Living Wisely


A quick survey of the American landscape reveals a virtual dearth of wisdom. Solomon’s depiction of wisdom standing on the street corner crying out as the world turns a deaf ear remarkably mirrors our present society. (Proverbs 1:20) Though massive amounts of knowledge have been accumulated, the moral state of the country continues to decline. If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Proverbs 9:10) it becomes clear that our problem as a nation is, at its root, spiritual.

Ironically, much of our society has convinced itself that belief in God reflects a lack of intelligence. Yet, according to the Bible, you cannot know anything rightly apart from the knowledge of God. Einstein was a mathematical genius but lacked true wisdom. Writing to a conference attended by church leaders and scientists he suggested, “In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God.”*

As Christians, we have the true source of wisdom living within our hearts. The Apostle Paul explains, “Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) He exhorted the Ephesian church not to be “foolish but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17) God’s word in our hearts transforms our minds so that we can discern God’s will, which is always good, pleasing, and perfect. (Romans 12:2) You can know what you should do in any and every circumstance and be confident that you’re doing the right thing.

In the midst of the moral chaos and confusion of our day, it’s imperative that we know how to respond with “gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) We are called to take the gospel to a world that considers disagreement as personal attack. We need wisdom to navigate the complicated issues confronting us, and if you are not confident in knowing and doing the will of God, I would encourage you to do three things.

1. Ask God for Wisdom

James writes, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) Coming to God’s throne of grace daily, asking for his strength and guidance is the first step in living wisely. This means recognizing our dependence on God and admitting our need for his grace. It also means asking in faith, confident in God’s willingness to come to our aid. Prayer that will not take God at his word should expect nothing from him (see James 1:6-8),

2. Rejoice in Tribulation

A wise man knows that God never wastes suffering. He understands that endurance comes through testing and wisdom comes through prayer. These two truths are closely related because we never need wisdom more than when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm. And we’re never so prone to act unwisely than in those difficult situations. In suffering and loss we’re often tempted to react in the flesh. But if I know God is using that pain for my good and his glory, I can rejoice in every circumstance. “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

3. Persevere in Faith

A wise man also knows it’s always too soon to quit. James went on to say, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” (James 1:12) The word “blessed” is the same word Jesus used in his Beatitudes and refers to a state of inner peace, a tranquility of mind, and a joy unaffected by outward circumstances. Looking back over 40 years of ministry, there were times when Judith and I could not track God’s hand and had to trust his heart. The Lord led us through many dark valleys, and I can confidently confirm that God sustains the faithful and honors and rewards those who trust in him. Living wisely means seeing God’s hand in every circumstance, relying on his grace, and never giving up.

I realize how elementary these things may seem. Sure, pray and trust God. Like, duh! But like most things in life, it’s not what we know, it’s what we do with what we know that makes a difference. It isn’t in knowing these simple truths, it’s living in accordance with them that makes one wise. So, consider this a prayerful reminder to examine yourself to see if you’re living wisely.

* "Science and Religion," Ideas and Opinions (NY: Laurel, 1954).

Three steps to confidently knowing and doing the will of God.