Faithlife Sermons

The Way to Acquire Wisdom

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:01
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What is wisdom, why would we want it, and how do we get it? Find out in this message from Proverbs 2:1-11.

In some ways, the events rocking our nation over the last few weeks may have felt like we are adding insult to injury.
COVID-19 showed us where there are major flaws in our economic and social systems.
Just when it feels like we are starting to catch our breath from that, we get hit again with the pain of racism that so many of us live lives isolated from.
It seems like our response in all of this has been to either buckle down hard on what we believe and stick our fingers in our ears so we don’t hear anything outside our view, or to get so tossed back and forth that we don’t know which way to go or who to believe.
Truthfully, I have found myself more in the second category as I hear so many conflicting opinions on so many of these issues.
It left me this week with my head spinning, which leads us to turn this morning to the only anchor I know to turn to: the God who has revealed himself in his word.
We live in a divided age, and it seems that may only get worse, at least until November when the elections are over.
How do we know what to do? How do we know what is right? We need help, and we need it in the form of wisdom.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to spend some time in one of the books of the Bible that is dedicated to dispensing the wisdom we desperately need.
Go ahead and turn your Bibles over to the book of Proverbs, and we are going to begin in chapter 2.
Although there are several contributors to the book, the majority of the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, who we know as one of the wisest men who ever lived.
He wrote this book to help his son discover what true wisdom is.
Wisdom is one of those terms that can be hard to define, isn’t it?
One definition I saw said that it is “the quality of being wise.”—that doesn’t help much, does it?
As we look at the wisdom the Bible describes, I think it may be best to think of wisdom as the skill to live life the way it ought to be lived.
It is bigger than just knowing facts; it is knowing how to apply the right fact at the right time in the right way.
Wisdom involves a right understanding of what is going on around us, and wisdom leads us to respond correctly to what we see.
I dare say that right now, we all need more wisdom than we have.
Whether we feel out of our depth at our jobs, or facing a situation with our child and we don’t know what to do. Whether we are confused about which politician to listen to or how to respond to riots, protests, and racism behind it, whatever it may be we are up against today, we need wisdom to know, understand, and respond.
Here’s where things change for us, though. Most people’s understanding of wisdom is incomplete.
Wisdom doesn’t come through pouring over books and discussing around coffee. It doesn’t come through the right blog post, or through that convincing video.
Although all those things can help us understand what is going on, and God can use them to help develop our wisdom and understanding, true wisdom goes much deeper than that.
You see, true wisdom, the wisdom we desperately need, comes only from God himself and is centered in who he is.
Solomon says this clearly:
Proverbs 9:10 CSB
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Do you really want to understand what is going on around you? Do you truly want the wisdom to live life as you should?
Then pursue the wisdom that comes from and is centered on God himself.
If we can get this aspect of wisdom aligned, then everything else will become clearer.
It won’t always be easy, and it won’t always make sense, but until we start at the core and chase the godly wisdom God offers, we will always get it wrong.
That’s why this morning, I want you to see with me what God tells us about how to acquire that wisdom.
Here in Proverbs 2, Solomon is going to lay out for us three steps we take to acquire the wisdom of God.
We are going to break this chapter up a little bit, though, because I know that if you are like me, your thoughts may start with, “Yeah, but what’s in it for me? Why would I want the wisdom God offers?”
Start in verse 5-11...
Do you want to understand who God is and how we should relate to him? Do you want to go deeper than just knowing facts about God to actually knowing him?
Think about the difference here: we have a church database that has facts about you if you have filled out information for us. It may have contact info, family info, what Sunday School class you are a part of, etc.
If someone looked at your record in the database, would you say they know you? No! Knowing facts is not the same as actually knowing them.
In the same way, wisdom goes beyond knowing facts about God like his some kind of distant, mechanical system. When God gives you wisdom, he gives you understanding about who he is and how you and I should relate to him and his words.
Next, Solomon says that wisdom will lead to success and protection.
This isn’t a promise that if you have God’s wisdom, everything you touch is going to turn to gold and life will constantly be rainbows and butterflies.
Think closer about verses 7-8 - when do you need a shield, and when do you need protection? When you are under attack!
See, the wisdom God gives doesn’t protect us from pain and attack; it protects us from choices that dishonor him and make it worse, inflicting more pain on us and others.
Did you see what he says in verse 9? Do you think you need to understand what is right and wrong, what justice looks like, and how to live in integrity right now? I know I sure do!
So, if I want to understand God and his ways, and I want to understand how to live, then I need the wisdom God gives.
How do I get it?
Solomon tells us how in at least three “if” statements in the first four verses. Read them with me...
Let’s break it down, then. If I am going to acquire wisdom, I need to:

1) Pay attention to what God says.

Start in verse 1-2 again.
If you notice, Solomon calls his son to accept his words and store up his commands.
Solomon is grounding his son in the unchanging truth of what God says in his word.
Listen to me: you cannot truly be wise without paying attention to what God says.
It is true that we are created in the image of God, and therefore even those who do not follow God have intellect and reason.
However, without a foundation that is built on who God is, human wisdom will always fall short.
Here’s what is so incredible: God has given us this book with clear revelation about who he is, who mankind is, what has gone wrong, and how he is making it right again.
He shows us that he is God, and that he made us. We rejected him, and that broke all our relationships. Every sin, including racism, pride, tyranny, and whatever else you feel like you see happening around us, goes back to the fact that we rejected God’s design and sinned against him.
The only way we could be made right with God is for Jesus, God in the flesh, to die in our place and be raised from the dead.
Now, he is exalted over everything in creation and calls us to surrender to him, restoring us to himself and restoring the brokenness in the world around us.
Within that message, though, we see that there are ways we are supposed to live. There are things we should do and shouldn’t do if we are rightly related to God through Jesus.
If we are going to live lives steeped in godly wisdom, then we have to pay attention to what he says.
It isn’t enough for you to come on Sunday or put this service on in the background while you are hanging out at the house, although I am grateful you are doing that to get exposed to the truth of God.
Solomon challenges his son and us to store these things up in our heart, listening closely to wisdom.
Think about that phrase, “directing your heart to understanding.”
That means you have to willingly choose to ignore the world and turn your heart towards what God has said.
Are you willing to do that, even if people think you are stupid for it?
If you and I are going to have wisdom to understand God and his ways, and if we are going to understand how to live, then we have to pay attention to what God says!
How are you doing that in your life today? Are you spending time reading or listening to the Bible? Are you trying to memorize any parts of Scripture or understand something that has been confusing you?
Dive deep into God’s word, and pay attention to what he says.
Again, though, if wisdom is going to go deeper than just knowing facts about God, then there must be more to it than simply reading the Bible or listening to sermons and teaching.
If we are going to acquire wisdom, we must...

2) Pray for God to give wisdom.

Look at verse 3 again...
This point is so simple that I am afraid we overlook it.
Yes, I just told you for the millionth time to pray and read your Bible. Aren’t you glad you showed up today?
The challenge is that we somehow think that if we just try hard enough, we can figure all this out on our own.
That isn’t how godly wisdom works, though! Isn’t that we saw in verse 6?
God is the one who gives wisdom, so we need to ask him for it, just like we would ask a king for help!
Don’t let that scare you, though. We have this incredible promise in the New Testament:
James 1:5–8 CSB
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.
God gives wisdom to anyone who asks for it!
He doesn’t scold you for not being smart enough to figure it out on your own.
If we ask him to guide us and give us wisdom, and we do so from a heart that trusts him in faith, then he promises to give it to us.
How much time have you spent in prayer asking God to give you wisdom and then slowing down in his presence listening for him to guide you?
This gets to part of the problem: we don’t feel like we get the wisdom we need because we aren’t willing to wait and listen.
It isn’t that God is playing hard-to-get; it may be that we are hearing what is wise and we are in denial because it seems too difficult or costly.
Maybe we throw a trite prayer for wisdom up to the ceiling and hope it makes it to God somehow, but we aren’t really expecting or anticipating an answer.
That gets to the third action step in our path to acquire wisdom:

3) Pursue wisdom.

We see this in verse 4...
Although we have already hinted at this with the idea of directing our heart to understanding in verse 2, and in the idea that we need to watch for God to answer in verse 3, we see clearly that the pursuit of wisdom isn’t a passive process.
If you and I are going to understand God and his ways, and understand how to live, we need to commit to a lifelong pattern of seeking and searching.
Isn’t this true in a healthy marriage? You are constantly growing in your knowledge of and understanding of your spouse, learning more all the time.
When we stop pursuing, we stop growing closer to each other and begin to drift apart.
Although we cannot lose our relationship to God when we have been saved, we can miss out on the fullness of knowing him and walking with him and having his wisdom in everything if we don’t pursue him.
Seeking for silver and searching for hidden treasure are difficult, exhausting, and often frustrating experiences.
Like in so many other aspects of our Christian life, we see a paradox here: Only God can give wisdom, and he gives it generously, but I also have to work for it!
The clear pattern throughout the entire Bible is that the right response to God’s grace in revealing himself and granting forgiveness and so much more is to live a life of obedience and commitment to him.
That means I am going to be fighting for the truth, fighting to understand, fighting to shut out the voices around me that would try to convince me to follow their wisdom instead of God’s.
Instead, I am going to pray fervently and commit to read and listen to and try to understand God’s word so I can know how to respond to whatever situation I am in.
In case you are wondering what sets God’s wisdom apart, by the way, here’s what James would go on to say:
James 3:14–17 CSB
But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.
So, if you are a Christian, and you want to know how to respond to what you see going on around you, listen for envy and selfishness versus purity, peace-loving, gentleness, and the like.
That doesn’t mean that everything that looks calm is truly pursuing peace, or that everything that seems disorderly is wrong—sometimes things get worse before they get better.
However, godly wisdom seeks moral purity, seeks to restore peace, and seeks to hold to the truth without wavering or compromise.
This morning, then, let’s commit ourselves again to this process of acquiring wisdom.
The true wisdom you need won’t be found in a book, and it won’t be found in endless discussions on Facebook.
The wisdom you need is found in a relationship to God that is based on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Do you have that relationship this morning? Has there been a time in your life where you have turned from sin and turned to following Christ?
If not, I want to encourage you to do that this morning.
If so, are you paying attention to what God says? Are you following his commands and taking to heart what you learn about him through his word?
Are you praying for God to give you wisdom, expecting that God will give you what you ask for?
Are you committed to pursuing wisdom at any cost, striving to find out more and more about who God is, how he works, and how he calls us to live our lives?
Let’s pray about all these things this morning.
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