In Search of Wisdom

Life-Changing Truths in the Book of Proverbs


By Joyce Meyer

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Joyce Meyer takes us on a journey through the wisdom of Proverbs that leaves us transformed and prepared to face daily choices and challenges.

The book of Proverbs is a treasure trove of spiritual and practical wisdom that equips us to live our best lives. Knowledge is important, but if it isn’t converted into action, it fails to create transformational change in our lives. It is important to gain a thoughtful and practical understanding of the seven foundational principles in the book of Proverbs:
  • Wisdom,
  • Understanding,
  • Prudence,
  • Knowledge,
  • Discretion,
  • Discernment, and
  • Fear of the Lord.

If we desire to possess these qualities, we must make a commitment to a deeper understanding and implementation of these values in our daily lives.

Featuring inspiring questions to promote thoughtful reflection, In Search of Wisdom will enlighten you with God’s understanding and teach you the foundational principles and secure God’s help in practicing them.



Proverbs 1 begins by mentioning the seven foundational principles listed in the introduction to this book. Then, verse 7 ends with the statement “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The NIV footnote for Proverbs 1:7 says, “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient” (emphasis mine). Proverbs includes many references to foolish people, so I encourage you to keep this definition in mind as you read through this book.

If I were to write my own definition of a fool, it would be this: A fool is morally deficient, hasty in making decisions, and too quick to speak without thinking. He is probably not prudent with finances and makes poor decisions in all areas of life. He thinks more highly of himself than he should. He is probably lazy and does not exercise self-control. He has an attitude of entitlement, thinking he should be given what he has not worked for or earned. I am sure he lacks appreciation and is ungrateful. He most likely murmurs and complains regularly. He gossips, falls in with bad company, and has no reverential fear and awe of God.


Proverbs 1 continues by urging children to listen to the instructions of their fathers and not to forsake the teaching of their mothers (v. 8). Many of us would not have been wise to heed the advice we received from our parents if they were walking in the ways of the world and were ungodly. That was the case with me, but thankfully my real Father—my heavenly Father—has taught and continues to teach me how to live. I am learning more and more all the time about the wisdom of listening to Him.

If you had good parents who truly loved you and the Lord, I hope you will rejoice, because you had a gift that many people don’t have the opportunity to benefit from or enjoy. Young people commonly go through a phase when they feel certain their parents are totally out of touch with reality and know absolutely nothing of relevance. Of course, this is wrong thinking that hopefully will be corrected in a short period of time, because a wise person learns everything possible from wise, godly people, especially older ones. The longer we live, the more experiences we have; therefore, the more we know experientially. Experiential knowledge is not the same as factual knowledge, and it leads to wisdom, not simply to information.

Most parents have done certain things right and certain things wrong. They have experienced the results of wise and unwise decisions, and they deeply desire to help their children avoid the mistakes they have made. Solomon says the teaching of our parents can be viewed as a fine piece of jewelry to adorn our necks (v. 9). Or, if you prefer, a prized possession for which we should be thankful.


Many good people have been ruined by the influence of sinful people around them, and Proverbs urges and warns us to not fall into their trap. The writer says, “If sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (v. 10). Verses 10–15 teach us that the ungodly don’t give up easily. They keep enticing by telling lies and promising rewards that actually are a myth. They try to make us believe that if we take advantage of others to serve ourselves, we will gain all sorts of valuable things. Those of us who have experience with sin know for certain that wrongdoing does not bring anything valuable. We can hear the father’s pleading heart in verse 15 when he says, “My son, do not go along with them, do not set your foot on their paths.”

How good are you at saying no to things that look exciting and enjoyable when you know that God does not approve of them? These are sinful enticements, and Satan works through sinful people to draw godly men and women away from the right (godly) path onto the wrong (ungodly) path. These people may be such experts in convincing others to follow them that even the godliest individual may drift onto the wrong path in life and not even know how it happened. This is the reason 1 Peter 5:9 instructs us to resist the devil at “his onset,” meaning when he first begins to lead us astray (AMPC).

Jesus says that if our eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out of our head. And if our arm causes us to sin, we should remove it from our body because “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30). In this current, so-called modern age, do we deal harshly enough with sin, or do we compromise and assume casual attitudes toward sin, believing that God’s grace will cover us because He is good?

Sometimes, out of loneliness, Christians become involved with certain people and realize they simply don’t have peace about those relationships. Many times this is because those people want to tempt us to sin or to draw us away from God. It is easy to make excuses and justify wrong behavior, but there is no true justification for doing what we know God would have us not do.

Sinful people rush to evil, and “they are swift to shed blood” (v. 16) but “they ambush only themselves!” (v. 18). This is a powerful thought. It emphasizes the biblical principle that people reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7). No one can sow evil and reap good.

Sinful people pursue “ill-gotten gain” (things they obtain through dishonesty), whether they steal possessions, money or investments, or ideas or intellectual property. Any kind of illegal gain eventually “takes away” their lives (v. 19). Just think about it. If people steal, they will probably go to prison, or at least feel crushed under the burden of guilt they carry in their hearts while pretending to be happy. They forfeit the life God wants them to have through their own foolishness. Material goods gained from sinful actions may seem appealing in the beginning but are ultimately empty and unfulfilling.

It’s important to realize that stealing is not limited to money, property, or possessions. People have also had their ideas or intellectual property stolen, and when someone commits plagiarism, they are stealing someone else’s writings.

Some inventors have even had their ideas stolen before they could apply for patents. For example, when you think of a sewing machine, the first brand name that probably comes to mind is Singer. This company has long been associated with sewing machines, and remains probably the most recognizable name in sewing today. But Isaac Singer actually stole the idea for the sewing machine from a man named Elias Howe. In 1854, Howe sued the company for royalties—and won.


As we continue in Proverbs 1, wisdom begins to take on the qualities of an actual living entity, speaking and expounding on the benefits of listening to her. Of course, wisdom is God or God’s Word, but I like that it is presented as a person who is teaching us how to live. You will notice that wisdom is referred to as “she.” Throughout Scripture, aspects and attributes of God are described using both masculine and feminine terms. Here, wisdom is personified in a feminine way.

When I read Proverbs 1:20–33, I see in my mind’s eye a picture of wisdom at the intersections of our lives, crying out, “Listen to me!” She “calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square” (v. 20). Then comes the question, “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?” (v. 22). Today we might urge people to “simplify” their lives, but the Hebrew word used for simple in Proverbs carries a different meaning than the contemporary English word simple. To the writer of Proverbs, a simple person was “gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil.”

These people did not listen to wisdom, and I am sure they were very dissatisfied with their lives. After beseeching the simple to listen to her, wisdom instructs people to “repent at my rebuke!” (v. 23).

How easy it is to quickly glide over those four words, but they speak volumes to us if we truly listen. Thank God for the gift of repentance. How marvelous it is that we may repent, which means to turn and go in the opposite direction and receive forgiveness and a new beginning. Wisdom does not rebuke us to make us feel guilty, but to urge us to make a positive change in God’s direction.

If we are willing to repent when we are rebuked (scolded or reprimanded), we will gain more wisdom and understand how to follow it. Wisdom reflects God’s thoughts and teachings, and it is something we should all desire because without God’s thoughts and understanding we will make many painful mistakes.

Wisdom also speaks to the mockers and asks how long they will delight in their mockery (v. 22). To mock is to make light of, to disregard, or to laugh at. We should never take any of God’s commands or principles lightly, disregarding them or joking about them. People who walk in the reverential fear of God will refrain from any kind of mockery.

I’m sure you can see as we begin our study of Proverbs that the seven key principles I mentioned in the introduction are indeed intermingled throughout this book. We learned that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and that it prevents us from sinning. Now we see that those who “delight in mockery” will only cease their ridicule if they have the reverential fear of God.


Wisdom declares the future for those who refuse to listen to her, saying, “Since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you” (vv. 25–26). I realize this sounds stern, but it is what God’s Word says, and we cannot blame Him when troubles come because we have refused to listen to wise counsel. Many people who are not making good choices and living in obedience to God are not very interested in hearing about what the outcome of their current actions will be. In Proverbs 1:25–29, wisdom speaks plainly about what will happen to the simple who refuse to listen to her. She says that disaster will sweep over them, calamity will overtake them, and trouble will overwhelm them. Then, when they call on God for help, He won’t answer! He says He will not respond because “they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (v. 29).

This scenario describes what will happen to the unrepentant, but the person who listens to wisdom’s rebuke and repents has the opportunity for a new beginning. Thank God we can always begin again. No matter how we have behaved in the past, if we are sincerely sorry for our misdeeds and repent of them, God instantly forgives us and even forgets our sins completely (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12). Even though God promises us total forgiveness and new beginnings, it is always better to do what is right to begin with. If we do, we avoid much guilt, confusion, failure, and misery.

Everything God tells us is only for our good. I urge you to believe that and decide to start really listening to His voice with the intention of acting on what you learn from His Word.

According to Proverbs, those who “eat the fruit of their ways” are warned once again that the “waywardness of the simple will kill them,” but whoever listens to wisdom (God’s Word) “will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm” (vv. 31–33). Wow! This is what we all want, and Proverbs 1 gives us the roadmap that will lead us straight to it.


Proverbs 2 speaks about the moral benefits of wisdom. Of course, as I mentioned in chapter 1, wisdom is God or God’s Word, and it is presented as a person who is trying to teach and help us. In Proverbs 2:1–5, we see several of the seven foundational principles mentioned again—wisdom (v. 2), understanding (v. 2), the fear of the Lord (v. 5), and knowledge (v. 5). We read that if we will listen to wisdom and search for insight and understanding, as we would search for silver and hidden treasure, that we “will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (v. 5). God seems to like to hide things to see if we are interested enough to do the work of finding them. Think about it like this: God provides gold, silver, and precious stones for beautiful jewelry and many other things. He provides iron, copper, and other metals for us to use in building and producing other products we use, but someone has to dig for them. They are hidden in hills and mountains, and they are deep within the ground. God provides the treasure, but we have to do the digging.

In many undeveloped countries, people walk miles each day just to get filthy, disease-ridden water from a river or pond. According to the World Health Organization, waterborne illness kills 3.4 million people each year, including four thousand children each day. What’s tragic is that the villages in which these people live have clean, healthy water in the ground beneath them, but no one knows how to dig it out. Joyce Meyer Ministries has been privileged to provide the equipment and technology to dig more than 1,500 clean water wells in some of the most remote places on earth. This brings people to Jesus because they see His love being extended to them, and that changes their lives. God had already provided what they needed, but they didn’t dig for it. Wisdom wants us to dig, seek, search, cry out, and listen to her. As we are diligent to find wisdom, we will enjoy a blessed life and will have the opportunity to bless those around us.

Let me encourage you to be diligent in all endeavors, not complacent or passive. Passive people want something good to happen to them, thinking they will sit and do nothing while waiting to see if it does. But that is not the way to a successful and enjoyable life. We are partners with God. He has a part to play, and we cannot do His part no matter how hard we try. We also have a part to play, and God won’t do our part no matter how much we would like Him to. He gives us the knowledge and strength to do what we need to do, but we must choose to take action and do it.

God does certain things for us with no effort on our part. For example, salvation is available to us by His grace, not because of works we have done to deserve it (Ephesians 2:8–9). Mercy cannot be earned or deserved, and forgiveness of our sins is a gift from God. But we still need to ask, and ask in faith, in order to receive them. God wants us to avoid works of the flesh (things we try to do in our own strength that only He can do). He does not want us to avoid work itself, but that is different than engaging in works of the flesh.

God has gifted me to teach His Word. I couldn’t do it without Him, but He doesn’t do all of the work for me. I still study, develop messages, and go over them many times, making sure I have done my part before I step onto a platform expecting God to do His part. I work, but I don’t get into works of the flesh (self-effort apart from God’s leading and grace) and become frustrated about the work I am doing. I do my part and trust God to do His part.

The idea that God provides but that we still need to be active and do what He gives us to do started in the Garden of Eden and runs throughout His Word:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15

God provided the garden, and He gave Adam the ability to take care of it. But Adam had to choose to follow God’s instructions:

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

Throughout Proverbs we find that passivity, laziness, and an unwillingness to work hard cause problems. We are to be committed, diligent, and willing to work. Every effort we sow according to God’s purpose and plan for us will bring an abundant harvest into our lives.


Proverbs teaches us that God “holds success in store for the upright” (v. 7). Let’s be clear about what being successful means. It is not primarily about having a lot of money or a high position at work or in the community. Success is first having a close, intimate relationship with God through Christ. Then it entails an abundance of peace and joy, regardless of our circumstances.

The Oxford dictionary says that the definition of success is the attainment of popularity or profit, but God defines success differently. Although successful people will have their needs met and have enough left over to bless others, not all people who are successful will be millionaires or CEOs. I believe that to be successful in God’s eyes, we need pure hearts, an intense love for Him and for people, a desire to serve, and an eagerness to learn and grow spiritually.

Yes, God promises success to the upright, but being upright does not mean we are perfect. It does mean that we want to be perfect because of our love for Jesus, and that we are willing to press toward that goal as long as we live.

Wisdom also promises to shield “those whose walk is blameless,” whose course in life is just, and whose way is faithful (vv. 7–8). The promise of God’s protection is often repeated in Scripture and is very comforting. The world today is extremely violent, and I would much rather know that God is protecting me than to think I had to be on guard, constantly trying to protect myself. We read in Proverbs 2:11–12 that wisdom saves us, and discretion will protect and guard us. It especially says that wisdom will save us from people whose “words are perverse” and who “walk in dark ways” and “delight in doing wrong” (vv. 12–14).

The people we choose as our friends and companions in life are very important because they influence us more than we may realize. However, if we operate in wisdom, which is the proper use of knowledge or doing now what we will be satisfied with later, it will protect us from people who will influence us negatively by guiding us to avoid them.


“You shall not commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments God gave Moses to give to the Israelites (Exodus 20:14). Proverbs 2:16 is Proverbs’ first mention of adultery, but not the last, as the writer of Proverbs issues many warnings against sexual immorality. In Proverbs 2:16–19, the adulterous woman speaks seductive words, she has ignored the covenant she made before God when she married, and her house leads to death.

Sexual sin is probably ranked high on the scale of sins most often committed. This tells me that temptation in this area is very strong, at least for many people. Every sin does not yield the same degree of destruction. Adultery brings a special kind of misery because it hurts many people and is said to be a sin against one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). When a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship, it creates a bond between them, because in that relationship, the two become one. In addition, our bodies belong to the Lord and we are to glorify and honor Him through them (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

If we follow wisdom, it will cause us to keep to the right path in life. Faithful people “walk in the ways of good,” but “the unfaithful will be torn from” the land (vv. 20, 22). Sexual temptation can be very compelling, but the momentary pleasure it may bring is not worth the destruction and trouble it causes.

Many people think about wisdom in terms of how they spend their time or money, or in regard to practical decisions regarding their future. But wisdom is also vitally important in relationships and in personal matters, as we see in the comments Proverbs 2 makes about adultery. In every area of your life, be wise and do now what you will be happy with later.


The NIV heading for Proverbs 3 is “Wisdom Bestows Well-Being.” This is certainly true, and therefore we are encouraged not to forget the teaching of wisdom, because it will prolong our lives for many years and bring us “peace and prosperity” (vv. 1–2). It stands to reason that if we use wisdom concerning our bodies, we position ourselves to live longer lives. How many people shorten their lives due to years and years of eating junk food, failing to get enough sleep or rest, not drinking enough water, and ignoring the need for exercise? Add to this an overload of stress and schedules that force us to multitask and hurry almost constantly, and it is no wonder many people feel bad physically and mentally, and even die prematurely simply because they did not use wisdom regarding their health.


Proverbs 3:3–6 is one of my favorite Bible passages. It teaches us to trust God and not to rely on our own understanding, but to submit to God in all of our ways. If we follow this wise advice, He will direct and make straight the path before us.

When we lean on our own understanding, we often fall into reasoning—rotating our minds around and around a subject, wanting to know who, what, when, where, and how. Reasoning causes most of us a lot of frustration and confusion. I know that the more I reason, the more confused I become. The rule I have for myself concerning reasoning is that I am free to think about a situation, ponder it, and ask God to reveal hidden things to me, but when I am getting no answer from God and becoming confused instead, then it is time to cast my care on God and be satisfied not knowing the answers I have tried to figure out.

If God withholds knowledge from us, He has a good reason for doing so. If nothing else, His silence serves as an opportunity for us to grow in learning to trust Him. I was once the type of person who wanted to know every reason behind everything. I came to realize I was addicted to reasoning; I could not settle down and be content unless I thought I had all the answers. Eventually, God’s grace set me free from the drive to know so much. I discovered that sometimes the less I know, the happier I am. Trusting God and not leaning on my own understanding is the best stress reliever I know of.

Proverbs 3:7 encourages us not to be wise in our own eyes. This verse confronts us with the need for humility. We often think we can handle situations on our own because we think we are far more capable than we are. But God knows that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We can do all things through Him, but nothing without Him (Philippians 4:13). God’s Word advises us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3). If we follow this instruction and humbly depend on the Lord in all situations, we will avoid a great deal of misery and experience His blessings in our lives.


The writer of Proverbs once again brings up the subject of the fear of the Lord and informs us that fearing God and avoiding evil will bring health to our bodies and nourishment to our bones (vv. 7–8). Simply put, we will be healthier if we shun evil and maintain a healthy reverential fear and awe of God. Scripture makes clear that if we follow God’s advice, our lives will be enjoyable, successful, and fruitful, but if we don’t, we will experience unhappiness and misery in our bodies, souls, spirits, and daily lives.

I am not suggesting that we should cower before God or fear that He will harm us if we make a mistake, but we should recognize and revere His holiness and His power. Hebrews 12:29 says, “God is a consuming fire.” As I look at society today and see the loose morals of even many Christians, I feel we need a healthy dose of the proper reverential fear and awe of God. The person who reverently fears the Lord would rather do anything than offend Him!


Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” The biblical term firstfruits refers to the offerings the Israelites brought to God when they gave Him the earliest fruits of their crops, believing in faith that He would bless them with a great harvest (Exodus 23:16, 19). Obeying God in this way could have been challenging because if they gave away their firstfruits and then, for some reason, the crops didn’t yield any more, they would have been left with nothing.

God asks for our firstfruits because giving Him our firsts requires placing our faith in Him. When we give the earliest evidence that our efforts are producing something, we demonstrate our trust in Him, believing that He is faithful and will take our firstfruits as seed and multiply them back to us in an amazing harvest. In God’s Kingdom we must lose something in order to gain more (Luke 9:23–25). This principle sounds upside-down from anything we learn in the world, but it works. The Word of God promises us that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). We also have the testimonies of thousands upon thousands of people who have experienced blessings in response to obeying God’s request for our firstfruits, or the first 10 percent (a tithe) of all of our increase.

Some people say that, because tithing was part of the Old Covenant, then under the New Covenant we have with God through Christ, we are no longer required to tithe as a law. But tithing is a biblical principle that honors God and opens the door to many blessings in our lives. As New Testament believers, we are called to be generous and give extravagant freewill offerings, giving joyously, freely, and abundantly. I believe if the Israelites could tithe under the law, we can give even more than 10 percent by grace. The covenant of grace, which Jesus instituted, is better than the covenant of the law (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6), and giving out of desire is certainly better than giving out of duty. Everything we have belongs to God because it all comes from Him. We are not owners of anything, but God trusts us to be good stewards of everything He allows us to enjoy.

If we honor the Lord with our wealth, our barns will be overflowing, meaning that we will have all we need and an abundance to share with others. The Old Testament prophet Malachi writes in regard to tithing that if we will do it, God will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so great that we will not have enough room to store them (Malachi 3:10).

If you were to ask me, “Joyce, do you believe we have to tithe?” I would say no, because I don’t think we can buy God’s favor and blessing with our money. God desires generous givers whose hearts are in their giving.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:7–8


On Sale
Jan 18, 2022
Page Count
272 pages

Joyce Meyer

About the Author

JOYCE MEYER is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers. Her broadcast, Enjoying Everyday Life, airs daily on hundreds of television networks and radio stations worldwide. Joyce has written nearly 100 inspirational books. Bestsellers include God Is Not Mad at You; Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits; Living Beyond Your Feelings; Power Thoughts; Battlefield of the Mind; and The Confident Woman. Joyce holds conferences throughout the year, speaking to thousands around the world.

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