Category Archives: Wisdom

THE WISDOM OF GOD, PART II-B; The Promise of Wisdom

light-bulb-376922_1920Last week we learned some of the basic premises about wisdom and know God greatly desires for us to have and operate in wisdom.

SO WHAT’S THE CATCH?

Note the verses leading up to this proclamation are about trials and the perfecting work of patience in our lives. A trial (or testing) does not necessarily involve suffering. It could, but it is not a given. A clearer understanding of these trials would be the “testing of our faith” as referenced in verse three. Faith untested is not faith, it is only a surmising, or a held belief. I often watched my husband call to one of our children standing on the edge of the pool to jump to him; they so wanted to leap into his arms. I could see their eyes of faith as they jumped with complete abandon. Likewise, our Heavenly Father calls to us and wants us to put our faith and trust in Him. He won’t let us fall. We need that child-like faith that lets us cast all our care upon Him as we jump into His loving arms.

God tells us we all need this tender heart of faith (Matt. 18:3). As a young child, I loved God and wanted to go to heaven. I chose to cast my all upon God with a tender heart of child-like faith, believing His promise to wipe away my sin. Through the years my tender heart’s belief in and desire for God has become strong; through the trials He has proven Himself faithful. My tender childlike heart’s faith has turned into a mature and strong faith in Him. As Wikipedia describes faith, I now have a “complete trust and confidence”[1] in Him.

Flying terrifies me. But my work required I travel across the country. I could know the principles of aerodynamics, visit the airport to watch planes take off and land, and even talk with the pilot before the flight took off. But faith in the pilot and plane itself required me to actually get on the plane and take my seat. Putting my life in someone’s hands and trusting that pile of tin and equipment took an act of faith that shook me to the core. But I wanted to succeed at my job; so faith became a mandate. Over the years and thousands of miles in a plane, I’ve learned to relax and actually enjoy the flight. Would you believe I can fall asleep in the air? My faith has increased so I experience peace. Do you want to enjoy rest and peace? Is it hard to let go and trust God? I don’t know about you, but I hate not being in control. But in the trials, when I cannot be in control, I’m learning to trust Him to take the wheel; I have learned to hold His hand knowing He’s got this.

Faith requires moving forward when we cannot see the outcome; we must hold fast to the hand of the One who leads us, when we cannot see where we are going. He declares it is through the testing we gain patience; and the perfect work of patience will make us whole, lacking nothing. In the midst of these tests, James encourages us to ask for wisdom holding fast to the promise it will be given. The context is: He does hear; He will answer. The acknowledgement that we are going to gain patience, however, seems to indicate we may not see an immediate answer.

Verse six admonishes we should ask without wavering lest we be like a ship tossed about on the seas. And verse seven says, “such people” (the wavering) “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” And verse eight takes the wavering man a step further; “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Now, the man in verse eight hardly sounds like the man God was promising wisdom in verse five. What happened to him in only three verses? UNBELIEF.

Basically, He says when we are in a trial, and find we need His wisdom and help, we should ask knowing wisdom will be given. But, first comes the testing of our faith. Testing builds faith, which is the critical ingredient He is looking for, and indeed building, in our lives. We must believe and trust Him and not waver in the midst of the test, lest He see our unbelief (the opposite of faith) and give us nothing. “Faith is not knowing God can, it’s knowing He will” (Ben Stein). Does this describe your confidence in God in a trial?

The road to wisdom may involve some times of uncertainty and turmoil. Whether you are of the theological persuasion God directs our paths through these trials or that trials are just part of life’s journey in a fallen world, hopefully we can all agree God meets us in the midst of our trials when we call upon Him. He uses these trials to strengthen and build our faith as He did the disciples in the midst of the storm. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

The reason for the test is to prove, indeed strengthen, our faith in Him. When the disciples were in the middle of the raging sea, and the winds were blowing, Christ was on board. He heard their cry, met them in their distress, calmed the storm, and provided them safe passage. And they were in awe. I’ve faced many life storms and cannot imagine how I’m going to come through. Then I call on the Master. The next thing I know, I’m on solid ground and look back with awe, because I know I survived only because of Him and His power in my life. Experience walking with the Master brings peace. Life’s storms no longer frighten me as they once did. I know He’s got this one, too. He’s on board. I can be at peace.

Remember the Israelites? They found themselves in bondage and cried out for God’s salvation. He went to elaborate lengths to free them and desired to give them the Promised Land (more than they ever asked or even dreamed possible). Think of the happenstances God orchestrated simply because they asked. As they continued their labors through many subsequent years of slavery, not seeing God at work, He was busy answering their prayers. Was it an accident Moses was safely hidden in the bulrushes, and that the Pharaoh’s daughter found him and protected him? I think not. God knew Moses was going to need access to the Pharaoh and the strength and courage to stand before the courts of Pharaoh one day (even if he wasn’t an articulate man). And while His time fleeing into the wilderness may look like wasted years to you and me, God knew he was also going to need to know how to exist in a wilderness if he was going to lead about a million Israelites through one. But all this took time, and there was certainly reason for the enslaved Israelites to doubt if God had even heard their pleas. Oh, but He had not forgotten His promise to them. And He has not forgotten your pleas, and will be faithful to His promises to you.

Do you remember what happened on the Israelites’ trip to the Promised Land when they began to waver and think they wanted to return to Egypt, or when they murmured about the manna, God’s provision? Do you remember His anger when they turned to other gods? Do you also remember they wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died there, never seeing the Promised Land in their generation? If you begin to think about wavering in the midst of your life’s journey just because the winds begin to blow, you might want to remember the children of Israel who left Egypt bound for the Promised Land. Because of their unbelief, they ended up dying in the wilderness with NOTHING, when God had everything just a few miles down the road for them.

God indicates when we ask Him for wisdom, He tests our faith (our own personal wilderness). Through testing, patience has her perfecting work in our lives. As we exercise our spiritual muscles, we learn how to make good and wise choices; we learn to recognize and hear the Master’s voice. We learn to rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help us develop endurance (translated as patience in the KJV). Problems, tests, and trials are hard; they can be frustrating, unsettling, and can even hurt. Oh, but they bring the sweet fruit of patience and endurance, which means we will lack nothing. This lacking nothing promise doesn’t mean you will have a big house and a new boat. The translation is you will be mature. I like to think of it as being fully prepared and ready to fulfill my purpose: the job He created me to do.

It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand once burned by a fire you are not likely to get near a flame again. Indeed, even the smell of smoke would cause you to flee. In the trial we learn; we become able to discern wisdom and ultimately make good choices. This sounds like testing and trials are our wisdom (skillful living) university. Our faith in Him, our source of power, is refined by trials. We are made pure as gold: a fully matured child of God. It is the mature Christian, the one lacking nothing, who is able to walk through trials as a man or woman of faith. You can see this is a process. Think of it as exercising your spiritual wisdom muscles, much like we do our physical bodies, to gain strength for life’s journey.

For example: when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to go into the fire the first time, no doubt they placed their faith in God (albeit their knees may have been knocking), and He rewarded their faith. Imagine there had come a time when they had to go into the fire again. Do you think it would have been as difficult the second time to put their faith in God? I’m thinking those knees wouldn’t have knocked nearly as much, for they would have known beyond any shadow of a doubt their God would meet them in the furnace and bring them out on the other side without even the smell of smoke. The trial builds confidence in God: Faith.

God does not take us through trials so He can rescue us and then sit back, bask in His glory, and draw attention to Himself as the deliverer. He allows us to go through trials to increase our faith. WHY? Faith gives us confidence in Him and allows us to rest and to be at PEACE. He doesn’t want us to be tossed about by the wind and waves as we journey through this broken world. He wants our anchor to be firmly placed in Him that we might understand and experience true security free of fear: PEACE. If we are going to experience walking in His power, we are going to have to get comfortable flying high. We are going to need our security to be placed in Him and His power, the author and finisher of our faith. He’s going to take you places and use you to do things that would petrify you in your flesh. But in Him, you can do all things because He is going to strengthen you and use you to do things you haven’t ever even thought of at this point in your journey (Phil. 4:13). I love D. L. Moody’s statement: “If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!” Remember that question on the top of your notes? Think about it in light of the fact that God has BIG plans for you.

Trust me on this one, the last thing I’d ever have thought He would ask me to do is author a book—about the wisdom of God. Let’s just say this venture is a curve ball outside my comfort zone. Why didn’t He ask someone like Rick Warren, Max Lucado, or Beth Moore to write this book on His powers? “Seriously, God, they are great authors, willing servants, and have platforms, and people who follow them. ME? Are you sure? Do you realize I don’t know how to do this, and have never written the first article about anything? Maybe you should talk with my high school English teacher. She would explain my abilities, or lack thereof, in a way that would make you give up on this notion of my writing a book—about your wisdom and power. God, you do realize I don’t even have a website or Facebook page, right? We are talking no platform: zero followers. I’m a nobody. Who wants to know what I know about your power?” Well, let’s just say He wouldn’t take no for an answer. You see, if He had given all we are going to learn to those three great servants of God, you may have read this book but you would have mentally assumed God shows up in power for great men and women of faith. But this book is proof God shows up and reveals Himself to an ordinary girl who asks. And He will do the same for you. I have no confidence in me, and if I listen to all the professionals who tell me what I need to be successful or useful to the Kingdom, I’d have given up long ago. But I have all confidence in Him. So I’m stepping out in obedience. And it doesn’t matter if I only sell ten books to devoted family members or never figure out how to activate a website. My role, and yours, is obedience. Just do what the Master tells you to do, and trust Him to do as He pleases with your five loaves and two fishes.

Take my word on this. It isn’t going to be anything you might come up with on your own: that doable feat, the safe road. It’s going to require you launch out into the deep and do things in a different way than conventional wisdom dictates. You will have to do what He tells you to do, no matter what anyone else says. The crowds mocked Noah, Isaac questioned Abraham’s sacrifice, Gideon’s army dwindled, the fisherman doubted Jesus’ instructions, the brothers thought they had gotten rid of Joseph, the three Israelite children chose to eat vegetables, and the Jewish leaders thought they had killed and buried Jesus. Oh, but then we see wisdom, the plan and power of God: His way, not ours. His track record is pretty good in the book I’ve been studying, so let’s keep moving forward.

I have experienced many trials: the loss of a child, financial stress, loss of a job, and cancer. The first time the trials came, I tentatively placed my hand in His and fixed my eyes on Him with a young but trusting heart. Now, when the winds blow, I can be still, even rest, knowing He is faithful. Only through the fire was my faith increased and refined so I can experience peace while I wait for the storms of life to pass. I can now sleep while He flies the plane. I can now get out of the boat in deep waters and come when He calls, even if it looks like foolishness to man. I trust Him. God is calling you to a place where you trust Him completely, no matter where He leads. Don’t be afraid. Don’t turn back. I can assure you He’s faithful.

Clearly in our daily life trials, we must ask God for wisdom, patiently expecting His clear direction. We must not begin to waiver or question God. We should not fear when the trials come, doubting His presence and deliverance, lest we become double-minded. Questioning God’s will obviously leaves man in a state of confusion and wanting. And we know our God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Instead, we should embrace each trial, pursue each road we are asked to travel, look for His teachings, seek His ways, and ask for His wisdom while we patiently wait for His answers. I Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes us, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” James takes it to the next level and tells us to rejoice in the trials. That’s right, each trial, each test, is allowed in your life by your Heavenly Father to teach you all things so you will be lacking nothing. He has His eyes firmly fixed on His desired end for you: conformity to the image of His Son. He has plans for you and wants to use you for His glory. So rejoice and get excited when the winds blow. God is working in you and on your behalf. Could it be we move His heart when we actually thank Him for the trial?

Likewise, when we ask for His wisdom and help, we need to ask in faith, knowing He has promised to give us wisdom from His abundant storehouse. We need to remember He is as anxious to answer our pleas as He was to hear and free the Israelites or to join Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He is putting together an amazing plan to lead us to the place where He wants us to dwell, even if right now you seem to be in a pit. Joseph couldn’t see the plan from the pit, but God had it all worked out. Indeed, just like the journey the Israelites had to take, we learn from Jesus’ brother’s own words that while the path to wisdom may include a few obstacles, we can still experience the abundant life: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). It’s hard to rejoice in the fire or a pit. But your faith is in the power of God: THE POWER OF GOD. God’s wisdom says, trust Him, not your circumstances. So call a prayer meeting and start praising like the apostles in prison. Remember not to fear when the walls begin to quake. He can use you right where you are. He can, and WILL, deliver you for usefulness in the Kingdom.

Certainly God wants us to hang our hats on His promise in James 1:5. Doubting He will give us wisdom when experiencing the testing of our faith, we fall into unbelief and Hebrews 11:6 states, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Make no mistake, He assures us we will not be given anything if we lose faith. The reason for the testing is to try, indeed strengthen, our faith. Surely if Abraham trusted God with his own son’s life, we can trust Him in our trials to provide the wisdom we need. He will not leave you in the trial. He will go through the trial with you. He is going to bring you out on the other side. He is always true to His Word, and He has promised you wisdom, abundant wisdom, if you ask, nothing wavering.

WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE THE JOURNEY THROUGH TRIALS TO THE PRIZE—WISDOM?

When I read about the trials or testing we may encounter on life’s journey toward wisdom, it makes me pause and question whether or not it is worth it. I’m reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:14 (KJV) where God says, “. . .strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” One of our pastors explained it this way: the gates to eternal life in heaven or to eternal life in hell are the same size, but the way to eternal life with Him is filled with obstacles, those perfecting trials and testings. These obstacles block the view of His light and the glory He has prepared for us. They make the path sometimes dark, difficult to navigate, and block our view of the destination.

When we look at the way of the world, there seems to be nothing but good things on the path: certainly no obstacles, an obvious choice. He explained, those on the broad path leading to destruction are not aware they are on the path to destruction. They just journey on toward the things of this world until they find themselves at the end of their lives with nothing; they have exchanged their souls for the pleasures of this world that lasted but for a season.

He who knows the end from the beginning says to Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I can assure you He has thoughts of peace toward us as His children, not thoughts of evil, and He desires to give us an expected end: hope and a future. That future is an eternal reign with Him. The end of the broad and easy road leads to everlasting destruction and damnation. Choose wisdom, choose His trials or testing, and choose the narrow road because you have an expected end and a future. Though the road may have a few obstacles to overcome, you will grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, and fellowship in His sufferings, along the way. You’ll find peace and not evil on your journey, and glory and victory at life’s end. It will be an abundant life filled with the good gifts reserved for you by your Heavenly Father, not the temporal, elusive, unsatisfying gifts the world has to offer.

Both Proverbs 16:25 and Proverbs 14:12 clearly point to the fact there are two paths, and the road we travel is our choice. Are you ready to take the journey to wisdom even if it means you must travel down a narrow road and encounter a few tests on the way? Remember this obstacle-filled journey will have a perfecting work in you. If so, all you have to do is ASK. But, don’t ask wavering. Ask believing, knowing though you may walk through the trial, He will be with you, and will bring you through. Regardless of His plan for deliverance, when you find yourself in a test, just remember to look for Him, thank Him for it, ask for His wisdom, and then trust He will bring you safely through. One thing you can be very sure of is that He will be with you, for He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 23:4).

“Oh, God, may my faith in the face of testing bring me peace and faith in your great promise of wisdom. And may my faith bring you great joy and glory.”

 

[1] Wikepedia.org/wiki/faith, July 2014

THE WISDOM OF GOD, PART II-A; The Promise of Wisdom

light-bulb-376922_1920 James 1:2-8: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Today we are going to continue laying a firm foundation. We want to set these principles of wisdom in concrete so 1) we never doubt that it is available to us and 2) we understand our part in obtaining wisdom. Remember, the bells and whistles are still to come, so dig in with me this week. Yes, it’s a little long, but it’s an easy read and it will affirm the premises upon which we are going to build our house of wisdom.

James 1 provides answers to the basic questions about God’s wisdom and how we obtain it.

WHO CAN BE WISE?

I’m especially taken with the words all men translated from the King James Version (KJV) of James 1:5, because these words indicate God is not a respecter of persons when it comes to giving His wisdom. You do not have to be rich, famous, a world leader, or even a minister or evangelist. “All men” provides a level playing field. Imagine: God wants to give us His wisdom. He clearly didn’t say, “Pastors/teachers, ask and ye shall receive.” Thus, we can conclude He is willing to give His wisdom to average you and average me. We don’t need to wait for Sunday morning services and hope the minister shares a little wisdom we can chew on this week. You and I can delve into the pages of God’s Word knowing He has wisdom available for us: the exact right wisdom we each need today. And, He has given us the Holy Spirit who will help us understand how to apply wisdom to our present circumstances.

IS THERE A PARTICULAR HEART ATTITUDE NECESSARY?

First, you have to know you need help. Many times a particular trial or test will open our eyes to the fact we don’t have all the answers: our ways are not God’s way. The simple act of turning to our generous God and asking for His help places us in a unique, and absolutely necessary position: HUMILITY. Is it any wonder He says in I Peter 5:6: “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor?” Simply asking God for His help and His wisdom indicates you understand without Him, you will fail. It is at this point of humility you seek His plan for your total success (Jeremiah 29:11). Oh, He just loves to show Himself mighty on our behalf. He is our Mighty God, always there when we turn and ask for His help. He is able to fix the most difficult things (Romans 8:28). Paul proclaims God’s power is perfected in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). And as I age, I’m ever more aware of my weakness.

Solomon asked God for wisdom (II Chronicles 1:10). Even though he had been anointed as king (which carries with it the power of God), he recognized his limitations and needs, and humbled himself before an Almighty God. He faced the fact he did not have all the answers and needed God’s help—He needed God’s wisdom as well as His power. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed with power and priests were anointed with wisdom. Solomon’s request caught God’s attention because He was asking God to grant Him an anointing of both power and wisdom. So God stopped and took inventory of Solomon’s heart before granting such a big gift to a mere mortal. God said He saw Solomon did not ask from a heart of greed, pride, or vindictiveness. He desired to do well the task God had given him; he asked for the ability to judge his people wisely. (Note that before you can judge wisely you have to be able to see hearts; e.g., the story of the baby with two professed mothers).

And, true to His word, God gave Solomon abundant wisdom. Scripture tells us God made him so wise his reputation spread far and wide; and indeed, his fame and reputation has extended through the centuries.

God saw Solomon had not asked for riches, honor, or anything for himself. He had humbly and unselfishly requested knowledge and wisdom so he could make wise judgments for the people; he wanted to be successful at the job God had placed before Him. Certainly, his heart was not wavering in this request. And upon close examination, God saw his request came from a pure heart of concern, care, and responsibility for others. And, oh, how God honored his request from his pure heart; and He blessed Solomon. God gave Solomon over and above what he had asked God to give him. He didn’t ask to be revered as a wise man. He didn’t ask for riches or honor. He asked for a wise and understanding heart. Oh, how our God loves to abundantly give good things to His children. Our loving God likewise wants to LAVISH us with His many great gifts when our hearts are pleasing to Him (I John 3:1). May our humble cry before Him be, “Oh, God, grant me a wise and understanding heart.”

HOW MUCH IS AVAILABLE FOR US?

He promises to liberally (James 1:5 KJV) give us wisdom. What a wonderful promise. In fact, wisdom is the only thing He promised to give us liberally. If you ask for wisdom as instructed, He is prepared to make good on His end of the deal. He won’t dole out a little wisdom here and a little wisdom there. He will shower, indeed shovel, wisdom on us: liberally and generously. And, I believe God’s definition of liberal far exceeds our limited comprehension. In fact, as we continue our study, I think you will be astonished at how liberally He provided, indeed poured out, wisdom for us. Though it cost Him everything, He has kept this promise. Talk about faithfulness to His Word: He has held nothing back with this promise. God wants us to be wise.

WHERE DOES WISDOM COME FROM?

In James 1:5, our key verse for this chapter, we learn God gives wisdom. Wisdom isn’t something we purchase, earn, inherit, or manufacture. True wisdom comes only from God. Paul implies the same principle in Ephesians 1:17 “. . . asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. . .” In fact, in studying wisdom, I cannot find one instance of man obtaining God’s wisdom apart from God determining to give it to him. Please make note in the case of Solomon, He gave him wisdom after a close examination of his heart (II Chronicles 1:11). I repeat this because it is a key finding that will further manifest itself as we continue our study.

I think it also noteworthy God did not promise us knowledge. Why? Knowledge was made available to us in the pages of God’s Word. It is yours for the seeking. In Proverbs 1, we are admonished regarding our role in seeking knowledge.

It is also important to point out, while God has provided knowledge in His Word, He has also provided us with understanding through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth and righteousness (John 16:13). Note there is a difference between the testing God allows in our lives (to refine us and enlarge our wisdom) and the difficult circumstances we fall into when we turn away from His teachings and reproofs. In which circumstance does He promise to be faithful and bring us out safely on the other side? When does wisdom laugh at our calamity? Remember, God is looking at our hearts and knows our attitudes toward Him and His truth; and, He rewards accordingly. I don’t know about you, but I want Him listening when I call on Him in a trial. I want James 5:16 to define my prayer line to God. When I call, I want Proverbs 15:8 to ensure my ring into heaven is a delight for Him to hear so He picks up on the first ring.

DOES GOD MIND WHEN WE CALL ON HIM?

James says He will not rebuke us. This means God doesn’t mind when we call on Him with our requests, and He won’t scold or fault us. When I realize the greatness of God’s power and wisdom, I sometimes wonder if He is bothered by my frailties. When I need wisdom, do I frustrate Him when I ask for His help? Praise God, the answer is NO. He may be the King of the Universe, but I am His child. I never tired of helping my children when they needed me. And our Heavenly Father is always there to guide and teach, continuously working in my life, ensuring I will grow up to be like Him. Praise God He is willing to keep working on me until He conforms me to His image. Now don’t confuse God’s loving, guiding heart with His (Wisdom’s) response when we intentionally seek our own ways. If we snub our nose at the instruction of wisdom (Proverbs 1:24-33), we will find ourselves in distress. The difference is whether we come asking for His help in humility as we walk day-by-day, or whether we come before Him from a position of panic because we have sought our own way while we listened to the world, crowding out His voice of wisdom as He called to us.

WHEN IS IT AVAILABLE TO YOU?

In the KJV, the verb is interpreted “shall be given.” It is a present perfect form of the verb implying we will definitely receive wisdom now, and it will be ongoing into the future. Sounds to me like we will definitely receive it when we ask, and it will be available for us when we need it in the future. I like this kind of verb when it is associated with one of God’s promises. It means I can’t use up His promise card. This promise will be just as fresh and good tomorrow as it is today.

HOW DO WE GET IT?

Do we bury ourselves in the Word of God, studying hour after hour? This tiresome effort (Ecclesiastes 12:12) will provide you with knowledge (a critical step in changing our hearts toward wisdom) and principles of wisdom, but it will not give you wisdom. Wisdom requires the application of knowledge–DOING. Remember God grants/gives wisdom. Our key verse confirms the answer. Asking is the essential step to gaining wisdom: you have to ASK GOD FOR WISDOM. He’s waiting. Take time out now to personally ask God for His wisdom in your life.

James, the brother of our Lord, had grown up with wisdom as his playmate and companion. Don’t you find it interesting he is the one who says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you?” He even promises when we face a trial and find we need wisdom, we can ask Him, and He won’t scold or fault us for not having the answers and needing to come ask Him. What a great promise. I wonder if James would get into trouble and need to ask his big brother, Jesus, for direction and wisdom. Apparently so, because he obviously seems to have some experience with the no rebuking aspect of asking.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS PROMISE?

Has He ever failed to keep a promise? Has He ever been unfaithful to His Word? Try as I might, I cannot think of one instance where His Word and promises have not proven to be completely true. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

He’s been faithful, ever so faithful, for generations, unwilling to allow failure in our lives. He doesn’t want the trials to overtake you. I can assure you He is not going to lose His reputation of faithfulness by recanting His promises when it comes to you and your request for wisdom. There was no exception clause in this promise excluding ordinary people like you and me. You can rest assured He will indeed prove faithful to you—He says He will give you wisdom and He desires your prosperity. He gives clear instructions in Joshua 1:7-9 and Psalm 1 so we can prosper.

 

The Principles of God’s Wisdom–Part 1 (The Basics)

light-bulb-376922_1920If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5).

My husband and I recently built our downsized retirement home. Maybe I should qualify that further: we watched our builder and his subs build our home. First, there was a beautiful plan that caught our imagination. Secondly, there was a well-thought-out process that began with clearing the land, running power and water/sewer lines, and laying the foundation. Apparently, you can’t just have them deliver and install the roof if you haven’t laid a foundation and don’t have the walls up. Many times it seemed things were going slowly. It was tedious to wait for the installation of the plumbing and electrical. Progress seemed to move at a glacial speed. And then there were the inspections, which seemed to cause delays. From my anxious vantage point, it didn’t appear as if anything was happening. The superintendent assured me there would be a day they would install all the bells and whistles that would delight me. But if we wanted a complete, safe, and beautiful home to move into, all of these steps were necessary.

As we begin to build an understanding of God’s omniscience (His wisdom), we need to take a similar approach. So in the next couple of weeks let’s focus on the basics; we’ll consider we are laying a foundation for wisdom. We’ll get to all the bells and whistles before we end our study, and you will see how everything you have ever desired is at your disposal. This will take some time and a layering of knowledge. So once again, let’s dig in as we begin our study of the first of God’s Powers: Wisdom.

THE DEFINITION OF WISDOM

Exactly WHAT is wisdom? In an article published online by Precious Seed International,[1] Brian Clatworthy states, “The Hebrew word for wisdom, hokmah, is used in the Old Testament to refer to ‘knowledge coupled with an inner quality that embodies a heart and life in conformity with the purposes and character of God,’ Prov. 1.2-6.1. Wisdom is not simply a theoretical concept or an intellectual pursuit, but underpins an individual’s behavior and conduct. As Whybray” (a Biblical scholar and specialist in Hebrew studies) “states on the book of Proverbs, ‘But in Proverbs hokmah is always life-skill: the ability of the individual to conduct his life in the best possible way and to the best possible effect.’”

How does the definition of wisdom as life skill—underpinned by our behavior and conduct—affect your thinking about wisdom?

We can all agree wisdom is more than common sense. Wikipedia’s definition[2] describes wisdom as “the judicious application of knowledge.” Thus, one could construe man’s definition of wisdom is “doing what one knows is the right thing to do.” Likewise, Godly wisdom is more than a head-knowledge of the Word of God; it is at least fundamentally the application of the knowledge of God and His principles and laws. Wisdom isn’t about knowing; it’s about skillful doing. Wisdom requires ACTION. But more importantly, wisdom implies the requirement for choosing the right action. A wise person would be skilled at life. We would recognize him or her by his/her behavior.

THE BASICS OF WISDOM

From these precepts, we might begin to assume God’s definition for wisdom would require at least three fundamental building blocks relative to God’s granting true wisdom:

  1. Knowledge/Understanding of The Word and Laws of God:

Fundamental to wisdom is a foundational knowledge of the laws of God. Long ago, man realized knowledge lays a firm foundation for success and prosperity. Unfortunately, many have limited their pursuits to man’s knowledge. But we have come to the place where we know that is not enough. We are seeking the power of God’s wisdom to ignite our lives. God’s laws and principles of wisdom pave the path to success (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1). If we (or our children) do not know the Word of God, His basic laws, and the principles of God, how can we (or they) be expected to apply them? Make no mistake, ignorance is no excuse.

  1. Knowledge/Understanding of the Will of God:

Have you ever wished you could know God’s mind, so you would know what you should do in an uncertain circumstance? These moments in life make us desire to have all wisdom at our disposal. We realize knowing the difference between right and wrong, and being willing to do the right thing, still may not reveal the next right step. Sometimes two or more steps are not wrong. So which path is God’s will? In these times we call on Him to order our steps so not even one step will slide (Psalm 37:31). We cry out for wisdom. When you cannot see your next step and He can, you need His leading. At these pivotal decision points, God instructs us to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will indeed reveal His path if we just wait (Isaiah 40:31). The ability to discern the will of God is fundamental to our desire for wisdom: the “doing” or “application of knowledge.”

I want to point out that the will of God may not always feel good. We cannot rely on our feelings to discern God’s will. We must rely on His Word. For example: when Christ died on the cross, it wasn’t an occasion that made observers feel good. If we had stood beside Mary and the disciples, we might have cried out, “This surely is not wisdom.” Jesus had been trying to tell His disciples of the plan, but they did not understand; they even resisted the teaching that He must die. But, as heart wrenching as this scene was for them and the Father, it was indeed God’s will: wisdom. It was His perfect plan for our redemption and our salvation. He was not willing any should perish. God’s plan, God’s will, God’s wisdom—sometimes the hard choice leads to the right end.

We also have to understand the purpose of God’s work in our life: He wants to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This conforming process helps us realize His work is not necessarily instantaneous and our path may not always be an easy one.

  1. Application of God’s Principles:

Application seems to be one of the real difficulties. Let’s just suppose we have managed to gain all knowledge, and we even know the will of God. That alone will not make us wise. The possession of knowledge is not wisdom. Remember our definition? Wisdom involves action; wisdom is knowledge in action.

Let’s look at Jonah. He knew the right thing to do and understood the will of God. He had clearly been given a mandate to go to Nineveh. He wasn’t in a quandary at all as to the will of God. Unfortunately, he did not choose to order his steps accordingly. This was a very unwise move on his part. Wisdom is not merely knowing the right thing to do; it is skillfully and consistently choosing to apply knowledge to one’s actions, so you actually choose to do the right thing.

Just like Jonah, I struggle with this concept in every area of my life. For example, I know, and indeed understand, I should exercise, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water every day. However, applying this knowledge and understanding to my choices—well, you see the difficulty. And like Jonah, there are consequences for poor choices.

Once we have a basic knowledge of the Word, have obtained understanding (of the Holy One’s desires, ways, and indeed His will), then it is our CHOICE what we will do with knowledge and understanding. Will we choose His way? Will we allow God to order our steps? Will we choose to be wise, to act wisely?

Pursuing wisdom on your own can be quite difficult. Certainly you would need a tremendous portion of self-discipline. Having someone hold you accountable to Scripture, truth, and knowledge would be a helpful resource. Thus, God’s Word advises, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). This truth has several applications, but it certainly applies to someone seeking wisdom. We are prone to lean on our own understanding, will, and emotions. A key step in a pursuit of wisdom might include a personal cabinet of strong men and women of the Word, people you empower to hold you accountable when you face key decisions. Even presidents don’t pretend to know everything. Their first act, even before taking office, is to appoint a cabinet of wise counselors. Who is on your cabinet of wisdom advisors?

TYPES OF WISDOM

There are three types of wisdom:

  1. General Wisdom: Wisdom is all around us and cries out to us (Proverbs 1:20). Solomon admonishes us to get/take hold of this wisdom. Some might call this wisdom common sense or common knowledge. I think of things like the law of gravity, mathematics, science principles, and grammar—the things we learn in school—man’s wisdom. Don’t minimize this type of wisdom. It is fundamental to building a firm foundation in life.
  2. Generational Wisdom: Solomon displays generational wisdom as he teaches his son what he had learned from his life experiences. Fathers strive to pass great wisdom nuggets to their children (Proverbs 4). This type of wisdom falls into the category of instruction in wisdom referenced in Proverbs 1. This is a second type of wisdom and God instructs us to get it. I think of these nuggets as character development; e.g., honesty, trustworthiness, hard working, avoidance of evil, etc. It typically requires listening.
  3. God’s Wisdom. God’s wisdom is without measure and only comes to us as a gift from Him (James 1:5). It is only given by Him. God’s gift of wisdom is reserved for those judged righteous and pleasing before Him (Prov. 2:7). This is the wisdom we are seeking in our study together.

God tells us our role in obtaining general and generational wisdom is to seek it and to be sure we get it (Prov. 4). However, we must recognize only God grants His wisdom. The first two types of wisdom will certainly add good things to our lives; but, if we want our lives to shine radiantly, we have to set our sights on God’s wisdom. We’ll learn more about what moves Him to give us His wisdom as we continue on. 

TOOLS OF WISDOM

In Proverbs 1 we find the seven tools of wisdom. These tools will assist us as we seek the right thing to do. This would be a good list to put in the back of your Bible. When faced with a decision, apply these tools to find wisdom.

  1. Perception of understanding—the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses[3]
  2. Instruction of wisdom—detailed information telling how something should be done, operated or assembled[4]
  3. Justice—the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered[5]
  4. Judgment—the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions[6]
  5. Equity—something that is fair and just[7]
  6. Subtlety—this word has a lot of relevant meanings. In essence it is denoting someone who moves delicately, with refinement, gentleness, and without a lot of fanfare
  7. Discretion—the art of suiting action to particular circumstances.[8]

We have learned that wisdom is skillful, right doing. In these next few weeks we are going to delve deeper into how this is accomplished. Our goal for this study is that you understand how to become skilled at life. Certainly the book of Proverbs offers a lot of good advice for skillful living and should be read faithfully. There are, however, some principles we want to explore to help us understand what God expects from us and to show us how to build/lay a foundation upon which we can build wisdom for our life.

[1] Brian Clatworthy, Newton, Devon, England, Precious Seed, April 2016

[2] Wikipedia.org/wiki/wisdom, July, 2014.

[3] www.wikipedia.org/perception

[4] www.wikipedia.org/instruction

[5] www.wikipedia.org/justice

[6] www.wikipedia.org/judgment

[7] www.wikipedia.org/equity

[8] www.wikipedia.org/discretion