Thousands of years ago the wisest, wealthiest, and most powerful man of his day compiled a book of pithy and practical insights for living well. Solomon's timeless book of Proverbs provides nuggets of wisdom that foster success in every area of life.

I have used the term "secrets" to describe Solomon's insights because this wisdom is not available to the casual observer but only to those who search for it as for "hidden treasures" (Proverbs 2:4). Solomon's advice concerning money, marriage, parenting and just about every other life area is really "uncommon sense" because it is contrary to our natural inclinations.

As we look at Solomon's secrets for living well, there are four underlying truths we need to keep in mind.

1. The focus of Proverbs is this life, not the next one.
You can read the entire book of Proverbs without ever learning how to pray, how to share your faith, or how to go to heaven after you die. The emphasis in Proverbs is not the hereafter, but the here and now. God is vitally interested in your success today as well as in eternity.

2. The measure of living well is not money.
Yes, the book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about earning, saving, spending, and investing money. I believe one reason many people are not prospering financially is because they fail to follow God's timeless wisdom about money. If you apply the simple principles of Proverbs, you will have more money to:

• provide for your children's education
• fund a secure retirement
• splurge on enjoyable vacations
• invest in God's eternal work

Yet we need to resist the philosophy of this age that says, "Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can." This week I read of a world-famous corporate raider who said, "Money is the best way to keep score." No, Jesus said, life consists of more than our possessions: "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:25).

3. Living well does not exempt us from problems.
Last Sunday night at our annual "Stump the Pastor" question-and-answer session, one member asked, "Why do Christians seem to have more difficulty in this life than non-Christians?" Behind such a question is the assumption that obedience to God should solve problems, not create more problems. Certainly there is a sense in which that is true. Those who follow God's wisdom will generally experience greater financial, relational, and vocational success than those who do not.

Nevertheless, living well does not guarantee a problem-free existence. The Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood wrote:

"In many areas the gospel, instead of taking away people's burdens, actually adds to them . . . Occasionally we talk of our Christianity as something that solves problems, and there is a sense in which it does. Long before it does so, however, it increases both the number and the intensity of the problems."

Jesus promises His followers that they can expect problems in this world. But then He adds, "Take courage, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Author Philip Yancey tells of the death of his godly father-in-law, whose final years were marked by a disabling illness, the death of one of his daughters, and severe financial pressure. This lifelong Bible teacher began to question some of the truths he had taught through the years. Nevertheless, during the height of his crisis, he mailed a letter to his family outlining the three things he still believed in firmly: Life is difficult. God is merciful. Heaven is sure. In spite of illness, financial loss, and impending death, this stalwart of the faith knew what it meant to both live and die well.