James 3:13,17 NIV
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. …But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Wisdom. You won’t find the word in the moniker of a new superhero in the Marvel universe, nor will you find it listed in the social media bio of anyone who actually has it or lives by it. Wisdom is a gift of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8a), and is a way the Spirit guides the believer. Who wants wisdom and understanding for life today? I do!
Wisdom has definitely not received the kind of “Spirit-speaking” press that the more remarkable, unusual, or spontaneous spiritual gifts have received. Why? My guess is because wisdom is the polar opposite of a shiny object.
Wisdom is substantial and shows the signs of age. Wisdom moves slowly, humbly, and deliberately, at a pace that can be uncomfortable to our modern sensibilities. Wisdom usually won’t fight for its voice to be heard, though it does cry out on the streets (Prov. 1:20). Wisdom is marked often by study and observation, meaning it is usually hard won over long periods of time. We should always be listening for wisdom, searching for wisdom, as for a treasure (Prov. 2:1-6).
How does the Holy Spirit speak to us through wisdom? The Oxford dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments.” For the Christian, knowledge and experience have an important role to play in being guided by the Holy Spirit, particularly when drawn on in deep accord with the whole counsel of the Scriptures, guided by our impressions, and discerned with the Body of Christ.
The Spirit speaks to us through our knowledge, helping us to do smart, right, and reasonable things in the power of the Holy Spirit. Education is good. Skills are good. These can contribute to spiritual wisdom (note: they can also get in the way). Neither you nor I need a spontaneous word from God to take care of our bodies, to practically love our neighbor, to teach a class of little ones to read, or to distribute resources to the needy in our town. We have knowledge about these things, and our spiritual wisdom can be enhanced because of that knowledge. The Spirit works through good old common sense, skill, and learning—and these have a part to play in discerning the voice of the Spirit (Rom. 12:2).
Regarding experience, our own and others’ experiences can help us learn if what we’re doing has “worked” in the past for ourselves and others. While experience must always be submitted to the Scriptures and other means of hearing the Holy Spirit (so we don’t assume that God is not doing anything “new” that might contradict our previous experience), experience can serve us as a key contributor when guidance is needed.
If we keep all of these ways of hearing the Spirit speak before us, allowing them to play their part and have a dynamic interplay, our ability to discern the will of God together—will grow.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. There is a way of wisdom that I am eager to walk in as I learn the way of love. Come, Holy Spirit, give me the desire and perseverance I need to be filled with wisdom, and guided by wisdom, as I live out my faith in my home, church, and city. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Has there been a situation in your life where a gift of wisdom, coming through you or another person, provided guidance that you can now look back on with thankfulness?
For the awakening,