These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Everybody needs wisdom! You need wisdom to manage your finances, raise you’re your children, deal with conflict, respond to difficult situations or people. No matter what you face in life, you need wisdom, but what is it? How do you grow in wisdom? And how to you make wise decision in the middle of problems or conflict?
Today, we begin a new series of lessons on wisdom from the book of James. James has already introduced us to problems and how God uses those problems in our life and he now shifts to what you need most in the midst of those problems… wisdom.
With that said let’s look at James 1:2, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you” (NLT).
This series will answer the following questions:
- What is wisdom?
- Why do I need wisdom?
- Where does wisdom come from?
- How do I ask God for wisdom?
- How does God give me wisdom?
When you are facing difficult situations or decisions, and you feel like you are under fire in the midst of a trial, you will need wisdom. God places a high value on wisdom.
- Proverbs 4:7 says, “Above all and before all, do this: Get wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!” (Msg). God is telling you to make it your number one priority in life. “Above all”… above money, success, appearance, power, popularity, or anything else get wisdom.
- Proverbs 4:5 declares, “Sell everything and buy wisdom! Forage for Understanding! Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch!” (Msg). If it were possible to buy wisdom, God is saying that wisdom is so valuable that it’s worth selling everything you have to get it. God is serious about you growing in wisdom.
- God says in Proverbs 16:16, “Get wisdom – it’s worth more than money; choose insight over income every time” (Msg).
- Just to be clear, Proverbs 24:5 teaches, “It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day” (Msg).
God places an extreme value on wisdom. It’s important to God and it’s important to you. Let’s start with a definition of wisdom: Wisdom is the ability to perceive the true nature of a situation and to implement the will of God in that situation. Wisdom is the practical application of God’s truth to a specific situation. Wisdom is knowing what God wants you to do and then doing it.
Today’s goal is to understand what wisdom really is and is not. To better understand wisdom (sophia) you need to understand its three main parts: knowledge, understanding, and righteousness. I have a friend who says wisdom is like Neapolitan ice cream. If you take the strawberry out, you simply have a vanilla and chocolate mix. Without all three you cannot have Neapolitan ice cream. The same is true for wisdom- without knowledge, understanding, and righteousness you cannot have true wisdom. Let’s take a look at each ingredient of wisdom.
Wisdom Includes Knowledge
Number one, the first ingredient of wisdom is knowledge. This is knowing truth, having the facts and the correct information about the situation. For example, you are having financial difficulties and knowledge would include knowing what the Bible says about finances and how to manage them. You would also want to know your expenses, learning where you waste money, where you can save money, how to increase your income, and learning how to develop a budget. Wisdom includes Biblical truth, facts, and information. It’s knowledge. It answers the question, “What truth do I need to know?”
This is also true for other areas.
- You want to improve your marriage, then you would need to gain knowledge about communication and conflict management. You would need to learn Biblical principles about what it means to be a husband or wife, what love is and is not, what’s your role verses your spouses role.
- This applies to every area of your life, whether you are making a decision about buying a house, changing jobs, or parenting. Wisdom includes knowledge. Proverbs 18:15 teaches that, “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge” (NLT). A wise person is always ready to learn. They are willing to do the research and to ask others for advice.
How do you gain helpful knowledge? You begin with the Bible. Discover what God’s Word says about the situation or subject you are trying to make a decision about or improve in. Get Godly advice from others you trust. This could be your pastor, a Godly friend, or through resources like Christian books and sermons by well-respected teachers and authors. At this point you are gaining knowledge, truth, and information that will guide your thinking and understanding of the situation.
Wisdom Includes Understanding
The first ingredient of wisdom is knowledge. The second ingredient to wisdom is understanding. Understanding is the ability to translate meaning from the facts. It’s the ability to know the significance of the information. It’s knowing what to do with the knowledge. For example, if you apply it to improving your finances you would have learned (from doing research and gaining knowledge) some of the nine Biblical principles of money management which include accounting (Prov. 27:23), budgeting (Prov. 24:3-4; Prov. 21:5), tithing (Deut. 14:23; Prov. 3:9; 2 Cor. 9:7), saving (Prov. 21:20; 30:24-25), sharing (Prov. 11:24-25; 19:17), contentment (Prov. 15:16; Heb. 13:5), enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 5:19; 6:9), patience (Prov. 21:5), and entrusting (Matthew 25:14-30). As you gain knowledge you begin to understand more of what God would have you to do with the finances He has allowed you to have and manage. You are answering the question, “What would this truth look like lived out in my life?” You are beginning to understand what this would look like in your life if you began living it. You are understanding why this is important. You are understanding how it honors God, you, and others. You are translating the knowledge into practical ideas.
This is also true for other areas.
- In marriage, you would begin to understand the Biblical roles of a husband and wife and what that might look like in your marriage.
- In parenting, you would realize the Biblical purpose behind having children and training them to honor you (as a parent) and God (their creator).
- Regarding forgiveness you would discover the meaning and implication of forgiving those who have wronged you and the freedom that comes from allowing others to have faults.
Understanding is the ability to take truth and imagine what it would look like lived out in your life.
Wisdom Includes Righteousness
Wisdom is the combination of three things: knowledge, understanding and righteousness. A final and important ingredient to wisdom is righteousness. This is applying what you know and understand to your specific situation. This is knowledge and understanding in action. You know what God’s Word says (knowledge) and you have a grasp of what you need to do (understanding), but now it’s time to actually do what you understand (righteousness). By righteousness, I mean doing what is right. James 1:22 puts it this way, “Don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (NLT). The opposite of a wise person is a foolish person. The person who knows what to do, but doesn’t do it is acting foolishly.
Let’s continue applying this to your finances. Righteousness says, “I’ve studied God’s Word and sought Godly advice about what God teaches about financial management. Throughout this I’ve learned that I need to develop a budget, save money, begin tithing, sharing, pay my bills and be more content with what I have. Now, I need to write a check to those I owe, stop buying things I don’t need, cut expenses, and give to God through His local church.” Righteousness means, when you get paid you sit down, write the checks to those you owe, instead of eating out you save money by eating in (even if that means a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), cancelling cable TV, or stop smoking. You are doing the right things when it comes to managing your finances. During prayer you tell God how thankful you are about what you have and how He has blessed you. You are now applying your knowledge and understanding resulting in righteousness and that’s called wisdom. You are acting wisely.
This applies to all areas of your life – your marriage, health, parenting, work, school, dating, getting older, etc. Remember, knowledge and understanding are not wisdom until you do something with it.
Colossians 1:9-10 includes all three concepts of wisdom, “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (NLT). Paul is telling the Colossian believers he was praying they would have “knowledge” (know God’s truth) and “understanding” (have a grasp of the implications and applications of God’s truth) resulting in righteousness (practical application) that affected “the way [they lived]” – that’s wisdom.
This wisdom also applies to things like eternal life. If you would like to know what the Bible says about salvation through Jesus and understand why this is so important we will have people hanging out up here who would love to talk to you about this.