We may think we have good friends, but in the midst of crisis, friendship is tested. Those who come out on top are those who actually stick with you when all the blessings appear to be gone. A man or woman of integrity has this unique way of being sensitive to the needs around them. They are moved into action to meet those needs, no matter how small they may seem. Even the smallest need met in the roughest of times for a friend can make the difference between going under, or rising above the circumstances. As we have been studying throughout the past month or so, a man or woman of integrity actually lives in such a way so as to avoid the planning and action of evil. God's unfailing love and his faithfulness surrounds those who will choose to align their priorities with his, remaining open and sensitive to the needs which are all around them.
Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security. Reverence for the Lord is a fountain of life; its waters keep a man from death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 TLB)
Riddled in between various passages throughout Proverbs is this concept of exhibiting a strong work ethic. In essence, we are reminded of the "gift" of working - it is a privilege to fulfill the work we are given. Did you ever stop to think of just how many ways we actually engage in "work" outside of the workplace? Yes, we are called to be good stewards of our time and talent IN the workplace, bringing a good return to our company. We are also called to be good stewards of the relationships God gives us and the truths he provides for our learning. Both of these actually require a great deal of "work" on our parts, so when God speaks of having a good work ethic, we can apply this to our willingness to really commit to and work at solid relationships, as well as our actions of getting as much out of his Word as we possibly can.
Reverence is something we kind of associate with "church", right? Really, it is the regard with which we hold something or someone. It is the idea of both respect and honor. When we place God in a place of honor in our lives - at the central control panel, so to speak - we are reverencing him. When we commit to relationships with others by holding those relationships in a place of respect and honor, we are showing we "reverence" those relationships as "special". Taking time to really explore the Word of God in order to do more than read its words, but to allow them to impact the way we live is to reverence the very truths we are given by a loving God. So, reverence is more than a "church" word - it is a way of living - even a way of "working".
I love this idea of God being a place of refuge and safety for those who love him and hold him in a place of "reverence" in their lives. As we know, a refuge is a place of shelter from danger or distress - a means of resort for help in times of difficulty. Most shelters have a means of entry, don't they? Even putting up an umbrella to shelter yourself from falling raindrops has a way of "entry" into that shelter - you step under it, or move it over your head. God's shelter is no different - there is a way of entry into his place of refuge and safety. It is "reverence" - honoring and respecting his rightful position in our lives. There is a way of entry into solid relationships and deep learning - both require commitment, integrity, and fortitude - three characteristics of honoring and respecting the value of both.
There is one thing which we are also warned about throughout much of this book of Proverbs which appears to influence how well we manifest our "reverence" of God, each other and the Word. The idea of anger is considered repeatedly - almost as much as this idea of working hard. There is much which occurs when anger - displeasure expressed or repressed - is allowed to enter into our "work". We "divest" ourselves of the commitment we have toward the work at hand. If it is the "work" of maintaining close relationship with God, or even one of his children, we can "divest" ourselves of commitment, causing each relationship to begin to crumble and fail. Simply put, when we "divest" ourselves from the relationship, we strip the relationship of what it needs to remain strong and vital.
Attitude reveals how much we are really "invested" in relationship - almost as much as it manifests just how much we have "divested" ourselves. Just as a relaxed attitude will lengthen life since stress cannot perform its destructive work within, the right attitude can lengthen and strengthen our relationship with others, God, and even his Word! I think God wants us to recognize how much our attitude reflects our intent; intent reflects our desire; desire reflects our reverence. The child of God not only finds refuge in times of trouble in the shelter God provides, but they also find refuge from their sins. Remember how I said we need a point of access into any refuge? The point of access into God's refuge is always confession - confession of our need for his forgiveness, our inability to live upright on our own, and the need for a Savior. Access into his presence is through Jesus - he is the door.
Just a few lessons from Proverbs to bring us together this morning. How is your attitude today? You showing your "investment" or your "divestiture" in your relationship with God today? How about with each other? How about toward the truths he wants to teach you? Remember, reverence is really holding something or someone in the place of deep respect and highest honor in your life. This place belongs to God first - then the "investment" into another is an outflow! Just sayin!