LCN Article

The Value of Wisdom

January / February 2019

William Long

Is there one all-important quality that every true Christian must have in order to overcome the temptations of this life and rule with Jesus Christ at His return? Or are we to balance a myriad of godly characteristics and traits, always taking stock of where we are falling short and subsequently making “course corrections”? Put simply, the answer to both questions is “Yes.” However, without one all-important trait, everything else God expects of us becomes impossible to achieve. Christians must possess wisdom as a foundation if we are to develop the mind and character of God our Father and Jesus the Christ.

Godly wisdom allows us to overcome our carnal natures, providing incredible benefits, including the capacity to handle all manner of trials and tribulations and, eventually, the ability to rule with Christ. Here are just a few aspects of godly wisdom:

  • It gives us understanding of God’s word. In fact, we cannot fully understand God’s plan and purpose without it.

  • It frees us from fear.

  • It is impossible to develop in its fullness without the Holy Spirit.

  • It teaches us mercy, causing us to produce good fruit.

  • God has always possessed it, but we must diligently seek it out.

In Daniel 12, we read a prophecy regarding the resurrection: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2–3).

Notice that those who “shine like the brightness of the firmament” are not described as loving, merciful, kind, hopeful, or any other quality that God says we are to possess. Instead, it says that the wise will shine brightly. If we possess the true wisdom from above—the wisdom that only comes from our loving Creator—then we are able to love as He loves, showing mercy, kindness, gentleness, and every other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). “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” (James 3:17). How do we obtain that wisdom from above?

The Wisdom of Scholars and Educators

The world’s great thinkers and philosophers have tried to define wisdom, attempting—with differing explanations and rationalizations—to explain how to obtain it. Cicero, a Roman statesman and philosopher, said that “The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.” American essayist Henry David Thoreau stated, “It is characteristic of wisdom to not do desperate things.” A more modern educator, Stephen Covey, pointed out that whatever is at the center of our lives will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

None of these men is completely wrong in the way that he describes wisdom. In fact, Cicero, Thoreau, and Covey all describe it in ways that are not incompatible with the Bible. However, their understanding is not perfect, and we need the help of God’s word to properly grasp this foundational quality that all true Christians must come to possess.

We can certainly learn a lot about godly wisdom from King Solomon: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus, Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men” (1 Kings 4:29–31). How did Solomon get this wisdom?

It’s instructive to examine how Solomon obtained godly wisdom, because we can all obtain it in the same way. God and Jesus Christ do not change, and the way to receive Their wisdom has not changed either.

We Must Ask for It!

Solomon was a young man, about 20 years old, when he began to rule over the nation of Israel. He had to make very difficult decisions at the very beginning of his rule, and eventually had to execute rebels such as Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei (1 Kings 2). These responsibilities would surely have weighed heavily upon someone so young, and undoubtedly produced stress that would have been difficult to bear without God’s help.

In 1 Kings 3:5, God says to Solomon, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Put yourself in Solomon’s position. If God gave you the opportunity today to ask for whatever you want from Him (within the confines of His law, of course), what would you ask for? Would your request depend on your current circumstances? Would you ask for a new job? Would you ask for deliverance from a difficult health trial, or the ability to overcome whatever trial you may be going through right now?

Solomon had an open invitation to receive anything he felt he needed in that moment. He could have asked for God to remove his enemies so he wouldn’t have to execute anyone else. He could have asked for material riches, which many inexperienced young people desire at that stage of life. Instead, he asked for godly wisdom. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).

God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that He not only gave him the wisdom he so desperately needed, but also much more. “See, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days” (1 Kings 3:12–13).

Solomon received exactly what he needed in order to be an effective instrument in God’s hands because he specifically asked for it. God certainly knew what Solomon needed, just as He knows what each of us needs in order to live abundant, righteous lives in His service (Matthew 6:8). Yet Solomon still made the effort to ask. We are expected to do the same:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:2–5).

Notice that we go through trials and tests because God desires us to be “complete” men and women of faith, and that “completeness” cannot exist without wisdom. Godly wisdom is the foundation for both freedom from fear and strength to face our trials and persecutions. It gives us the courage and faith to continue on when we feel flattened by the difficulties of this life.

The first step to attaining godly wisdom is to ask for it, trusting that God will give it to us. Solomon explained this to his own son in the book of Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). He also wrote that if “you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding… and lift up your voice for understanding… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom” (Proverbs 2:2–3, 5–6).

God Gives His Wisdom to the Humble

Solomon’s attitude when asking for wisdom was one of humility. He didn’t demand it of God, because he knew his place. He also knew why he needed God’s wisdom. “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.… For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:7, 9).

Solomon demonstrated humility as he talked with God. He also acknowledged that his responsibility involved not just any people, but the people of God. Do we take time to meditate on the fact that we do not belong to just any church, but the Church of the living God? When we truly grasp what God has done in calling us out of the world and placing us among His chosen people, we can’t help but be humbled and grateful. We are a part of the most important Work on earth at this time in history. Recognizing this and using God’s wisdom to discern right from wrong shows spiritual maturity. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [spiritually mature], that is, those who by reason of use [or practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Remember that Solomon asked for wisdom to discern good and evil (1 Kings 3:9; 2 Chronicles 1:10).

Paul expounded even further on this subject to the church in Corinth. “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6–7). What we have access to as God’s people—the wisdom from above—is hidden from the rest of mankind. Our possession of it is demonstrated by our understanding of spiritual things, understanding which can only be attained through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10–14).

Our possession of wisdom is also demonstrated by our conduct, as it reflects the character of God. We aren’t properly discerning good from evil if we are acting according to Satan’s devices. Are we envious of others? Do we lie and have selfish ambitions?

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.… 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 (James 3:13–15, 17).

If we don’t seek peace with one another, or work to produce good fruit, or if we show favoritism among brethren, we are not exercising godly wisdom, and we are failing to judge right from wrong. If this is the case, our spiritual lives and our relationships with one another will fall apart, and we will be derailed from our journey toward eternal life. What often happens next is not good. Many begin to question whether or not they are in the right place, and these thoughts snowball into fear.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.… For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest… so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore (Hebrews 12:14–15, 18–19).

Godly Wisdom Makes Us Free from Fear

As he bore the great responsibility of shepherding God’s people among the Gentiles, even the Apostle Paul dealt with fear of a sort, but that fear was no obstacle to the wisdom of God.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1–5).

Wisdom shows us what to fear: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). The Bible admonishes us to be courageous in all areas of our lives and to fear only God—to have awe and reverence toward Him as our Creator.

In Matthew 14, we read of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee during a storm. The disciples saw Him and became afraid, thinking He was a ghost.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:27–31).

We must seek God’s wisdom in faith, without doubting: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5–8).

Godly wisdom can be attained and will not be hidden from us if we diligently seek it, ask for it, fear God with our whole hearts, and live our lives in assurance that He will give us exactly what we need to succeed, just as He gave Solomon exactly what he needed to rule the nation of Israel.

Wisdom Is a Foundation for Eternal Life

As Christians who desire to do God’s will and finish His Work, let’s make sure to ask for wisdom. If we do, God will give us the blessings that we seek. Let’s also do our best to remain humble and walk in all of His ways, exercising the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect the character of God our Father and Jesus the Christ.

As we look forward to the return of our Lord and Savior and our resurrection to eternal life, let’s remember the quality all of us must have in order to receive our crowns of glory: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3)!