If you are sick…and you don’t know what you have or how to get better…you go to a doctor…who has knowledge, skill and some ability through medicine or treatment to maybe help you feel better.
So you are seeking the doctor’s “wisdom and “power”…power is ability…for your life.
Same with a mechanic, or roofer, or financial planner…
You want their skill…wisdom and ability…to help with important things in your life.
So, naturally if you believe there is an all-powerful, all-wise, all loving, personally involved God…and you trust this God and love this God…then you would want to know and do what he wants you to do know and do.
You would want to know his will for your life…and unlike the doctor, or mechanic…God has ultimate wisdom and power.
So, the quest to know God’s will for our lives…makes perfect sense…it a rational and reasonable quest.
But…it can be a complex quest…as most of us know.
Wisdom is skillful living…for the Christian it is the skill of understanding and applying the Bible(God’s word regarding his will and his ways) correctly to a life situation…in principle or in precept (specific commands.)
Wisdom, as we have seen this year, is not a mechanical process it is a skill…something that is exercised by real people in real situations…something that grows as we practice it.
As with other skills, wisdom requires right information, and consistent practice
“Here’s how to hold and swing that golf club…now go practice it over and over.”
Golf skills grow through information and application.
But unlike other skills, Biblical wisdom has a few other requirements such as:
- The fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10).
-The believer does not have to fear God’s condemnation but if we love God and understand even slightly who he is, we should fear displeasing or disobeying him…we should want to please and obey him.
-A child can adore his father and at the same time greatly fear his displeasure.
-In fact, the more a child adores his father the more that child probably fears his displeasure.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8
-You don’t need faith to become skilled at golf…you do in order to become skilled at life.
-Faith is transference of trust from self(and others) to God, especially in things that are beyond our ability to know or accomplish on our own.
-You are easier to get along with as a golfer(or anything else) if you have humility but it’s not a direct requirement for gaining the skill of gold…other than the fact that pride can make you unteachable and therefore hamper skill development.
-But technically speaking…you can be arrogant and a skilled golfer.
-You cannot become wise (skilled at life) in the true sense of wisdom…without humility.
-By definition…if you are arrogant, then you are not wise.
So wisdom is skillful living…knowing and doing and becoming what God wants us to know and do and become.
Notice…wisdom is about “becoming” wise not just knowing and doing stuff.
As discussed last week as we started this month of looking at wise decisions…wisdom is knowing that God’s ultimate purpose for us is “who we are becoming” not just what we are doing.
We have to keep God’s big goal for us in mind…it is that we become like Christ over time.
The bible calls this process “sanctification”…God is using all aspects of our lives to achieve this end.
Today we are going to discuss becoming more skilled (wiser) in decision making over time(wisdom, again, is growth)…what actions and attitudes are pleasing to God in the specific situations of our lives.
Let’s imagine a continuum or a spectrum with multiple points on a line.
But then, let’s pick out 3 specific views regarding knowing God’s will for our lives.
- The Circle
God will is like a circle (larger or smaller depending on who you talk to)…the parameters of this circle are the principles and precepts of the Bible.
We are free to make our choices inside this circle…but we are to act with biblical wisdom.
*some things you could do…but wouldn’t be wise to do.
God has no specific will, for instance, in regards to a job or spouse…other than biblical principles and wisdom.
*In principle…the job should be legal and ethical and the spouse should be a growing believer…and you should use wisdom like “getting wise counsel”, “check your motives”.
*Apart from that…you get to choose and it would all be called “God’s will”
- The Dot
Here God won’t lead in ways that are contrary to his revealed word…Bible still forms the parameter for our lives and decisions.
He won’t lead you to an illegal job or to marry someone who is not a follower of Christ.
So he is not going to lead you to a decision outside his will as revealed in the Bible
But, additionally he wants to direct his kids to very specific things…what might be called “the dot” or “center of his will” or “his perfect will”
Again, the precision of this depends on who you talk to:
-For some there is a “dot” to be found only the big ticket items…job, spouse, house
-For others…God has a “dot” for everything…what cereal you eat for breakfast, as well as spouse and house level items.
I want to give you yet another position…let’s call it…
- A relationship
Good decisions require a working knowledge of God’s word…it does form the parameter or boundaries for making decisions.
In addition we need ongoing growth in Wisdom…to know how to act wisely inside the parameters of his Word.
Normally…word and wisdom provide the direction we need (wisdom includes counsel from wise people and other things)
Then, God desires that we have a personal relationship with him such that we are able to respond to his direction as he gives it to us in specific situations…sometimes he wants us to follow him in very precise ways.
He guides through his word, through wisdom…and there are times…when he speaks very specifically.
It may be the “big ticket items”…but he may want to direct in something that seems to be small impact…but yet teaches us to trust him and experience him.
Think of God as a good father (which he is)
-Fathers desire their children to operate within certain parameters (things the father knows is best)
-Fathers desire their children learn wisdom…the ability to act skillfully in life without needing constant direction
-Fathers desire ongoing relationship…such that their children will hear and respond when there are things of importance, or times of opportunity at hand.
We should not get locked up fretting and worrying about finding God’s perfect will or missing it and becoming forever a loser with a wasted life because we blew our chance.
We plan, we adjust, we trust….God is sovereign and our choices matter.
Hold this in proper tension.
*God does direct our lives through his Word, Wisdom (ours and others), and then through specific interactions with us, he can direct us…when it pleases him to do so.
Word, Wisdom, with Direction
This is all a matter of great importance to our lives…because it involves…our lives.
There are decisions with smaller impact that require little or no deliberation…decisions that become largely automatic…
But sometimes there are things that take a lot of energy to decide because the implications are huge.
Then sometimes…seeming small decisions have large impact…so we need wisdom to sort this all out.
Run through a scenario…
Alarm goes off
Jump up or hit the snooze
Exercise, eat, read the Bible
Drive down a certain road to get to work
Lunch time…Eat the sandwich you eat everyday…or choose a restaurant based on what sounds good
If we turn these decisions with smaller impact into intense searches for the precise will of God…we can become locked up in a subjective prison. (subjective is about feelings, impulses)
“Oh God, do I get up now…the alarm went off..get up, or lay here?”
“What do you want me to eat for breakfast”
“Which road do I take to get to work”
Clearly God doesn’t want us to be this passive in living our lives…he wants us to live as his spiritually and mentally and emotionally…maturing kids.
But there is nothing wrong with saying a quick prayer about anything or at any time (even which cereal to eat to eat).
-But if you prone to imbalance in this…if you have become anxious about everything being complicated and a search for God’s elusive will.
Then don’t pray about the cereal…just pick one and eat it…and thank God for it.
-He wants relationship with his kids…but he wants his kids to grow up-
Talk to him about anything…but don’t turn every little thing into a deliberation of the will of God.
On the other hand…there may be a time when he does have a specific will for which road we take to work for his own purposes…we need to learn to tune our hearts to his voice.
But again…he doesn’t want us sitting in our driveways for half a day trying to figure out what road to take to work today.
And he doesn’t want us to live in fear that we might take the wrong road to work.
Or to live in doubt and regret when we had an accident and “if only we had taken the right road to work”
Balance in all this is important…we can become very weird…or skeptical…live as if there is no God…we can become all locked up the prison of impulses and feelings.
We want to avoid those things.
Word/Wisdom/With Direction (exceptions)…is what we see at play in the Bible.
Word: People seeking to know and obey God’s word (or failing to do so and suffering for it)
Wisdom: People making wise decisions (Joseph running from Potiphar’s scheming wife, Esther risking her life for her people, Paul making decisions on where to go next)
-Or people making foolish decisions because they are fools (Saul…doing his own thing and losing his mind and life)
Direction: People being directed in specific ways when it pleases the Lord to direct them.
-Moses probably didn’t get a burning bush telling him where to take the sheep during his forty years…but he did to tell him to return to Egypt.
-Paul being redirected on his church planting plan
God is a good father…he wants us to know his word, to grow in wisdom, and to stay connected to him in relationship:
When I took my children to store over the years…I had a different “will” for them at different times…
-When they were very young…I held them…and walked for them.
-As they grew, I held their hand, they walked and I told them to “watch for cars”
-Then later, I let them walk on their own and I told them to “Watch for cars”
(They said “I know Dad!”)
-Then I just walked with them and trusted their growth in wisdom…they knew I wanted them to stay by me, look around, not run in the parking lot…watch for cars
-Then there were rare times when I saw something unusual…beyond their learned skill (beyond their parking lot wisdom)… There is black ice in the parking lot…”stop, don’t step there”
-Or I wanted something for them they wouldn’t know I wanted for them…There is a snow cone vender at the other end of the parking lot… “Hold my hand, let’s walk this way”
I wanted them to grow in wisdom…to know my will for parking lots, to be safe, to learn to look for things that are out of the ordinary (applying wisdom to new situations…black ice), and I wanted them to stay in relationship with me in all of it.
Think “God is a good Father”…think “his will is that I grow up”…think Word, Wisdom, with Direction.
Wisdom is not an abstraction…not theory…not a hermit sitting cross legged on a hill contemplating meaning without interaction with the wider world.
Wisdom is skillful living in the real world…the world God has made.
Wisdom is living the best life we can live…because we are learning to align our choices with God’s will and ways.
So this is why Proverbs, and all wisdom literature in the Bible…sets such a high value on pursuing and finding wisdom.
It’s the key to success in all aspects of life…and the key to not wasting your life altogether…the key to living for the glory of God and the good of others.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. . . . Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. (Prov. 3:13–17)
Wisdom is so valuable…because it is how we spend and not waste our lives…it’s how we know what to do and who to be.
Wisdom to know what God has said about this situation (in principle or precept)…how do I apply his word here?
Wisdom to know what are the right actions and attitudes (I can do the right thing with the wrong heart).
Wisdom to know how much to listen to others, who to listen to…you can fail to listen and miss the way, you can also listen to fools and miss the way (more next week)
Wisdom to know what might happen if I take certain actions or fail to take certain actions (won’t know perfectly…but we should get better at it.)
Wisdom to respond correctly to the outcomes of my decisions (trust and adjust…not anger and frustration)
Wisdom to know if this is an open door or a diversion…a closed door or an opportunity to endure.
Remember…this is all about growth…growth in wisdom.
Hebrews 5:14 “Solid food (analogy for the mature teachings and wisdom of God) is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Wisdom is training/practice/skill
Luke 2:52 “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
In the mystery of the incarnation…God became man…we see that as a man, Jesus demonstrated that wisdom is growth, training.
I am going to assume that all have decisions that are important to us…and if they are important to us, they are important to God who loves us.
-One more time…remember…God is very concerned with the process (who we are becoming, not just outcomes…what we do).
This entire year has been about wisdom…this month wise decisions…knowing God’s will for our life decisions
Again, since Wisdom is skill…let me give a training plan for growing in the skill of wise decisions.
These are not three easy steps…but some training, for growth in wisdom in making wise decisions.
You have information if you hear them…but you only have the possibility of transformation if you apply them.
Skill requires information put to practice in real life.
- Pursue a relationship with Christ…train to trust him.
Make sure relationship not just task accomplishment remains all-important.
I am prone to be a person who can forget about relationships in the middle of accomplishing a task…it’s not good.
My wife is less likely to do this…but we can all do it at times.
Don’t turn decision making into a task void of the process of relationship building…with Christ and others.
“In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Col. 2:3
We are not just digging around in Christ…to mine him of the treasures we want…”give me direction…give me wisdom”
He is the treasure.”
Personal: I have been concerned lately that my relationship with Christ may be adequate for my life as it is now…but not for what is yet to come.
I have been talking with God about this…asking him for help to grow…I want my relationship with him to be “up to” what he has for me.
Divorce rates have sky rocketed during covid…especially among those married 10 years or less.
*Their relationship was not developed to the point that it could sustain them during this difficult time.
I have thought a lot about that…for my relationship with Christ…I want to train to trust God…for now and for what may yet come.
Lean into relationship building with Christ as you seek him for wisdom regarding decisions that concern the two of you…and your decisions do concern him.
- Train to let Scripture get a handle on you…more and more.
If you struggle to believe that the Bible is God’s word…it is likely you are struggling to put your full confidence in it.
I sympathize with the struggle…but I urge you to do the work to settle the matter…then when settled…put your full confidence there.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Ps. 19:7
I had a conversation with a pastor who has done some training of future pastors.
He told me that some of them had really struggled with humility and teachability.
I asked why he thought they were candidates for ministry…he said they “had a handle on Scripture.”
I understood what he meant but my reply was “But if they lack humility, Scripture does not have a handle on them.”
Make times of decision-making times of better knowing Scripture…and times of more fully letting Scripture shape you.
Let it be a time of training for humility, listening to wise counsel, obeying what is clearly written…and doing all this with joy in your heart…not grudgingly or grumpily.
This is training in a way where Scripture can master you…
It doesn’t matter if it’s ten verses or ten thousand verse…the goal is for Scripture to shape our lives…not just fill our heads.
- Train towards a “free heart”
Prov 9:10 “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
Training towards a free heart is wanting to want what he wants.
We want to fear his displeasure…long for his pleasure…whatever our hearts and emotions are telling us at any given moment.
In Romans 3 Paul outlines the destructive and ruined lives of people who do not know or follow God…he says “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:18
It ruins their lives.
We must be sure our hearts are continually turning towards him…we exist for him; he does not exist for us.
When we reverse this…we can make decision making hard…we go looking for what our foolish hearts demand rather than the good God that has for us.
When things do not work out…our plans fail…we become angry at God.
“When a man’s own folly ruins his life…his heart rages against the Lord” Prov. 19:3
A free heart is when we are training on the inside…to want what he wants.
This is training…a life-long process.
Let me give you a verse…then a training challenge…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
The way of Christ is the cross…there he died death to self and was alive to his Father
His death brought fruit…like a single grain of wheat has to enter the dirt, in a sense die there…in order to bring forth life…many grains of wheat.
The subtle game that we can play is to get as close the ground as possible without actually getting down into the dirt and dying.
We can look like fully surrendered followers…but fail to bear the fruit that comes from actually dying to self and being alive to God.
I play the game at times…sometimes intentionally, sometimes without realizing it
But I ask God to help me get into the dirt and die there.
Train for wisdom…see decision making as a part of this training (indeed all of life is)
SO…Do I marry this person, take this job, make move…or some other decision that has major implications for my life.
“If he has a will…why doesn’t he just say…I want to obey.”
Because he is about the process not just result…God is not just wanting to get stuff done…he is making us into certain kinds of people.
He is not going to waste a valuable opportunity like when we are trying to make an important decision.
Why would he write it on the wall, when he has our attention…maybe in a way like never before?
When my granddkids don’t want anything from me…I sometimes have to shout to get them to pay attention to what I want for them… “listen!”
When they want something from me…I can whisper and they hear me.
When we want God to direct us…he has our full attention…this is valuable time for him and for us.
Remember the goal of your existence is not just…do some stuff then die.
It is…become like Christ…the glory of God and the good of others.
Don’t be frustrated when decision making is hard…don’t make it more complex than it is.
But lean into the opportunity that times of decision offer you.
They can be accelerated times of growth in the character of Christ…if we will allow them to be so.
They can be times of growth in relationship and humility as we learn to trust others…more on this point next week.