Annual New Years resolutions reveal our innate desire to live wisely. We don’t like being foolish with our bodies, our money, etc. The fact that God wrote Proverbs confirms that he too wants us to live wisely. So lets spend January and February studying it together.
Here are four foundational steps in pursuit of wisdom.
1. Ask God for Wisdom
Proverbs 1:1 serves as the book’s introduction. “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel.” Solomon was a man who asked God for wisdom and received it in abundance (1 Kings 3 and 4).
Facing his new responsibilities as King of Israel, Solomon said, “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.” He was not literally a little child, but figuratively one. He did not know how to conduct himself in regard to governing God’s vast people. So he asked for wisdom and God graciously gave it.
As you face your responsibilities and challenges in this new year, ask God for wisdom. In James 1:5 God invites us to do so, and promises to give it in abundance. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.” Have you asked God for wisdom as you begin this new year?
2. Acknowledge Your Need for Wisdom
If you have not asked God for wisdom, perhaps that is because you have not acknowledged that you need it. Solomon begins his book of proverbs with these words:
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity; (Proverbs 1:2-3)
These are his motivations for writing Proverbs. Before he mentions any motivation regarding others, he lists three regarding himself. He wants to know, understand and receive wisdom, insight and instruction. Yes, Solomon received wisdom from God, but he continued to acknowledge his need for it.
How do we locate our most acute need for wisdom? Look for it where you feel most childlike. When Solomon gets to his goals for his readers, he writes,
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth– (Proverbs 1:4)
“Simple” here means naive, gullible or literally overly-open-minded. “Youth” means ‘lads.’ He is assuming there are many who feel like he did when he took the throne: like an inexperienced kid.
So in what areas of your life do you feel this way? The promise of Proverbs is that it will help you navigate your life like one with successful experience. But in order to receive this benefit, you first need to realize and admit that you’re a rookie at this whole life thing. Acknowledge your need for wisdom.
3. Acquire Wisdom
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance
to understand a proverbs and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:5-6)
Wise people listen and learn. They obtain guidance, gain direction and acquire wise counsel. They intentionally seek and respond to wise counsel. Fools plug their ears, refuse to listen to good instruction and do not learn or change.
God is inviting us to listen and learn from him. After all where else would we find wise counsel? Pinterest? The magazine rack? TV? No thanks. I’ll take my advice from God himself, which brings us to our final point.
4. Fear the LORD
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Fearing the Lord means revering him with proper awe. In this context I believe it means specifically seeking his counsel above all others.
Here’s a quick quiz to determine if you fear the Lord in this way:
Do you pray?
Do you search the scriptures for answers to specific questions?
Does God’s input about the practical matters of life outweigh all others?
Proverbs teaches that if we do not do these things, we do not fear the Lord and thus we “despise wisdom and instruction.” If we ignore God’s wisdom and instruction, we must hate wisdom and instruction. What possible explanation could there be for ignoring the Creator’s advice about how to live in his creation?
The fear of the Lord is where wisdom starts. We cannot truly understand anything if we do not understand that God is the most important fact of reality. If we do not acknowledge this, all our other calculations will be off. This is why so many intelligent people live like fools. They know a lot, but not the most important fact of life: God himself.
Your desire to live wisely in 2014 is good. God wants you to succeed and has made a way for you to know wisdom:
Ask for it.
Acknowledge your need for it.
Fear the Lord.
As we enter 2014, let’s apply ourselves to knowing, understanding and receiving wisdom.