The Wisdom We Need
Dear Friend, Do you aspire to be a wise and understanding person? Is that how others primarily see you? Wouldn’t that kind of wisdom be a wonderful goal to set for the coming year? Wisdom is a commodity we always need, especially in present times with the challenges we face—both personally and globally. Not just any old wisdom will do. We need the heavenly wisdom that comes to us from the Holy Spirit of God. I believe this is a great topic for the start of a new year: the wisdom we need.
The Wrong Kind
Some years ago, I was one of a number of leaders who were called upon to deal with a difficult and delicate problem in another Christian group. The lines had been drawn, and people had taken sides in the matter. Conversations about the problem became intense and overheated as various solutions were proposed to remedy the situation. As the struggle dragged on, it troubled me that the matter was being addressed in a rather ungodly manner—methods you would expect to see only in secular settings. This was weighing on me one morning as I prayed about the situation. Immediately, these words from James 3 came unbidden into my mind: “earthly, soulish, demonic.” My prayer became, “Lord, please purge from us any methods that are earthly, soulish, and demonic.” When I looked at the context for these words in James 3:13–18, I noticed that the source of such ungodly behavior is “bitter envy” and “self-seeking.” Happily, I also saw that God offers us a heavenly alternative. “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” (v. 17). By God’s grace, the recognition of this biblical perspective eventually brought helpful adjustment to our efforts. It was the wisdom we needed.
Our Natural Tendencies
Not every situation changes in response to biblical truth as quickly as the one described above. You and I both know that walking in the wisdom we need often requires moving a lot of our own flesh out of the way to make it a reality. That is not an easy matter! People naturally tend toward envy and self-seeking. Too often, you and I demand our own way, and we sometimes push selfishly to make it happen. However, the sobering truth from James 3 is that wherever we allow envy and selfish ambition to rule our lives, the result is “confusion and every evil thing” (v. 15). James 4:1–2 in the New Living translation paints an even darker picture. “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them.” Dear Lord Jesus, please deliver us from such soulish tendencies!
As described in the book of James, the “wisdom from above” is the polar opposite of the natural tendencies of our flesh. This alternative wisdom is pure; peaceable; gentle; willing to yield (reasonable); full of mercy and good fruits; without partiality; without hypocrisy. When I consider those seven traits, it makes me realize how tough it is for me to get there. How can I possibly move my normal reactions aside to give place to these nobler responses? Opening ourselves to this wisdom from above—the wisdom we need—demands a deliberate step on our part. We must intentionally step out of our own foolish pride into the humility God expects and requires. I believe James knew how difficult this process is, because he tells us in verse 6 that God “gives a greater grace.” I don’t know about you, but I sorely need that “greater grace.” James also knew how desperately we need wisdom from above, because he said in his first chapter: “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” (v. 5).
A Different Kind of Life
What would life be like if we responded to every situation with heavenly wisdom? It would make such a difference! Derek Prince knew this very well. In so many circumstances of life, he was somehow able to operate in a manner that seemed to transcend the flesh. Here is some of his teaching on this very point, taken from his message, “Achieving Inner Harmony: Relationship Between Believer’s Spirit and Soul.”
We read in James 3, verse 15: “This wisdom does not descend from above….” It doesn’t come by the direct route: Holy Spirit, believer’s spirit, soul. It comes sideways, and thus is “earthly, soulish, demonic.” Notice, this demonic fountain comes out of the mouth of the believer. It is inside the believer. The clearest proof, if you want it, is in verse 16: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above….” We are talking now about Holy Spirit wisdom. It has certain distinctive marks. The first? It is pure. Bear that in mind: it is absolutely pure. It doesn’t compromise on morals, ethics, or the truth. It is peaceable [not argumentative, nor self-assertive]. It is gentle. It is easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality [it doesn’t favor one at the expense of another], and without hypocrisy [it doesn’t put on any religious acts]. Turning now to 1 Corinthians 2, we see that while the theme of James 3 was the wisdom that is from above, the theme of 1 Corinthians 2 is the hidden wisdom. It is the same—two different names for the same thing. These words are found in verse 14: “But the natural man [the Greek says soulish] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Do you see the contrast between soulish and spiritual? Verse 15 says: “But he who is spiritual judges [or discerns] all things….” Again, that is the direct contrast between that which is soulish and that which is spiritual. The soulish man cannot receive spiritual revelation because it must come by the Holy Spirit through the believer’s spirit. That which bypasses the Holy Spirit and the believer’s spirit is not true spiritual revelation. It is soulish. Bear in mind the theme of 1 Corinthians 2: the hidden wisdom, which is spoken of in verse 7: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained….” James calls it the wisdom that is from above. Paul calls it the hidden wisdom. But it is the same.
Time to Ask
How about you? Are you struggling to move beyond your natural reactions to reach for the wisdom from above? Do you need the hidden wisdom God can provide for you? I love what James says about God giving us His wisdom without reproach, because He Himself knows how desperately we need it, and how tough it is for us to get in position to receive it. That’s why He doesn’t upbraid us for asking. With that assurance, let’s go to Him now.
Lord, when I read about the wisdom from above, it is so convicting. Those attitudes and traits seem so different from how I tend to react to difficult challenges. Even so, I am coming to You now to ask for Your help. Dear Jesus, I want Your wisdom operating in me when I face various problems and situations in life. I don’t want to flail at them with my own inadequate human resources and reactions. Even more, I don’t want my baser instincts to take over. I need Your higher wisdom at work in my life. Lord, You have said through James that if I lack wisdom, I can ask You, and You will give me Your own wisdom without chiding me for needing it. That gives me tremendous assurance of Your love and care for me. Thank You, Lord. So, in obedience to Your Word, I am asking now. Please give me the wisdom from above for every issue I presently face. Instead of letting my soul take over when trouble assails me, release Your power to enable my spirit to take charge—so I can respond with that wisdom from above which is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Lord, that is the wisdom I need for every situation and every aspect of my life. I am asking You for it now, believing You will give it to me. Amen.
Here to Help
The prayer you and I have just expressed is not a one-time deal. As I have recently discovered, it can become a daily feature of your prayer life. I can testify that my wife, Cindi, and I regularly proclaim together this passage about wisdom from above, especially when we are participating in significant meetings and planning efforts. Making the transition from natural reactions to higher wisdom is not easy. It may require additional teaching and encouragement. One of the main reasons for us being here for you at DPM is to provide helpful teaching materials. We consider it a great privilege to stand with you and walk with you as you grow spiritually. We know that helping you move forward in your relationship with Jesus is a fruitful investment of our time and resources. So please take us up on our offers, especially the message from which we drew Derek’s quote, “Achieving Inner Harmony.” You can download a free MP3 using the link below. We are delighted to be investing in you, recognizing that you are graciously doing the same for us through your prayers and financial support. For all the help you provide for us, we send our deepest love and appreciation. Thank you for being a part of the DPM family.
Walking in Wisdom
So here we are, stepping out into a brand-new year. We probably could have thought of many encouraging biblical topics to begin this year. The truth is, I have been meaning to share this word on wisdom for many months now. So, the beginning of 2018 seems to be God’s time to share it with you. I hope it helps. As we launch into this new year, you know there will be challenges. We may deal with complexities that far exceed what we have seen before. The issues we face may demand endurance at levels beyond what we have experienced in the past. One fact is for certain. Whatever we encounter will require courage, hope, faith—and wisdom. My prayer is that whatever we face and whatever the Lord requires of us in the year ahead, at every challenging moment, we will draw deeply upon the wisdom we need.