David Jeremiah - Overcoming Confusion with Wisdom
What does the metaphor of the helmet represent? I believe this metaphor represents the mind of Christ, that God wants us to have our mind occupied as the mind of Christ. When you put on this helmet, you put on the assurance of your salvation and you protect your mind from Satan's deceptions with the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to you through the person of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says it this way, "But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us the wisdom of God".
The wisdom of God equips us and prepares us for God's purpose. It strengthens us so we can become victors over confusion and not victims of confusion, so we can overcome falsehood and uncertainty with the God-given confidence that comes through Christ alone. Wisdom is often confused with knowledge but there's a huge difference. Knowledge involves the accumulation of facts. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and achieve the best outcome. Someone once told me that wisdom is knowledge using its head. Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad. To protect our minds from deception and confusion, we need wisdom from God, that means we have to take the concept of wisdom further because it's not enough for us to have only the wisdom that the world offers.
In Scripture, wisdom refers to knowing the course of action that will please God and make our life what he wants it to be. When God promises us wisdom, he promises away of life superior to the way of the world. He guarantees us that through his gift of wisdom, you and I will find good, and acceptable, and perfect ways of walking with God. Wisdom is acquired through our efforts to learn, and grow, and study. It's not automatic and it's not instantaneous. There's a reason why they say gray-haired guys have more wisdom. It's not about the hair, it's about the years. Wisdom is about practice. It's also about perspective. There's another misunderstanding about what the gift of wisdom really is and how we apply it in our lives.
I remember reading this one day several years ago and it just so resonated with me. It was in a book by J.I. Packer called, "Knowing God," one of the classic books of Christianity. And he uses this metaphor and he helped me understand it. He said, "Just imagine for a moment that you're in a train station and you're standing on the end of a platform watching the constant movement of trains coming in and going out. And from this limited perspective, your vision and comprehension of the overall working of the train system is almost nonexistent. All you see is trains doing this... now imagine you go into the station's control center and there's a long electronic wall chart with a diagram of the entire system showing all the tracks extending 5 miles on either side of the station and by following the little lights moving on the chart, you can locate each train with all its cars and see exactly where it's headed.
As you watch the system through the eyes of the men who control it, you understand why trains are stopped, and why they're started, and why they're diverted and sidetracked, and the logic behind every movement becomes clear when you see the entire picture". Wisdom is seeing beyond the incidental. It's seeing more of the entire picture. And the mistake that many Christians make when they're seeking wisdom is to assume that if they find it, it will enable them to see life from the control center instead of the train platform. I've heard it described like this, getting God's perspective on our world, but that's not how wisdom works in the Christian life. We're not shown the overall pattern of the universe, or how we fit into it, or where we're gonna end up. We're not shown God's longterm plan for us or how our actions today will play into that plan tomorrow.
People ask me all the time, "When you started out, did you realize what God was gonna do for you with all these radio stations and all these". I had no clue. It happened one station at a time, one day at a time, one year at a time. God knew what he was doing. He saw the whole plan, but I didn't get on that. All I got was one day at a time. This station was a good one, that one wasn't, so take this one, don't take that one. But when we humble ourselves, and we desire God's wisdom, and we listen to his words, and we obey them, he gives us all the wisdom that we need for the moment, the wisdom which usually means enough to take the next step. That's all we need to face the present situation and make the right decision. Wisdom is about practice and perspective but men and women, wisdom's also about patience.
Although we can't always see how all the details of our lives fit together, God has revealed to us the ending of our story. We do know where this journey ends, hallelujah. In spite of the confusion around us, we keep our eyes on the prize, the hope of our future eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. I'm right here, that's right there. In between is this wasteland of, "I don't know what to do unless, Lord God, you help me figure it out one day at a time". And I'm here to tell you that in the midst of that process, life can be filled with love, and beauty, and joy. It can bring us one obstacle temptation or crisis after another. People with all kinds of different goals and standards may try to use us or delude us, but if we keep our eyes on God and we lock into his wisdom, he promises us the wisdom we need to overcome this daily confusion in our life.
I don't think there's ever been a time more confusing than this one right now. I mean, every day there's something new. So now, what do we do? We pray, we ask God for wisdom, we figure out some way to make it better. But the problem is there's no easy answer to any of the problems we face anymore. Can I get a witness to that? Isn't that true? They all seem so, it used to be, "Okay, here's this problem, let's go fix it". Now it's, "Here's this problem, what in the world do we do with that"? And so, we're cast back upon our own inadequacy and we inevitably just say, "Lord". And I love this verse in James. It says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not". That means he doesn't scold us for coming, but he gives us what we need.
So, that's kind of the description of wisdom. Here's the best definition short that I can give you about wisdom. Wisdom is knowing to do the right thing without a precedent. So, how do we get this wisdom? Do we just put our Bible under our pillow at night and say, "Lord, may it pass from the Bible through the pillow to my head, I wish to be wise in the morning"? No, it doesn't work that way. Several years ago, I was challenged to read through the Book of Proverbs each month. I found a little book that had the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Psalms bound together. Since the Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters and some months have 31 days, you can read one chapter of Proverbs a day and read through the whole book in a month. And if you read five psalms along with that every day, you can read five psalms and one chapter in Proverbs, and you can read through Psalms and Proverbs every month. And so, I did that.
So, what would happen if you read Proverbs and Psalms every month for a whole year 12 times? I ran into some coaches that I know who were doing that and man, if coaches are doing it, we ought to do it. We ought to find a way to get Proverbs and Psalms into our lives and the reason for that is Psalms is about your relationship with God. Proverbs helps you to figure out what to do with all the people you, and gives you all this wisdom that you need. Proverbs and Psalms are part of what the Bible calls wisdom literature. So, that would be a good thing to read. One of the early discoveries of my Proverbs study was that many promises God has given to us are promises that are only for those who seek after wisdom. So, let me ask you this question, are you willing to seek after wisdom? Here's what the Bible says, "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding". Proverbs 3:13, "For wisdom is better than rubies, and all things one may desire cannot be compared with her". Over and over and over Solomon said, "Get wisdom".
And the question is, "Okay, how do I get it"? And as I studied this question and read and reread the Word of God in search of the answer, I began to see some consistent patterns. Our ability to acquire God's wisdom is not so much a matter of doing as it is of being. It's not so much a matter of activity as a matter of attitude. We prepare to receive God's wisdom by adopting four basic attitudes. The humility to hear God's was, the hunger to seek God's wisdom, the hearing, to truly listen to God's wisdom, and the heeding heart to do God's wisdom. Let's take those one at a time. Number one, a humble spirit. The first step in acquiring wisdom is a proper understanding of one's relationship to God. Solomon put it this way, "The fear of the Lord". You know the rest of it? "Is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction".
God wants us to hunger for his wisdom. We need to be confident, but we don't need to be arrogant. There's a difference between confidence if your confidence is in God, and arrogant if you're all full of yourself. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the difference between the two, isn't that right? Most people can figure that out. Prophet Jeremiah said a mouthful when he said this, "'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, and judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the Lord".
So, the first step to get wisdom is to know you need it. It's to be humble enough to reach out for it. It's to get past your own wisdom and all of our own, even sometimes your goals and plans. And I'm big on that stuff. I know we need to do it all of that, but they all need to be submitted to the Lord. And when we see they're headed in a direction they shouldn't be going, we need to stop and put everything on hold until we hear from God which way to go. So, the next thing you know after a humble spirit is you need a hungry soul. Imagine the company you work for suddenly puts you in charge and you are now responsible for the whole company and you have to make all the decisions. You're gonna be really hungry to figure out what to do. You're gonna have a desire to know.
Wisdom has to be sought in order to find it. In other words, it's not gonna just come to you. It's not something that you just run into in life. You have to desire it. If wholehearted seeking after God is a prerequisite for wisdom, many of us know where our problem lies. We halfheartedly seek after him. We say, "Oh Lord God, if you got anything you want to add to this, I'd be happy to hear it". If you put that in that perspective, you will never get the wisdom of God. God's wisdom comes when we seek for it. Someone once said it this way, "We all have about as much of God as we want". You have to have a humble spirit, you have to have a hungry soul, and then you have to have a hearing heart.
As the 1944 presidential election approached, Franklin D. Roosevelt had been president for three terms. With the nation deeply involved in World War II, Roosevelt's health was failing and his advisers thought there was a good chance that if he was reelected, Roosevelt would die during the fourth term. You probably read some of the this in the history books, but that would leave his Vice President Henry Wallace to guide the nation through the rest of the war, and they didn't believe that he would be up to the task. So, for the 1944 election, Roosevelt made a little known senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman his running mate and put Wallace on the sidelines and the Roosevelt-Truman ticket was elected easily.
Now, watch what happened. Three months into his fourth term, the worst happened. Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage and Vice President Harry Truman, with less than three months of executive office experience under his belt, was suddenly the President of the United States. Only after being sworn into office did Truman learn the shocking news that America was in possession of an atomic bomb. Secrecy about the bomb project that excluded the vice president from the need-to-know circle during his first three months in office and he became the president to use that bomb later that year in Japan and bring it into the war. Just try to imagine yourself in that role. When Truman met with the reporters the day after taking office, he told them, "I don't know whether you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday about the president's death, I felt like the moon, the stars, and the planets had fallen on my head".
And a few days later in his first address before a joint session of congress, Truman expressed his dependence on God for wisdom in the face of his new responsibilities. Quote, "At this moment, I have a heart of prayer. As I have assumed my duties, I humbly pray to Almighty God in the words of King Solomon, 'Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to judge this great people of yours?'" He was referring to 1 Kings chapter 3 and verse 9 in his unique supplication to God when Solomon was told by God, "Ask whatever you want and I will give it to you," remember that? And he didn't ask for riches. He didn't ask for long life. He didn't ask for anything. He said, "Lord God, I want a hearing heart".
He asked for wisdom. What a request. Although we may have a humble spirit and a hungry soul, we still need to have a hearing heart. We need to be willing to listen to what God tells us when we ask him for his help. Proverbs says, "A wise man will hear and increase in learning. Listen to the counsel and receive instruction that you maybe wise in your latter days. Incline your ears, hear the words of the wise". These are the words of the Proverbs. And there's so much of God's wisdom all around us, available to us from those who have walked with God before us, but we have to train ourselves to listen.
Sometimes people ask me if I'm with such and such a person, and I can name two or three illustrations and you would know some of these people. "I hear you had a conversation with so and so". No, I listened to so and so, but we didn't have a conversation 'cause he did all the talking, I did all the listening. You ever been in a situation like that? You go and have dinner with somebody, you can't get in a word edgewise. They're so full of themselves, they just talk all the time and you all you do is listen. That's not a conversation, that's an experience of listening.
And it's easy to find courses and seminars that will teach you how to talk better, but where are the courses that help you learn how to listen better? I mean, we give our graduates awards for good speaking, but I've never seen an award for excellent listening. And it's ridiculous because God gave us two ears and only one mouth. That's for a reason yet most of us, the mouth is greatly overworked and the ears are in a state of semiretirement. One man explained it this, "A wise man talks because he has something to say, fools talk because they have to say something". So, you need a humble spirit, what is that? "I know I don't have to the answers". You need a hungry soul. "Lord God, I'm desperate for your help. You need a hearing heart that says, "Okay, I get it. I hear what you're saying. I intake this information".
One last thing, a heeding mind. A humble spirit says, "I need God". A hungry soul says, "I desire God". A hearing heart says, "I will listen to God". But a heeding mind says, "I will do what God tells me to do". If you don't get to that point, all the rest of it's meaningless. To know that we need God is important, to reach out for him is imperative, to hear what he has to say is crucial, but all of it is meaningless unless we determine to do what he tells us to do. You have to come to this process and say, "Lord God, I need your input into this thing. I need your wisdom and I'm saying to you upfront, whatever you tell me to do, I'm gonna do it. Lord God, I'm gonna sign the bottom of this paper. You fill in the top part. Whatever it is you want me to do, I'm ready. I'm gonna do it," the heeding heart.
Several years ago... this is a long time ago now, more than several. Several is relative. I was invited to speak at a church in West Virginia and a member of that congregation wanted to know if I'd like to take a tour of the coal mine. It was prevalent in that community. They lowered us into this mine shaft and they gave me this helmet and it had a carbide lamp on it. That's what miners wear as a headgear. We were deep in the mine. My buddy called up and said, "Turn out all the lights". He wanted me to see what total darkness is like. Most of you think you've probably seen total darkness, but you have never seen total darkness. There's always a little bit of light sneaking through, but not in a coal mine, not that far down. So, he turned off all the lights in the shaft, and I don't think I've ever seen such darkness in my life. But there was a source of light and that was the small lamp I wore on my head which emitted a short beam that illuminated about a step or two in front of me.
I remember being afraid to move at first. I could see nothing on either side and very little ahead. But I soon made a significant discovery. As soon as I walked into the light that I had, that light projected the way for an additional step into the darkness. As long as I kept moving forward, so did the light which meant there was always enough light on my pathway to keep me from stumbling and guarantee my progress. That small lamp on my head was my helmet of salvation. It showed me what I needed to see to move forward in the darkness. As I moved forward, I brought the light with me. We don't need to know what's at the end of the tunnel. We just need to know what the next step is. And what does the Bible say? "If you walk in the light as he is in the light," that's what we're called to do. Wisdom guides us in overcoming the confusing events of our lives, all of them, but it does it one step into the light we have.
And here's what I know, listen to me carefully, if you will walk in the light that God gives you, he will give you the light you need for the next step. If you will trust God for the wisdom you need today, he will give you the wisdom you need for tomorrow. Just like that light on my helmet when I took a step into the light I had, the light shone one step further into the darkness. God wants us to have his wisdom and there's a way that wisdom can be acquired. If we'll just humble ourselves before him and acknowledge our need, if we will determine not to be wise in our own eyes, if we'll have a hungry spirit for that wisdom, if we will seek after it with all of our hearts, if we will hear the wisdom when it is downloaded to us and then do what God tells us to do, we can walk in the wisdom that God wants us to have.