Wisdom is a gifted thing, not just a function of the brain. Knowledge may be ours to own, but wisdom comes from God alone.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote what is known as the “Serenity Prayer” – “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The last part of that prayer is today’s focus.
I’ve asked God for wisdom many times but can’t say for sure if I’ve ever heard back. Lately I’ve been wondering if He’s responding to my query with one of His own. That’s a teaching style Jesus often used, and we can say with confidence, “like Father like Son.”
Perhaps God, with a loving twinkle in His eye, is patiently asking, “Neil, why do you want more wisdom when you don’t use what I’ve already given you?” I don’t have a good answer.
To be clear, God has never spoken audibly to me or used a finger to write on a wall as King Belshazzar experienced in the fifth chapter of Daniel. There have been no burning bushes, tongues of fire, or even gentle breezes which I knew with certainty were a sign from above. I can’t profess to anything beyond a still small voice that prods my conscience more often than should be needed. That may be the extent of my experiences because God knows it’s all I’m prepared to receive.
So, I’m not claiming this potential answer to my prayers for wisdom came through extraordinary revelation. What I’m saying is I’ve come to realize God has little reason to give me more of something which I already neglect to take full advantage of. Plus, my motives have often been less than the best.
The first chapter of 2 Chronicles records God telling King Solomon to ask for whatever he wants. Solomon asked God for wisdom and knowledge, two things I would not likely have put at the top of my list. We talked about that scripture in our men’s Sunday School class at Vienna First Baptist a few years ago. I was teaching that morning and posed a discussion question, “Would you rather have great wisdom or tons of money?”
A good friend named Mike, a faithful man with a quiet demeanor, said, “I’d take the money.” We all smiled during a silent pause, expecting he might comment further. “With enough money,” he explained, “I could hire someone with wisdom.” That’s just bonus material to let you know Bible Study doesn’t preclude joviality. If you want to see for yourself, we meet at ten a.m.
God was pleased with Solomon’s response. “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
Solomon’s request was so pleasing to God that He gave him much more than he asked for. When I’ve prayed for wisdom, my thoughts have frequently been self-centered. My pleas have often had an element of distress as in, “God give me the wisdom to get out of this mess I created.” Maybe acknowledging my shortcoming is a small but necessary step toward improvement.
It’s also important to note that God may grant wisdom yet allow us to ignore it. Solomon is a good example of that with 700 wives and 300 concubines. At times I’ve wondered how the world’s wisest man could act so foolishly. Solomon, though, might suggest I sweep around my own doorsteps rather than attend to his. It’s more tempting to be critical than self-analytical.
Reflecting on the last part of the “Serenity Prayer” led me to a couple of conclusions. Pleas for wisdom should focus on accomplishing God’s plans for me not my plans for Him. And before I ask for greater wisdom, I need to do a better job of using what I already have.
I asked to be a wiser man. “Not now,” God said, “but ask again. First you need to do your part, for wisdom thrives in humble hearts.”