It was December of 1975. I had recently returned from hitchhiking out west and was making plans to one day leave again. GOD HAD OTHER PLANS! After a series of very frightening events the previous months, including a near head-on collision, two gas explosions, twice sliding out of control in my car on ice, and falling asleep at the wheel, and waking up finding myself driving in the ditch, I finally bowed my heart and soul to Jesus Christ and His will for my life. I knew with all my heart God wanted my full attention and devotion. I immediately broke up with my girlfriend at the time, realizing we were not going in the same direction in life. I had one thing on my mind, one driving passion, that has remained till this very day: to know Jesus Christ, to honor and serve God, and to do the will of God as my way of life.
As I began to read my Bible, I was deeply struck by how little I really knew about God, how little I understood His word, the Bible, and just how foolish, and unwise I actually was. I will never forget my first time reading the book of Proverbs and God’s repeated admonition and warning to get wisdom, to love wisdom, to cry out for wisdom, to search for wisdom like you were searching for hidden treasure.
I was deeply convicted at how zealously and fervently I had once pursued my own interests, my own desires and my own way of life. I mean, how many people do you know who want something so badly, they put what they own in a backpack, walk out to the highway and stick out their thumb to hitchhike thousands of miles to live in the mountains?!? I had been willing to risk so much, to go after what I had wanted. I was determined, I was tenacious, but I was so foolish and stupid. It ended up hurting me badly.
God began to speak to me, loudly and clearly. “Mark, get wisdom, cry out for wisdom, get to know My word, obey My word, listen to me Mark, and do what I say. Mark, give me your heart and soul. Put your effort and energy into knowing Me, to know and understand My word, and I will make you wise Mark! I will give you wisdom, and help you, and bless and use your life.”
So my journey began. Day after day, I would get off work, go home, clean up, get my Bible, my leather jacket, my backpack, and head off to the woods in my car. I would sit and read, and read and read, and walk, and cry out to God. “Speak to me Lord, show me answers Lord, teach me your ways, Lord.” I realized that God’s wisdom comes at a price. That price is humility, time, a disciplined habit, intense hunger and desire to learn from God, and a willingness to search God’s word for it. God does not cast His pearls before swine! Pigs don’t care about jewels! I did not want to be a pig!!
In Proverbs 8:34-36 (NLT) we find this:
“Happy are those who listen to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord. But those who miss me have injured themselves. All who hate me love death.”
As I read, this thought hit me smack in the face! “Mark, are you God’s/wisdom’s paparazzi?” That phrase, “waiting outside my gates, outside my home,” I thought how many photographers wait hours and hours outside the home of a famous person just to get a glimpse, a photo, of that person, to document a single moment in time, then sell it to make a little money. All that effort, waiting, hoping, stalking, for a photo! This speaks of desire, does it not? This speaks of a price paid, to seek after, and pursue wisdom. When we find wisdom, we find life, we gain God’s approval. But it comes at a price.
It has been 43 years now that I have been consistently paying that price. I have had the opportunity to speak and teach to tens of thousands of people, the wisdom, truths, and insights that God gave me through the years on marriage, raising kids, walking with God, living God’s truth, understanding His will, and knowing what it really is Christ has done for us. I have lived these last 43 years and raised my children on the wisdom God gave me from His word. I have grown and been blessed with almost 40 years of marriage with the wisdom and insights God gave me. I would not trade what God has shown me and taught me for all the money in the world. I would gladly pay the price again, and again, to gain the wisdom God has given me. It is the greatest treasure and blessing of my life.
I would have completely failed as a father and husband had it not been for the wisdom, insights, and understanding, God gave to me from the Bible, to use in the arena of real life.
Men, it is with great heaviness of heart that I tell you this: study, after study, of the real habits of American Christian’s devotional life, reveal something catastrophic. Some years ago, the Center for Bible Engagement surveyed 40,000 Christ-following believers. They surveyed people 13-80 years old, who were genuine, Christ-followers, who attend church, and belong to a small group. They discovered that the vast majority of these Christians own a Bible, but never, ever read it!!
You cannot grow spiritually without reading your Bible. You cannot get wise without reading your Bible. You will not be sustained through the great difficulties of life without reading your Bible. You will gain no insights nor understanding without reading your Bible. You will fail as a father and husband without a genuine, passionate devotion to the Word of God, and intense hunger for God’s wisdom. We will stay foolish and stupid and it will cost you so dearly.
Every single thing I have learned and applied to my parenting and my marriage, I learned as I read my Bible, as I cried out to God for wisdom and insight, as I meditated on God’s word and obeyed what His word showed me to do.
Did you know this? Without the Word of God, daily in your life, you are walking in darkness! David tells us in Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path!”
Without that light, without God’s GPS, you are lost, in the dark, and you will not and cannot succeed in raising your children for Jesus Christ or having a meaningful, enriching, godly marriage. It is not possible because you are staying foolish and stupid! AND IT HURTS YOU!
Let me share a true confession. I have never been to college. I have never written a term paper. I have never taken a parenting class, or read lots of books on raising kids, or on how to have a great marriage. What I did do is read, ponder, study, and obey my Bible, every day for the last 43 years. What I did do was pray, and pray, and cry out to God to show me, teach me, help me, make me wise, give me understanding, give me his wisdom, and help me do what He wants me to do. Yes, I went to church, I listened to others teach God’s word, and I certainly learned from their sharing of the word of God.
However, the primary source of my insights, my wisdom, as a father, and husband,and pastor, came as I humbly went to God’s word, put myself under its authority, and begged God to teach me, to make me wise, and help me understand it so I can live it.
You can be the simplest of men or the most educated of men. It does not matter. What matters is the condition of your heart and your attitude towards God and the Bible. What matters is you humbly and simply open your Bible, every single day, and read it, think about it, seriously consider it, and do what it says. No matter who you are, God is an equal opportunity wisdom giver. God will make you wise, God will give you His truth, His insights, His help, His wisdom, if you really want it, and go after it in a disciplined, faithful way.
1. YOU HAVE TO WANT IT.
2. YOU HAVE TO GO AFTER IT.
3. YOU HAVE TO KEEP AFTER IT.
4. YOU HAVE TO STAY HUNGRY AND HUMBLE.
5. YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU LEARN AND IMPLEMENT IT INTO YOUR LIFE, OR YOU WILL LOSE IT.
I would like to challenge and encourage you to do these things:
1. Read Psalm 119 (NLT version), and really grasp what it is saying.
2. Read Proverbs 2:1-10 (NLT version) and Proverbs 8 (NLT version)
3. Hear this song I wrote, to remind myself of the truth in Prov. 1:20-33.
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4. Please listen to this series called “Wise Up”. https://strongdisciple.com/tag/wise-up