Summary: How do we get wisdom, and once we’ve got it, how do we show in our lives that we have it?
We’ve seen, over the past few weeks, the importance of wisdom for life. Godly wisdom will lead us along paths that lead to life. We’ve also seen that the alternative to following God’s wisdom, choosing to live foolishly in God’s world, is to risk our lives.
Well clearly it’s better to be wise than to be foolish. It’s better to live a life that’s blessed by God than to risk missing out on the good things God has planned for us. But how do we do it? How do we get wisdom, and once we’ve got it, how do we show in our lives that we have it?
How do we get wisdom?
I hope you’ve picked up the first step, at least, as we’ve been going through this series. Wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD. That’s the major theme of Proverbs. The conclusion of the writer of Ecclesiastes is this: "13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl 12:13-14 NRSV). So fear God, not in the sense of being scared of him, but in the sense of understanding where you stand in respect to him.
You see, despite our desire to rule the world, we don’t and we can’t. God is the only one with the right and the ability to do that. If you’ve seen the movie Bruce Almighty, you’ll remember that it shows just how true that is. For those who haven’t seen it, it begins with Bruce experiencing something of the situation that Job found himself in. Everything in his life is going wrong. So he yells at God, telling him he’s being unfair, unjust. "Why don’t you just kill me and get it over with?" "If you’re God why can’t you make things go right for a change?"
So God decides to show him why he’s God and Bruce isn’t. He arranges it so that Bruce takes his place. He gives him all his omnipotent power. And suddenly Bruce is thrown in the deep end. He realises just how much there is to think about if you’re going to be God over the whole world. It’s far too much to handle. So God says he’ll just make him responsible for a small part of the city but even that proves too much for Bruce. Well, in the end Bruce realises that God is the only one who can be God.
But it’s more than just realising our inadequacy, our weakness compared to God. It’s also understanding that God’s innate purity means that we’ll always be unworthy subjects by our own merits. If we were to appear before God right now we’d be overcome by our impurity. We’d want to hide in shame.
Now that could leave us feeling anxious and afraid, except that we also know that our God is a God who’s dealt with our inadequacy through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. We understand that although God is totally transcendent he’s condescended to lower himself to our weakened existence in order to raise us to his level once again. That’s why 1 John 4:18 can say "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." (1 John 4:18 NRSV) John sees that God’s love, shown in Jesus Christ rules out the sort of anxiety associated with being afraid, even if it doesn’t remove the need to hold God in awe and wonder. God is at the same time a God into whose presence we enter trembling because of our own unworthiness, and a loving father into whose arms we can run, crying "Abba, Father!"
But that’s the start: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." But God doesn’t just leave us there. He also promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it.
Turn back to James 1. Look there at James 1:5-7: "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7 NRSV)" If you want to be wise, then ask God for wisdom and he’ll give it to you gladly.
But make sure you mean it. You can’t be half hearted when it comes to asking God for wisdom. As we saw last week the path to wisdom requires a choice: do you go right or do you go left. If you try to do both you’ll end up crashing into some stationary object. You can’t be half wise, half godly in the way you live, in the choices you make. Otherwise you become like the double-minded person, basically unstable, unreliable, the sort of person that no-one trusts because you’re likely to change your mind tomorrow, or even the moment you’ve made a decision, or given your word.