Charles Stanley - Acquiring Wisdom
Well, we have come from the agricultural age to industrial age and now information age. We’ve got more information than we know how to deal with. Some of it’s good; some of it’s not so good. But there’s plenty of it. In fact, if you want to know anything about anybody all you have to is sit down at the computer, you can tell where they live, what the house looks like. In fact, you can tell more things about more people than more people want you to know about themselves. And so there’s no secrecy and no privacy. It’s a crazy, mixed-up age in which we live. Lots and lots of information. But there’s one thing missing and that is while there’s plenty of information and all kinds of knowledge, there’s a great absence of wisdom. Because you see, we don’t have the wisdom to be able to handle that kind of knowledge, it seems.
Look where we are as a nation. Look where we are as individuals. Many people can boast of their knowledge and education and degrees, but are very unwise in the way they live out their life. Would you consider yourself a wise person? Or would you say, Well I’m wise about some things, not very wise about others. Wisdom is very important. And what I want you to see in this message is this. Not only how important it is, but how to acquire wisdom; because there are many verses in the scripture that encourage us to be wise... not a lot of scriptures that encourage us to have a lot of information about things. And a person can be very educated and make a disaster of their life. Very famous, make a disaster of their life. Great position and authority and power and make an absolute disaster of their life.
Would you consider yourself a wise person? Well in the book of Proverbs, God tells us exactly how to acquire wisdom. So I want you to turn if you will to the second chapter and let’s look at that for a moment. And, want us to read these first, first seven verses of this second chapter of Proverbs. He says, "My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity".
Now, so what is wisdom? Well the world would say it’s a right use of knowledge and information. But the issue that you and I want to answer is this: What is godly wisdom? Godly wisdom is the capacity to see things from God’s viewpoint and, look, and respond according to the principles of scripture. Godly wisdom is to be able to see things, to view things from God’s viewpoint, the way He sees them. And then to respond to them on the basis of scriptural principles. Lot of difference in that and the world’s wisdom. So when we think about that, and we think about the whole idea, that is, how does a person become wise? It is a process. It is both a process and a result. It is a process because it takes time to become wise. It is a result because we learn and become wise by the results we see in decisions that we make and decisions that other people make.
If I should ask you today would you be considered a wise person, what would you say? Well you could look around and say, Well I’ve made this good decision or that good decision. But have you made the most important decision in your life: where you’ll spend eternity? Who is going to be the guide of your life? How are you going to invest your life? What are you going to do with it? In other words, there are some questions that demand far greater knowledge and understanding than man’s human wisdom. So when we think about understanding God’s ways and seeing things from His point of view, how do we acquire wisdom? So what I’d like to do is to give you a number of steps. And if you’ll follow these steps, you will become a wiser person.
And so, let’s start with the first one, that is, we acquire wisdom by seeking it. That’s step number one. If you don’t want to be wise, you don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to seek wisdom. So when it comes to seeking wisdom, does that mean that I just sort of think about it once in a while? Or read the scripture once in a while, or diligently, diligently seek it. That is, God, give me wisdom. Show me how to be a wise person. If I understand the value of wisdom, I’ll seek it. If I don’t understand the value of it, I will not seek it. It is a great defense. That is, a person who is wise will avoid many pitfalls in their life, because they understand what that word means. It’s getting God’s viewpoint about the circumstances of life and then responding according to the principles that God’s given to us in His Word.
So think about this and be honest about it. When is the last time you ever thought about seeking wisdom? Is that nebulous to you? Or do you see it as something very, very definite, very solid, very clear, and very divine? Wisdom, Godly wisdom is your greatest possession. You can have all the gold and all the jewels and all the things that the scripture mentions; without wisdom, you’re going to make terrible mistakes. And you can make the ultimate mistake by being so unwise as to reject Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who went to the cross and laid down His life; paying your sin debt and mine in full; opening Heaven for us for all eternity. You die without Christ is the most unwise thing you could possibly do.
But you say, "Well, I’m going to make it." No you’re not, and I’ll tell you why. Without Jesus Christ, the Word of God says you will not. That’s the Word of God. That’s not human reasoning. That’s the Word of God. You have to decide whether you’re going to take His Word for it or believe somebody else. You must you must pursue wisdom. Think about it: what a part it plays in your life. It determines your success or disaster in whatever you do.
But there’s a second one and that’s this. We acquire wisdom by meditating on God’s Word. You say, "Well you mean to tell me that if I read the Word of God, I’m going to be wise?" Well let’s think about what happens when you read the Word of God. When you focus on God’s Word and you read it, your eyes see it, your ears hear it, your mind, for example, perceives it and what happens? It becomes a part of you. Well, what is the Word of God? It’s the mind of God written on paper. It’s the mind of God. It’s the ways of God. It’s the purpose and plans of God. It’s all here.
And so therefore, if I begin to meditate upon God’s Word, something’s going to happen. It’s going to have its effect in my life. Look if you will in chapter four and beginning in verse ten. He says, "Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction;" That is, master, enthusiastically pursue it, "Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life".
How many times have you heard me say, You should begin every day with asking God to give you direction for your life by reading the Word of God. One of the wisest things you can do before you ever get out of bed every morning is ask God to give you wisdom. We all need wisdom. That is we all need God’s viewpoint about our actions and about our plans and how we live our life, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And therefore, if we’re operating on the basis of wisdom, God will give us direction and clear guidance for our life. He says He will, He’s willing to give us wisdom.
And so when I think about that, I think about of all the sources of it, listen to what the scripture says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs, verse one: "My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding". That is, give your, give your attention to the Word of God. Now notice what the definition is. We said Godly wisdom is what? It’s getting God’s viewpoint. Let me ask you a question. What is it in your life about which you do not need His viewpoint? Nothing! We need His viewpoint about everything. And then not only getting His viewpoint, but then responding to God’s viewpoint. So, where do I get His viewpoint? In the Word of God.
Then there’s a third way. We acquire wisdom by obeying the principles of scripture. Listen, it isn’t enough just to have knowledge and understanding. You can have biblical knowledge, but if you do not act upon that from God’s perspective, then you’re not going to be wise. It’s from the Word of God, obeying these principles. Notice what he said. He said: "He gives wisdom to the upright". Living by the principles. And turn if you will to the eighth chapter for a moment and look if you will in this eighth chapter and the thirty-third verse. He says, "Heed instruction and be wise," look at that, "Heed instruction," that is, pay close attention to instruction, "and be wise, do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates". That is, as you and I listen to the Lord speak to our heart in His Word, obeying His principles, heeding His instruction. Anytime you and I need divine direction about any question about life, it is all right here. Wise men and women are in the Word, listening to God, obeying God’s Word and watching the awesome consequences.
Then of course, we acquire wisdom by praying for it. And of all the many verses in the book of Proverbs, the emphasis is not on praying. But I want you to turn to James for a moment and look in this first chapter, because here’s the clearest verse you could find about wisdom. He says in verse five of James one, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously," He’s not chinchy, He gives it, "generously and without reproach," not going to come back at you, "and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith". And that whole passage is about that. So, we gain wisdom by asking.
Now for most people, they practice this. Well I’m going to ask God to give me wisdom. Just asking for it does not get it. Watch this. It is asking, obeying and watching the consequences; observing the consequences. And if I could just say one word, I’d say it over and over and over again. Wisdom comes not only through gaining knowledge, but observing what happens when you respond in obedience and when you respond in disobedience. And all of us who are believers know that that principle is absolutely essential. But not just essential, it’s a divine law of God. Wisdom is a gift from God and we should pursue it, seek after it, ask for it. Get in the Word of God, asking God to show us from His Word how He would like for us to operate on the basis of His goodness and love and mercy toward us.
Then of course, we acquire wisdom by observing how God works in the world. And if you will go to Proverbs six, six. Many people know this verse or at least they know about it. Because He says in the sixth chapter of Proverbs in the sixth verse, "Go to the ant, O sluggard," oh lazy person, "observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest. Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man".
Here’s what he’s saying. Look around. How does God operate in the world? And it doesn’t make any difference how much knowledge we have. The issue is how does God operate? And he’s giving the ant, for example. Well, look around you. People who are lazy, for example; then they wonder, here’s what they do. They want to blame somebody. People who are lazy usually want to blame somebody. And things aren’t going their way; it’s his fault, her fault, their fault, but never my fault. Wisdom, seeing things from God’s viewpoint. Now listen. He says He’s willing to give it; He’s willing to store it up for us, whatever it is. We can have wisdom if we want it, but we don’t get wisdom simply by asking. And we don’t get wisdom by carelessly reading the Word of God; but by reading it and asking God to help us to observe the results of this action, that action and the other.
And so we talk about how God works in the world. Well, for example, look at your friends. Look at the people you work with. How’s God working in their life? You see, somehow the devil has deceived so many people into believing they are an exception to the laws of God. I’ll tell you why. Because at the moment, everything’s going their way. They’re healthy, they’re this, they’re that. They have all these things and so they think, You know what? That’s what you believe. That’s not what I believe. Here’s what I want you to see and I want to say that again and again and again. You cannot violate the principles, the laws, the Word of God, and escape the consequences which are devastating in a person’s life. You cannot. Then of course, we become wise by heeding godly counsel.
Now let me make something very clear. If you’re going to a counselor, be very, very wise about who this counselor is, not simply by what you heard. I want to give you a few verses of scripture here, Look in the twelfth chapter of Proverbs and let’s look at the fifteenth verse. Notice what he says here. Twelve, fifteen. Listen to this: "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he," listen carefully, "is he who listens to counsel". Godly counsel. People who want to know the ways of God and the work of God and how He operates. Look in the thirteenth chapter and the twentieth verse, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm". Look if you will in the tenth verse, "Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but," listen, "wisdom is with those who receive counsel".
Fifteenth chapter, look at this for a moment. Fifteenth chapter and the thirty-first verse. Listen to what he says, "He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding". And so, when you think about counsel, let me ask you a question. If somebody, if somebody said to you, Well, here’s what I think. What would determine whether you did what they said or not? Simply because they said it, or because they’re wise in their decision-making process. And many people are very willing and very quickly willing to give you advice and counsel. But one of the first things you should do is look at their lifestyle. Find out what’s the basis of their counsel. Is it because of something they learned in university? Or is it because they understand the Word of God? They understand THE principles by which God intends every single one of us to live our life.
The last one is simply this. We acquire wisdom by associating with the wise. Read that passage a few moments ago, in the thirteenth chapter. If a person really and truly wants to be wise, look at the thirteenth chapter and the twentieth verse: "He who walks with the wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm". Do you believe that? Everybody has friends. And, listen, and some people are tremendous friends, very sensitive to their friendships and so forth.
So, the scripture says if I want to be wise, I’ll run with the wise people. If I want to be foolish, I run with them. This is really very simple. It’s all in the Word of God. All I’ve done is just read you some verses of scripture. So think about this. Wisdom, which is seeing things from God’s viewpoint and obeying the principles of scripture, which is principles that God has placed in the Word, that’s what wisdom is all about. And the questions you have to ask is do I want to be a wise person; because these are just seven steps, all of which will make you a wise person, if you take it seriously. But it all begins with your relationship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
You say, "You mean to tell me that a person who is not a Christian is not wise?" Absolutely, I’m saying it, and I’ll tell you why. Because if you intend to go to heaven, you’re going to have to confront Jesus. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me". That’s the Son of God who went to the cross voluntarily; laid down His life; shed His blood in order to save me and to save you. It would be foolish for me to doubt Him, because I have no evidence for doubting Him. The whole Word of God from Genesis all the way up to the Crucifixion is leading to it. And there, all that’s thereafter is the fulfillment of the promises of God. To say that a person is wise who’s not a Christian, no they’re not wise. There are ultimate devastating eternal consequences to living your life without the Lord. Do it now because time’s running out.
Well, time’s running out. And if you’ll think about it, that’s one of the reasons you ought to be wise enough to get your life straightened out. Turning it over to Jesus Christ; let Him forgive you, cleanse you, start you all over again. If you’re wise, you will. And I think about it in this light.
If I want to be wise, I have to make a decision. For example, if you’re going to be saved from your sins, you have to make a decision. Today I will trust the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. And from this moment on, I want to live for Him. If I want to be a wise man, I want to make a decision. Today, I’m going to follow the teachings of the Word of God, because I know they’re true and I know God will enable me. I know He will strengthen me. I know He will defend me. I know He will help me in every circumstance. I’m going to be wise: follow His guidance, His direction, His counsel. Let me put it this way with all the love in my heart. It is foolish and fatal to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. And the proof of that is look around you and see what’s happening to people who do.