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A New York Times Bestselling Author
Bestselling author Dr. Charles Stanley reveals this simple fact: there are only two ways to journey through life: wisely or unwisely. Those who walk wisely can expect to live a life of contentment and peace; a life overflowing with the confidence of God's love and presence. Those who walk unwisely can expect a life of conflict, disappointment, and discontent. So why don't more of us reap the benefits?
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Dr. Charles Stanley is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, where he has served for more than 40 years. He is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than 60 books, including the bestselling devotional Every Day in His Presence. Dr. Stanley is the founder of In Touch Ministries. The In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley program is transmitted throughout the world on more than 1,200 radio outlets and 130 television stations/networks, and in language projects in more than 50 languages. The award-winning In Touch devotional magazine is printed in four languages with more than 12 million copies each year. Dr. Stanley’s goal is best represented by Acts 20:24: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God's mighty kindness and love.” This is because, as he says, “It is the Word of God and the work of God that changes people’s lives.”
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Earthly Wisdom Versus Godly Wisdom
If someone were to ask you today, “Are you a wise person?” how would you respond?
Many people respond, “Well, I’d like to be.”
Some people seem to think that wise people are locked away in ivory towers—they perceive wisdom to be a function of intellect or brain power applied to areas such as philosophy, theology, or psychology. Others believe a wise person must be aged. Still others think it is a good thing to be wise—but a pretentious thing to admit. They secretly believe they are wise but are reluctant to say so because they fear others will think ill of them.
If you consider yourself to be a wise person, what is your basis for reaching that conclusion?
The world and God’s Word present two very different views of wisdom. From God’s perspective, earthly wisdom—human or natural wisdom—is grounded in man’s fallen nature. Godly wisdom—divine or spiritual wisdom—is based upon man’s “new nature” given at the time of a person’s spiritual rebirth (2 Cor. 5:17).
All godly wisdom begins with reverence—an understanding of who our sovereign, almighty God is, and out of that understanding, surrendering one’s will and behavior to Him. There is no alternative foundation on which genuine wisdom can be built.
A person may say, “Do you mean to tell me that with all of my education and experience, I cannot be wise if I don’t receive God’s forgiveness for my sin and factor God into my life?” That’s exactly what I mean to tell you! And I say this not out of my own human understanding—that’s what the Word of God says. Apart from God, a human being cannot function in wisdom.
Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear in this verse refers to reverence for God. Those who fear God stand in awe of God. They have at least a glimmer of understanding that God is omniscient (all-wise), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (present in every moment and throughout all eternity), and all-loving, and that they are not. They stand before God in wonderment and amazement that God who is all, has all, and controls all cares, loves, reaches out, and blesses the individual human being. To fear God is not to fear God’s judgment; it is to stand in awe that God has all authority to judge and to forgive, to show mercy, and to grant His grace in overflowing abundance.
Spiritual wisdom is given to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, commit themselves to following God in obedience, seek to develop a relationship with Him, reverence Him, and walk out their days submitted to, yielded to, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
Let me ask you . . .
Are you wiser than God your Creator is when it comes to knowing how to live a successful life on this earth?
Are you wiser than God who made your body is when it comes to knowing how to live in health?
Are you wiser than God who caused you to be born in a specific time and place, to a specific set of parents, in a specific set of circumstances is when it comes to developing a plan and purpose for your life?
Are you wiser than God who created all natural resources and everything of real value on this earth is when it comes to knowing how to manage your finances and material resources?
Are you wiser than God who made human nature is when it comes to knowing how to develop and maintain good relationships?
Who would be so foolish as to say he or she is wiser than the Creator and sovereign King of this universe? How ridiculously arrogant to say in the face of God, “I know more than You do. I know better than You know. I have a better idea than Your idea.”
Wisdom is the capacity to see things from God’s viewpoint. A child once was asked if he knew the meaning of the word omniscient. He said, “Yes. My mom taught me that word. It means that God knows everything about every thing.” I can’t beat that definition.
God knows what we feel, what we think, who we are, and how we function. He knows our likes, dislikes, dreams, desires, fears, and hurts. He knows what brings us joy, peace, and feelings of fulfillment. As our “Maker” He knows every detail of our “makeup”!
God also knows every detail about every circumstance we encounter. He sees the beginning from the ending, and every step between beginning and ending.
Earthly wisdom is limited. It generally is based upon the best that collective humanity has been able to conclude or to decipher. Earthly wisdom says, “This is the way men and women have acted, responded, and lived through the ages.” Earthly wisdom concludes, “This is what works.” Earthly wisdom can be very narrow, and it is usually filled with biases, prejudices, and personal desires.
God’s wisdom, in contrast, is unlimited. It is based upon what God sees when He looks to ages past and ahead to ages still to come. It is based upon the whole of any given life or situation. Godly wisdom says, “This is the way I made man to act, respond, and succeed.” Godly wisdom concludes, “This is what God wants.”
If we want to be wise, we must choose to see things from God’s perspective. We must get God’s “take” on a situation. Not only must we ask, “How does God see this?” but ask, “What does God want me to do? When? How? With whom? For what goal or purpose?” We must seek to see our individual lives as fitting into God’s plan, God’s purpose, and God’s desires. The Bible makes this very clear:
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Prov. 28:26)
Earthly wisdom is based on these four faulty conclusions:
God’s truth about wisdom is one hundred and eighty degrees opposite each of these humanly constructed conclusions.
We live in the so-called information age. We have more information today than we know how to process and use. Those of us who have home computers have more information than we will ever access just several clicks away. Even when we are trying to relax, we have information foisted on us—pagers beep, phones ring, televisions blare, and computers announce that a new electronic message is waiting for our response.
For all of our information, have we increased in wisdom? No. We only need to take a look at recent political history to gain an understanding that knowledge and wisdom are different. Many highly knowledgeable people work for our government. Each makes it his life’s work to become informed about certain issues, as well as about history, economics, and the law. But do they always live wisely? Do they always pass laws that are in line with God’s Word? Do they always live moral lives that are yielded to God’s will?
Take a look at our educational system. It has been developed through the years by people who have been considered to be highly knowledgeable when it comes to child psychology, child development, curriculum formation, instructional methods, and information resources. But are our children being trained in wisdom? Is God factored into their learning process? Is godly behavior being emphasized? Is faith being encouraged? Generally speaking, no.
Intellectually gifted people are not necessarily wise. Neither are those who have developed their natural skills and abilities to the maximum of their potential, those who have established the “best contacts” in the world, those who have amassed fabulous wealth, or those who have spent their lives in pursuit of the best health possible. Never assume that in becoming informed or knowledgeable, you will become wise.
Furthermore, at no place in the Scriptures do we see God rewarding a increase in knowledge. Repeatedly, however, we find God calling His people to an increase in wisdom and promising to reward those who walk according to godly principles.
The Proper Place for Knowledge and Understanding. Knowledge is something acquired by mental study and observation. Knowledge is important—I am not at all denigrating the value of knowledge. All knowledge is a gift of God. God allows us to know, to discover, and to grow in knowledge. Certainly knowledge of the Scriptures acquired by study is vital to a person’s spiritual growth. So is a knowledge of godly behavior gained by observing the lives of strong Christians.
Knowledge, however, is limited. No person can know all there is to know about any subject, person, or situation. There is always something unknown or as yet undiscovered.
It takes the Holy Spirit of God to pull back the curtains of our understanding. The Holy Spirit reveals to us insights as to why certain things happen and how certain situations might be resolved. The Holy Spirit imparts to us deeper insights into His commandments and precepts and the blessings that come in following them.
The Bible declares, Get wisdom! Get understanding! (Prov. 4:5). The two are not the same. Understanding is based upon the acquisition of knowledge—it is a filtering, sifting, sorting, and defining process. Wisdom, in comparison, is an applying process.
Understanding tells us what is happening—wisdom tells us why it is happening. Understanding gives us the facts—wisdom tells us what to do with those facts. Understanding yields insight into how a problem might be solved—wisdom tells us which solution to pursue, and when and how to pursue it.
Does a wise person know everything? No. However, I believe strongly that only a wise person is capable of using knowledge to maximum advantage. A wise person is capable of determining which facts, concepts, principles, or procedures to use in a given situation. A wise person knows the criteria of God’s Word for successful financial investments, successful health management, and successful relationships. A wise person knows how to apply what he learns.
In my life, I have met a number of wise people who had very little formal education. Even so, they had a keen ability to discern, to perceive, and to understand God’s principles . . . and their wise choices and decisions have led each to become a powerful, influential, successful, and in some cases, wealthy individual.
I have met a number of godly men and women who never went to seminary, never learned Greek or Hebrew, and never studied theology. Nevertheless, they live according to God’s wisdom and are accomplishing much for God on this earth. They are preaching Bible-based sermons, engaging in innovative missionary work, teaching their children to love the Lord, and winning their neighbors to Christ. Their reward will be great, even though they have never earned a degree in religion or gained a reputation for ministry distinction in the eyes of man.
On the other hand, I have also met a number of highly educated, highly accomplished, highly talented, very well-informed people who have made foolish decisions and choices in their lives, and the end result has been catastrophic for them and their families.
The world says that wisdom is based upon what a person can perceive with his natural senses. God’s wisdom calls for a person to walk in the discerning power of the Holy Spirit, who is not at all limited by human senses.
The Holy Spirit enables a person to discern what isn’t spoken and what isn’t readily manifested. The Holy Spirit gives a “heart sense” to a person so that the person has an ability to recognize truth from lie, fact from fiction, right from wrong—regardless of the words that may be spoken or the alluring images that may be presented.
The person who walks in godly wisdom has a “sense” or intuition provided by the Holy Spirit who lives inside of every believer. I strongly believe that the person who functions in godly wisdom is able to see beyond what average human beings see . . . able to hear beyond what average human beings hear . . . able to understand beyond what average human beings understand. This ability flows directly from the Holy Spirit at work in us.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard godly men and women tell me, “I started to take one action and then I had this little feeling deep inside me that I should wait . . . or take a different action . . . or get additional information.” That “little feeling” for the believer is the Holy Spirit at work, guarding us, guiding us, and moving us into the center of God’s path for us to walk.
Earthly wisdom based upon the five human senses can often produce confusion. What one sees, another doesn’t. What one hears, another doesn’t.
Earthly wisdom often leads to a skewed perspective, especially if it is based upon collective perception. Large masses of people can become convinced that they see, feel, hear, or otherwise perceive a lie.
The result of faulty human perception frequently leads to the establishment of goals that are off target and unproductive in the things that truly matter for eternity.
In sharp contrast, the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit yields clarity and precision. It leads to an expansion of ability, a righteous perspective, and the establishment of goals that are focused and productive, and that are centered on the most important things of eternal benefit.
The presence of the Holy Spirit expands a person’s ability to perceive so that a person “sees” life in the context of eternity. The person who walks in godly wisdom does not make decisions on the basis of how things look on the surface at any given time. What he perceives is placed against the template of heaven’s understanding and will.
Discernment Is Especially Important in Crisis Times. Even ungodly people will admit that in times of crisis or natural catastrophe, people don’t think clearly. Our perception becomes clouded when we are under intense emotional pressure or time constraints. It is in times of crisis that we especially need the discerning power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
Certainly none of us succeeds at everything all the time. All of us face crises and calamities. But God’s wisdom does help us walk through times of difficulty, hardship, suffering, and persecution and emerge stronger.
The story of Job in the Bible is an example of this. Job suffered deeply—he lost his family, fortune, reputation, and health—but in the end, he submitted himself to God’s wisdom and the Scriptures tell us, “The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). Job’s family, fortune, and health were restored, and he lived after his time of suffering one hundred and forty years and “saw his children and grandchildren for four generations” (Job 42:16)!
If we choose to follow God’s wisdom in times of difficulty, we will win every time. We may experience material, financial, or relational loss—and even experience death—but what w...
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