January 16, 2005
Lord, Give Me Wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
You have heard the saying, book-wise and street-dumb. Here is another saying: Biblically wise and spiritually uncommitted.
This is what James talks about as he helps us mature in the Christian faith. We can have a faith, though it may be weak. However, we need to grow up spiritually. As we mature in the faith, it shows itself in our relationship with God and with people. Last week James pointed out that trials and temptations can strengthen our faith. During those difficult times we see how dependent we are on God for strength, direction, and forgiveness. St. Paul says, “It is when I am weak that I am strong.” Today James says that we mature as we grow spiritually wise.
What is spiritual wisdom? The dictionary defines wisdom as applied knowledge. Charles Swindoll says, “Spiritual wisdom is viewing life as God perceives it.” C. J. A. Motyer writes, "If we say about someone, ‘He knows his Bible well,’ we have described a knowledgeable person. Yet, if he also knows how to understand life and the world around him to guide his and others’ conduct in the maze of life’s problems, then knowledge has passed over into wisdom.”
James writes, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
We have many examples of applied knowledge. That means the person is wise in some particular way, though it may often be very unethical. A man in the town where I grew up was often called “white rat.” One day I asked my father where he got that title. Dad told me that people gave him that title because he had become very wealthy in transacting some real estate dealings. He could find people who were on the verge of losing their house because they could not make the mortgage payments. This man would take over their mortgage on their house, and they would in turn give him their house. Often there was considerable equity in the building, which the poor person lost, and “white rat” received.
This man had some basic knowledge about finance. He also knew how to apply this knowledge for his own benefit. Some would say “white rat” was financially wise although he hurt many people.
In contrast, the spiritually-wise person is applying his knowledge to help people. Jesus, on the cross, could have spoken harshly at the people who were putting him to death. Instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
Stephen, when being stoned to death, could have cursed his enemies. Instead he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not lay this sin against them.”
Zacchaeus, after his conversion, said, “Lord, half of my wealth I give to give to the poor, and if I have stolen from anyone, I want to repay them fourfold.”
These were spiritually-wise people who turned their knowledge into wisdom.
Swindoll said, “Wisdom is to view life as God sees it.” How important it is for people of all ages to pray for this kind of wisdom. The young person contemplating marriage needs to be spiritually wise. The Bible says that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. It is not enough for the young person to know this scripture passage. He or she is to apply it when choosing their spouse for life. The thought of marrying an unbeliever with the idea of making them a Christian is not wise. So, in those emotional hours when this young woman is choosing a husband who will be the father of their children, her prayer should be, “Lord, give me the wisdom to do your will, even though it is difficult now.”
Parents who are in the midst of raising their children can go to all of the classes on raising children and know what the Bible has to say about it. However, they need to pray, “God, give me the wisdom to raise my children as you have taught me to do.” This sometimes takes much strength because God’s ways of raising children and society’s ways are not always the same.
When you are old, it is necessary ask God for wisdom to keep you going and using you however he can, but never, never to say, “This is the way we used to do it.” Believe me: Moving your knowledge into wisdom at that point in life is sometimes difficult.
We all need to ask God to make us wise when it comes to our salvation! We know that we are sinners and that at the cross Christ paid the price for our sins. We know that if we confess our sins and trust Him, he will forgive us. Now our prayer should be, “Lord, give me wisdom to leave it all in your hands. Draw me closer to you. Help me love you more and wisely live according to your will.”
Just remember, “Spiritual wisdom is to view life as God perceives it.”
Rev. Dr. Homer Larsen