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This is what the Apostle James tells us about the need for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to everyone generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting.”

James 1 verse 5

So what is wisdom, how can we define it? It is the ability, or result of an ability, to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. It is the art of being successful, of forming the correct plan to gain the desired results, and its seat is the heart, the centre of moral and intellectual decision. That is all very well, but what about Christian wisdom? How does it differ, if at all, from worldly wisdom? Of course they have much in common, because of our common humanity. Even wisdom derived from natural abilities or distilled from experience, is a gracious gift, because God’s creative activity makes such wisdom possible. But in Psalm 111 verse 10, and in Proverbs chapter 1 verse 7, we read that: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In Proverbs there are over fifty references to wisdom. Such wisdom takes insights gleaned from the knowledge of God’s ways, and applies them in the daily walk. Insight in itself is not enough. It must be applied practically to be of any use to individuals and communities. Pagan wisdom has no anchor in the covenant God, and is therefore doomed to failure. As the Scripture says: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes.” Worldly wisdom is based on intuition and experience without revelation. But the truly wise are those to whom God has graciously imparted wisdom. Such a wise person was King Solomon. He was humble enough to acknowledge that he was totally inadequate in himself to govern the people, to discern between good and evil. When the Lord appeared to him in a dream at night, God said to him: “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon replied: “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people.” The wisdom of Solomon is legendary, and to him is attributed much of the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. His reign in Israel was the most glorious, prosperous and relatively peaceful periods in the history of the Jewish nation.

How does all this apply to us? Wisdom in the fullest sense belongs to God, and therefore wisdom as it applies to humans is relative and limited to the purposes for which God created individuals to serve Him in His Church, and witness to His love, power and glory, in their community. People who are called to positions of power and authority in society, are in special need of wisdom. Their Christian faith doesn’t necessarily mean that they will always make wise or moral decisions. But we need to pray for them in their positions of great responsibility for the sake of peace and security. But what about relatively insignificant individual Christians and our corporate church life? We certainly need wisdom in respect of various problems in the Church.

Problems which tend to dominate the news and obscure the primary task of the Church to preach the gospel in word and action. People are turning more to meditational therapies such as yoga, t’ai chi and feng shui, looking for answers within themselves.

Sadly, the Church itself has been an instrument of dissatisfaction and disaffection among seekers after spiritual truth, with peripheral disputes, liberal theology, and a gospel diluted with human philosophy instead of being the instrument of proclamation and revelation by which our Lord Jesus Christ can be recognised and acknowledged as the Saviour of the world. It is immeasurably tragic that in rejecting the Church, people are seen to be rejecting the Lord of life, the one to whom everyone must one day give account. For everyone of us must appear before the judgment of Christ to receive what has been done in the body, whether good or bad.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, chapter 1 verse 7, says: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” What more incentive could we have than to know God better? We need to pray specifically for wisdom in each situation where we find our own resources inadequate, just as Solomon did, to find our rightful place in God’s Church, to be the people He created us to be, and to reveal and share with others all the good things our loving Father has given us in His Son. Let us therefore continue to pray for wisdom to our God, “who gives to everyone generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting.”

Derek Burton


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