Are you sitting comfortably? And how did you decide where to sit this morning?
Last week we learned that we have freedom and we were left with a new question. The question is, ‘How should we exercise this freedom?’ You have the freedom to sit where you like, which means you have the responsibility for deciding where to sit. God won’t decide for you. He is making you take the responsibility. On what basis should a Christian make decisions in areas of freedom. On what basis should you decide where in the worship room to sit, or which believer to marry?
There is a one-word answer, and that word is ‘wisdom’.
Our goal is to make wise decisions for ‘spiritual advantage’. And now we need to explore what this means. Let’s start with some definitions.
The word ‘spiritual’ means that our goals, as well as the means we use to pursue those goals, are governed by God’s moral will.
The word ‘advantage’ means what works best to get the job done.
‘Wisdom’ is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal along with the surest means to achieve it. Wisdom is the ability to see what is spiritually profitable in any given situation.
Why wisdom? Reason one is that the Old Testament teaches the way of wise decision making. There are, for example, the wisdom books and the examples of wise men.
Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, ‘That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.’
We have the example of Moses. We read in Exodus 18 how he spent all day to ‘hear the people’s disputes against each other’. His father-in-law Jethro saw what he was doing and recognised a problem. He told Moses, ‘This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice’.
Moses was a humble man and listened to the advice. He accepted wisdom and became a wise leader.
King David was running away from his son Absalom, who was taking over Jerusalem and stealing his crown. Brave and courageous King David declared that he would go out with his warriors and fight, but wiser heads prevailed. In 2 Samuel 18 it recounts what happened – “You must not go,” they urged. “You are worth 10,000 of us, and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”
“If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. Brave David became wise David.
Why wisdom? Reason two is that Jesus tells us to be wise. As we heard in verse 16 of our reading this morning, Jesus commanded his followers to be shrewd. Or wise.
The parables that Jesus told often required wisdom for their punch lines. Matthew 7:24-27 is Jesus’ building parable, in which he talks about the foundations of a house. Jesus says – ‘Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.’ Building a house or building for eternity, Jesus says we need the wisdom to choose a solid foundation. If you are wise, you know that the only solid foundation of eternal life is Jesus.
When Jesus sent his followers out he told them (verse 5) to be obey God’s moral will, and in doing that to be wise. He warned them that the world is a wicked and dangerous place, a bad neighbourhood. They would be sheep among wolves, he said. And they should remain as harmless as doves even while being as shrewd as serpents.
Why wisdom? Reason three is that it is the example of the apostles. When they made decisions they said things such as ‘we decided to stay alone in Athens’ (1 Thessalonians 3:1). When we look at how and why they made their decisions we can see the process at work.
Paul and his companions left the new church at Thessalonica in a hurry, and a few weeks later after some debate and discussion they made a plan. And in this letter they explain what they have decided. They say that they sent Timothy to ‘strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.’
They did what they thought best. We can see similar things in other decisions, for example ‘I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you’ (Philippians 2:25-26); ‘if it seems appropriate for me to go along’ (1 Corinthians 16:3-4); ‘I have decided to stay there’ (Titus 3:12).
Instructing others how to make decisions they taught in 1 Corinthians 7 that some things are good and others are better: ‘it is good to abstain from sexual relations’ and ‘it’s better to stay unmarried’ and ‘I think it is best to remain as you are’ and ‘the person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.’
All the above decisions have two things in common. Because they are not commanded by God’s moral will, they are matters of freedom. The use of the words ‘good’ and ‘better’ and ‘best’ imply a standard.
Why wisdom? Reason four is that the Apostles commanded it as the basis of making decisions. Paul emphasises this in Ephesians 5:15-16 – ‘So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.’
We now see clearly that in taking responsibility for our freedom we need wisdom.
Where are we going to get this heavenly wisdom?
Ultimately, of course, it comes from God. Proverbs 2:6 says ‘For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.’ While Job 9:13 states that ‘true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.’ And in the New Testament Romans 11:33 says ‘how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!’
God has the wisdom we need to make good decisions. How then do you and I get some of that godly wisdom? Can we just ask and be pumped full?
Sorry to disappoint you, but God is quite particular about who gets wisdom. He doesn’t hand it out to just anyone. Going back to Proverbs 2 – ‘Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.’
You need to really want wisdom, you need to seek for it. You need to know where to look for it. Where should we look?
The first and most obvious place to find wisdom is in the Bible itself. He has hidden his wisdom in the pages of the Bible, where it is found by those who read with a true heart and pure desire.
Luke says ‘don’t begin until you count the cost’ and that suggests it is good to do some research to find wisdom, and to ask counsellors. Hebrews 5 says we should learn the lessons of life and that ‘Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.’
We all need wisdom in order to take responsibility for our freedom to decide. And in order to gain wisdom we need to diligently seek it out. This process requires that we have a personal relationship with God, and that we pursue that relationship with humility, reverence, teachability, diligence and uprightness.
We need to go to the right source with the right attitude in order to get the wisdom we need in order to use our freedom.
The third principle of making godly decisions is ‘The Principle of Wisdom’.