The summary of my story is this: I can’t make it through this life on my own. Contrary to all my human grappling to be self-sufficient, capable, and effective, I come up short. In so many ways my story is your story, is the story of us all. Whether we summarily review the salient scenes of our past journey or ponder a snapshot of the present moment, we must ultimately admit that the demands, decisions, and relationships of everyday existence are more than we can fix or control.
That’s why we need wisdom. Christ is ready and willing to give us wisdom beyond ourselves – beyond our human reason, our best education, our natural instincts, and our accumulated experiences.
Do you remember the time when you were in a relationship that was at the boiling point or picking up the pieces of one that seemed broken beyond repair? I do. Have you ever been in agony over a personal failure, feeling distraught as you wondered how the next chapter of life might unfold? I have. Can you think of a time when you were at a loss in knowing how to help your hurting child, advise a devastated friend, or call a wandering family member back to faith? I can. Will you encounter a crisis in your health, a crushing of your heart, or a crossroads in your future that will bring you to your knees in unreserved desperation? I know I will. My best guess is that you will too.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you have done, are doing, or will do – you need wisdom. Regardless of your age, your race, your regrets, your hopes, your fears, your doubts, or your faith – you need wisdom.
You may be single, married, lonely, bored, overloaded, or overlooked. Perhaps you are sick, healthy, depressed, or overjoyed. You might be poor, rich, educated, or not. Maybe you are at the top of your game or can’t seem to find your game. You need wisdom.
It doesn’t matter if you have failed, succeeded, or simply feel average. Regardless of your personality, perceptions, or principles – you need wisdom. You may be a mother, father, son, daughter, teacher, preacher, engineer, architect, administrator, student, retiree, or CEO. You need wisdom.
You need wisdom that is right, reliable, and relevant. You need wisdom to pilot your daily decisions and point you to your destiny. You need wisdom to shape your thoughts and govern your emotions. You need wisdom to understand yourself and to get along with the people you love – and especially the ones you don’t.
What Kind of Wisdom?
Just what is this prized treasure called “wisdom?” Some think of it as the trait of a godly parent or the characteristic of a seasoned grandparent. Perhaps you picture an insightful friend or helpful counselor. Others call to mind some type of religious sage, university professor, or local church pastor. You might think of the teachings of a best-selling author or the principles of a renowned historical figure.
Webster’s Dictionary tells us that wisdom is:
- “Knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life.”
- “The natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand.”
- “Knowledge of what is proper or reasonable. Good sense or judgment.”
Other common definitions of wisdom tell us that it is “truth applied to life” and “seeing life from God’s perspective.” One Bible dictionary tells us that “wisdom takes insights gleaned from the knowledge of God’s ways and applies them in the daily walk.”[ii] Another solid description says, “Wisdom is not intellectual enlightenment but insight into the will of God and the ability to apply it to everyday life.” [iii] A landmark biblical description says it this way: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
“Wisdom is not intellectual enlightenment but insight into the will of God and the ability to apply it to everyday life.”D.A. Carson
While these definitions are all compelling and needful for our lives, something is missing. Traditional definitions of wisdom have the power to inform the mind and chart the course, but may not have the power to change the heart. There remains an essential truth that is the ultimate game-changer for the Christian who wants to live wisely – needs to live wisely. This “something” is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the life-giving trump-card in our wisdom journey.
A Transforming Wisdom
For followers of Jesus, there is a surpassing source that changes everything when it comes to wisdom. This reality transforms our pursuit and practice of wisdom. Wisdom is no longer about insightful principles for a successful life but about an indwelling power shaping a significant life. Because of Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross and the availability of His resurrection power, Christ followers are now in a life-changing relationship with the indwelling source of the highest and best wisdom.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just our introduction to the Christian life. It is the essence of our Christian life. It is not just the message of Christianity, it is the meaning of Christianity. It is not just the story of Jesus. The gospel is about the sufficiency of Jesus for all things. The gospel enlightens us to understand that Christ is the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus Christ is our “wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The New Testament tells us that we “are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” and that we have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
The gospel enlightens us to understand that Christ is the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
So, for a Christian, the experience of wisdom is not the art of figuring it out but the adventure of following Him. The pursuit of wisdom is more than comprehending concepts; it is the privilege of knowing Christ. This is experienced through “abiding in him” through prayer, the truth of His word, and the indwelling of His life in our souls, like a nuclear reactor at the core of a power plant.
A Gospel Definition of Wisdom
A gospel-based definition of wisdom calls us to an understanding and experience of LIVING and INDWELLING wisdom that is not just about direction for today but about a destiny for a lifetime and beyond. Traditional ideas of wisdom focus on filling the head with ideas that can lead to greater accomplishment. Gospel wisdom rules the heart through intimacy with Christ that leads to greater authenticity. This wisdom is more than prudent information to guide your next enterprise. Rather it is power that leads to personal transformation. It is not about rules for better behavior but a relationship that changes the heart. This wisdom transcends weighty concepts that produce manageable relationships. Rather, it converts character that can morph everything about a relationship.
Here is an attempt at a truly Christian, explicitly simple, gospel-centered definition of wisdom:
Wisdom is Jesus Christ – embraced, experienced, exemplified, and exalted in our lives and relationships.
- Embraced through saving and sustaining faith in His sufficiency for all things.
- Experienced by His abiding in us and our abiding in Him through prayer and God’s word.
- Exemplified as Christ manifests His wisdom through us to influence others.
- Exalted as the supernatural fruit of His life explains the gospel and exalts His name.
So, today, look to Jesus. Love Jesus. Abide in Jesus – and His divine wisdom will abide and guide in all that you do.
Copyright © 2019 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
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[ii] Hubbard, D. A. (1996). Wisdom. In (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman, Eds.)New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[iii] D.A. Carson, Teach Us to Pray (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002) 107-108