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Arrrr, Limeys!

November 18th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 9: 11-12 (NLT)

 11 Wisdom will multiply your days
      and add years to your life.
12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.
      If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Brace yourself for an extremely historical Daily Thread . . . aha (diabolically)!  I begin with a tale of seafaring danger.  Hoisting the mainsails upon the high seas in the 16th Century, Scottish physician James Lind set out to discover what could prevent the deadly disease scurvy, which claimed the lives of thousands of sailors every year.  What he discovered . . . or at least what he thought he discovered . . . literally changed the face of the British navy.  

Lind’s discovery was that if sailors would eat fresh limes, they would not get scurvy.  His research was so significant that the British naval admiralty began requiring the issuance of limes to all of their ships. That’s why British sailors earned the nickname, “limeys.”  Eventually, scurvy was completely obliterated from the navy.  James Lind thought that he had ascertained the medicinal value of limes.  He was correct that limes did the trick, but he was mistaken about the reason why.

The raw knowledge that limes helped prevent scurvy led other scientists to continue to research the subject over the next couple of centuries.  It wasn’t until 1930 that a brilliant Hungarian scientist named Albert Szent-Györgyi made the discovery that the true cause of the lime’s amazing healing properties was something called ascorbic acid, later refined into hexuronic acid.  Hexuronic acid eventually became known as something you and I ingest each time we have orange juice for breakfast: Vitamin C.

Whew!  Still with me?  Hang on.

I make a few observations about the journey of the discovery of Vitamin C.  First of all, James Lind found real truth in his conclusions about the benefits of limes.  Truth is truth, not matter how you juice it.  My four-month old little girl may not understand the principles of gravity, but she certainly is aware of it every time she tumbles over on her play mat.  Comprehending truth is not necessary to live by it.

Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi lived some two hundred years later than Dr. Lind.  He had access to more modern tools and technology.  He had two extra centuries of research and scientific discovery behind him. Hey, just imagine how much things have changed in our lives in the last ten years?  Try two-hundred! Sometimes, it takes time to understand the principles behind the truth.  Though each of the scientists interacted with truth in their own unique ways, they both benefited from it. The results were the same in both centuries: people were healthier.

Such is the nature of wisdom.  This passage reveals to us the “Vitamin C qualities” of wisdom, “Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.”  Many people feel that since they don’t fully understand the principles of God’s Word or the wisdom there within that they cannot have access to its life-preserving characteristics.  “I’m not a good reader.  I’m a new Christian and I’m just learning this stuff.  I’m not as far along as the others.”

Ah, my friends, fret not.  We are like Dr. Lind– you and I don’t have to understand God to benefit from Him . . . and it’s a good thing, too, because we would all be in trouble.  Receiving the cure to our spiritual scurvy doesn’t come because we comprehend it; it comes simply because we consume the “limes” of His grace. His wisdom is available to all those who sail the seas of life– we just have eat it.

The final truth of this vitamin-packed Thread has to do with personal application.  During all those research voyages that Dr. Lind sailed, I bet that he was the first one to eat the limes.  How sad and strangely ironic would it be if the man who discovered that limes cured scurvy died of scurvy.  That just wouldn’t make sense.  

In like manner, we must be the first ones to live out the principles of Godly wisdom that we study.  As this passage tells us, “If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.”  That’s the best part of getting wisdom.  It’s not that we get to show off our trivia knowledge at parties or that we get to be know-it-alls that annoy everyone– that’s not what wisdom is all about.  Real wisdom is useful.  It makes sense in the middle of life’s storms and it should benefit the lives of everyone aboard our ship . . . spiritually, of course.

Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi certainly believed in the principles that he discovered.  After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine for his research, he apparently took quite a bit of his own medicine.  He lived to be ninety-three years old!  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Once we do learn something about God’s wisdom, shouldn’t we give ourselves hefty doses of it each day?  


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