A number of years ago, I sat on a hiring committee at my school. Whenever we do that, we sift through dozens of applications, weeding out the really terrible ones and then attempting to determine which of the strongest deserve to come to campus for an interview. On this particular time, we decided to bring “Laura,” who looked great on paper, for an interview.
When I first met “Laura,” her incredibly weak first impression left me thinking that we had totally blundered in bringing her in. I spent the first few minutes of her interview time, silently ranking the other, more likely candidates in my head. But as “Laura” dove into her teaching demonstration, I found myself captured. She taught in a way totally unlike me, but it was marvelous. In the ensuing question period, the depth of her answers was remarkable.
In the space of 90 minutes, “Laura” went from “don’t bother” to the top of my list of candidates. We wound up hiring her and being treated to a tremendous teacher and colleague for several years before she moved on.
Wouldn’t it have been a shame had we based our decision on that unfortunate first impression? Isn’t it even more of a shame when we fail to ask and obtain from God all of the wisdom He has to offer on our decisions. What if Paul had stuck with his first thoughts on Jesus? What if Moses had not listened to all that the God had to say at the burning bush?
Our calling is not to make snap judgments but to listen and to keep listening.
On what sort of decisions are you apt to make uninformed decisions? Are there others for which you tend to wait for God’s counsel?
What negative results have you seen by not waiting for God’s wisdom? Do you have positive examples that have come by waiting?
What results can you expect from prayerfully reading through the Proverbs on a regular basis? Have you already experienced insight?
The scripture listed above is one of the most profound in the entire Bible. Sure, John 3:16 is more important when it comes to the understanding of the gospel, but, when it comes to day-to-day life, this idea of trusting in the Lord is monumental. Failure to trust lies at the heart of many of our problems.
“Lord, I trust you about theology, but stay out of my finances (or sex life or job choices or music consumption or whatever).” Have you ever heard this person speaking, perhaps from within your head? When we fully trust decisions to the Lord, we have to fully trust all of our decisions to Him. He’s not impressed when you let Him decide where in the church you’ll sit or whether you ought to care for your children. He doesn’t just want the easy choices; He wants them all.
“Lord, I trust you with this important decision, but I’m going to keep some fall-back resources, just in case you let me down.” How about that voice? Imagine if the love of your life promised to stay with you forever but still sent romantic Valentines to old flames. You know, “just in case.” How would that play.
As hard as it is, God expects us to and prospers us best when we yield every bit of every decision to His wisdom.
What decisions do you find it most difficult to turn over to God?
Are there decisions that you yield partially while still retaining some control for yourself?
Are you willing to pray, this week, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: Not my will but yours be done?
My first job out of college was as a District Executive for the Boy Scouts. While that title sounds marginally impressive, it basically meant that I had to go to lots of meetings and deal with the three M’s of Scouting: Membership, Manpower, and Money.
Money, not surprisingly, was often the hardest of the three. While we could find kids who wanted to be members of Cub Scout Packs and parents who were willing to help lead them, shaking loose cash was tougher–tougher than doing it in church.
I remember a trainer who gave us his simple, two-step model for raising money:
Find out who has the money.
Ask them for some of it.
We laughed at that system at first, but then we realized it was amazing. How else would you raise money?
How do we obtain wisdom? The system should be very similar.
Find out who has the wisdom. That would be God. The world is full of people who profess to have wisdom, but God’s wisdom far exceeds that of the world.
Ask Him for it. It won’t suffice for God to just possess the wisdom if we don’t transfer it to ourselves. We do that by listening to God’s voice, by praying and asking for wisdom on particular matters and in general, by reading the scripture to glean wisdom there, and then by applying what we learn to our lives.
Wisdom is not in short supply. God has enough for all of us, but we can’t benefit unless we obtain it and use it.
What worldly sources of wisdom do you tend to trust? Do you ever trust them more than God?
When was the last time that you obtained wisdom from God about some specific matter? How did it happen?
Will you resolve to regularly read the wisdom of the Bible and pray that God will help you understand and apply it to your life?
A few years ago, I had a conversation with my older brother, Wayne. With a ten-year gap between us, we have never been extremely close, so the really meaningful exchanges we’ve had over the years are memorable. On this occasion, he argued that he didn’t learn anything of value in high school.
“You’re wrong,” I insisted.
He smiled and shook his head. “No, seriously. I didn’t learn anything in high school–nothing I’ve ever used.”
But he was wrong. Wayne has experienced success running his own business over the years. The things that he has managed to do could not have happened had his learning ceased in middle school. I tried to make my point clear to him: “You can’t point to anything that you learned, but you learned things you aren’t aware of. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to function like you do.”
Ideally, formal education impacts every part of our lives. Biblical wisdom is similar and it doesn’t depend on idealism. When we embrace Biblical wisdom, we reap benefits in our health and our bank account. We enjoy a happier, more secure life.
When I teach students to write, they often resist my modest wisdom on the matter. I want to shake them by the shoulders and say, “Trust me! I’ve been doing this since before you were born.” Then they’ll try something I suggest and marvel at the outcome.
If mere human wisdom, finite and imperfect, can yield such good results, how much more can we expect from the wisdom of the one who created the world and the rules by which it operates?
What aspects of your life are better because of your openness to God’s wisdom? What aspects are not better?
How do the benefits of wisdom–long life, wealth, honor, pleasure, and happiness–feed each other in your experience?
What part does learning about and praying for wisdom have in your devotional life? What can you do to improve that?
If you’d like to know about one of the books of the Bible, you could spend a few bucks buying one of the Anchor Bible commentaries. The volume for Song of Solomon is about 740 pages long and includes an index to the Ugaritic references in that book. Ugaritic? What’s that? And the bibliography spans 55 pages of text. This is a monumental work of scholarship, written and edited by Marvin Pope, a Yale University Hebrew scholar who has read everything that can be read on this topic. I guarantee that you do not now nor will you ever know as much about the Song of Solomon as does the man responsible for this book. Don’t feel bad. My level of knowledge will never approach his.
As impressive as I find Dr. Pope’s learning, I do not know that the man possesses true wisdom. The faculty offices at the old-line divinity schools of this nation–Harvard, Duke, Yale, and so forth–are full of really, really learned men and women. They know a lot. But do they possess wisdom? That’s a more open question.
Learning is a positive thing. Learning allows us to expand human knowledge, to achieve feats of engineering and medicine, to propose new legal and economic theories. But without wisdom, learning can be a dangerous thing, providing nuclear weapons without the sense to control them, providing novel financing tools without the restraint to use them ethically. Learning without wisdom believes that because we can do something, we may do it.
When our knowledge outstrips our wisdom, bad things follow.
In what area do you possess the most knowledge? Do you possess and use the wisdom necessary to use that knowledge?
Do you have pride in your level of knowledge in any area? How does that compare with your feelings about the level of wisdom you possess?
Do you, like Solomon, routinely ask God to provide you with greater levels of wisdom?