The Wisdom of God
Tim Temple


Turn with me to Romans, chapter 11, and we will look at verses 33-36:

Romans 11

33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Discussing the various attributes of God is a lot like that old story that I am sure you have all heard about the three blind men who were feeling of an elephant and giving a description of it. One was feeling of the tail and said, “Well, an elephant must be just like a snake.” One was feeling of the elephant's big ears and he said, “Well, an elephant must be very much like a large piece of leather.” The other one was feeling of the elephant's trunk, and he was saying, “Well, the elephant must be very much like a tree.” Because they were all concentrating on those individual parts, they didn't really have any idea what the whole elephant was like.

The same thing is true as we try to narrow down the subject of God into the various essential elements that He has revealed of Himself. As I have been trying to put this series of study together, that is the difficulty I have had in knowing which of the attributes of God, which of the descriptions of God, to talk about and in what order. They all work together, and one element is not a complete picture of God; yet we cannot have a complete picture of God without understanding these various elements.

Today we come to another of those intangible elements of God, those things that can only be seen by what He does. We talked in our first study about the nature of God in general. Then we have talked in the last couple of lessons about the glory of God and the holiness of God. Today we want to talk about the wisdom of God, and as we see these things we will be better prepared to look at some of those other attributes that have to do with the way He acts and the things that He does in our lives.

A Definition of Wisdom

The first thing that we need to do to be able to understand the wisdom of God is to get straight in our thinking what wisdom is in the first place. We want to think about a definition of wisdom . Webster's dictionary says that wisdom is “a knowledge of what is true or right, coupled with just judgment as to action.” The Theological Dictionary of New Testament Terms , which is, as you might guess from that title, a theologian's book; and in typical theologian's fashion, the definition that it gives is, “God's unique ability to interrelate His attributes in such a way that He accomplishes His predetermined purposes by the best means possible”—typical theologian for you.

I think, putting all of that together, the simpliest definition that we could give is, “the ability to use knowledge appropriately.” Having said that, let's think about several points related to that.

First, we need to be sure we understand the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. That may seem like a simple distinction to make, but it is a very important one. I think many people in our world today make the mistake of thinking that wisdom and knowledge are synonyms. We tend to put them in the same category and think of them as synonyms, but really there is a great deal of difference between wisdom and knowledge even though they are related. Knowledge is useless without the ability to use it. Have you ever stopped to think about that? Those of you who are students need to think about that. What good does it do us to know that there was a rebellion in the Ural provinces of Russia in the 1740s, unless you can make some use of that knowledge? That is knowledge, but unless there is some way in which you can use that knowledge, it really is useless to you, isn't it?

From that kind of knowledge you might be able to learn something about the causes of rebellion. If you have people working under you, you need to know what it is that causes subordinates to rebel against their superiors, and knowledge from history can help us use wisdom in dealing with a rebellion such as that. You need to know what are the details involved. What is it that brings about and maybe justifies a rebellion on the part of the subordinates against their authorities? It is helpful to know that in deciding whether the time has come to resist those who are in authority over you. So knowledge is important, but it is useless if you don't have some use for it.

Example of the Use of Wisdom

We find a Biblical example of this in Exodus, chapter 31. In this passage, God describes the Tabernacle that He had Moses built. In verses 1-5, we are told in detail how God told Moses to seek out a certain craftsman by the name of Bezaleel. Bezaleel was a very skilled carpenter. God told Moses that he was to find Bezaleel and involve him in the making of the Tabernacle and that God was going to give Bezaleel wisdom to use his skills in decorating the Tabernacle. There is a beautiful combination of wisdom and knowledge. Bezaleel knew how to carve and how to make beautiful decorations, but God gave him the ability to do that in such a way that it would honor God. This is a true meaning of wisdom.

There is another example over in James, chapter 3. Verse 3 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Then it answers that question: “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” Who is wise among you? Not the person who knows the most about the Bible, but “The person who is wise among you,” James says, “is the one whose works are done in wisdom.” In other words, he is the person who knows something about the principles of God's Word, but more importantly he applies that knowledge to the way he lives. That is what a wise man is. It is very important that we understand that wisdom consists of knowledge used appropriately.

Applying Knowledge Toward a Goal

Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 1. There is a second fact about wisdom that comes out of that first fact. Knowledge used appropriately has to have a goal. We have to have some reason for using that knowledge appropriately. Let me give you a secular example before we read what the Scripture has to say. Probably most of us, if not all of us, have been approached by life insurance representatives; and you know that the ability to wisely purchase life insurance—you can apply this same principle to making investments—depends upon what your goal is. For a young husband and father with two or three children, your goal in buying life insurance would probably be to provide enough money to support that wife and children and educate the children if something were to happen to the father. On the other hand, a person farther along in life, whose children are grown, a wise decision about buying life insurance would probably be to provide enough life insurance to pay for the funeral of the wife or husband or both of them. You see, wisdom involves knowing what the facts are and making a decision based on the appropriate use of that knowledge that we have.

The reason that I have mentioned that is that the same thing is true of God. The wisdom of God is based upon a goal that He has. Ephesians, chapter 1, tells us what God's goal is. Using knowledge appropriately involves having a goal toward which to apply that knowledge wisely. Look at Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 9:

Ephesians 1

9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

Stop and think for just a moment. We are talking about God's goal. Verse 9 says that God has revealed to us that goal which He purposed in Himself, that purpose that He had in mind in creating the world and creating human beings. What is that purpose? Verse 10 says:

Ephesians 1

10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

What is God's goal? According to verse 10, it is to bring everything together, things in Heaven and things on earth—that is, human beings, angels, God himself. God's goal is to put all of that together, and He is going to do that in the fullness of time. In other words, it is going to take some time for God's goal to work out, but His goal is to have a great unity between things in Heaven and things on earth, between men and angels, and God. His goal is to have men and women enjoying the presence of God and enjoying the person of God, rejoicing in His presence, and by the same token, for God to rejoice in our presence. He is going to put all of that together. He says in verse 10, “to bring together in one all things.” The way that He is going to do that is “in Christ.” So, Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 10, tells us what God's overall purpose is.

There are many sub-purposes, and sub-achievements in the accomplishing of that purpose, but that's God's purpose—to bring all things together in one in Jesus Christ. The things that God does in reaching that goal, the acts that He takes, the way that He demonstrates Himself in history—all of those things comprise the wisdom of God. Everything that God is doing is moving toward that goal. That has a tremendous bearing on our lives, and that is what we want to think about next, the demonstration of God's wisdom.

The Demonstration of God's Wisdom

Turn to Psalm 104. We have talked about the definition of wisdom, along with the implications that it has. Now, we want to talk about the way that God demonstrates His wisdom. Obviously, we are directly involved in God's process of accomplishing His goal. We are a part of what God is planning to accomplish. We are going to be among those who are in Heaven enjoying His presence forever, and so life comes into focus when we understand that. It is important for us to understand God's goal and God's wisdom in moving toward that goal, because once we understand that, then our priorities can take the proper place. Then our life becomes focused and directed. It is very much like someone who wears glasses. I have been wearing glasses since I was in the fourth grade, and it was the most amazing thing to me when I got my first pair of glasses to find out that objects two or three feet away from me were not fuzzy. I just thought that any time somebody moved more than two or three feet away from you, they got fuzzy around the edges, and it was amazing to me to discover that traffic lights and light fixtures in the ceiling weren't rough around the edges. It made a tremendous difference in my life to put those lenses in front of my eyes, and I am sure you have had that same experience.

The same thing is true for us spiritually. As we understand God's wisdom and the goal toward which His wisdom is directed, it brings things into focus. It brings into focus the way that God works in our lives and the way God works in the lives of people around us and the way God works in history. I want to talk about four ways in which God has demonstrated His wisdom down through the years that are told us in the Scripture.

God's Wisdom In Creation

The most obvious way in which God has demonstrated His wisdom is in creation. Look at Psalm 104. Skip down to verse 24:

Psalm 104

24O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: [do you see that? in wisdom thou hast made them all] the earth is full of thy riches.
25So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
26There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
27These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

The passage goes on to talk about those kinds of things, but the point we want to notice here is that the wisdom of God is demonstrated in His creation. We've talked about this before in talking about the glory of God—the fact that we can look around creation and see the gloriousness of God. The beauty of His creation shows the gloriousness of God. The detail, the symmetry of the creation around us, such as the fish and the animals in the sea, the Psalmist points out, shows the wisdom of God.

Think about what a wise God it took to set the planet in motion on its axis at just the speed that it rotates. Have you ever thought about that? If the earth were spinning on its axis any faster than it is, it would throw us off; we wouldn't be able to stand on the planet. If it were spinning more slowly, we would get dizzy, just like we do when we spin around in a circle at our own speed. But God in His wisdom had the earth rotate on its own axis and had the planets rotate around the sun at exactly the right speed so that we are not even aware that we're on a rotating ball. That is the wisdom of God, you see.

Think about His wisdom in the mixture of just exactly the right amount of oxygen, and hydrogen, in the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. Those things in some other proportions could be lethal to us. Think about the wisdom of God in creating a layer of ozone in the atmosphere above us. We argue about whether it is getting thinner or not, but thank God, it is there. God put that layer of ozone there to protect us from the most harmful of the sun's rays.

On and on we could go thinking about the wisdom of God in putting our creation together in just exactly the way that He did. So the wisdom of God is demonstrated in our creation. All we have to do is look around us and see the wisdom of God. This should be a comfort to us as we think about the way that God works in our lives, because again remember, we are a part of God's overall plan. His plan is to bring us all together in one, as Ephesians, chapter 1, tells us. If God can put the creation together in such an intricate and wise way, certainly He can order the details of your life and mine in an equally wise way. It is important to remember that.

God's Wisdom In Our Salvation

We have talked about the most obvious way that God demonstrates His wisdom; now we want to talk about the most important way that God has demonstrated His wisdom. The most important way that God has demonstrated His wisdom is in our salvation. Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 1, where we will be looking at several things. This chapter talks about God's wisdom in our salvation. Really the subject of I Corinthians is wisdom. The Corinthians had a hang-up about wisdom. The Corinthians were very much like twentieth century United States. They had a lot of the same interests that we have; they had a lot of the same kind of society that we have and a lot of the same hang-ups that we have. One of the things that was very important to the Corinthians, just like it is to the Abilenians and the New Yorkers and such, was wisdom. They were all excited and very interested in wisdom, and so the first thing Paul addresses as he writes to the Corinthians is the subject of wisdom.

We don't have time to think about all of that, but skip down to verse 21. He has already been talking about wisdom in the verses before this, but now he says:

I Corinthians 1

21For after that in the wisdom of God [there is our subject] the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

You see, it talks about God's wisdom there in verse 21, and it talks about the wisdom of mankind. Verse 21 says that the wisdom of God was demonstrated in the simple preaching of the Gospel. In fact, it seems like a foolish way to do things, but really it shows God's wisdom. He picks up on that again down in verse 26:

I Corinthians 1

26For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

Let's stop there for a minute. The wisdom of God is demonstrated in the way that He set up the plan of salvation. If you and I were setting up a plan of salvation—and many people have tried to set up their own plan of salvation—we would have done exactly like he talks about in verse 26, that God did not do it. Notice in verse 26: “Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble.” If we were setting up a plan of salvation, we would have set it up exactly that way. Salvation would be available to those who are wise enough or to those who are mighty enough or to those who are noble enough, wouldn't it? In fact, that is probably the way the bulk of the world population thinks you get salvation. If you can be wise enough in the way you live, if you can be noble enough in the way you treat other people, if you can be powerful enough, surely God will let you into Heaven. God says, “My wisdom is demonstrated by the very fact that that is not the way I provide salvation.”

It goes on to say that God made His salvation available to sinners—not to wise, mighty and noble, but to sinners; of course, that includes all of us. That shows the wisdom of God in making salvation available to all of us, putting it on a basis of something that is true of every single human being. That is the wisdom of God.

Before we leave that subject, I want to point out that it does say, “Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble.” It doesn't say that you cannot be saved if you are a nobleman or if you are a mighty person or if you are a wise person. Queen Victoria was a great Christian woman, a very godly woman, and her godliness was reflected in the era of which she was Queen of England. But Queen Victoria is supposed to have said to the Archbishop of Canterbury at one time, “You know, I am saved by an M .” And the Archbishop said, “I'm sorry your Majesty; I don't know what you mean you are saved by an M .” And she quoted this Scripture, and she said, “You'll notice it does not say, ‘not any noble.' It says ‘not many noble.' And I am thankful,” she said, “for that M '.” So, if you are a wise person, if you are a mighty person, if by some chance you are a noble person, don't lose heart; you can be saved. What it is saying is that that in itself is not what brings salvation. Certainly there is nothing wrong with being highly educated with wisdom in terms of the world's thinking. There is nothing wrong with being born into a rich and powerful family or achieving wealth and power, but the thing that we have to remember is that's not where salvation comes from. That is the point of the passage.

God's Wisdom In Jesus Christ

Look back at verse 24. We skipped over it a minute ago, but the third demonstration of God's wisdom is a subset of the other part, but it is a third demonstration—Jesus Christ. Notice it says in verse 24:

I Corinthians 1

24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The wisdom of God is demonstrated in creation. It is demonstrated, secondly, in the plan that God developed for salvation, and thirdly, the epitomy of God's wisdom is Jesus Christ. In other words, the very essence of the wisdom of God is the Person of Jesus Christ, because His salvation applies to everyone: Jew, Gentile, big sinner, little sinner. God's wisdom was manifest in the person of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He brought.

There is a fourth demonstration of God's wisdom. Not only in creation, and in salvation, and the person of Christ, but the fourth demonstration of God's wisdom is found in Ephesians, chapter 3. Notice, beginning in verse 8. Paul is writing to the Ephesians, and he says:

Ephesians 3

8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10[Notice verse 10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Let's stop and think about these verses. Paul writes some pretty complicated things. Even Peter realized that, for he said in his first letter, “Our beloved brother Paul has written many things hard to be understood.” I'm glad that the Holy Spirit admits that about the things that He inspires, because we have found that out, haven't we?

God's Wisdom Demonstrated In the Church

Here is one of those things that we have to stop and think through carefully, because it is hard to understand. Paul first talks about his own background and about the honor that God had bestowed upon him; even though he was a sinner, God had allowed him to minister these things. Then in verse 9, he says, “What God has given me to explain to everybody is a mystery that has been hidden from the past, but now is being revealed through my preaching, and that is that the wisdom of God will be demonstrated by the Church.” Now, the Church is made up of you and me.

Listen carefully. Think about this very carefully. The fourth place that the wisdom of God can be seen is in your life and mine. Whoa! Pretty serious. But God at least wants to, plans to, demonstrate His wisdom—the kind of God He is—in the way that you and I live and the way that you and I relate to each other as fellow Christians. In the way that we individually and together as a church, as a group of Christians, reach out to others around us, seek to meet the needs of others—all of those kinds of things God uses to display His wisdom. In fact, if you notice there in verse 10, it talks about the manifold wisdom of God. That word manifold is a translation of a Greek word that means “many-sided,” or “multicolored.” God's wisdom is like a prism through which, as we look at the light of God's glory through that prism, we can see the many kinds of wisdom, the many aspects of wisdom, the kinds of people that He uses.

Isn't it amazing that God could take a group of people like us and put us together and accomplish something for His glory? We're all very different from each other. Some of us are more like each other than others of us, but this group that is gathered here has many different kinds of talent represented. We have a lot of different levels of education; we have several nationalities represented; we have all kinds of differences among ourselves, yet God has put us together, and He demonstrates His wisdom in the way that we can work together to honor Him and to bring others to Him and to help others grow in Him. The same thing is true of us individually. God demonstrates His wisdom in the way that He works in your life out of the background that you came out of, through salvation in Jesus Christ, to be a lighthouse for Him. That shows God's wisdom. What a fabulous thing!

Demonstration of Wisdom to the Angels

In the last line of verse 10, there is one other thing I want you to notice about this. He wants to demonstrate this through the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. That is an easy line to read right through. I think a lot of people overlook that line, but it is extremely important. Jesus demonstrates His wisdom in our lives individually and as a church through people around us. But did you know God is using you and me as a demonstration of his wisdom to the angels? The principalities and powers are terms that are used in several places in the New Testament to describe angels, even sometimes fallen angels; Satan's kingdom is described with these same terms. Principalities and powers is a reference to angels. We have to look at the context to see whether those are fallen angels or heavenly angels—angels who chose not to rebel against God when Satan was cast out of Heaven. The reason that I mention that is that, even though it may seem like a piece of biblical trivia to you, it is extremely important. I believe with all of my heart that some of the things that God brings into our lives, some of the problems, some of the disappointments, perhaps some of the joys that God brings into our lives, are not to teach us anything and not even to teach the people around us anything; they are to teach the angels something.

Why is it important that you and I seek to react properly to the way that God works in our lives? One of the reasons that it is important is that He has something to teach the angels by the way we live. That is a powerful, powerful thought. Those of us who know a little bit about the Bible and understand that God works in our lives tend to look for reasons God has brought this test into our lives. We think often, “Well, God is trying to teach me something, or He is trying to teach my wife something, or teach the other people in the church something.” That is very often true, but sometimes it may not be another person He is trying to teach; it may be the angels; it may be the demons; it may be Satan himself that God is trying to teach. So that puts our testings and our sufferings and our joys on a much broader range.

Job is a perfect example of that. Of course, you know the story of all the testings and troubles that Job went through, and Job never found out why he was being tested that way. Now, he saw a purpose for himself. He came to a deeper knowledge of God, but we know why he was tested. The Bible tells us in the first chapter that he was being tested primarily as a demonstration of something to Satan. The whole testing of Job was done primarily to show Satan something, and as far as we know, Job never knew that until he got to Heaven. The book of Job doesn't indicate that he ever found that out. You see, God's wisdom is demonstrated, not only to people, but also to Satan, fallen angels, and to those heavenly angels. It is all a part of His heavenly plan, and that is what verse 11 says:

Ephesians 3

11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

As you go through the various difficulties of life and the joys of life, keep in mind that it is part of an eternal purpose. We get fouled up, I think, in the Christian life when we start thinking in terms of this life only, when we limit our horizons to what is going to happen in this life. Even as Christians we do that sometimes. God's purpose is to work all things together on an eternal scale, and His wisdom is directed toward that goal. God's purpose is not just what takes place in this room. To use this bulding as an illustration, God's purpose is not limited to what takes place in this room. God's purpose is not limited to what takes place in the classrooms across the hall, in the fellowship hall, all of it together if we could let this whole building represent our lives. Many times as Christians we have a tendency to focus just on what is going on in this segment of our lives, but God's overall purpose is on the eternal scale.

The Dispensing of Wisdom

There is one other thing that we want to notice about wisdom before we are through. The third thing about wisdom that I want us to think about is the dispensing of wisdom. We have talked about the definition of wisdom and the demonstration of wisdom, and now we want to talk about the dispensing of wisdom. Not only does God demonstrate His wisdom through our lives, but he dispenses wisdom to our lives if we ask Him to. Look at James, chapter 1. After the introduction in verse 1, he says in verse 2:

James 1

2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Let's go back through this. It is a familiar passage, but because it is familiar we need to stop and analyze it carefully, because again it is easy to overlook things in passages that we are familiar with.

Notice in verse 2, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Notice it does not say, “If you fall into various trials.” Listen to me this morning: Testing and trials are a part of the Christian life. It is not a constant condition, but it is not a matter of if you are tested; it is a matter of when you are going to be tested. And God speaks to that. He says, “When you fall into various trials, you don't need to fall apart. You don't need to get panicky. In fact, you can be joyful about that, because God has a very important purpose in it.” Testing is an integral part of the Christian life, but God has a purpose in that.

The Purpose of Testing

Testing takes many forms. Notice He says in verse 2, “various trials.” There is that same word that we talked about a few minutes ago in Ephesians, chapter 1, and it is translated manifold . It means “many-sided, many colored.” Testing can take the form of all kinds of things. It may be a difficult child in your home or it may be an unpleasant boss or a boss who cannot be pleased. It could be a spouse who cannot be pleased or a rebellious child, business problems, business success—all kinds of things God can use to test us. Why does He do that? The purpose of a test in school is only accomplished when we learn something, isn't it? The professors send tests into our lives to show what we are learning and to force us to learn. Of course, it goes without saying that when we know there is going to be a quiz over the material or when we think there might be, we tend to listen more carefully. We tend to study more carefully when we are preparing for finals than when we just do today's class notes. The purpose of a test is to make sure that we learn something, and God gives tests for exactly that same reason.

James goes on to say farther down in the chapter, “Don't try to squirm out of the test. Remain under the testing, because nothing is going to be accomplished if you get out of the test.” Now, in school some people try to get out of a test. They develop a convenient sore throat and can't go to school that day, but the best that we can do is postpone the test, isn't it? Really, we shouldn't want to get out of the test, because if we don't have the test, we are not going to learn anything, or at least we are not going to be able to demonstrate what we know to ourselves or to the teacher. That situation in life, the testings that God brings into our lives in order to make sure that we learn something, is the context of this very famous verse of Scripture that says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”

Many times that verse is quoted out of context. I think it is true that God will give us wisdom anytime that we ask, but even in those times of difficulties, even in those times of testing, especially in those times of testing, God will give us wisdom when we ask Him to. The context of this promise is the day-to-day life that God puts us through when we are tested.

Ask for God's Wisdom

Notice some specifics about this asking. We can have the wisdom of God and know how to operate in our lives if we will do a couple of things. The first factor in getting wisdom from God is to ask. That is so simple that you might not have thought about that. But notice what it says: “If any of you lack in wisdom, let him ask of God.” How many times do we fail to receive something simply because we do not ask for it? How many times do we fail to receive God's wisdom simply because we fail to ask for it? In fact, this was a big issue with James over in chapter 4. He spells it out specifically. He says, “You fight, you war, you manipulate, strain to accomplish things, and yet you have not because you ask not.” Doesn't that describe us to a “T”? We want a certain thing. We want to accomplish a certain thing, and we set out with a plan to do it and we fight and war—to use James' terms, “we beat ourselves to death”—to accomplish that thing, and we never stop to think to ask God for it. That is exactly what the Word of God says. “You fight, war, and cannot obtain. Ye have not because you ask not.”

Some of you here today do not have God's wisdom. You do not know what to do about the situation you are in simply because you haven't asked Him to show you what to do. That is the first factor in having God's wisdom, to ask for it.

The second factor is to ask in faith, according to verse 6: “Ask in faith, nothing doubting.” In other words, when we ask for God's wisdom, we have to say in so many words, “Lord, show me what to do and I will do it.” Nothing wavering. Someone else has said, “God doesn't send His will home on approval. You don't say, ‘God show me what to do and if I like it I will do it. I'll take it home and try it and if it works like I think it will, I'll keep it, but if it doesn't work, I want to bring it back'.” Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting. Believe God even in the dark. Ask for His wisdom, then do what He tells you to do. That is the second factor in receiving God's wisdom.

One Test At a Time

There are some things just sort of between the lines in this promise that I want to point out. First, notice that the promise is for one test at a time. “When you are tested, if you lack wisdom, ask of God.” It is for one test at a time. It is not biblical to pray, “God give me wisdom this year.” God will give us wisdom for this year, but He gives it to us one step at a time, and that is always God's plan. God's plan is always one step at a time, every facet of His plan. When you are tested ask for wisdom. The next time you are tested you can ask for it again and He will give you wisdom for that test. It probably is a different kind of test anyway. It is invalid to pray, “Lord help me to live wisely.” God helps us to live wisely, but He does it one step at a time.

There is no promise here, secondly, of understanding the trial. So often when we are under a time of testing, we want to know why. It is the big question on our minds. We always want to know why. Sometimes God lets us know why, but I believe that there are many things that come into our lives that we will not know the purpose of until we get to Heaven. God doesn't say, “I will give you wisdom to know why the trial came.” He says, “I will give you wisdom to get through the trial.” We don't ask God, “Lord, why have I been single so long? Why am I going through these years of testing of not finding a spouse?” God gives us wisdom, rather, to learn to live in singleness for His glory. We by the same token don't pray, “God give me wisdom to know why you didn't let me find out all of this stuff about this person before I married them.” He gives us wisdom to live in that marriage. You see, the purpose of the wisdom is not necessarily to find out why the trial came; the purpose of the wisdom is to know how to live in the trial and how to get through the trial and how to learn what He wants you to learn from the trial.

Another thing is that there is no promise that when you receive the wisdom the trial will be over. The wisdom is for knowing what God wants you to learn from the trial. God's wisdom is available for the asking; that is the promise of James, chapter 1.

The Wisdom of the World

Turn to James, chapter 3, where there is one other thing along this line of God's giving wisdom. God dispenses wisdom, but James wants us to know that so does the world. There is a wisdom of the world. Look at verse 13:

James 3

13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

This verse says, “God's wisdom is walk, not talk.” Another way that we might look at it is if you want advice for living, go to a person who is living right. Don't go to a person, necessarily, who has a lot of knowledge; go to a person who is living wisely.

Then is verses 14 and 15 he said:

James 3

14But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

The world's wisdom is characterized by envy and self-seeking. Did you ever stop to think about that? What is it that the wise people of the world tell us to do? They tell us to get ahead; even if you have to step on top of somebody else, you get ahead. You be the best that you can be, regardless of what you have to do to other people to accomplish that. It's selfish; it's self-seeking. The wise people tell us to keep an eye on the other guy; don't let him get ahead of you. That is what God said. It is envious; that's the world's wisdom. It is important to be able to distinguish between God's wisdom and the world's wisdom, and here is the key to it right here in James, chapter 3.

He goes on to explain what God's wisdom is like. He says in verse 17:

James 3

17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

There is a great difference between God's wisdom and the world's wisdom, isn't there? God's wisdom says “You help the other person. Don't be trying to step on his back to get ahead; help him.” God's wisdom says, “Listen to the other person's view point; be willing to yield.” Maybe there would be something you could learn from that. You can go on and on—and I hope you will—and analyze those verses and see the difference between God's wisdom and man's wisdom.

We have to be very careful that we seek for God's wisdom. Maybe without realizing it, we buy into man's wisdom. The wisdom of man is all around us. It's pumped into us through the television, the newspapers and the magazines all of the time. There is no better illustration of the wisdom of this world than in the advertising that we endured and put up with through the last election. A political campaign is a perfect example of man's wisdom. Don't buy into it; don't get caught up in it.

The summary of it is in verse 16:

James 3

16…there is confusion and every evil work.

That is the end result of man's wisdom. Be careful because God dispenses wisdom to us, but so does the world, and we have to be very careful which one we are picking up, which one we are asking for. Are you asking for God's wisdom or are you asking for the world's wisdom?

As we conclude today, I want to share with you the university hymn from Bob Jones University. I think it is a very appropriate hymn for a Christian university. It says, “Wisdom of God we would by Thee be taught. Control our minds; direct our every thought. Knowledge alone life's problems cannot meet. We learn to live while sitting at Thy feet.” That is the wisdom of God. That is the way God wants His wisdom used in our lives. “Knowledge alone life's problems cannot meet. We learn to live while sitting at Thy feet.”

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