I’ll never forget a lunch I had with a Christian businessman. As we discussed many of the responsibilities connected with his vocation, the subject of wisdom kept sliding into our conversation. He and I were agreeing on the value of certain qualities that cannot be learned in school—things like intuition, diligence, integrity, perception, consistency, loyalty…and he, again, mentioned wisdom. Wisdom is hard to define because it means much more than knowledge and goes much deeper than awareness.
At that point in our conversation, I sensed how convinced the man was of wisdom’s importance, what a significant role it played in his life, and the way it influenced his business decisions. So I asked, “How does a person get wisdom? I realize we are to be men and women of wisdom, but few people ever talk about how it’s acquired.” His answer was quick and to the point.
I paused and looked deeply into his eyes. Without knowing the specifics, I knew his one-word answer was not theoretical. He had walked the path. He and pain had gotten to know each other quite well. After listening to the things he had been dealing with in recent months—some professional and others personal—I told him he had spent sufficient hours in the crucible to have earned his PhD in wisdom! I recalled the first chapter of James that the Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament renders so well.
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots. (James 1:2–4 PHILLIPS)
Aren’t those great words? More importantly, they are absolutely true. By accepting life’s tests and temptations as friends—by allowing them to enter our private world and produce the rare quality of endurance—we become people “of mature character.” There is no shortcut. The idea of instant endurance is nonsense. The pain brought on by interruptions and disappointments, by loss and failure, by accidents and disease, by changes and surprises, is the long and arduous road to maturity. There is no other road.
But where does wisdom come in? It comes through the God-ordained painful surprises of life when we lean out the window and yell, “Help!” That’s not my idea. The Apostle James said so in verse 5:
And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. (1:5 PHILLIPS)
The New Living Translation is more succinct: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.”
As I see it, it is like a row of dominoes. One thing bumps up against another, which in turn bumps another, and during the process, endurance helps us mature. Periodically, however, we will find ourselves at a loss to know what to do or how to respond—that’s when we ask for help. At those junctures, God delivers more than intelligence…much more than clever ideas and good ol’ common sense. He dips into His well of wisdom and allows us to drink from His bucket.
I cannot fully describe the benefits of receiving the refreshment our Lord provides, but among them would be abilities and insights that are of another world. Perhaps it would best be stated as tapping into “the mind of Christ.” To borrow from Paul’s words:
We do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths…for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:13,16)
This could get mystical real fast, and I don’t want that to happen. All I want to get across is this: When we have responded as we should to life’s blows, enduring them rather than escaping them, God gives us more maturity that stays with us and new measures of wisdom which we are able to draw upon for the balance of our lives.
I don’t know where all this finds you as you read these words. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you, too, have a few intruders of pain crowding into your life—and you could use some divine reinforcement to help you endure.
If so, say so. Don’t hesitate to call on God for help.
Tell your Father that you are running out of strength and energy and hope…that your mind is getting foggy and you need fresh insight from the Word of God…from the mind of Christ.
He is waiting to give His wisdom to you.
Scripture quotations marked Phillips, reprinted from “The New Testament in Modern English,” Revised Edition, translated by J. B. Phillips. Published by HarperCollins Publishers, Ltd.