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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:God’s Wisdom is Health for the Whole Body
Text:Proverbs 4:20-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 24:1,2                                                                    

Ps 141:2,3,7

Reading – Proverbs 4; Hebrews 12:1-13

Ps 111:1,2,3,4,5

Sermon – Proverbs 4:20-27

Ps 19:5,6

Hy 43:3,4,5,6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, some of us are involved in health care. In our church, we have nurses and others who work at nearby hospitals or nursing homes. Health and wellness are their daily focus. But health is vital for everyone, of course. We should all give it attention. How do you care for the body God has given you? Do you eat well, get proper exercise? Do you know what ailments can afflict you, and how to avoid them?

In the chapter that we read, we receive some health advice from God’s Word. It’s in Proverbs 4: “Remember my words,” God says, “for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh” (vv 22). God shows us the better way to live, the healthy way—it’s the way of living according to his commandments.

Proverbs 4 is recounting Solomon’s words to his children. That’s how the chapter begins: “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father” (4:1). Throughout these early chapters, Solomon is teaching his family about the ways of the Lord. For the time will come when the young ones will leave home and find their own way. So Solomon insists, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings” (4:20). Remember this lesson always!

Yet they’re not just words for children or young people. We all benefit from having God’s wisdom within our hearts: from the time we’re young, to the time of old age. This is his way to healthy living, when body, and mind, and spirit are pleasing to the LORD. I preach to you God’s Word from Proverbs 4:20-27,

God’s wisdom is health for the whole body. He teaches you to:

         1) guard your heart

         2) purify your mouth

         3) focus your eyes

         4) direct your feet


1) Guard your heart: Good health has a lot to do with the heart. That’s certainly true physically, for if your heart has a strong and steady beat, then you’ve got lots to be thankful for. When heart troubles arise—when there’s a heart attack, or the beginning of heart disease—we realize just how important that small, constantly pumping organ inside us really is.

The same is true for the heart in another sense. Spiritually, it’s also the centre of our life, as those made in God’s image and called to live in relationship with him. According to the Bible, ‘the heart’ shapes our thoughts, it sets our direction, it controls so much of our behaviour. Scripture says the heart is much more than just the source of our emotions; it’s the spiritual command centre of our entire life.

So the LORD says our heart’s health and integrity is of paramount importance. See how He puts that right at the top of this medical check-list: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (4:23).

He uses an image of the heart as a spring, or like the NIV puts it, “a wellspring.” We might not understand that comparison very easily. When I want water for my coffee in the morning, I just turn on the tap, and there is water—there’s little thought to where it actually comes from. But some of us draw their water from a well. For instance, when you built your house on a piece of land away from the city, you had a deep hole drilled in search of a water supply. And thankfully, you found an underground source. You appreciate this blessing, because whatever is used for bathing, drinking, or cooking, it all flows from that precious well.

That’s what the heart is like too. It’s full of the daily stuff of life. In the heart, we make those countless small decisions about what kind of person we will be. What will I say? How will I react to this situation? How will I use my time today? And what will I treasure? In the heart are the origins of everything else: “the issues of life.”

And just like finding a source of water on your property, your heart can be good or bad. For you might dig deep, find water, but it’s undrinkable. Or you might find good and clean water. In the same way, human hearts can be of two different types. Someone’s heart can be a steady stream of evil thinking and wrong behaviour. Or your heart can be a pretty reliable source of a goodness, a supply that is wholesome and refreshing.

Jesus taught about this in Matthew 12. He said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (v 35). It’s what lies beneath that counts, good or evil.

That puts a question to all of us today: What’s inside you? What’s stored up in your heart? I wonder how often we think about our thinking, ponder our ponderings. Call it doing ‘an audit’ of your thoughts. Have an idea about the tone and pattern of your daily thoughts, from when you wake in the morning to when you go to bed at night. During those hours, what does your heart tend to be fixed on? What are you busy with upstairs?

Of course, you can’t always be thinking about God, but do you ever? During the routines of a workday or school day, in a passing moment of quiet in between jobs, do you reflect with thankfulness on how God is blessing you? Or do you think about how you can serve Christ through whatever you’re doing? That’s a kind of ‘heartbeat,’ and it’s a good one. It indicates spiritual health. So God says, “Keep your heart.” Make sure your heart’s in good shape!

It’s true that the human heart is naturally sinful. We’re all born with hearts that are corrupt from Day 1. But there’s an assumption in our text, the assumption that our hearts have actually been revived and changed. In his grace, God gives us new hearts. Our spirits are restored through the Spirit of Christ. So what will we do with this gift?

Notice how our primary action must be defensive: guard your heart, because there’s still much that can cause it damage. Do we fix our love on the status symbols that we can buy? Are we over-occupied with our work? Are we mostly focused on good times? The pathways of our heart can easily get clogged, and become unhealthy. Like Jesus says, these things will come out in real life. If a lot of selfishness is stored up inside—or much envy, or greed, or unkindness—then that’s going to be heard in your words to others or how you treat them.

Instead, make your heart strong with the food from heaven. Solomon told us what this is, back in verse 4, “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.” God has given us a heart that is a like an empty vessel which is ready to be filled with his wisdom.

So do you know what God is saying to you? Do you tend to have the Bible nearby? Is it a regular companion, or an occasional visitor? Laying hold on God’s words means keeping his will at the centre of your life. Call it ‘doing theology’ all week, where you turn God’s Word over in your mind, and you think of how it relates to everything that’s going on. What does God have to say about my regrets? About my labours? About my children? And friendships?

The Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart” (119:11). When our heart has stores of this goodness—when it’s daily being stocked with the things of God—this comes out in all ‘the issues of life.’ Someone who loves God has different goals for his day than someone who doesn’t. Someone who knows Christ looks at life differently, whether there is hardship or blessing. The Word gives a new health to our heart and our whole being.

This is something that needs our attention. It is too important to neglect. Because isn’t this true? Either our heart is slowly being filled with evil things, or gradually being filled with good. One heart condition ends in death, the other leads to life. So guard your heart! Then God will bless your life, from the inside out.


2) Purify your mouth: Solomon turns to the second body part we need to care for: our mouth. Why the mouth? Because with it we can sin so easily, so fluently. And it’s also the mouth that we can put to many good and holy uses. Later today, you should read through a chapter or two of Proverbs (like chapter 15 or 25). You’ll see many verses that relate to verbal hygiene. God wants to teach about healthy speaking.

But indeed, when we open our mouths, there’s also much evil that can come gushing out. So Proverbs warns us against boasting. It warns against gossiping, and pointless arguing. Proverbs condemns revealing other people’s secrets and spreading slander. It forbids us to speak in anger, and it cautions against opening our mouth at the wrong moment.

In our text, God teaches, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you” (v 24). It first addresses the dishonesty of our words. For lying is a basic function of the sinful nature. You might lie to your parents about where you were last night. Or you lie to your spouse about what’s really going on with you, or to your employer about something that was your responsibility.

Now, some like to say that we’re just no good at lying—we immediately start blushing. Or maybe we can’t remember the last lie we told. Yet let’s be honest. This is what sinners do best: with words we knock others down a bit, or we protect and promote ourselves. If it’ll serve our purposes, we give the truth a subtle twist. So we need this health lesson, too.

Our verse mentions “perverse lips,” for we’ve all found that it’s so easy to share gossip—easy to receive it, too. In a nasty way we like to dwell on how other people don’t have their lives together like we do. From the comfort of your living room, it’s effortless to criticize someone else, to mock their appearance, or to pass judgement on their family. Other times we make ourselves sound better, making ourselves the main character of every story we tell, or committing to things we know that we won’t do.

Cleanse your mouth of such things. For if your mouth has been purified by the Holy Spirit, there’s going to be room for better stuff. You’ll have more time for healthier speaking. That’s the flip-side. What’s a godly way to use our mouths? What’s a healthy way to speak?

Again, the rest of Proverbs shows the way. It teaches that our words should be marked by honesty and truth and love. Our words ought to be few, and well-considered. Our words should be calm and careful. For then God says that our words can have the power of life, to restore and to heal. That’s an wonderful alternative, isn’t it? Instead of inflicting harm, our tongues can be used by God to bring blessing.

For instance, Proverbs tells us to speak a timely word. Healthy words spoken at the right moment can calm someone’s anger, can soothe their fear. Your healthy words can persuade someone to do right. Healthy words can bring a brother back from an evil way, can point a sister to Christ. Sometimes just giving someone a loving compliment can be a blessing to them, can reset their attitude towards joy.

So in this spiritual check-up, God asks us to take a quick swab of our mouth. What sort of words have been coming out? Think about your language in the different settings that you’re in during the week. What are your words like when you’re at work with unbelievers, or when you’re playing sport with your mates, or you’re on the church carpark, or at the dinner table? What words come from your mouth in your most private conversations? Are they healthy words?

Listen to what Jesus taught in Matthew 12. He says, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (v 34). It’s uncomfortable to think about it, but we give other people a really good idea about what lives in us simply by how we speak. What are we often talking about? What’s typically the first thing we want to say? Where do we like to direct the conversation?

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In that verse, you can hear again about the importance of the heart. And Jesus highlights how the release valve on the heart pours out words. A heart that loves God will flow with praise and gratitude. A heart that loves other people will flow with truth, with encouragement, with grace. So consider the health of your words, and ask the Lord to keep purifying your speech!


3) Focus your eyes: Time for a third area of spiritual examination. Now we’re looking at the eyes. Like when the optometrist puts those rows of different-sized letters in front of you, and you have to read them, one by one. The Lord God wants to know: What are you seeing? What do you always place before your eyes?

Solomon tells us: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you” (v 25). For what you often choose to look at is very revealing. The things we stare at and the objects we admire can take hold of us. And in this world, there is so much that attracts our devotion, so much that draws our eyes.

An obvious one is money and possessions, material things. We see what others have—we see their homes, their holidays, their opportunities—and we want it for ourselves. God tells us in Proverbs: “The fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth” (17:24). Always looking, often envying. Or perhaps we have these things for ourselves (money, position, luxury), and now we keep admiring them and feeling good about them. But instead, Solomon says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead.” Set your eyes on a different kind of treasure!

Another attraction is food and drink, and perhaps especially drink. The pleasure that alcohol brings, the escape it promises, attract our gaze. But God warns, “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly” (Prov 23:31). Don’t be enslaved by wine or beer or by anything, but “Fix your gaze directly before you.”

The next couple chapters in Proverbs describe a third pull on our vision. It’s the temptation of adultery. In chapter 7, Solomon describes a guy who meets a seductive woman. She’s falling out of her dress, and it’s hard for him to look away. You might know the struggle of how hard it can be to divert the eyes. But “let your eyes look straight ahead.”

Look away from that woman (or that man) who is walking down the street. Look away from that magazine advert or that shop display. Keep you gaze well away from those porn websites. These are places where your eyes will never get their fill; there will never be enough porn to satisfy. So close your eyes to it.

And there’s much more, of course, that can give us blurred vision. When we envy others. Or when we only see the negative. Or when we obsess over anything, and we watch endless clips of cars and bikes and cricket, or endless tutorials for better skin, or endless tips for physical fitness. Christ is surgical with his warning in Matthew 6, sharp and to the point: “The eye is the lamp of the body” (v 22). That means the things our eyes often look at have so much to do with our spiritual health. What do you love to gaze at and watch? You become what you behold.

“If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (vv 22-23). So have good eyes! How do we nurture that? Look at good things. Set your mind on whatever is admirable and praiseworthy. Solomon says: “My son, give attention to my words… Do not let them depart from your eyes” (4:20-21). Here’s that theme again of focusing on something better, the things of God. Find a way to get his words in front of you more often. Commit to spending that time in the morning, or to using your time on the bus or train, or on your lunch break.

Listen also to Hebrews 12:2, “[Look] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Look to him! Fix your vision on Christ your Saviour and King! Because Christ will guide you. He’ll forgive you. He’ll even open your eyes and renew your vision. In prayer and worship and trust, fix your eyes on him, and He’ll show you where to go.


4) Direct your feet: Life is a journey, right? That’s how we often speak of it, and it’s a Biblical idea. Solomon knows that his son is soon going to start out on his own, so he says: “Ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil” (4:26-27). Choose your journey carefully!

And think for a moment about the close connection between our real, physical feet, and our spiritual path—there’s a link between our soles and our soul! Because what are the places we choose to spend our weekend? Who are the people we often spend time with? Where do we love to go? The pathway of our feet can say a lot about where we’re really headed.

First, at the most basic level, do our feet take us to church every Sunday? Do our steps go up to the house of God as often as we have opportunity, morning and afternoon? Do our feet also take us to places where we can enjoy Christian fellowship? We want to go places where we can receive the blessing of godly friends, people who help us, who share faith with us.

We all have what Scripture calls ‘a walk of life.’ So what defines your path right now? Make sure the path you’re on right now isn’t a dead-end, a pointless detour that doesn’t lead you any closer to Christ. But know that God will bless us when we move our feet in his ways! So “do not turn to the right or the left” (v 27). Be unswerving.

Hebrews 12 exhorts us, “Make straight paths for your feet” (v 12). For your life is a journey. And every journey is made up of thousands of choices. Which way will I go? What path to follow today? I want to go with Christ. I want to draw closer to God, and keep drawing closer, even until that day when I can enter his presence.

Once more from Hebrews 12, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v 1). Beloved, the Lord God has called us to his glory through Christ Jesus. That’s the path that we’ve got to stay on. Let nothing trip you up or hinder you. But keep going in perseverance, with eyes fixed on the goal, for then the Lord will lead you home!

As we start a new week, let us know that these words are life to those who find them. They are a rich blessing to those who do them. God’s words are life, and they are health—for today, and forever!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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