Series: Proverbs II
Am I Wise or Foolish?
August 27, 2017 | Randy Smith
Am I Wise Or Foolish?Proverbs 1:1-7
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
What is wisdom? How important is wisdom? Where would one go to acquire wisdom? Ironically, your answers to those questions reveal the degree of wisdom that you currently possess.
The Bible speaks often of wisdom and makes distinctions between worldly and godly wisdom. James 3 contrasts the wisdom from above with the earthly and demonic wisdom of this world. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 3:19, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God." Worldly wisdom is man-centered, opinionated, philosophical jargon often contradictory to both itself and God's absolute standard. Its possession is optional, and it is attained through the systems of the world.
On the other hand, biblical wisdom is clearly defined in the Scriptures. Its priority is stressed and its Source transcends this present evil age.
If we wish to learn about wisdom, the book of Proverbs is a great place to start simply because this collection of inspired, timeless truths puts such an emphasis on godly wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is the application of knowledge leading to God's glory and a life of blessings. Our objective this morning is to walk away with a better understanding of the value and the source of wisdom as it is discussed in Proverbs. God honors those who pursue wisdom. I hope that you will now honor Him and heed His instruction on this crucial subject this morning
1. Why Should I Pursue Wisdom?
For starters, you may be asking, why should I pursue wisdom? My answer is simply this: the Bible commands it!
The General Charge
"Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty" (Pro. 4:5-9).
We get this picture of Solomon pleading with his son, or possibly his students, to acquire wisdom. In Proverbs 8:11 he says of wisdom "all desirable things can not compare with her." We can all think of desirable things. According to the Bible, none of them compare with wisdom. What a great motivation to seek wisdom! Elsewhere, in Proverbs 2:4 Solomon says to seek wisdom "as silver, and search for her as a hidden treasure." Here we get the picture of diligent searching for something valuable, discontentment with the first discovery, a persistent digging for more of the priceless gem
You see, we naturally pursue that which we value the most. If I have a strong appetite for something, my affections will motivate me to do whatever is within my means to attain the desire. Let me ask you, what do you desire? What is your treasure? The answer to that question is not revealed by your words, but rather by the cravings of your heart. Jesus Himself said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt. 6:21). Let me ask it another way. If God were to grant your deepest heart's desire, what would you ask for? Your honest answer reveals the priorities of your heart. Would wisdom, what God calls more desirable than all things, even make the top ten on that list? It did for Solomon!
"In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, 'Ask what you wish me to give you.' Then Solomon said, 'Thou hast shown great lovingkindness to Thy servant David my father, according as he walked before Thee in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward Thee; and Thou hast reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child [he was about 20 yrs. old]; I do not know how to go out or come in [humility]. And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou hast chosen, a great people who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. So give Thy servant [a dependence on God] an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine" (1 Ki. 3:5-9)?
Solomon knew the value and priority of wisdom, and his request for the glory of God over his own personal needs pleased the Lord.
Let's read on: "And it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to him, 'Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies [things most kings of his day would have requested], but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days" (1 Ki. 3:10-13).
Reasons for the Charge
You may be saying, "Okay Pastor, you've proven that in the Bible the search for godly wisdom is a noble pursuit, but we are living in a pragmatic society! What are the benefits of wisdom for me?"
The beauty behind God's commands is that the fulfillment of them not only brings God glory, but also maximizes our happiness. Often our indifference to our Creator's wise guidelines reveals hearts that are simply disinterested in our own happiness! God created us to be happy! He knows what will make us happy! We can't let the world determine our desires and allow us to settle for less!
Do you want to be happy? Get wisdom! Listen to the benefits of wisdom:
- "How blessed [or happy] is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. For its profit is better than the profit of silver, and its gain than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast" (Pro. 3:13-18).
- "Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver" (Pro. 8:18-19).
- "Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death" (Pro. 8:32-36).
- "Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; if you find it, then there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off" (Pro. 24:14).
- "Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life" (Pro. 4:13).
- "Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding" (Pro. 9:6).
- "Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course" (Pro. 2:9).
- "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good" (Pro. 19:8).
I may not have much, but I wouldn't sell what the Lord has taught me over the past 28 years for all the money in the world!
Listen, The Word of God cannot be any clearer. Happiness, hope and life (all three words were quoted above) are not found in drugs or alcohol or immoral sex or money or psychics or television or exercise or shopping. Some of these things are fine in their proper place, but trust in any of these things leaves the individual unsatisfied, frustrated and incomplete. The Scriptures declare that the ultimate and eternal happiness we crave is achieved through wisdom.
2. Where Do I Find Wisdom?
As of now, we have examined the biblical charge to acquire wisdom. To support that charge we have many reasons why obtaining wisdom is crucial. The most obvious question at this point is, "Where do I find this wisdom? Where do I get it?" In other words, I can talk about a buried treasure. I can talk about all the benefits of finding the buried treasure, but until I give you the treasure map, our conversation is futile, if not frustrating. But unlike buried treasure, wisdom can be found. Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:17 says, "I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me." But again, where can wisdom be found?
The Source of Wisdom
Don't forget that God is the source of wisdom. "For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Pro. 2:6). And though the book of Proverbs relentlessly calls us to pursue wisdom, we must remember that wisdom remains a divine gift. If we are to seek the wisdom that leads to joy and life and satisfaction and success and meaning, we must turn to God, as He is the source of all true wisdom. Seeking for wisdom is seeking for God. "So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are'" (Gen. 41:39). "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder" (1 Cor. 3:10). In Romans 16:27 God is described as the only wise God. True wisdom is not found in the world, but by tapping into the storehouse of His resources.
The Essence of Wisdom
We must not believe that God is simply the college professor with a PhD up in the sky. We must not think as the eastern religions do, that God can be used to attain wisdom apart from a relationship with Him. We need first to realize that the essence of all godly wisdom is a fear of the Lord. Meaning this, the foundation of all true wisdom is respecting God for being God!
Allow me to support that with a few verses. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Pro. 1:7). "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God" (Pro. 2:5). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Pro. 9:10). "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.'" (Job 28:28). And some of Solomon's final words, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person" (Ecc. 12:13).
The wise man fears God (reverence, awe - we discussed this in our previous sermon) and through that fear not only proves his wisdom, but also continues to add God-given wisdom to that foundation. The fool on the other hand has rejected God, found His virtues worthless and contemptible and through a lack of godly fear has closed off all opportunities for the wisdom which comes from above. Paul summarized this in Romans 1, "For even though they knew God (context here is observable creation - general revelation), they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools."
The Channels for Wisdom
Though the fear of the Lord is the essence of wisdom, God dispenses His wisdom through a variety of channels.
The first channel is Prayer. As we already mentioned, wisdom is from God. It's a divine gift. If we are to seek anything from God, it must begin and end with prayer. Listen how James implores us to ask God for wisdom. "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (Jas. 1:5). We already observed how Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom. Daniel too sought the Lord for wisdom, "To Thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for Thou hast given me wisdom and power; even now Thou hast made known to me what we requested of Thee" (Dan. 2:23). In Colossians, Paul prayed that the churches might be given spiritual wisdom, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9). Likewise he prayed for the church in Ephesus, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:17). James 4:2 says, "You do not have because you do not ask." Is it possible that many of us lack wisdom because we have simply failed to ask God?
The second channel of wisdom is the Word of God. "The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7). "The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have" (Jer. 8:9)? God speaks to us through His word. If we ever wish to grow in godly wisdom, we must be those who are devoted to reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on and listening to the Word of God.
You see, all of us are faced with hundreds of decisions each day: where we will go, who we will talk to, what we will say, how we will act, etc. As Christians, the goal of each of these decisions is to know God's will and render a response pleasing Him. However, the majority of these decisions are not directly covered in the Bible. So what do we do? How do we know how we should act? This calls for wisdom!
Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another."
When the Word of God dwells richly within us, we allow every decision to sift through the grid of the Scriptures. Then we begin to think biblically! Apart from a solid grounding in the Word, we will not have wisdom!
In addition to the systematic and daily reading of the Word, wisdom is also attained by reading solid, biblically-based books. Friends, you must develop a love for these books! Good Christian books are never intended to substitute for Bible reading but rather complement Bible reading, as we benefit from wise men and women who are able to accurately explain God's Word. Visit our church bookstore! We could call this seeking "wise counsel" (Pr. 1:5; 12:15; 19:20).
Prayer, the Scriptures and the third channel of wisdom is Wise Company. There can be no doubt that we are influenced by the company we keep. Companions often have a positive or negative effect on our lives. Proverbs 13:20 explains both perspectives, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." If bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33), good company enhances good morals. This is Solomon's point. If you want to grow in wisdom, associate with those who are wise.
Let me ask you, Grace Bible Church, is there anyone in your life that is a living example of wise, godly behavior? One that can instruct both formally and informally? One who you can emulate? One that can give a physical picture of what it means to follow Christ? Is anyone indirectly saying to you, "Follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1)? Or as Paul said elsewhere in Philippians, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things" (Phil. 4:9). Moms and dads, are you that person to your children?
Finally, I conclude by mentioning this essential point. If you earnestly desire wisdom, you must come to Christ. Remember how the Queen of Sheba came from far away to hear the wisdom of Solomon. However Jesus said of Himself in Matthew 12, "The Queen of the South shall rise up with this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here" (Mt. 12:42).
Greater than Solomon indeed! Solomon spoke of God's wisdom; Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24; 30)! Others spoke of truth; Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14:6)! Others proclaimed God's forgiveness; Jesus brought God's forgiveness by His death (Col. 1:22). Is it any wonder why Paul could say in Colossians 2:3, "In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
Wisdom. We've discussed its value and its source. May God grant us the wisdom to prize wisdom and pursue wisdom in a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the source and embodiment of all true wisdom.