The Achievement of Understanding
by: Jonathan Painter
Proverbs 4:1, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.”
Proverbs 4:1 contains a goal that should be a prevalent part in each of our lives. The goal of Proverbs 4:1 is to obtain understanding. Each of us ought to have a desire to obtain understanding. We ought to strive to attain understanding in our physical, material and spiritual life. One who has a job ought to desire to understand every aspect of their job. One who surrenders to full-time service ought to desire to understand every aspect of the ministry. We ought to desire understanding.
Fortunately, Proverbs 4:1 gives us not only a goal, but also the means of achieving that goal. There are four steps found in this verse that create a road to obtaining understanding.
1. Realize your position. (“Hear, ye children…”)
Webster defined a child as, “One weak in knowledge, experience, judgment, or attainment;” We must realize our true position. Humility is truly the first step in achieving understanding. When we can stop and realize that we are weak in knowledge, it will give us a mindset that is ready to learn. I am afraid that far too often we allow ourselves to think we have more knowledge than we truly have. Once we realize our true position concerning knowledge, we have taken the first step towards achieving understanding.
2. Listen to instruction (Hear…the instruction…”)
All too often we close our ears to instruction because we feel that we already know how to do it. We already know how to live life. We already know all about the ministry. We already know how to be a godly teenager. We already know how to be a good college student. We already know how to be a good spouse. We already know! Therefore, we do not need to listen. This is the wrong attitude for any person to take. When we have the attitude that says, “I already know,” we are limiting our ability to learn more. You will have your mind so set that even when you are wrong, you will not be convinced of what is right, thus suffering the consequences of being wrong. Such an attitude is the result of pride, which the Bible says comes before a fall. Open your mind to instruction. Allow yourself to be taught by those who have more knowledge than yourself. Admit that you truly don’t know it all. When you realize your true position and then listen to instruction, you are well on your way to achieving understanding.
3. Choose Godly Instructors (…the instruction of a father…)
If a child is defined as, “one weak in knowledge,” it is safe to assume “a father” is one who is strong in knowledge. Notice, God didn’t say your father or their father. He said, “a father.” This is not speaking specifically of a parental father, but rather a “father” who has more knowledge than you. Proverbs 4:2 shows us how to discern “a father” from whom it is good to receive instruction. “For I give you good doctrine…” You ought to hear the instruction of a father who will give you good doctrine. Find a mentor who is knowledgeable in good doctrine, and you have found yourself a father who is worthy of your ears. What is good doctrine? Good doctrine comes from the Word of God. Here is an example, When I was in second grade, I had a school teacher who was indeed a very godly woman. I remember many times I broke her rules set for the classroom. She very gently and sincerely would take me outside the classroom, and with her well-used Bible showed me why what I did was wrong. This was a “father” that was giving me good doctrine.
4. Wait for understanding (…attend to know understanding”)
The word “attend” means, among other things, “To await.” You will not achieve understanding overnight. One must wait for understanding. Be patient! Time of receiving instruction and years of the application of instruction will bring you understanding. One who desires understanding must be willing to follow the formula God has laid out. Humble yourself to realize your true position of knowledge. Listen to the instruction given to you from godly sources, and then wait, be patient, endure, and keep learning. One who is willing to follow these steps will achieve understanding, and will someday be a father to whom wise children go to for instruction.