So, we began a new series a couple of weeks ago on the subject of WISDOM. I am calling this series Wisdom - The Principal Thing. I am calling it this because the Bible says that Wisdom is the principal thing - that is, the top, first and best thing.
Someone might be thinking - “What about love? Isn’t it the greatest virtue of the Christian life?” or either “What about faith? Isn’t it impossible to please God without faith?” Both of those questions are legitimate but the fact is, the Bible says that wisdom is the principal thing and does not say this about any other virtue. However, through my studies on the subject of wisdom I have found that the wisdom that descends from above is, in fact, walking in love (compare James 3:17) and believing in God (compare Proverbs 9:10). In other words, you cannot separate godly wisdom from faith and love anyway. They are all woven together to create the first fruits of a pure and undefiled religion that God has called us unto. Amen?
So, let’s look again at Proverbs 4:5-8: It says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
So, we can see just through this one passage of Scripture that there is indeed great value and worth in obtaining wisdom from God, amen? And that is what we spent part one of this series looking at. We looked at many of the different by-products of acquiring wisdom. We saw that with wisdom comes “honor, promotion, favor from God, wealth & riches, length of days, life, happiness, blessings, etc.”
So, we need to honestly ask ourselves the question - Am I experiencing an abundance of all of these blessings in my life? If not, then based on this Scripture, I need to start loving wisdom and embracing her. I need to exalt and honor her. To most believers, this is not on their radar to do this. But should it be? If we desire these things in our life, it should!
Therefore, we learned that this is the first thing we need to do - begin to exalt and embrace her. This describes simply just holding her in higher esteem than we currently do. And the awesome thing is by us simply valuing wisdom in our hearts, we begin to attract her. And then when we obtain her, she brings with her all manner of good things in our life.
Now it stands to mention again that the tell-tale sign that you and I truly know and understand these things is by how excited and enthusiastic we get about hearing it. In other words, if we are truly exalting, embracing and loving wisdom, she will have our hearts. So, if the preciousness of wisdom does not stir something up on the inside of us, then it is not real to us. It is that simple!
So, last week, we began defining wisdom. We first of all looked at what wisdom is not. And we saw that wisdom is not knowledge or understanding.
Yes, wisdom is not simply accumulating more information than others. You can accumulate a vast amount of knowledge and still be void of wisdom. I received the following statement when studying this: you can have a cap and a gown or a robe and a crown and still be a fool. In other words, you can have several degrees or hold a prestigious title or position and still be unwise.
We saw how many of these highly intellectual people in the world are lauded for their “wisdom,” but in many of these cases, they claim to be atheists. And the Bible says, regarding this, that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God (see Psalm 53:1). So, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge and understanding one seems to have, if they do not believe there is a Creator, then they are a fool.
So, we endeavored to define wisdom, and we saw that while possessing knowledge or understanding is not the same as having wisdom, they both work together with wisdom. Regarding this - one definition of wisdom is as follows: Wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. Therefore, knowledge can exist without wisdom; but wisdom cannot exist without knowledge.
I used a physical example to define wisdom and show the difference between wisdom, knowledge and understanding - the example of automobile mechanics:
We saw that knowledge could be described as being able to look under the hood of a car and tell which parts are the engine, the transmission, the radiator, the battery, the alternator, etc. Understanding would be the ability to know what each of these parts do and what their function is regarding the vehicle running correctly. But how many of you know that just because you can lift the hood on your car and have the “knowledge” of which part is the alternator, and just because you have the “understanding” of what the alternator does, does not mean that if your alternator goes out that you yourself will know how to fix it. That is where wisdom ties in.
So, we then saw that a couple of good one-word definitions that I have been able to find for “wisdom” are “skillful” and “expert.” In other words, having wisdom in an area is being skilled and an expert in that area.
So, regarding our example of auto mechanics - a good, skilled auto mechanic not only “knows” what every part of the car is, not only do they “understand” what they do and why they do it, but they know how each of these parts work together. Yes, one who is “skilled” or an “expert” in auto mechanics could take the vehicle apart and put it back together again. In other words, the one who is “skilled” and an “expert” in fixing cars knows the correct application of all of that knowledge they have.
Therefore, that is why I like to define wisdom like so: wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life - because as important as being skilled in the arena of auto mechanics is, what we really want to become an expert at is life. Amen?
You see, this is the wisdom that you and I truly are looking for! Not just the earthly wisdom that will only help in things that pertain to this temporal life. Sure, there are benefits to having wisdom in regard to the things of life, but the wisdom that comes from above (i.e. God) contains the skill and expertise that will not only help us in this life but has the promise of the life that is to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
We saw that one way you could answer the question, “What is wisdom?” is with one word - GOD! That’s right: God is wisdom! In fact, the Bible actually teaches us in three places (Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17 and Jude 25) that God alone is wise. That means that just as there is none good but God (not meaning that there is no one else who ever does any good things, but simply that God is the only One who is purely good and has this as an unchanging part of His nature), likewise there is none wise but God, which means the same thing: that while we might only scratch the surface of wisdom that descends from above, no one else can ever compare to God’s wisdom.
So, we went over to the Book of James because it gives us the primary difference between God’s wisdom and this world’s wisdom. We looked at James 3:13-17 which says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
We saw how in verse 13, James asks a rhetorical question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” – indicating that there was evidently a group of individuals in this church he was writing to who claimed to have all of this wisdom and understanding (Probably that same group who wanted to become teachers that James warned in 3:1). So, James answers this question by saying that if you really have true wisdom, it will be displayed in your life by how you conduct yourself. In other words, wisdom is not just knowing something and having all the answers. Wisdom is simply living rightly. In other words, wisdom is not us being able to win a debate; wisdom is us having the common sense to make good decisions in life and actually doing so.
Therefore, wisdom is more than just being able to quote a bunch of Bible verses about a topic, such as love; it is knowing how to apply these truths about love to your life and actually being a doer of these verses that you know. So, knowledge would be us learning the truth. Understanding would be us learning how to apply the truth. But wisdom would be us actually living the truth.
This is why we looked at verse 17 – which is where James defines the God kind of wisdom - that all of these traits and characteristics of wisdom are good and loving behaviors. No, not just theories or philosophies; true wisdom is the applied knowledge from God. So, in essence, God’s wisdom is pure and without hypocrisy. It is a peacemaker. It is considerate and non-contentious. It is open to reason. It is merciful and produces all manner of good fruits.
Finally, we looked at Matthew 10:16 and brought a good balance to what wisdom truly is. Matthew 10:16 says, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We saw that godly wisdom uses good, common sense and makes strategic, thoughtful decisions, but not for selfish, harmful motives. All that it does is righteous and good. Yes, we certainly want to be “harmless” in our dealings - meaning, we are not to violate the love command. This is at the top of our priority list - doing good, being kind, showing mercy, etc. Therefore, we are gentle in our dealings, not harmful and not self-seeking. However, we are also to be wise as serpents - meaning, we do not naively put ourselves in the position of being hurt, or doing foolish things that lead to loss in our lives. Like a serpent, we make small, calculated movements in our dealings with people and things in this world. Yes, our aim is to imitate Love Himself and be good and gracious in our interactions with people, but we do things wisely - that is, in a slow, systematic fashion, being led by the Spirit of wisdom. Amen!
THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM
This week, I would like to continue looking at what wisdom is by looking at one of wisdom’s primary characteristics. So, I am titling today’s message, “The Heart of Wisdom.”
So, let’s begin by going back to Proverbs 9:1 and looking at what is at the very core of wisdom. This proverb says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Now, the fear of the Lord is not being “afraid” of God; it is the reverence, respect or you could say, placing the appropriate value upon God and the things that He values. Let me give you a good example of this:
Say, someone that is held in high esteem were coming to your house like a king, queen, the president or a spiritual leader. Did you know that many of you would do a thorough house cleaning, put it in order and then would likely change many of the things that you normally would do if those distinguished guests were not coming? Do you know what that is? It is the “fear” of that person. Now obviously, you are not afraid or terrified of them; but because you respect the position that they hold, you behave in a certain way and do certain things out of respect for their position.
This is why I love statement the Lord gave me regarding our two primary, most common exhortations - Loving God and Fearing God: He told me that we “love” His person; we “fear” His position. In other words, He is both our God and our Father. He holds the position of God, Lord and Sovereign, but He also is our Father, Brother and Husband. Therefore, we “love” His personality based on our relationship with Him, but “fear” His position as the Lord God Almighty.
So, the very heart and foundation of wisdom is recognizing that there is indeed a God, and living a life of respect and reverence for Him. If one does not have this basic understanding, they are unwise. I don’t care how many degrees they have, how many letters they have at the end of their name, or what position and title they hold, if they do not recognize and respect the One True and Living God, they are a fool. On the other hand, if we have this reverential awe and respect for the Lord God, then we will behave in such a way that prepares us for standing before Him one day. Therefore, the beginning of wisdom, in essence, is that it looks at the things it cannot see and makes decisions based upon that unseen, eternal realm.
Let’s look at this from a natural perspective to help us grasp this core characteristic of wisdom. We will do so by looking at the heart of wisdom in regards to our physical bodies and our finances:
First of all, one very obvious example of the heart of wisdom would be taking care of our bodies:
You see, wisdom will suppress the cravings of the flesh to eat fast food every day and just “veg-out” on the couch 24/7. Of course, that is an extreme example that hopefully none of us are practicing today, but it is an obvious example of foolishness. Saints, we need to walk in wisdom with our eating and exercising habits and not just live to gratify our flesh.
You see, our flesh is bent on gratifying itself today! In other words, it wants whatever it feels like right now. For example, a good sign that your flesh is trying to take control of the show is when you feel like you just have to have that candy bar at that moment. That is the time to suppress your flesh and treat it like you would a child and say, “You know what? If you are going to pitch a fit about it, you aren’t getting anything!”
You will experience this the most when you go on a fast. Your flesh will kick and scream and tell you that you are going to just die if you don’t eat something right now! Of course, this is not true because the truth is your body can go days without eating and be totally fine. But our flesh is just like a spoiled little kid though - totally irrational and selfish! But wisdom will discipline those physical cravings of the flesh because it will first consider how those eating, drinking, and exercising habits will affect it in the future.
This is just one example of how the heart of wisdom can be applied to our everyday lives. So, let’s look at another natural aspect of the heart of wisdom…
Another matter that we simply cannot avoid in regards to the heart of wisdom is the area of finances. Let’s look at an example of this that we can all relate to - credit cards (I’m sure everyone will like this one)…
When dealing with credit cards, many Americans have the mindset that they are a means of getting what they want today even though they do not currently have the money. For instance, many of us will say things like, “I can put this new flat screen, high definition television on my credit card and then I’ll own it.” But the reality is, we don’t really own it because we are going to have to pay for it down the road, plus some!
You see, wisdom will not do this. The reason why is because wisdom will consider what something is going to cost down the road before acting on the impulses of the flesh to purchase it now.
Now don’t get me wrong - I am not saying that using credit cards is unwise (Sorry Dave Ramsey😊); it just becomes unwise when we do not handle them correctly. This occurs as we spend money on our credit card knowing that we will not be able pay it back immediately, thus incurring those high interest rates. But if we use a credit card with the mentality that we will make it a priority to pay it back at our first opportunity, then there is nothing wrong with them.
However, my point is that it is unwise to simply gratify the flesh and not consider the repercussions of those decisions. So, in regards to this, we should do our best to avoid using credit as a means to get what we want today at the cost of tomorrow.
Now we can flip this principle of wisdom regarding credit cards because, did you know, you can actually use credit cards to your benefit? For example, Shannon and I have used credit cards for some time now that earn us cash back. Of course, that is not a tremendous amount but when you charge everything you can on it (while deducting those payments out of your checkbook register as if you were using a check or a debit card), then it can add up.
For instance, when we have to make a major purchase, we use the credit card even though we might have the money sitting in our checking account. Why? Because we want to earn the rewards with the credit card company on that purchase and then we will turn around and pay it back before the interest sets in. There are some credit cards that earn travel rewards and I know a man who earned a free trip to Hawaii for himself and 3 other family members after just a few years of charging everything he could on that credit card while paying the bill in full every month! This is how credit cards can actually benefit us.
So, I am not saying that using credit cards is wrong; what I am saying, however, is it is just how most Americans use them that is wrong.
As I was writing this about the misuse of credit cards, a particular scripture was ringing in my heart: “The law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8)
You see, in the circles that I have run in, most people have this negative perception of the Mosaic and Levitical Laws. We understand that the law was given by God strictly to show us His unattainable righteous requirements - all with the hope of us throwing our hands in the air and asking for mercy. In this case, God sent the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law for us so that when we responded in this manner, He would save us by grace. This is using the law “lawfully.”
On the other hand, to use the law “unlawfully” would be to try and fulfill the righteous requirements of the law while rejecting the sacrifice offered through the blood and body of the Lord Jesus. In other words, using the law “unlawfully” would be us using the law as a means of justification before God. So, you see, the law is not bad in and of itself; it is just how people have used it that is bad.
Likewise, credit cards are good, if people would use them “lawfully.” But the problem is many use credit cards as a way of gratifying their flesh today without giving any real thought to what it will cost them tomorrow.
But, on the other hand, wisdom will make financial decisions today that will be beneficial tomorrow. In other words, wisdom will invest as opposed to incurring debt! This is the heart of wisdom in regards to the financial arena.
THE HEART OF WISDOM
You see, this is one of the reasons why I call this the “heart of wisdom.” It is because at its very heart, wisdom considers the future in all of its current decisions. In other words, the heart of wisdom is that it always looks ahead and always considers the future when making current decisions.
But isn’t this just a common characteristic of a wise person? Through the knowledge and experiences of life, a wise person who chose to learn from their life-lessons, will make adjustments the next go around. In other words, because of what they learned will happen when they do certain things, they consider the outcome of their current decisions. This is wisdom, and this is exactly the opposite of what a fool does…
You see, a fool is always surprised by what ends up happening in the future. “Wow! I didn’t know that was going to happen!” they say, or, “Oops, if I would have known that was going to happen, I wouldn’t have done that.” So, a fool is shortsighted and blind and doesn’t consider the outcome of their current decisions. A wise person always thinks ahead.
For instance, a fool will speak without thinking - never considering how what he is about to say will affect him or those hearing him. In regards to this, a fool will vent all his feelings. Yes, what is in his heart will become obvious because he will always let you know what he is thinking no matter how inappropriate it might be. A fool will also just blare on without giving any thought to his destination. He will rarely consider how what he is about to do will affect him down the road. So, you see, a fool conducts himself in the exact opposite manner of the wise.
On the other hand, those with the heart of wisdom will not vent all of their feelings. They will consider the effect that their words will have before they speak them - and in many respects, godly wisdom will restrain any words that would be hurtful and harmful to the hearers. The wise will also consider where what they are about to do will take them before they move forward - thinking ahead as to whether or not their current decision will lead them away from God’s perfect plan for their life. To put it simply - the heart of wisdom is that it looks ahead and considers where it is going.
So, as I have stated thus far, a foolish person will just blare on without ever giving any forethought to the implications of his or her decisions. But a wise person will first consider how what they are about to do to, for example, their body and how they are about to spend their money will affect them in the future. But, you see, this principle of wisdom that we have been talking about is something that reaches well beyond just simple credit card debt as well as any other worldly examples. This is also how most people live their lives spiritually…
For example, in regard to sin, fools will succumb to temptation because they will not consider the future ramifications of their sin - how it will affect them spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc. So, giving in to temptation is, in essence, a failure to walk in the wisdom of God.
What will wisdom do in regards to temptation? It will do everything it can to not even enter into the tempting circumstances. In other words, it will think ahead and do whatever it can to abstain from the fleshly lusts that war against the soul (see 2 Peter 2:11).
The Cross of Christ is a great example of this heart of wisdom that we are talking about… In Hebrews 12:2 the author tells us that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the Cross despising the shame.” In other words, Jesus looked beyond the temporal pain and suffering of the Cross and unto the joy that would come as a result of His obedience. Aren’t you glad Jesus had the heart of wisdom at that time? And the author used this example to motivate his readers to take up their Cross and continue to strive against sin (see verses 3&4).
Saints, as long as we are living on this earth we will always have this option before us - Will we resist temptation now for the joy set before us or will we fulfill the lust of the flesh and sacrifice the long-term rewards?
One passage of scripture stands out as an example. In Matthew 7:24-27, we are told that a wise man hears and does the sayings of Jesus. A foolish man hears, but does not do, the sayings of Jesus. The storms of life COME AGAINST BOTH OF THEM, but the wise man uses what he has been learning and doing to weather these storms, whereas the fool is ruined by them.
SPIRITUAL DEBT vs. SPIRITUAL INVESTMENT
You see, there is such a thing as “spiritual debt” as well as financial debt. It is sad to say, but the truth is that the vast majority of people that have ever walked on this planet lived their life with this debt mentality.
What do I mean by “debt mentality?” I mean that they lived solely for their earthly life - fulfilling their own selfish, carnal desires - and they are paying for it right now in eternity. Some gave their heart to God but still lived conformed to this world - that is, they were born again believers, but they went through life only living for themselves and did not lay their treasures up in heaven. While these will still live in the presence of God for eternity, they will not receive the great rewards that they were capable of receiving. On the other hand, most people that have lived on the earth never even acknowledged the existence of God and lived totally ungodly and carnal lifestyles, having never received the salvation that was offered through Jesus Christ. These will experience spiritual “bankruptcy”- having their part in the lake of fire for eternity where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.
Both of these examples are the bookends of what it is like to live in spiritual debt. But, on the other hand, there are the few that find the path of life and live a life of consecration to God - putting their flesh under and sowing themselves towards their eternal harvest. These are the spiritually wise - the ones that have invested their life for their glorious future!
Let’s look over at a verse in the 90th Psalm that I see as culminating everything we have been saying through this teaching (This Psalm was actually a prayer that Moses prayed during the time Israel was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years):
In this Psalm, Moses prayed for something that I believe we should all pray for consistently for our own lives and the lives of others. In this awesome prayer, Moses shows us how the heart of wisdom applies to our life on this earth versus our life in eternity.
So, what was it that Moses specifically prayed for that will enable us to gain a heart of wisdom? In verse 12, he asked the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” What a powerful verse this is!
What Moses was asking Yahweh was to teach them to count the number of days that they had. What does this mean? Just think about it: The carnal human tendency is to suppose that we will live on this earth forever. Most people (particularly young people) just float through life never considering that their life may end soon. Since this life is all that we have ever known, we just live life never really considering what happens after we die. But life after death is a reality that we must consider! As a matter of fact, eternity is something that we better consider because how we live our life now will determine where and how we will spend eternity.
Do you see how vague this is to most people, even Christians? But this is exactly why Moses prayed this for Israel… He prayed that God would teach them to calculate and evaluate their days on this earth so that they would be ready for the next life. So I pray now for us… “Lord, teach us to number our days as well - to see how short this life really is so that we would make the most of our time here on the earth. Lord, give unto us this heart of wisdom.” Amen!
In the 90th Psalm as well as several other places in Scripture we are reminded of our human frailty. The Scriptures that are ringing in my ears even as I am writing this describe mankind as grass (see Isaiah 40:6-8 & James 1:9-11). And the point of emphasis in these Scriptures is that we are like grass in that we grow up one day and are cut down the next. Some of us are beautiful, glamorous, and successful like the flower of the grass, but we all will suffer the same fate of death regardless of what we accomplish here on the earth. We are all but a vapor.
I know that many Christians like to rest on a misinterpretation of Romans 8:28, thinking that all things are going to work to their good regardless of how they live their lives. But this is not so - you can’t take this scripture out of its context. First of all, it says that all things work together for good TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE. So having a whole-hearted love for God is one requirement. Second, this verse is a continuation of the chapter, which starts with another requirement of “those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So this verse does not give you “blanket blessings” as you live your life however you please.
You see, in the world success is sought for. People live their whole lives to make a buck and be able to retire one day. And although there is some wisdom in preparing for our future here on the earth, if that is all we live for, then we are living a life of vanity.
You see, our life on this earth is so short in comparison to eternity. And I believe the church has allowed the same mentality of the world to creep into it. We have adopted the same carnal and foolish thinking that is only concerned with this earth-life. This is indeed a grave mistake because a day is coming, soon and very soon, when we will stand in front of our Master and have to give an account for the stewardship of our life on this earth. I personally want the Lord to look at me and say, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in little (i.e. in this short life) and now you will become ruler over much (i.e. in the eternal kingdom of God)!”
So which end of the spectrum are you going to strive for? Are you going to live for today and be in debt for the future or are you going to live for the future and lay down your life today? Life is short, my friends; so live for eternity!
So, in conclusion, we could say that making current decisions that will positively affect our future is the heart of wisdom! By far the most important aspect of this is regarding the spiritual because he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption but he who sows to the spirit will of the spirit reap everlasting life (Galatians 6:8). But we should also incorporate this characteristic of wisdom into our earth-life as well - physically, financially, etc. And the best wisdom we can use in any situation is to be led - seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s wisdom.
My brother and sister, if we would live our lives with a heart of wisdom we would be making one of the greatest decisions we could ever make in our life. My prayer is that you will take this truth and begin to reevaluate your life to make sure you are investing in those things that are of eternal value. Never forget: what we do today will echo for all eternity! What sound will you make?