet we quote those verses all the time but not these verses about tithing. I wonder why that is?
Is it possible that the two are connected? That “tithing” has something to do with “trusting”? Jesus certainly tied them together, right?
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Solomon is essentially saying the same thing. You will either be ruled by money or you will be ruled by God. Choose God! Money is fickle. God is faithful. Money can abandon you in a hurry. God will always be by your side. There are things that money cannot buy. God can do all things!
So how do we tithe? The basic formula is 10%. You give 10% of all you earn to God. But honestly - that “formula” doesn’t really cover the sense of the tithe. Solomon gives us 4 characteristics of our generous giving to God:
(1) Give God the BEST! God deserves only the best from you!
(2) Give God the FIRST! God receives your gifts before anyone or anything else! You don’t pay your bills and hope you have something “leftover” for God. You pay God first!
(3) Honor God with EVERYTHING! The tithe is simply our way of saying to God: “All I have is Yours! I wouldn’t have anything at all if it were not for You! I will live generously with everything You have given me. I know I am not taking any of this stuff with me to Heaven! I started with nothing and I will leave with nothing.”
(4) You Can’t OUT-GIVE God! Whatever you give, comes back to you many times over. “Your barns will burst. Your wine vats will overflow!”
#5 - Accept the Lord’s DISCIPLINE.
“But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under His loving correction. It’s the child He loves that God corrects; a Father’s delight is behind all this.” Proverbs 3:11-12
Who loves discipline? I know my first reaction is NO WAY! Yet, anyone who has a job, who has succeeded in school, who owns a successful business, anyone who has enjoyed improved health… anyone who has PROSPERED owes at least a part of their success to DISCIPLINE!
If we have the wisdom eyes to see it, God wants us to prosper in the way He created us to be! God - more than anyone else - knows what will make us the happiest, what will make us most fulfilled. And He wants to help us get there. But here’s the thing - with God, there are no shortcuts.
Sometimes what we think we want and what we really want are two very different things. For example, sometimes we think we want God as a Genie: we pray one of three wishes and count on Him to grant the wish come true. But that’s not really what we want. That’s so short sighted. God gives us what we really want: a loving Father!
God loves us too much to leave us the way we are! The way God gets us from here to there, from where we are to where God wants us to be (and where we will be most fulfilled and happiest) is through discipline. Through correction. Through teaching us lessons until we understand the lesson. Living through hardship until hardship gives us a living. We must remember: “a Father’s delight is behind all this!”
Conclusion: So there you have it. The Fortunate Five to live long and prosper! Which one do you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you about this day?
#1 - Start with LOVE and LOYALTY.
#2 - With all your heart, TRUST GOD.
Accept Help. Listen for God in your work. Listen for God in your travels,
#3 - Grow through HUMILITY.
#4 - Give to God with GENEROSITY.
#5 - Accept the Lord’s DISCIPLINE.
Live long and prosper. It’s so much more than a clever saying from an alien race. Live long and prosper. It’s God’s greatest desire for each one of us. From God’s mouth through the richest man who ever lived to our Bibles to our ears are the five ways that we can make God’s desires for us turn into reality. Let’s pray that we have the wisdom to hear from God and to follow His voice!