The Wisdom Of God
From the series The Real God
If we believe, in our heart of hearts, that God's wisdom is perfect how do we face disaster - the marriage ends, a loved one dies, the job is gone, the hope is destroyed? Chip gives amazing insight into the wisdom of God.
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About this series
The Real God
How He Longs for You to See Him
There is a deep sense of unease in our rapidly changing world. Popular culture says that love means self-satisfaction and that status and appearance are what count. Social media reinforces that It’s all about me. This ultimately self-destructive perspective has thoroughly infiltrated the Church as confusion replaces conviction. At the root of our problems lies a distorted view of God. We’ve created a god in our minds that comforts our emotions but is powerless to deliver us from evil or transform our lives – because our creation is actually an idol based on who we think God is, not who He says He is. The way back to truth and hope starts with knowing God as He declares Himself to be. The Real God is an in-depth study of seven attributes of God – His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. You’ll see and understand Him in a whole new light. It will revolutionize the way you think about God, others, and yourself. Are you ready for a new adventure? Join Chip on this journey to discover the real God.More from this series
I’m going to ask you to go to a little bit different place with me, all right?
Put your pencil down, I want you to lean back, and I want you to, in your mind, think of the most difficult, stressful area of your life.
Okay? I want you to think of an area of your life that not only is difficult and hard and maybe it’s a relationship or maybe it’s work or maybe it’s a health issue that you can’t get resolved or maybe it’s an aging parent or maybe it’s something with one of your kids. But I want you to think about something that is not only difficult for you, but it’s difficult to understand.
I mean, something that, in your heart of hearts, you wouldn’t want to say this but if you could reverently say it to God, you would say, “God, I’m walking with You the best that I can and I know Your will is good and I know You’ll never give me more than I can take, but these circumstances sure don’t feel like You’re a good God. These feelings and these struggles and this barrier, whatever it is, I don’t understand why a good, loving God, I know I don’t have to, but I just don’t understand why a good and loving God would have this situation in my life.”
Okay? So just reflect for a minute. Let me give you just a minute to bring the picture into your mind and for some it will come very quickly.
What is it – put it another way, that if God could remove it in an instant, that’s what you would want Him to remove.
Have you got it? Feel free to keep your eyes closed and lean back and think of this perplexing, difficult, maybe even very stressful issue that you can’t get unraveled. And as you do, I’d like you to listen to some words.
“To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and it never gives rest to your heart.
“There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and to take instead the infinite wisdom of God. Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and He stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.”
Before you open your eyes, let me repeat that. I want you to think of the situation. I want you to think of that you can’t understand, why has God allowed it, and I want you to listen one more time. “God has charged Himself with the full responsibility for our eternal happiness and He stands ready,” that means this moment, “He stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.”
That’s a quote by A.W. Tozer on the wisdom of God. And I will never forget the circumstances that led to me learning what the wisdom of God is all about. A classical definition of the wisdom of God is that God brings about the best possible results for the most possible people in the best possible way. That’s the idea. He is going to bring the best results by the best means for the most people for the longest time. And that sounds like a nice theological definition and great. The wisdom of God.
I’ll share an experience where that truth saved my life. I was in seminary at the time and I had a conviction that my wife – I had two small kids that were twins, that were about six years old and then I had an eighteen-month-old little boy, so we had three kids, and my conviction was my wife should be home and be able to nurture our children.
And so, I was going to seminary full-time and I was working full-time. A straight commission job, it’s the only thing I could do to make enough money, just to make it through. And I went three years straight through.
And so, I was up about four thirty or five every day and went to a donut shop and studied Greek for about two or three hours, went to a carpool, went to classes and every moment I wasn’t in a class I was reading a book or studying or doing something. I caught the carpool, came home, played with my family for about an hour and a half, went to work from about six thirty until eleven at night, got up at four, four thirty, did the same thing for three years.
And on the side we did a little ministry because you had to have an outlet and the good news was the ministry started to just multiply and flourish. The bad news, it was just more and more stress.
Then it was a straight commission job and the company I was working for went through some major problems and so my income disappeared. I had been going on about four hours to five hours sleep for three years straight, I’m working full-time, I’m going to school full-time, my wife has two small children and a toddler, I am dead broke, I do not have money to pay my bills, the stress is over the level I have ever experienced in my life.
I am discouraged, depressed, completely out of it. And I am sitting in a seminary class thinking, Okay, I almost went King James in my mind: Is this how Thou treats Thy servants?
I was a school teacher, I was a basketball coach, I liked what I did, God said He wanted me to go to seminary, I went to seminary, I have done it for three years, I’ve taken all this Greek and all this Hebrew and I’m working full-time, and now I don’t have any money, I have my rent due, we haven’t bought meat or groceries in fifteen days. We have taken the seven dollars that we put with the little co-op, and we have been eating fruits and vegetables for fifteen days and my wife has been baking bread from the whole-wheat flour that she has left.
I can’t pay my bills, and I am just to where I’m thinking, This is what it looks like to get rewarded when you “sell out” for God? I want to be in Your service, I want to learn Your Word, and I am ready to cash in. At least Christian service, I thought, I know enough now, I can never leave the Lord, but this being a pastor and preparing for ministry…
And I was sitting in a classroom, a theology class, and just sort of staring. And it was a class, one of those, in a room much like this with a couple hundred students and it was a big class. And it was a very famous professor and have you ever been in one of those zones where…
And I looked up and someone tapped me on the shoulder and it was the professor and the class was empty and I didn’t hear anybody leave. And I wasn’t asleep, I was just so numb, and I was sitting there thinking, I think I’m going to quit seminary. I can’t do this.
And the seminary professor was one in theology, he was a very thin man and had wire-rimmed glasses and he tapped me on the shoulder and he gave me a little comment. Just very discerning, said, “Chip, whatever you do, don’t make any major decisions in the next forty-eight hours. Go home and get a good night’s sleep, take a day off, eat a good meal, and I’ll see you Monday.”
And I just remember, often he would say things in class, and I wouldn’t even write them down. But he said them in such a way that I just remembered them. And I sat there in this stupor trying to decide whether to quit school, cash it all in, and out of the blue comes this definition of God’s wisdom.
God brings about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. And that definition was rattling in my brain and I just thought to myself, Okay, what if I believed that? What if I, just hypothetically, God, I’m not saying I do, but just hypothetically, because I don’t really want to give up my anger and my resentment and my depression and my pity party, but in case I wanted to, what if I believed that, just for a couple of seconds? What if I believed that You do bring about the best possible ends and the way You do it is by the best possible means?
And people, I’m telling you, I’m sure there was sin in my life, I just didn’t know of any. Man, I’m getting up, I’m meeting with God, I’m reading the Bible, I’m studying the languages, I’m involved in ministry, I’m loving my wife. I mean, as far as I know, there is nothing between me and God. So it’s not a sin issue.
And then I began to think, Well, if I believed it, I’m not saying I do, but if I believed it, it would mean that if You are good and gracious and sovereign, it would mean that these present circumstances were allowed by a good God, who is in absolute control of the universe, and that if there was an easier or kinder or gentler way to produce, in me and through me, what You wanted to produce, it would be different circumstances.
But if I believe, hypothetically of course, that You are all wise, then the fact that the company shut down, I don’t have a job, I don’t have any money, I’m absolutely exhausted, I’m discouraged, depressed, and I don’t see how I’m going to make it through tomorrow, let alone today, that this actually could be from the hand of a good, sovereign God that knows all things actual and possible, and therefore what needs to happen in me, from Your eternal, all-wise, loving, and good perspective is exactly the circumstances that I’m living with.
But here’s the problem, it’s hard to trust in the wisdom of God if you don’t know what it is. If someone would have said, “What is the wisdom of God?” to me, probably, before I went to seminary, I would say, “It means He’s real smart! I mean, He must be the smartest guy, right?” But wisdom is not smartness, wisdom is not IQ, wisdom is something quite different than what we think.
And so, in our time, here’s what I want to do. I want to define what the wisdom of God is, I want to reveal how God has shown us His wisdom, and then I want to look at: how do we respond to that wisdom so that, here’s the goal, you can rest and you can trust in the wisdom of God in the very area that you were thinking about? So that’s the game plan.
Let’s define the wisdom of God. It is an attribute of God whereby He produces the best possible results by the best possible means. That’s by Berkhof, he’s a German theologian. That’s just a classical, theological definition of the wisdom of God.
Webster says it’s the quality of being wise, it’s the power of judging rightly, it’s following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience, and understanding.
Now, this is interesting, catch this. The root words to wisdom have the idea of the ability to see and to know. In other words, wisdom is life-savvy. It’s not IQ, it’s not intelligence, it’s not what you do on a test. Wisdom is understanding how life works and then living your life in a way that cooperates with how God has designed life to work, to bring about the best possible results in relationships and in decisions and in parenting and in marriage and in singleness and all that God has for us.
But it involves the people that you go to for wise counsel, they have two abilities. One, they can see, either by experience or knowledge of the Scriptures or insight or a giftedness, they can see some things you can’t see. And second, they have knowledge and they take that knowledge and they take what they can see and they help you make good decisions. That’s what wisdom is all about.
So the wisest person on the face of the earth is someone who can – what? See everything! From beginning to end! Who knows everything, who has all power. In fact, Dr. Ryrie at Dallas Seminary, I love his definition of the omniscience of God. God knows all things actual and possible. Short, brief, and unbelievably accurate.
God not only knows all things, He knows all things actual and all things that are even possible. And you say, “Where do you get that?” Don’t you remember the little passage when Jesus was being attacked by the Pharisees and people were rejecting Him?
And He said, “I am telling you, if Sodom and Gomorrah would have heard the message that you just heard, they would have repented!” Wait a second, you mean, You know how people would have responded, hypothetically, in another timeframe, hundreds of years earlier? Yes! He’s God.
God knows all things actual and all things possible. He sees all things, He has all power, He is eternal, He is outside of time, He lives in the current now. He knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. And so, since He sees all things and knows all things, He is all-wise and can give us the greatest and best direction.
In fact, the Scripture says it, 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Or my favorite passage on the wisdom of God is Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His paths beyond tracing or finding out.”
God’s wisdom, what He orchestrates, here’s what you’ve got to understand, how things appear, so often in your life, how things so often appear in history, God has a silver thread, He is doing things that we can’t see, and you don’t see God’s wisdom until you see it over here.
So much of life is like that. So much of what He is doing in your life, it just, Joseph is thinking, This doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good. And then you turn it over and – what? He has woven a man into a position of the second highest power in the known world to accomplish a goal and a task. But he didn’t see the wisdom of God.
All he saw were the knots and the strings on the back of the tapestry as God was weaving his life through a series of circumstances, none of which he would have chosen, all of which he needed, not only personally but for the purposes God would fulfill.
Notice, I like, it says, “In the Holy Scriptures wisdom, when used of God and good men, always carries the strong moral connotation. It is conceived as being pure, loving, and good.”
“Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.” I’m back to quoting Tozer, can you tell? Wisdom is the ability to devise, not good, perfect ends and to achieve those ends – how? By perfect means. What if God is perfectly orchestrating a perfect end for your life? And what if, even in this, knotty, yicky circumstances that seem so unbearable, they are actually His perfect means to accomplish His perfect end in you?
Would that change your perspective in how you deal with life? He goes on to say, “It sees the end from the beginning so there can be no need for guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relationship to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals, with flawless precision.”
Let me give you an illustration that has helped me so much. This is a picture and then we will look at how God has revealed His wisdom. Are you ready for this picture? It’s a dramatic picture.
Try and really let the color of your mind and the cinemascope just begin to really gravitate into this picture. I want you to imagine there is a railroad track coming right across here and there is a nice little hill that goes up and on it is a small house where the railroad track man lives.
And you come across the tracks and there is some gravel and you go up and then there are some steps. And over here is a little booth. And the railroad track man’s job is he has a lever and the trains come and his job is to push the lever at the right time so that the tracks slide over so that some trains go off to the north and some trains will go off to the south.
And as they come through, he gets radio wires and he hears what is going to happen. But it’s in old fashioned times so he must flick the switch to change the tracks. That’s his job.
And so, he lives on the little hill and he has a cute little wife and they have a beautiful little four-and-a-half-year-old. And so, he is over doing his job. And his little boy is running down the hill, “Papa! Papa! Papa! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” Can you visualize it? And he is coming down the hill. And he sees his daddy doing his job and often he would bring daddy his lunch and they would have good times together.
And as he runs and comes across, he trips on the track. And as he trips on the track, his little, tiny foot gets wedged underneath the track. And as you and I would look down about five hundred yards, there is a train coming at a very high speed.
There is not enough time for Daddy to come down from his post and pull his little boy off that track. He now has a decision to make about what is wisest, what is best, what should he do?
And he has option number one, is that as the train is coming down the track, he could switch it. But if he switches it, because the track that it’s on, it would jolt that track and probably four hundred to five hundred people would go to their death; it’s coming at a very high speed.
Or he could leave it as it is and as it is, he will watch a freight train filled with passengers go right over the top of his son. If he asked you, “What is the wisest thing to do?” what would you tell him?
I didn’t say the moral thing to do. I didn’t say what he wanted to do. I didn’t even say the sacrificial thing to do. What is the wisest thing to do in this situation? And I would suggest that we, as Christians, most of us would come up with an answer like this if we were given this in a small group, and we would discuss it together and come up with the noble and righteous answer that the wisest thing to do, though painful and sacrificial, of this father will get to experience something like God the Father must have experienced, and he should not kill the four hundred and fifty or five hundred people, but he should watch his son die.
Now, that may be the most loving and sacrificial and noble thing to do. I didn’t say that. I said, “What is the wisest thing to do?” There’s a difference. Because wisdom has to do with what? The best possible results for the most possible people for the longest possible time, right?
And you say to yourself, Well, this is it. Five hundred people versus one? Let the kid die! Wait a second! What if the kid is the next Billy Graham? If he is the next Billy Graham, would it be better for five hundred people to die in a train wreck and possibly millions of people to spend eternity in heaven? Which would be the wisest? Which would be the greatest benefit, long-term?
Or what if this little boy has, in his DNA, he will find the cure to HIV? Would it be better for five hundred to live or to have a million people or millions of people or to stop a plague that is going worldwide? Or, stop, stop, stop! Maybe that’s not right! What if there is a person on the train and they have the cure for cancer? And they will discover it two years from now. Or what if the next Billy Graham is on that train?
Do you see how complicated it gets? See, all of a sudden, wait a second, we’re not talking about a train and five hundred or one. Unless you know all things, actual and possible, unless you can see the beginning from the end, every one of our lives is like a huge boulder that is dropped into a pond and there are ripples and you make a decision today and that affects children and grandchildren and friends and workers and everyone is making all these decisions and they are happening with all these people all over the world and in colliding, these ripples of your decisions and my decisions and corporations’ decisions and military decisions, who in the world can know all things actual?
The only person that can make a wise decision about what should happen in this situation is someone who knows everything, someone who sees everything, both now and on into the future and in eternity, and only that person can see and know to make the wisest decision.
And my suggestion is we don’t have a clue of what the wisest thing is to do. Now, think of that. Think of the logic you have just gone through. And now think of some things where we say, “How could God let that plane go down? How could God let that seven-year-old boy die of cancer at his age? I don’t understand how God could…”
You see, God is a good God, there is limited evil, He does work all things according to His will for the good of those who are called and who love Him. And He knows the beginning from the end and He knows the implications of every decision of every relationship of every human being for all eternity in an omnipresent, present now, with all the implications. And He is all-wise.
And His decisions and His decrees and His will is orchestrated for people, not just in view of His sovereignty, not just in view of His power, not just in view of His love and compassion, or in His goodness and desire to bless, but it’s filtered through His wisdom, which means He brings about the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people, for the longest possible time.
Tozer summarizes by saying this, “All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise,” isn’t that great? “and they are as good as they are pure. Not only could His acts not be done better a better way to do them could not be imagined.”
Can I suggest something? That’s true in your life. If you’re in blatant sin, and I certainly have had times where I have been. There are consequences to our sin and we often blame God for them.
But if you’re not in blatant sin and as far as you know you’re walking with God, you’re trying to be the man, the woman that He wants you to be, and you have certain things in your life that you are saying, “God, I don’t understand! This isn’t fair! This is hard! Please take it away! I’m praying, I’m praying, I’m praying!” and nothing changes, could it be, could it be that the all-wise God of the universe is actually drawing you toward a perfect end by means of perfect methodology to produce in you and through you, beyond and better, what you could ever dream?
See, that’s how you rest in the wisdom of God. But when you come to understand, this isn’t something, this is not a concept. This is God. The God that you pray to, this is what He is like.
Well, let’s talk about, Well, how has He revealed His wisdom? If this is true, this could change your life. How has God revealed His wisdom to us? One, through creation. Psalm 19 verses 1 through 7. Listen to how God has revealed that He is wise.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which like a bridegroom, coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion, rejoicing to run its course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other. Nothing is hidden from its heat.”
The creation! The ecosystem! Take an electron microscope and look at the smallest things you can find and you will see an amazing order and wisdom and balance. And then take a telescope and blast it into all of the universe and we see – what? These planets that are in these amazing orders and gravitational pulls and balance one another.
You could take our earth and just tilt it one degree or a portion of a degree and some people would freeze to death and the other people would burn to death. The oxygen of the plants, the carbon dioxide of the people. We, as humans, we mess with the environment just a little bit and, man, it just starts going crazy!
God, in His wisdom, bringing the best possible results. Why do birds fly certain places, certain times? Why do they mate the way they mate? Why do they have certain boundaries? Why is there this balance of certain animals that eat other animals and others that don’t eat other animals and so much grass and how God orchestrates weather and patterns and animals? His creation!
What I want you to see is this is God’s plan and here is the plan, okay? Here is a lost world, there has been a coup, a rebellion. They rebelled against the Most High God, the King, the Creator, the Sovereign that we have talked about.
From the foundations of the earth, God giving the possibility of choosing, knew this would come, and so the second person of the Trinity, Christ, says, “I will go. I will save the people.” And so the coup has happened, sin has occurred, Christ comes.
Now listen to the wisdom of God. He is born of a teenage girl in a stall. Can you imagine what the demons were thinking? Well, you know what? I don’t know what God is up to but this doesn’t look like a very good plan. And then He is going to be raised by a carpenter. Well, that’s not exactly the upper elite of Jewish culture.
And then, finally, He grows up, lives a perfect life, and then He is going to choose people because He brings – what? The best possible plans by the best possible means for the most possible people. So He chooses a bunch of blue-collar guys to get the job done.
Peter, John, James, a couple of fishermen, a crook – Matthew, a zealot, a couple of whackos, “Should we call down thunder on them, Lord?” I mean, “Guys, would you just cool it?” And you look at the guys that He chose – why? The wisdom of God. Who gets the credit when regular guys like us, ordinary people like us follow Christ, are redeemed, get transformed, and then change the world? God does.
See, God is always working toward purposes that we rarely understand. But if we don’t understand the big plan of redemption and understand that’s His purposes behind His wisdom, we will get lost. Can you imagine how much of a failure it looked like?
Try to visualize yourself being there and you were a follower, you were Peter or one of the Marys and you cared and you loved Him and you thought He was the hope of the world and you’re looking up at a cross and He is hanging there and He is dying and He says, “It’s finished,” and He is dead! And you’re thinking, This is a fine mess You got us into! I left my home, I left my job, I have been ridiculed, I have been kicked out of the synagogue. And He’s dead.
And you could almost, in the invisible world, seeing the demons going, “Ah hah, hah, hah, ha! Ah hah, hah, ha! He’s dead! See?”
God’s wisdom is foolishness unto man. But what happened? When He died on the cross, He purchased you. Redemption is He paid the price for your sin. Between Friday night and Sunday when He rose, he went to – what? The old creed says, “What does it mean that He ascended except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth,” and He proclaimed to the invisible world, “Death is defeated! Satan is defeated, sin has been rendered powerless. I am the victor.” And then He comes out of the grave!
And what seemed absolutely ridiculous, it seemed foolish and ridiculous, was the wise plan of God. And, see, it is in redemption that we see that God takes the things that the world so esteems and He is always about turning them upside down.
Listen to J.I. Packer. I love his quote on this, “God’s almighty wisdom is always active, and never fails. All His works of creation and providence and grace display it, and until we can see it in them we just are not seeing them straight. But we cannot recognize God’s wisdom unless we know the end for which He is working. God’s wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable. Not even to Christians has He promised a trouble-free life; rather the reverse. He has other ends in view for life in this world than simply to make it easy for everyone. What is He after, then?”
See, you’ll never understand the wisdom of God until you understand the ends, is what he is saying. So what is God after? What is He after in the world? What is He after in the culture? What is He after in the society? What is He after in you? What is He after in me?
Packer goes on to say, “What is His goal? What is His aim? He plans that a great host of mankind should come to love and honor Him. His ultimate objective is to bring them to a state in which they please Him entirely and praise Him adequately, and He and they rejoice continually in the knowledge of each other’s love – men rejoicing in the saving love of God, set upon them from all eternity, and God rejoicing in the responsive love of men, drawn out of them by grace through the gospel.”
You see, until we really grasp God’s ultimate purpose for our lives, now and for eternity, we will be perpetually frustrated and disillusioned. And I think for many of us, that’s what has happened, because our aim very subtly is not, God, make me like Your Son. Our aim is not very subtly, we have been veered off the course, Oh, God, help me fulfill whatever purpose you have for this brief time on this planet for You, because I will be with You forever and ever and ever.
We have reversed it. And we can’t figure out why life is so frustrating and God won’t come through, because His number one agenda is not my personal peace and prosperity. And His number one agenda is not my personal fulfillment. And His number one agenda is not to cure my loneliness with another person. His number one agenda is not to give me a bigger and nicer house, a nicer car, and the comforts that all the world can offer.
He may do all those things, out of His gracious love. But all of those, in and of themselves, if the means turn into an end, are idols. And His wisdom in your life is often bringing pain that feels unbearable, because redemption is so important to pry the idols out of your hand so you don’t miss out on what really matters.
It’s of a loving, good, kind, compassionate God that so loves you, that knows that you are trading what is great and eternal and best for something that is cheap and that promises much and delivers little.
And so He wants you to be wise. He just wants you to be wise. He wants you to understand how He has designed life and then He wants you to walk according to that design. And when you do, it will bring a goodness to your heart, a transformation in your relationships, a joy that you cannot fathom, and you will fulfill His purposes.
You see, it’s so subtle the little difference, but He is about, in that situation that is on your mind, He is committed to bringing the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people for the longest possible time.
So let’s wrap this up with some specific action steps to respond to His wisdom. How must we respond to the wisdom of God? Very simply, we must learn to live wisely. We must learn to live wisely. Ephesians 5:15 to 17, what does he say? He says, “Don’t be unwise, don’t walk as unwise, but as wise, and understand the will of the Lord.”
He said, “For the days are evil; you are living in dark times.” He says, “Don’t be unwise, but be wise, live wisely, live according to God’s plan so that you can rest and so you can trust.” So there is a command, not only that we be wise, but that we live in a way that reflects that we are trusting God. He wants us to rest, He wants us to understand: This is how I have designed life.
And really practically, God says, “This is how you can learn, this is how to do relationships, this is how to handle your money, this is how to make decisions, this is how to walk by faith, this is how to fulfill your purpose for Me.”
And if you will discover the way of wisdom and follow it, then all those promises of Scripture about love, joy, peace, patience, goodness – the fruit of the Spirit and the rewards of that life are what God wants for you. But you don’t get that living in an unwise manner.
And so, second, not only must we learn to live wisely, it begins, then how do you get it? It begins with reverencing God. Reverencing God. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Job 28:28 says, “And he said to them, ‘The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’”
So how do you learn to live wisely? The first step is it begins with reverence for God. To have the fear of God. And you can do all kinds of word studies, do you know what to be afraid of God is? Do you know what the word fear really means? Like, in the Hebrew and the Greek and all that stuff? It means be fearful. I mean, reverential awe, yes, that’s true. But we try and…it means to be afraid!
But it’s not afraid that He is going to hurt you, it is you are afraid that you won’t please Him. It’s afraid that you are going to let Him down.
You know, I don’t know, how many of you, as a kid, in my generation, how many times did you ever say, “Man, I can’t do that. If I did that, my parents would kill me.” Right? And you know what? So I didn’t do it.
Now, you weren’t really afraid that they were going to actually, physically kill you. But it was a mix of consequences that you didn’t want combined with a sense of betrayal and letting them down in ways that you didn’t want to face.
And the way you got off the hook with your friends who were asking you to do it, “I can’t do it. My parents would kill me!” What you were saying is, “I have a healthy fear of my mom and dad.” And that’s where wisdom starts.
I’m afraid, I don’t want to mess up in my life. There are consequences. I want to do life God’s way. The fear of the Lord, essentially, is: I am going to choose to do life God’s way.
I’m afraid for the consequences and I’m afraid for what it will do to my relationship with my heavenly Father and what it says to Him in light of all that He has done for me. I want to live with a healthy, wholesome fear of God.
And I spent the first three years, probably, of my Christian life saying, “I’m going to be a Frank Sinatra Christian. I’m going to do it my way.” I mean, really. I’m going to do it my way.
And I just kept bumping my head, bumping my head, bumping my head. And God loves you so much, when you really mess up, He doesn’t kick you out of the family. He takes you to the woodshed. And Hebrews 12, He will love you, I call it “The Velvet Vise of Discipline.” And you know what? There is gentleness in it, but you know what? He’ll just bring, if relationships are the issue or money is the issue or time is the issue, He will get your attention. He loves you so much.
And He will just bring the velvet vise and you can either learn now, you can learn later. Some of us that are hard-headed, it’s painful. And some of you may be in the velvet vise of discipline and you’re not living wise lives with the fruit of living wisely because, basically, you have a salad bar mentality that, I will choose out of the Christian life the parts I like to do life my way on my terms.
And God says, “That is an interesting suggestion, but it’s not one of the options. It’s just not one of the options with Me. Not in light of who I am.”
And so, to respond to the wisdom of God, you have to learn to live wisely and to learn to live wisely, it begins with this reverential awe and fear that you are going to say, “I’m going to do life God’s way because,” are you ready for this? He’s God! Did you ever think of that? He is God! He deserves for me to live in that way.
Third, it requires growing or receiving His Word. There is no way to live wisely without the manual that teaches us how to live wisely. Psalm 119: 97 through 100 says, “Oh, how I love Your Law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on Your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey Your precepts.”
2 Timothy 3:15 through 17 says, “All Scripture, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness” – why? “so that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
I do not know, and I am not talking about reading your Bible a little bit. I’m talking about receiving the Word implanted. You need to ask yourself, How many videos, how many magazines, how many books, how much TV, and how much stuff is going into my mind versus how much truth from God’s Word?
Because I will tell you, you are what you eat. You are what you eat physically, you are what you eat spiritually.
And it’s not just a little thing like, Okay, I’ve got a little devotional, I’m glad I got it from that group and I read the devotional, it’s a good one, boy, I like it. I got a little check mark! Mm, got that done today, see you later, God.
I’m not talking about reading the Bible or even being in a Bible study. I’m talking about receiving the Word. Now, do you have to read it to receive it? Yes. Do you have to study it to receive it? Yes.
But I’m talking about us saying, God, I don’t want to go through religious routines. I want You to speak to me, I love You, You are showing me some things, so I want to take Your Word and I want to see what it says, and I want it to be the mirror to point out things that need correction, I want it to be the mirror that says that You love me and affirm me, despite where I’m at.
And then I’m going to write down those specific promises that I need on a 3x5 card and I’m going to read them over and I’m going to ponder them and I’m going to meditate on them, because I need to trust You in this because I’m a people pleaser. I need to trust You in this because I’m a workaholic. I need to trust You in this because I keep lusting and falling back into these patterns.
So I’m going to take these promises of Your Word, I’m going to receive them in my heart, I’m going to memorize them and meditate on them, and I’m going to ask You for the grace to take the written Word and make it the living Word in my heart as I trust in You so that You transform my life as I receive Your Word.
See, that’s what God wants me to do. That’s how you live wisely. It’s not just knowing the right thing. It’s putting it into practice. Knowing the Bible never changed anyone. It is applying what you know of the Bible that brings life change.
And so, to live wisely begins with reverence, it means receiving the Word, and then it requires asking for it specifically. James 1:5, “But if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach. But when he asks, let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for the man who doubts is like a wave in the sea, tossed here and there.”
This is an airtight promise. And the wisdom here is you don’t know what to do about a decision, you don’t know what to do about this relationship, you don’t know what to do about your finances, you don’t know what to do about a wayward child. You don’t know what to do, “Should I take this job or that job? Should I take the promotion? Should I move or not move? What do You want me to do?”
Don’t you have a lot of those things in your life? I do! You know what this passage says? It comes out of the context of enduring suffering. It’s written to a group of people that have been dispersed and they have lost their families and lost their jobs and they have been disowned and they have been told, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials and you know this testing of your faith? Tell you what, hang in there! Endure! And God will use it to develop your character.”
But in the midst of your pain and your suffering, if you don’t know how to handle it, if any man lack wisdom, let him ask. God promises, a hundred percent of the time, to show you exactly what to do if you will come and ask. And wisdom is not, Don’t make me smart in this. Will You show me what it looks like to follow Your way and Your will in this situation? That’s what wisdom is! That’s what you are asking. Show me what it looks like to do what You want me to do in this situation.
Now, here’s the condition. That little, “Let him ask without any doubting,” that phrase there does not mean an intellectual doubt or that’s not honest doubts about one verse in the Bible. This is a picture of a person who is coming to God, but they are coming, literally, we get our word schizophrenia, double minded, doubting, double minded.
It has the idea of someone who comes to God and says, “Should I date this person or this person? Should I take this job or that job? Should I do this with my money or this with my money? Should I move here or move there? God, I want You to show me exactly what You want me to do, so I can take it under consideration. I would really like You to show me exactly what You want me to do and I’ll tell You what, I’ll think about that and if it’s what I want, I just might do it. And if I don’t, I just might not.”
That’s the doubting of the double minded man. You want to know how to get God’s wisdom in areas where you’re not sure what to do?
Here’s a word picture. Whatever that area is, you imagine a blank check and on the top of that check where you write it out to someone, you imagine, I need to know what God wants me to do, or, I have this big decision about this or this or this or that, and then what you do is you write on the bottom of the check where you sign your name, you sign your name. And then you take that check and you walk over in your mind’s heart, and it’s the throne room of God, and you take it and you shove it under the door. There is light coming out from under the door. And you signed your name and He fills out the top.
And what you are saying is, Lord, whatever You show me, in advance, whatever You show me, I’m committed to doing. If You will show me, I will do it, one hundred percent. If You say, “Break off the relationship,” I will. If You say, “Move,” I’ll move. If You say, “Confront this situation,” I’ll confront it. If You say, “Quit this job,” I’ll quit this job. Whatever You tell me to do, I will do. I have signed my name on the bottom of the check, I put it under the door of heaven and now, Lord, You promised that You will give wisdom to anyone who asks, without reproach.
Even if the reason I am here is because I have messed up in the past, these are some consequences of my sin, and I really feel bad about asking You what to do because I’m here because I really know I messed up, that phrase is, He will come without reproach. God will not give wisdom and say, “I was wondering when you were going to come and you really did mess up and you’re getting what you deserve.”
The passage says just the opposite. God will say, “I’m glad you came. And I’m not here to condemn you. You understand what you have done wrong. You have come with an honest heart and you have repented. And now you need to know what to do and I want you to know, whenever any one of My children come and they are willing to do whatever I show them, if you will ask Me, I guarantee, one hundred percent of the time, I will show you exactly what to do.”
And so about ninety-eight percent of the will of God in these kind of areas is being willing to do what He says. And if you’re willing to do, in advance, He will show you. It may be through a book, it may be through a person, it may be through a counselor, it may be through a pastor, it may be through a series of events where seven people say exactly the same thing, that don’t know each other, to you. It may be a strong prompting in your sprit.
And, by the way, if it’s others-centered, loving, biblical, moral, and has some sacrifice involved, it probably isn’t the enemy trying to tempt you. You know, we are really funny, Oh, this couldn’t be from God!
If we are going to respond to God’s wisdom, we must learn to live wisely and that begins with reverence for God, it grows with receiving His Word, it requires asking for it specifically, and finally, we must learn to trust completely.
Trust that all that comes our way is from the hand of a good and loving God who, knowing all things actual and possible, is exerting His unlimited power to execute the best possible outcomes, by the best possible means, to fulfill the highest possible purposes.