1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 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. 6 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. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
13 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. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
There are differing opinions about the accuracy of this quote attributed to the commissioner of the US Patent Office in 1899: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Some say it’s just an urban legend, but whether he actually said those words or not, I wonder what he would say today if time travel were possible?
As I wrote in the bulletin this morning, it really does seem that virtually every day there is some new kind of machine or technology invented. We can only speculate about how much human ingenuity will change the world during the next hundred years or so.
Mankind has an insatiable desire to learn and know more. From about the age of 12, I would spend hours reading encyclopaedias. My favourite radio show was ‘Test the Team.’ With modern computers, youngsters today have a whole new world to explore. The quest for knowledge and wisdom is a thirst that God has given us, and over the years we have done some wonderful things, particularly when it comes to the medical field, the ease of long-distance travelling and communicating with our loved ones who live far away.
Of course, there is also an extremely dark, destructive element of human ingenuity which has brought unspeakable suffering to so many, and one wonders just where it will all end.
The problem is that we have rejected God, and His plan and will for our lives, which means that things are quite literally, spiralling out of control. The human race is on a slippery slope leading to destruction, and there is not much we can do to stop it.
Remarkably though, God has not abandoned us. He still offers us grace, mercy and hope – things that the world cannot offer or invent.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 that we should seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first. If we could learn to do that, the world would be a completely different place.
Today we’re going to consider just what it means to have Godly wisdom.
How do we begin to become wise? The beginning of Proverbs tells us: We come to God first and foremost. It starts as we respect and revere Him as we humbly submit to His authority. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
To fear the Lord means to acknowledge His great power, His complete authority over us and all creation, and His complete and total hatred of sin.
You will never make sense of life if you take God out of the equation.
The theologian Ravi Zacharias says, “The single most important question any human being can ask is the question, ‘What is truth?’ The question of truth, and training minds in how to approach truth, is of importance that cannot be gainsaid. The world is reeling with uncertainty. It’s almost like it’s in the air.”
For all our alleged ingenuity and intelligence, generally speaking, the world refuses to turn to God, who is the source of wisdom and intelligence, in order to find the answers to the most important questions of life.
But then, we shouldn’t be surprised either. It is because of our sinful nature that we have rejected truth and Godly wisdom.
It takes a radical mindshift for us to acknowledge His tremendous love and mercy shown to us, and His goodness. Life has no meaning without God. He is the point, the reason, for all existence. As Acts 17:28 puts it, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” But it takes Godly wisdom to believe that.
Probably the greatest, wisest discovery a person can make in their lifetime is the realisation that we need God. We need God because He created us, and we need Him because only He can offer us the forgiveness we need to ensure eternal life with Him.
We come first and foremost to Him for help and for guidance. In order to live differently to the standards of the world, a major goal in our lives must be the seeking of wisdom. Proverbs is full of verses calling us to the pursuit of wisdom. It is an essential ingredient to the successful Christian life.
James 1:5 is a key verse we will be referring to this morning. “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.”
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this verse, writes, “Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God, under a sense of our own weakness and folly, to ask for wisdom. He to whom we are sent, we are sure, has it to give: and He is of a giving disposition, inclined to bestow this upon those who ask.”
James 1:5 begins with an invitation. “If any of you…” God’s wisdom is available to all people, but we have to sense the need first, then ask and receive it. Wisdom, like patience, does not come naturally to us, but everyone is invited to come to God, the source of all wisdom and knowledge.
The verse continues, “If any of you lacks wisdom…” James is about to tell us what to do if we find ourselves lacking wisdom. We are going to have to do something. We will need to take some steps to find what it is that God wants us to do in seeking wisdom.
What we need to understand is that while God is the source of our strength and the source of our power, because of how sin has crippled our relationship with Him, we don’t automatically have everything we need in ourselves to face life.
Sin basically says to God, “Thanks, but no thanks. I can do this on my own, and I don’t need your help.” That’s the lie, and the deception, because we can’t do anything on our own. We do need His help, but our sinful nature denies that truth.
In order to live life the way God intended, and in order to gain Godly wisdom, we must tap into His power, and tap into His strength.
God provides the power we need, but we need to reach out to Him first. Using the analogy of technology again, a cellphone with a flat battery is nothing more than a very expensive paperweight. It needs to be plugged into a power source in order to have access to all of the potential inside.
God created us in His image. Sin has marred that image, but we still bear His image. The potential to be Godly people remains, but we have to reject worldly wisdom and seek Godly wisdom instead.
Which begs the question, just how do we do it?
James 1:5 has the answer for us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God…”
This is more than a simple once-off prayer, asking God for a solution to a particular problem or issue. James is speaking more about an attitude of prayerfully asking God. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 teaches the same lesson: “Pray without ceasing.” These words are so often misinterpreted. Some think this means we should keep nagging God until He gets so tired of us that He will eventually give us what we want.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Pray without ceasing” means that we should be constantly connected to God with a heart of prayer.
J Vernon McGee wrote in his commentary on this verse, “This has to do with an attitude of prayer. I don’t think this means that one is to stay on his knees all the time. But it means to pray regularly and to be constantly in the attitude of prayer.”
In other words, our daily conversation with God should be something along these lines: “Lord, what do I do? What are you teaching me here? Where do I go, and what do You want me to do? Lord, show me the right thing in this situation.” Asking God for wisdom is a never-ending prayer request. When we are able, with His help, to change the attitudes of our hearts to the point of consistently and continually seeking communion with Him, we will find that we will reach the point of absolute dependence on Him, which is exactly where our weakness is made strong.
John Piper says, “Praying without ceasing means not giving up on prayer. Don’t ever come to a point in your life where you cease to pray at all. Don’t abandon the God of hope and say, ‘There’s no use praying.’ Go on praying. Don’t cease. The key is to pray continually - that is, to lean on God all the time. Never give up looking to Him for help, and come to Him repeatedly during the day and often. Make the default mental state a Godward longing.”
There is a wonderful promise in James 1:5: “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.”
Godly wisdom is available to all who earnestly desire it. This is exactly what God promises: Ask, and you will receive.
I love the way Matthew Henry explains it in his 18th century English: “He to whom we are sent, we are sure, has it to give: and He is of a giving disposition, inclined to bestow this upon those who ask.”
And not only does God give, but He gives liberally, in abundance.
This same word is used in 2 Corinthians 8 to describe how the Macedonian Churches gave “generously” or “liberally” to help others in need, and in the next chapter to describe how the Church of Corinth should sow “generously” so they will reap “generously.” This word means that God will give liberally out of an abundance of His riches.
The Apostle Paul prays an amazing prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. We’ve heard it many times, but just listen to it again, especially the promises of riches, fullness and the immeasurable blessings that God wants to pour into our lives, if only we would take the trouble to ask Him:
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Two key words there which are so applicable to us today: To know this love that surpasses knowledge. How do you know something that surpasses knowledge? By tapping into God’s power and wisdom.
Does this mean we will now know everything and have all of the answers to life’s questions? Of course not. But when we have Godly wisdom, He will give us what we need and when we need it. And during those times of apparent silence when it seems that you’re not getting the answers you’re so desperately crying out for, God will give you an inner peace, and a deep assurance that He is in control and that He is sovereign.
Sometimes it’s not easy to fully trust God, particularly during times of struggle, but if you already have a heart of prayer, if you are already praying without ceasing, having a default mental state of Godward longing, as John Piper explains it, you will understand exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
One of the greatest promises in James 1:5 is that God gives generously to all without finding fault.
He is a God of grace and mercy. Because of this He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives all we need and so much more. He gives graciously, “without finding fault.”
In His great mercy God gives to us regardless of our condition, regardless of our status, regardless of our actions. He finds no fault in us when we come to Him, because Jesus is the one who has taken all the condemnation and punishment for us. Remember, when we pray, seeking God’s wisdom, that we are coming not only to the all-powerful, all-knowing God of creation, but we are also coming to Abba, our Heavenly Father.
I believe that one of the saddest things is that so many Christians so easily forget about the wisdom that God so willingly wants to give us and share with us. In our reading from Proverbs earlier we are given some amazing promises:
“The Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
Why would we not want that? What is it about our fierce independence that drives us to seek worldly wisdom instead? Moses was right. We are such a stiff-necked people. For all of our technology, knowledge and achievements, we have precious little wisdom at times!
But we do see the evidence of Godly wisdom too. This is what James was writing about in our reading from chapter 3:
“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 harbour 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. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
James talks here about what wisdom looks like practically. When we are wise, when we have taken the decision to seek Godly, instead of worldly wisdom, we find there is no place for envy or strife with true wisdom. Wisdom yields recognisable fruit of righteousness. If we go through life with God’s wisdom, we will have a power source that will deliver us during the trials, will guide us in the victories, and will help us to help others in their lives as well.
As Christians we are not called merely to believe differently. That is just the start. We are to live differently. As God teaches us, the power of His Spirit will bring about some radical changes in our lives. The heart of revival, the heart of a wise Christian, always comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in that heart.
The specifics of how God will speak to each of us is unique to each person. Sometimes the answers He gives us will be crystal clear, leaving no doubt about what He is saying.
As we well know, there are many times that we can’t quite discern what He is saying to us, but it takes a wise person to stay prayerfully connected to Jesus, trusting and believing that we will know what He is saying when He wants us to hear it.
We need to take the theory of the Christian faith, and apply it to our lives, trusting in His righteousness, wisdom and power, instead of our own.
I can stand here all day and talk about salvation, living a Godly life, living a victorious life, and about how to live differently. But unless you take a step of faith and tap into the power of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing will really change.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Proverbs 2:1-10
There are many other passages of Scripture which teach much the same lesson, but why do you think that so many people reject the Bible’s teaching on wisdom?
What are the major differences between Godly wisdom and worldly wisdom?
How do you understand the words of Proverbs 1:7?
Read James 1:4-8
Pay particular attention to verse 5.
Discuss the many aspects of Godly wisdom in this verse.
How have you asked God for wisdom to deal with a particular situation or challenge, and how did He answer your prayer?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we are to “pray without ceasing.”
What does this mean, and what does it teach us about our own prayer lives?
As we all know, there needs to be fruit or evidence of how God has changed our hearts.
Read James 3:13-18
Discuss the changes that His wisdom can and should bring into our lives.