Summary: There are two ways to make decisions in this world. You can make godly decision that don’t always produce immediate “happy” results. But you can also make worldly decisions that feel good now and hurt later.
In my last post, I taught about how the Bible portrays a Christian attitude. In this post, I want to address godly wisdom and how to use it to succeed God’s way in life.
Everyone wants to make the best choices they can. What everyone doesn’t know is that the world is tilted toward a way of living for the most “success.” If you were playing a game, wouldn’t you want to know the rules that make you perform better?
Shocking statement: there’s more than one type of wisdom, and if you use the wrong one, the one who built the game will not reward you with success. Oh, and we will be talking about success. If you are confused right now, or interested in how to find the right wisdom to get the right results, keep reading. Let’s get started.
What Is Wisdom?
Before we talk about the options out there for wisdom and insight, advice, and counsel, we need to know what we are looking for. If we don’t start with a biblical definition of wisdom, it would be like taking out the best motorcycle the store owner recommends without taking a manual or a primer on how to ride that motorcycle.
You could have the most powerful motorcycle in the world, but if you don’t know how to ride it, you’ll just end up with skinned knees, or worse. Biblical wisdom is extremely powerful, but we must know exactly what we are talking about when we see the word “wisdom.”
Usually when I say wisdom, one of the first things that pops into people’s minds is that wisdom is paradoxical. If you’ve ever watched anything where Eastern meditation and wisdom is shown or described, you would think wisdom is one of those things you will never understand.
Paradoxical statements are just that, paradoxical, and therefore useless to most people. They’re not the kind of statements you say while everyone strokes their beard and looks like they are thinking way too hard. That is of no use to us. Thankfully, biblical wisdom is nothing like that.
Wisdom is the ability from God to make decisions that honor Him and follow a godly lifestyle and path. It is the most practical thing in the whole Bible. You don’t have to be Solomon to have wisdom. James says God generously gives it to those who ask (James 1:5-8). That’s right! God’s willing to hand that valuable stuff out to anyone who says, “God, I need Your wisdom in this matter.”
It’s where the rubber meets the road. God, who created the world, and designed it to work in ways that glorify Him, gives the wisdom of how the world works to you for free. But so many people don’t ask for His wisdom. They try to figure it out on their own, or listen to the wrong people who say they have wisdom.
How Does Wisdom Relate to the Mind?
We have been in a miniseries on renewing your mind in our discipleship teachings on being Conformed to Christ. Why is wisdom in this miniseries on the mind? Because wisdom is all about the choices you make, and decision-making is a function of the renewed Christian mind.
When you face problems you need to solve, or trials that require the right know-how to get out of them, you need God’s wisdom. You need to know (Surprise! Another “mind term”) the best course of action to take. That is wisdom.
A lot goes into the decision-making process. I’ve talked before about the Hebrew word for the mind, heart. The reason they use “heart” instead of “mind” is because they understand that a decision is not only based on reason or intelligence. It factors in our emotions. It is based on our assessment (reasoning) of a situation, a predetermined choice to do things God’s way no matter what, and the emotions of how we feel.
For instance, if you react to a situation negatively, your emotions will be negative, and you will make a bad choice. It may make you feel better in the short-term, but it could give you even worse emotional reaction to the situations that follow.
If you take your desire to please God, and that will give you a positive outlook, you will make the right choice. The right choices don’t always look good at first, but God honors and blesses those choices. It’s much better to live under God’s blessing than under His judgment and punishment.
Godly Wisdom Versus Earthly Wisdom
Godly wisdom is knowing what God wants you to do, which of course would be the best course of action. At its core, godly wisdom is about honoring God and pleasing Him with the decision you make, and the action you take because of that wisdom.
Earthly wisdom is doing things the way the world advises you to do them. At first, earthly wisdom looks really good because you usually get immediate “successful” results. But earthly wisdom doesn’t work out in the long-term.
James talks about heavenly (godly) wisdom and earthly (worldly) wisdom (James 3:13-18). Wisdom is proved by conduct. Traits like selfish ambition, jealousy, selfish ambition, and pride come from earthly wisdom. James characterizes it as earthly (worldly), unspiritual, and daemonic. Earthly wisdom produces disorder and vile practices.
By contrast, he characterizes heavenly wisdom as pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, merciful, and producing good fruits, impartial, and sincere. They are the difference between night and day.
There’s a trick the devil is playing on everyone on earth. He makes earthly wisdom look so good because of that immediate “kickback” for using it. But he doesn’t tell you how badly it will turn out in the long run. If you don’t have an eternal perspective, you’ll think you’re getting ahead when you are really just seeing upfront rewards.
If you can’t see the long-term results that godly wisdom gives you, you will be duped. Godly wisdom only works when you want to honor God. Sometimes, godly wisdom looks like you made the wrong choice because you may experience the results Satan wants you to see and backout of using godly wisdom again.
Godly wisdom may cost you at the beginning. But you need to stay the course to experience the Creator’s built-in success in the long run. Ignore Satan’s attempt to dupe you into immediate success and long-term failure.
Godly wisdom starts out with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). It brings great blessing to those who follow it (Psalm 1). It involves trusting the Lord no matter what you face, and not picking your own conclusions (Proverbs 3:5-7). You must choose to hear the Lord’s wisdom instead of thinking you know best.
Situational and “Evergreen” Wisdom
Most Christians go to the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament when they want to look for wisdom. You will find a few passages that have a whole thought from multiple versus, but much of Proverbs has short, pithy sayings easy to memorize. They provide different types of wisdom.
Proverbs opens, and has running through its pages, this continual characterization of godly wisdom as “Lady Wisdom.” You see her especially begin Proverbs 3. On the other side, Lady Folly characterizes worldly wisdom that leads to destruction. The sayings in Proverbs could be placed under either of these ladies.
Some of the Proverbs are what I like to call “Evergreen” sayings. These are things that are true no matter the situation. They often speak about God, or the wisdom that comes from God. They are true all the time.
But there are also sayings that seem to contradict other sayings in other areas of Proverbs. That is because these are sayings that are not for certain situations. How do you know which one to follow? Some of that depends on what God tells you to do. Some of these sayings have enough of the context to tell when they apply to specific situations.
Others require a bit of study and reasoning to figure out what to do with them. Be careful not to use a proverb just because you want it to fit a certain situation in your life. Part of wisdom is knowing which saying to act on that will honor God the most.
What Is Success?
I put the word “success” in the title, but we must define that also because the world has taken success a completely different direction than the Bible does. In our world today, success is anything that gets you ahead of others in life, makes you rich, and gives you power and control. People like this kind of success because it makes them feel happy and in control, at least for a while.
In the Bible, success doesn’t gratify your fleshly desires. It is not about the immediate when or the thing that makes you happy for a short amount of time. Have you ever noticed how empty “successful” people in the world are? If you take away their power or money, they have nothing. Biblical success is honoring God and becoming more like Him in the way you think, speak, and act.
It does not come easy. When you practice it in the world, you may surface and a shame from the world. But that is not sure goal. You are not after making people in the world happy. Your goal is to put a smile on Jesus’s face. You want Him to be proud of you. A righteous life comes at a cost in a world dominated by the devil. Your success may come in the long term rather than the short term.
Godly wisdom recalculates your perspective. It sets godly perspectives and priorities in place. You think more eternally than temporally. You learn how to live in contentment instead of chasing after everything the world does. You understand spiritual things that the world finds foolish. Godly wisdom is learning how to view life and things that the way God does.
Choosing God’s Way
Wisdom is part of every decision you make. As a Christian, you can choose to operate God’s way or the world’s way. Every decision affords you the opportunity to honor God and live for Him, or do things the way the world does. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you will always practice godly wisdom.
In some cases, practicing godly wisdom does not guarantee you will not suffer for righteousness’ sake, or for Jesus’s name. Satan controls this world for the short time. Sometimes doing the godly thing will even set you back immediately. But the devil cannot keep you from experiencing godly success in the long run.
Practice godly wisdom in your choices and decision-making. When making a decision, ask yourself, “What will please God in this situation?” Seek to honor God, and you will never make the wrong choice. Search the Scriptures for what God wants from you. Ask Him in prayer to guide your decisions each day.
We have seen the value of godly wisdom, and want to have success that glorifies God. Next, we will look at keys to how to have a godly conscience in a wicked world.