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February 2024: True Wisdom: Gaining Skill in the Art  of Godly Living

by Nathan Parker, Senior Pastor

Feb 4 –  Ecclesiastes 5:1-20, “God is in Heaven”
Feb 11 – Ecclesiastes 6:1-12, “Wealth, Possessions, and Honor” 
Feb 18 – Ecclesiastes 7:1-29, “Wisdom Gives Strength to the Wise” 
Feb 25 – Ecclesiastes 8:1-17, “The King's Command”

         

           

Wisdom is one of those words that can easily lose its meaning. We tend to use words like “smart” and “wise” interchangeably, but they are not the same, are they? Morgan and I recently had the opportunity to attend a dinner full of leaders from a medical school and several of their resident physicians. I was seated next to a guy who had completed an “MD-PhD” program. He is literally “Doctor Doctor.” We met another guy who had grown up in inner city Chicago and was identified as gifted and sent to a boarding school after which he attended Harvard for multiple degree programs. Morgan said to me at one point, “I have never been in such a high concentration of extremely smart people!” 

            

But does academic success and achievement equal wisdom? Can one become wise by pursuing degrees and spending hours in research and study and writing? Maybe. Most of us parents would be thrilled to see  this kind of achievement from our kids. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to help them succeed academically. But do we spend the same kind of resources on helping them to become wise? How does one attain wisdom as opposed to merely gaining “knowledge” or growing in “intelligence”?

            

The Bible has an entire section known as “wisdom literature.” The books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon are all generally considered part of this genre. But these books are clearly not textbooks. They are not academic journals. They are not periodicals. They are composed mostly of poems, actually. Apparently, we gain wisdom better through music and poetry than we do from textbooks. That’s because true wisdom is usually “caught” rather than “taught.”

            

Biblical wisdom is often described as “skill in the art of godly living.” It’s more of a competency than an aptitude. At our table at the medical school dinner, one resident divulged that he spoke six languages(!). That’s some incredible knowledge! But another resident asked him, “Are you fluent in those languages medically?” He was really asking something like, “Are you able to apply your knowledge skillfully in a way that enables you to practice your profession with people of other ethnicities?”

            

But the amazing thing about biblical wisdom is that it’s a skill that does not come from anything we actively do, really. Wisdom comes ultimately from learning more and more to quit trusting in our feeble knowledge and to put our faith in “the only wise God” (Romans 16:27). When Job is visited by his three friends to help him in his grief, they take turns dispensing what they believe to be sage advice as to what God is up to and how Job should respond. As you read, you might think, “Who here is right? Who is wise?” But then God himself shows up at the end of the book, and the answer is clear – there is no human contender. God alone is wise and dispenses wisdom as he sees fit. Our part is only to be broken and humble over our sin, to repent, and then to submit to God’s good, life-giving ways. 

 

I believe God lovingly created each one of us to be a part of his family and to partner with Him in His mission to redeem what is broken in Creation. Who can do this well? Wise people, people who are competent and skilled in living how God designed for us to live. My prayer for this month is that we are able to slow down and hear the teaching of Ecclesiastes and ask the Lord to apply it to our lives “that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

 

Grace and peace,

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