Step 7: Learn Spiritual Wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all. (James 1:5)
A: Discovering the Truth
B. Exploring the Truth
We are wise once we begin to realize that the wisdom, scholarship and philosophy that the world affords are foolishness in the eyes of God. Leaning on our own understanding, which is frequently based upon these things, can lead us down crooked paths or detour us altogether. But trusting in God and acknowledging that His wisdom and guidance is all we really need, and then actually following it leads us down paths that are straight. All too often we grow impatient waiting on the Lord, yet taking matters into our own hands and relying on worldly wisdom usually wastes time, effort and resources that were not necessary had we remained patient and waited on the Lord. Also, leaning on our own understanding often results in consequences that could have been avoided as well.
With the knowledge and understanding that God provides, we are better able to make correct judgments that enable us to follow the best course of action. But how do we do this? We have already learned many things that are useful for spiritual wisdom and discernment: desiring what God desires, cultivating a Christ-like attitude, being attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, pursuing a life of service that God planned in advance for us to do, developing meaningful and consistent Bible study habits and communicating often with God in prayer. It should come as no surprise that these things are, in a sense, building blocks to developing spiritual wisdom and discernment and is a characteristic of devoted Disciples of Christ. And, there are more building blocks to come, such as being engaged with the church, learning valuable lessons from earthly trials and temptations and being motivated by a Godly love. As we put these disciplines into practice we will come to realize and understand that God’s ways are right and best and we should walk in them.
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth
Unfortunately, all too often we find that it is easier (or so we think) to rely on our own understanding rather than God’s. We buy into Satan’s deception (began in Eden) believing that the ways of the world are “desirable for gaining wisdom.” When we lean on our own understanding, which is worldly, thinking that we are so wise and learned, spiritual wisdom is hidden from us. We are blinded by our own devises. But when we, in child-like faith and trust, seek answers from above they are revealed to us. Thus, what we believe to be so hard, gaining spiritual wisdom and discernment is actually “child’s play”. It really does not take an Einstein. The truth is that God wants us to make right choices and wise decisions. That being the case, why would He make it hard for us to do so? He does not. In fact, James tells us that “[i]f any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all. (James 1:5).” We actually make it hard for ourselves when we lean on our own understanding and do not acknowledge that His ways are best.
Elsewhere in his epistle, James gives us some additional insights into spiritual wisdom that we would be well served (wise) to pay attention to and learn from. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But 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 (James 3:13-17).”
In the chart that follows, we compare and contrast the characteristics of worldly wisdom (bitter envy, selfish ambition, empty boasting, denying the truth, worldly, unspiritual and devilish) with the characteristics of heavenly wisdom (pure, peace-loving, considerate or gentle, submissive or reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and unwavering and sincere). In them we find that the quality of our wisdom is relative to the source of our wisdom.
D: Weighing the Truth
The choice really is ours. We desire to be wise. We just have a tendency to seek for it in all the wrong places. When we do so, we also have a tendency to make wrong decisions and unwise choices. These usually have consequences. We end up confused, perplexed and mixed up. We second guess our decisions and choices, because we realize that we have settled for what is second best. Actually worthless when compared to God’s standards and what He has to offer us. Even though it might seem that we have made the right choices in the eyes of the world, we find that they do not provide us with the satisfaction and peace of mind that we expected. They prove meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
On the other hand, when we seek for wisdom in the right place, more often than not we will make right decisions and wise choices that are free of undesirable consequences. Our minds are left untroubled and we have peace from God. For we have not just made the right decision or choice, but that we have made the righteous decision or choice.
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing on Your Own
1. What is your first impulse when faced with a major decision? Minor decision? Why?
2. Does your approach to making decisions change depending upon whether it is a spiritual, ethical or moral decision versus other types of decisions? Should it? Explain.
3. Why is it so crucial to have the proper orientation when facing a decision?
4. Why might trust be considered incompatible or in conflict with knowledge and understanding?
5. Why is it easier to rely on our own understanding rather than trusting in spiritual wisdom?
6. What are some examples of worldly wisdom that might be foolish in God’s sight?
7. How can the characteristics of Heavenly wisdom (review the list) help us make the right decisions while the characteristics of worldly wisdom (review the list) might get in the way?
8. What makes foolish decisions appear sound and sound decisions appear foolish?
9. What makes worldly wisdom sometimes seem so appealing while heavenly wisdom sometimes seems so unappealing?
10. How do you usually feel after making a decision, confused or at peace? Why?
11. How does the way you feel relate to how faithful you are in seeking God’s will and trusting in His wisdom?
12. Why is it that so much of what we toil to achieve seems so right when we make the decision, but so meaningless after we have obtained it?
13. How can following God turn right decisions into righteous decisions? What is the difference?