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Bible Study

Proverbs 3: The Path to a Truly Happy Life

by Kenneth M. Orel

God wants everyone to be happy. At times, this can feel elusive—even for someone who has God’s truth and has every reason to be content. One chapter in the Bible summarizes what to do to cause true happiness.

According to a recent Harris Poll, 67 percent of United States adults report being unhappy with their lives.

Think about this. The fact that more than half of the nearly 250 million adults in the country are unhappy is staggering! And this does not take into consideration the tens of millions of teenagers in America—one of the most blessed nations—or the billions of people across the globe.

Consider just one story from an American newspaper.

A very popular teen, who seemingly had everything going for her, was drowning in unhappiness—so much so that she took her own life. The story reported that she was raised in a nice home, was attractive, loved her family, played on the tennis team, was involved in her high school’s student government, and had a lot of friends—yet she was miserable. Everyone who knew her was stunned by her actions. “She was such a happy person,” one of her friends recalled.

How could someone who appeared to have everything take her own life?

The answer can be traced to mankind’s first parents. The author of unhappiness—Satan—crafted an environment of discontent by diverting Adam and Eve’s attention from following God’s Way. The moment human beings set out to do things their own way instead of God’s, they began living in a troubled world.

Many believe that money, power, position and other things that the world offers produce happiness. Certainly, these bring temporary feelings of satisfaction. Yet these eventually pass away through the natural course of life.

True happiness is not some ethereal feeling produced by a temporary bout of good fortune. A materialistic world that has rejected the true God would have you believe happiness is based on what you have or how you feel at the moment. Real happiness, however, goes much deeper than that.

The world will continue to be an unhappy place until people learn and live “the way of God” (Acts 18:26), as true happiness is a byproduct of living how God intended.

In Proverbs 4:20-23, we are told to “attend to my words; incline your ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart…they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”

God wants us to diligently apply what He commands. Therefore, learning to be happy involves a series of things we must do. Put simply, happiness is produced by what we do, not what we have.

Our loving Father has provided a condensed outline to teach us to be happy. That outline is Proverbs 3.

This chapter details a series of fundamental commands that, if followed, show us how to live when it comes to our relationships with God and man. It is a complete snapshot of how we can be well-rounded and have peace in our lives, which always leads to happiness. If followed, it will also lead a wise student to inherit the ultimate happiness: eternal life.

As you go through this Bible study, understand that each point is a building block for the next. Following one or two, or even most, of the points is not enough. Only if we perform all of them can we be complete and experience a happy life while qualifying for the next phase of God’s Plan.

Yet even Proverbs 3 is only a starting point. Each point contains additional verses from God’s Word that prove how it relates to happiness. You may wish to go into a much deeper study of each of these on your own.

Similar to the Bible Introduction Course, write out each verse that is in bold. Although this will take time, it will help ingrain the vital principles contained within God’s Word—which will help you lead a happier life!

(1) Proverbs 3:1-2: Remember and keep God’s Law. Proverbs 29:18; Psalm 1:1-3.

What better way to start out than for God to show what we need first and foremost in our minds? Because of what God’s Law is—the only way of life that leads to happiness—we cannot ever forget it. The result is length of days (productivity), long life (longevity), and peace.

Four times in the book of Deuteronomy, God warns His people not to forget His Way, using the terms “take heed” (4:9, 23) and “beware” (6:12; 8:11). On the other hand, He warns that if we forget His Law, we will perish (8:19)—certainly not a happy end.

God would not repeatedly warn us if we were not prone to forgetting. He understands how easy it is for human beings to get sidetracked, especially in a “world that lies in wickedness” (I John 5:19).

One way to not forget His Law is to read it daily. The kings of ancient Israel were commanded to read God’s Law every day (Deut. 17:19). If we hope to be kings, we should daily read about God’s laws so we never forget them.

(2) Proverbs 3:3-4: Do not allow mercy and truth to abandon you. Matthew 5:7; Proverbs 14:21.

Mercy and truth are such vital elements of character that we must strive to keep them as part of our lives. They will abandon us if we are careless.

God is “plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psa. 86:15). We must copy Him. In Colossians 3:12, we are told by the apostle Paul to “put on” bowels of mercies. The Greek word translated “put on” means “to be clothed.”

When we receive God’s Spirit, we are begotten with the word of truth (Jms. 1:18), and then we are to clothe ourselves with mercy—acts of kindness.

Especially if you are in a leadership position, learn to be merciful rather than coming at someone with wrath and anger if he does someone wrong. Do not be quick to mete out judgment on anyone. As a general rule, give people the benefit of the doubt.

As we prepare to rule over cities, mercy and truth will contribute to our success: “Mercy and truth preserve [guard] the king: and his throne is upholden [supported, established or strengthened] by mercy” (Prov. 20:28). When these two things are present in a ruler, the people rejoice (29:2).

Obey the truth (Gal. 3:1; 5:7) and seek constantly to perform acts of mercy. If you do, happiness will abound!

(3) Proverbs 3:5-8: Trust God in everything. Psalm 146:5; Philippians 4:19; Psalm 34:8.

Because we have been raised in the devil’s world, it takes God’s calling to lead us to safety. Men are incapable of directing their own lives (Jer. 10:23). We must recognize that we are completely dependent on God for everything, and learn not to rely on our own severely limited understanding, which has been tainted by Satan’s ways.

If we trust God, He will supply our needs (Matt. 6:31-32) and protect and deliver us.

Our loving Father knows exactly what we need before we even ask Him (Matt. 6:8). All He requires of us is to trust Him, delight in Him, and commit our lives to Him (Psa. 37:3-5). When we depend on Him, He promises that He will not abandon us (9:10).

(4) Proverbs 3:9-10: Honor God by giving back to Him. Malachi 3:10-11.

Everything belongs to God (Psa. 89:11), but He only requires us to give Him 10 percent of our income. By doing so, He promises to provide and give back even more than we give Him!

While God does not need anything from us, there is a Work that He requires us to do on Earth. He desires that we be part of that Work in spreading the good news of His coming kingdom so that we can learn to focus on others. He then blesses us for our obedience by bringing more human beings to the knowledge of the truth.

Giving tithes and offerings to God’s Work is not only a requirement, but also a privilege. Be happy knowing that you are helping to give the greatest gift to others—the gospel.

(5) Proverbs 3:11-12: Do not despise correction. I Peter 4:14; Job 5:17; Hebrews 12:11.

We have been raised in the devil’s society. We have developed habits, thoughts and traditions that we assume are correct. What we may have considered right in our own eyes (Prov. 21:2; 16:2) is not the case in God’s viewpoint. Because of this, God will periodically correct us, and we are told not to despise it.

It is against human nature—which is Satan’s nature—to be corrected. The devil, the greatest offender of God’s Way, has no desire to be corrected.

Yet we should consider it a blessing to be corrected by God, often through His ministry. Jesus Christ has set them up to help us along the path to the kingdom. We should always remember that when we are corrected, it proves that God loves us (Heb. 12:6) and is preparing us to become His children (vs. 7-10).

(6) Proverbs 3:13-24: Find wisdom and understanding.

Right on the heels of the need to be corrected, we are told that we will be happy if we find wisdom and understanding—and then retain them.

Compared to anything else of physical value, these two qualities stand out as what we should pursue. Wisdom and understanding are eternal while the precious things of this world are temporary and cannot deliver prolonged happiness.

The benefits of wisdom and understanding bring long life, wealth, honor, pleasantness, grace, peace and safety. When someone possesses these things, they will no doubt be happy. The entire book of Proverbs details more ways to exercise both wisdom and understanding.

(7) Proverbs 3:25-26: Do not fear anything. II Corinthians 13:11.

In a world filled with uncertainty, violence and death, God promises security and safety. We are told not to fear anything. No person can truly be happy if there is something present that makes him afraid.

God is called a God of “love and peace” and “all comfort” (II Cor. 1:3). He alone can provide for us. The psalmist David recorded: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and staff they comfort me” (Psa. 23:2, 4).

Because of man’s sinful ways, God has ordained penalties and these can bring fear. Deuteronomy 28 demonstrates these eventual curses for those who continually disobey. It becomes easy to see why someone would be fearful considering the consequences of disobedience: cursing, vexation and rebuke (vs. 20), pestilence (vs. 21), consumption, fever, inflammation, extreme burning, the sword, blasting, mildew (vs. 22), no rain (vs. 23), defeat in war (vs. 25), diseases (vs. 27), madness and blindness (vs. 28)—the list goes on.

If we obey God, however, we do not have to fear any of these things. Read Psalm 91 to see this.

(8) Proverbs 3:27-28: Do not withhold good. Ecclesiastes 11:1; Isaiah 58:7-8.

God is a loving Father and Provider (Psa. 145:16). He cares about His Creation (Matt. 5:45). He even cares about the animals (Psa. 104:10-18, 27-28). He desires that we be just like Him in caring for what He has given us (Gen. 1:28; Psa. 8:6).

Sometimes we need to be creative as to what we can give. Consider that giving does not only involve physical things. We can give our time, our love, our patience, etc.

One important fact to keep in mind: Everything that we have was given to us (I Cor. 4:7). Our very existence was given to us. When the opportunity presents itself, we should offer what we are able and not withhold that with which we have been blessed. We cannot fall into a hoarder’s mindset. What would be the point if it is temporary anyway (Prov. 23:4-5)?

When we give, God promises that we will be given back more for whatever we need, when we need it (Luke 6:38; II Cor. 9:8). What a loving God we serve! By practicing this same principle toward others, we can learn to be like the most generous Being.

(9) Proverbs 3:29: Do not devise evil against anyone. I Peter 4:14.

To “devise evil” can be translated to “plot harm.” In other words, we are not to do anything against our neighbors to their hurt or disadvantage.

God hates when someone plots against another (Zech. 8:17). On the contrary, even if someone else is out to do us harm, we are commanded to love them (Matt. 5:44).

Our Father is in the long-term process of building a Family. Right now, the whole world is deceived and under the sway of the evil one (I John 5:19). Yet each person is a potential son of God. Those without the knowledge of God’s ways are not to be condemned. We were once enemies ourselves before being mercifully called out of this world (Rom. 5:10).

(10) Proverbs 3:30: Do not strive with anyone. II Timothy 2:24.

The Hebrew word translated “strive” means to grapple or hold a controversy. Remember, God is a God of peace (II Cor. 13:11) and expects His children to be the same.

Take time to read the entirety of Leviticus 19. It explains how to have proper relations with people. In Mark 12:31, Christ quoted the command in Leviticus 19:18 to love our neighbors as ourselves.

(11) Proverbs 3:31-34: Do not envy evil people. Psalm 37:1-3.

Being envious or jealous of evil people deteriorates our happiness. At times, it can appear wicked people get away with things since there is not speedy judgment (Ecc. 8:11). However, we are told that the way of transgressors is hard (Prov. 13:15). Evil will always catch up with those who commit it, and there will always be a price to pay.

Also, envying evil people could mean that we are looking back with longing eyes at our old life. God does not want us to do this (Luke 9:62). Remember, He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for looking back—longing after her old life.

Consider one graphic way God describes the world we came out of: “The Lord has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as you are this day” (Deut. 4:20).

This does not sound very pleasant! For that reason alone, we should not desire to go back or envy those who still remain there.

(12) Proverbs 3:35: The wise (those who do these things) will ultimately inherit eternal glory. Psalm 16:11; I John 2:25.

Using the instructions in Proverbs 3 as a guide for our lives not only ensures that we will have long lives, peace, safety—but most important, we will inherit glory. This alone should make every Christian happy.

You might consider reading this chapter of Proverbs at the start of every week to remind you how to conduct your life and what will cause true happiness. It is a profitable way to kick-start your study, meditation and prayers each week. Remember, God provided this summary guide for happiness to all who seek to be in His Family!

Deuteronomy 4:40 states: “You shall keep therefore His statues and His commandments, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days upon the earth, which the Lord your God gives you, forever.”

“Go well with you” means to “make well” or to be “happy, successful, right.” Keeping the way of God causes true happiness!