We live in an unprecedented time where human knowledge is growing at an exponential rate. Some have suggested that knowledge in some sectors is doubling every 12 months. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are getting more intelligent, but it does mean we have access to knowledge like never before. We have computers in our pockets that puts us within a few keystrokes of limitless amounts of knowledge, and they still make phone calls.
Unfortunately, even though knowledge is on the increase, wisdom is not. In our world of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” we can’t stop ourselves from believing that we have entered into a foolish age. While knowledge is on the increase, we can't say the same thing about wisdom. Click To Tweet
Knowledge is the possession of information. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble endeavor. Christians have nothing to gain by remaining blissfully ignorant. In fact, learning is a natural aspect of discipleship. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).
Wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge we have. Wisdom determines the direction of our lives and so much of the outcome of our decisions, which is why Proverbs encourages us to “Get wisdom, and whatever you do get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you” (Proverbs 4:7-8 ESV). If knowledge is knowing the length of the desert, then wisdom is making the decision to carry water with you as you walk through it. Wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge we have. Click To Tweet
Jesus is the Wisdom of God
Christians have a wisdom tradition going all the way back into our Jewish roots. The apostle Paul proclaimed the gospel in a Greek culture dominated by lovers of wisdom and seekers of knowledge. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were the founding fathers of Greek thought. One of my favorite wise saying from Aristotle is, “It is the sign of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”
In Paul’s epistle to the church of Corinth, he explains that what the Jewish community really wanted their Messiah to be was a person of political power, and the Greeks might have preferred a new philosopher, but the church has found Jesus to be both the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Jesus is the wisdom of God and Jesus is the wisdom from God. Unlike the Greeks with their philosophical principles, wisdom for Christians is embodied in a person. When we look at Jesus we see what God is like and we see what wisdom looks like. If we are willing, we can escape the fallen world of foolishness by incorporating five pieces of timeless, Christ-centered wisdom into our lives. When we look at Jesus we see what God is like and we see what wisdom looks like. Click To Tweet
I. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.
If we assume we have life figured out on our own, we’ll never discover the wisdom of Jesus.
Wisdom begins by acknowledging two immutable facts:
- There is a God
- I am not Him
The “fear of the Lord” refers to a healthy respect and reference for the ways of God. We believe God is the Creator and therefore knows how life should work. Wisdom begins with confessing our need for God who has given us access to wisdom and knowledge through Jesus.
We cannot save ourselves from our own self-deception. We have to look outside of ourselves and look to Jesus for wisdom instead of looking to be wise in our own estimation (See Proverbs 3:5-6). If we assume we have life figured out on our own, we'll never discover the wisdom of Jesus. Click To Tweet
II. Wisdom is curated in the halls of patience.
Time is the one thing in the universe we cannot get back, but that doesn’t mean that hastiness is a healthy response to that constraint. Rushing to act, rushing to respond, rushing to make a quick decision is often when we end up in making foolish mistakes. Nearly all wisdom can be summed up in one word: patience.
Slowing down is particularly hard for me, because I am a quick decision-maker. I have the tendency to jump way ahead and then look down to see where I have landed. When I look at Jesus I see patience in human skin. Jesus avoided the crowd and retreated when he felt pressured. He took his time. Wisdom takes time. It cannot be downloaded like an app in our phones.
There is a saying that says “experience is the greatest teacher.” I disagree. Experience isn’t nearly as good a teacher as reflecting seriously on what you have experienced, or even what you might hypothetically experience if you make decisions one way or another. You can ask for wisdom and God will give it, and often that means that wisdom seeps into our soul through patient reflection. Experience is not the greatest teacher, experience reflected upon is. Click To Tweet
III. Wisdom is cultivated in prayer.
When Jesus retreated from the crowd, he often retreated into prayer. Recently I have grown more comfortable with contemplative prayer, that is, praying without words, sitting quietly in the presence of Jesus. I do not understand the criticism that some in the body of Christ level against contemplative prayer. I do not share their concern, but some well-meaning Christians fear practicing this kind of prayer will cause people to become “aligned with Eastern religions” or become swept away into “New Age spirituality.” Perhaps some people could depart the faith this way, but I have my doubts about it.
Most praying Christians have experienced contemplative prayer and have remained steadfast in the Christian faith. Have you ever prayed about a situation where you asked God for direction? Have you ever paused to sense whether or not God is leading you one way or another? If so, then you have practiced contemplative prayer. Far from drifting into some kind of non-Christian spirituality, praying this way keeps you in the presence of Jesus. Learn to slow down and sit with Jesus with past mistakes and past failures and allow prayer to become the garden where wisdom grows in your heart and life. Prayer can become the garden where wisdom grows in your heart and life. Click To Tweet
IV. Wisdom is handed down from the wise ones.
Growth in wisdom requires relationships with wise people. So be on the lookout for the wise ones, those who have walked with Jesus for a while and have started to looking like Jesus in authentic ways. We don’t need more clever people in the church. We need more wise ones. We don’t need more successful people in the church. We need more people of prayer-shaped, Christ-centered wisdom. When you find one, hang on to them! When I was a novice pastor in my 30’s, Eugene Peterson became one of the wise ones in my pastoral life. The wisdom of over forty years as a pastor and professor was passed down through his books. It guided me down a pathway of wisdom.
Another one of the wise ones for me was my friend Chuck Craig, a retired educator and school administrator who is living out his retirement years in South Georgia. Chuck is in his 80’s now, but he was in his 70’s when I was his pastor. I loved to sit with Chuck and listen to his stories of growing up in Michigan, spending much of his career in Alaska, and the faith in Christ he discovered later in his life in Georgia. I saw in him a mature man who was preparing himself to live well into his 90’s by keeping his mind sharp, his body in shape, and his spirit alive in Christ. I want to be like Chuck when I am 85! We don’t need more clever people in the church. We need more wise ones. Click To Tweet
V. The alternative to wisdom is suffering.
I am convinced that we will learn either by suffering or wisdom. We will grow in wisdom either by listening to the wise ones or by suffering through our own failure. Some suffering is unavoidable. When we accepted the call to follow Jesus, we put our hands on a cross ready to embrace suffering.
But when we fail to heed wisdom from the wise ones, we end up suffering hardship that could have been avoided. Like stubborn teenagers who think they have it all figured out, we scoff at the wisdom of the wise ones and then suffer unnecessarily.
Let’s agree today to choose the wisdom of God found in Jesus. We'll grow in wisdom by listening to the wise ones or by suffering through our own failure. Click To Tweet