We are currently studying the book of Ecclesiastes in our college group (Tuesday nights) and with our young professionals (Friday nights). In preparation I’ve been reading repeatedly the text of Ecclesiastes while also finding help in a small collection of books and commentaries. David Gibson’s book, Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End has been particularly helpful. Below are my favorite quotes. Continue reading “27 Quotes from David Gibson’s ‘Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End’”
The desire for self-promotion is native to the human heart. We are all tempted to exalt ourselves in some measure, whether on a large or small scale. It seems, however, that social media has a special way of encouraging and showcasing one’s indulgence in this temptation. Granted, social media is not the cause of self-promotion; it is only the venue through which the human heart expresses its desires. But the prevalence of such self-promotion should compel us to think rigorously over this phenomenon, especially because so many Christians seem to be walking in lock-step with a trend the Bible so clearly discourages. Continue reading “Godly Diligence Leads to Recognition without Self-Promotion”
Jesus, the embodiment of Divine wisdom and the source of all knowledge, sat as a young man among the religious leaders and listened carefully and asked questions (Luke 2:46). In the Incarnation, the eternal Son of God humbled himself and took on the fullness of humanity. What man truly is, Jesus truly is. And as he grew in age, he also grew intellectually as any other human would: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Continue reading “"Listening to them and Asking Them Questions": The Humility and Wisdom of Jesus”
Derek Kidner, in his book The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, makes some helpful observations about Job’s friends and why God was angry with their counsel. Kidner’s words are a stern reminder to us to proceed very carefully in matters of sympathetic grieving (“weep with those who weep”) and counsel.
It is possible to dismiss these friends of Job too lightly, for the book does no present them as hypocrites arriving to gloat (see 2:11-13), nor as heretics offering manifestly false doctrines, nor again as fools producing no serious arguments…Yet these men are ‘miserable comforters’ not only in Job’s estimation (16:2) but even more strongly in God’s (42:7-9)…A closer look at the material shows that the basic error of Job’s friends is that they overestimate their grasp of truth, misapply the truth they know, and close their minds to any facts that contradict what they assume. That being so, if the book is attacking anything its target is not the familiar doctrines of other Scriptures, such as God’s justice and benevolence, his care for the righteous and punishment of the wicked, or the general law that what one sows one reaps. Rather, it attacks the arrogance of pontificating about the application of these truths, and of thereby misrepresenting God and misjudging one’s fellow man. (60-61).
Thus we must be careful not to misapply God’s Word to specific situations in which we are called to comfort and counsel. One example of this could be the misapplication of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it,” when we grieve alongside of parents whose child is out-of-control. We could begin to question otherwise godly parents, and suggest that they have been disobedient to the Lord and negligent in their parenting. But this would be the wrong way to apply this verse, since the Proverbs are given as general principles as to how the world works, not absolute promises. In such a case, we could have godly parents, who, overall, raised their child in a Christ-centered, God-honoring fashion, and yet have to endure the outright rebellion of a sinning child. Yet if we are not careful, we could come alongside of these parents in their grief and only deepen their pain by misapplying the truth of God’s Word. So the story Job’s friends serves as a (true) cautionary tale to us and exhorts us to use great care when we grieve with and counsel others.
Photo: Donnie Ray Jones
How much better it is to get wisdom than gold; and understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. ~Proverbs 16:16.
Because the getting of wisdom is so valuable, the question that we must ask is, “How can I get wisdom?” The following are practical ways in which you and I can get wisdom.
(1) Consistently Place Yourself Under Good Bible Teaching. This is one of the best ways you can grow in wisdom and understanding: by placing yourself under good and faithful teachers of the Bible. Go to church on Sunday and listen intently to the sermon. Does your church provide other kinds of teaching opportunities? Sunday nights? Wednesday nights? Go to those! Are you in a situation where you are unable to find good preaching and teaching? Get on the Internet and and purchase and listen to sermons from faithful men like John Piper, Alistar Begg, John MacArthur, etc. Proverbs 18:15 says, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Does this describe you?
(2) Regularly Read and Study Your Bible. Read the Scripture, as often as you can. Set aside time to read in the morning. During lunch. Before bed. Purchase a little pocket Bible that you can carry with you during the day that can be accessed when you have an extra five minutes. Pray, along with the Psalmist, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end” (Psalm 119:33). But not only read, study your Bible as well. Study what the Scripture says about particular issues. Study a book of the Bible. Study the life of Christ. Read and Study.
(3) Purchase and Read Good Christian Books on God, Christ, the Bible, Church, Theology, etc. What a blessing we have in America! We have easy access to countless excellent books. Take advantage of these books. Find out what are the best Christian books one should read, purchase them and rip into them. Go to good online bookstores like Grace Books International, Grace and Truth Books , or Goodtheology.com, and find some good books and give yourself to reading.
(4) Heed Instruction, Correction and Rebuke.Much wisdom is found in the instruction, correction, and rebuke of others. We are kept from pride, harm, and just plain stupidity when we listen to when others correct us. Mark Dever, in The Deliberate Church reminds us, “But growing Christians welcome other Christians into their lives for the purposes of confessing their sins to one another (James 5:16; I John 1:5-10). That is, in large part, how spiritual growth happens–by accepting Biblical correction” (page 68, emphasis mine). And Proverbs 12:1 couldn’t be more clear, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
(5) Suffer. Not a popular topic, I know–but a necessary one. Psalm 119:67 and 71 have painfully helpful words for us: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word…It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” We are made more obedient and better rooted in God’s Word when we suffer. There are certain things we learn about God and His revelation only through the crucible of suffering.
(6) Obey. In his excellent book, Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church, D.A. Carson makes a penetrating comment regarding the relation between obedience and wisdom. He says, “In the realm of morality, often obedience is as foundation to understanding as is exegesis” (118). And the Psalmist would agree, “I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” Our search for wisdom malfunctions at a fundamental level if we are unwilling to obey God’s Word.
(7) Journal. Proverbs 10:14 reminds us that “Wise men store up knowledge.” A journal is a very practical way that you can store up knowledge and wisdom. You can preserve your clear thoughts on various theological issues and Scripture; you can record insights you gain from conversations with friends; you can write down insights you received from observing others; and you can copy excerpts from all the good books you read for life-long retrieval.
(8) Think. In II Timothy 2:7, Paul tells his young apprentice, Timothy, to think over the things that he (Paul) was writing. It was through thinking that Timothy would gain understanding. Wisdom does not come to the lazy; it comes to those who are diligent and who seek it out like gold and silver (see Proverbs 2:1-15). This requires us to put our minds to work and think over things in order to gain understanding.
(9) Pray for Wisdom. James gives a wonderful invitation to Christians who feel as though they lack wisdom (that should be all of us): “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5) And lest we think we are too spiritual to pray for wisdom and understanding, the Psalmist in Psalm 119 instructs us by example how to pray: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (v.17); “Make me understand the way of your precepts…” (v.27), “Teach me, O LORD the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end” (v.33); “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law” (v.34).
(10) Number Your Days. Having a heart-felt conviction that our days are few is how we acquire a heart of wisdom, according to Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Understanding and believing that our days are few here on this earth will compel us to make the most of our time for the glory of God (see also Ephesians 5:15-16). This is wisdom.
(11) Develop Deep Spiritual Relationships with Christians Who are Older and Wiser than You. It is good to have friends our own age, but it is unwise to have only friends who are our own age. We need the seasoned insight and godliness of older men and women. We need the rugged, tender, refined wisdom of men and women who have walked many and varied seasons with the Lord Jesus.
(12) Know Wisdom. Finally, it is important to become well-acquainted with the nature of true wisdom. James 3:13-18 (currently my favorite passage in the Bible) unfolds the beauty of true wisdom and understanding. First, wisdom is demonstrated in good deeds done in humility and meekness (v.13). Secondly, true wisdom does not manifest itself in jealousy, bitterness and selfish ambition (vv. 14-16). Finally, we can know we have come upon true wisdom if is first pure–promoting holiness and according to God’s Word; peaceable–promoting legitimate and Biblically grounded unity among brethren; gentle–not quarrelsome and looking for a fight (see II Timothy 2:24-26); open to reason–willing to yeild and to be teachable; full of mercy–kind, tender, gracious and loving to men’s persons; full of good fruits–the good fruits of holiness, love and obedience to Jesus; impartial–judging people by truth rather than personal preference; and sincere–living without hypocrisy and seeking wisdom for the right reasons.
Photo: Meja Petric
A wrong understanding and application of Scripture can bring great confusion to one’s life and severely wound a soul. Shepherds who truly love their flock will make it a priority, then, to not only teach the Scriptures accurately, but also apply it to their people with great care and precision. The latter is just as important as the former, as we see in the case of Job and his supposed comforters. They came to him with orthodoxy, but misapplied the Word, only to inflame Job’s pain and kindle the anger of God (Job 42:7). Continue reading “Contradictions or a Perfect Balance: Thoughts on Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes”
The phrase used in the title of this essay is actually a quote from Jim Elliot, the God-centered missionary and martyr to the Quichua and Auca Indians in Ecuador. Devin, however, helped me to see what this truth meant practically during a conversation in the hall of a college dorm one evening.
I was a year and a half away from graduation and Devin was a semester away from donning the cap and gown, so our conversation that night focused on the subject of our futures. What were we going to do after graduation? What did we want to do after college? Even more daunting: what would be doing in the next 10 years? These are the kinds of questions that have the tendency to give a college student stomach aches as he sits on the threshold of his graduation.
Ironically (but not surprisingly) I was more anxious than Devin concerning my future, even though I had another full year and a half before I graduated. Devin gently inquired into my plans and aspirations with heart-searching questions. I would respond with several “I don’t knows” and “I just really wannas.” But instead of sternly rebuking this sincere but worried college student, Devin brought me face to face to reality and gave to me a treasure of wisdom that profits me to this day.
Devin asked me, “What has the Lord put before you? Your school work. Your family. Your friends and your ministry at church. Focus on these and do them with all your heart for His glory and God will guide you and provide for you.” That conversation was probably one of the greatest helps I received while at college. Devin’s exhortation was simply an application of the principle Christ laid down in Matthew 25:21 when He commended the servant who multiplied his five talents by saying, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” The principle: faithfulness in little prepares a person for greater responsibility. Another way to say it: You concern yourself the depth of your life and ministry and let God concern Himself with the breadth of your life and ministry.
For the rest of my time at college I would regularly apply this principle as I studied, nurtured relationships and did ministry, and it is this instruction from Devin that has brought me back time and time again, from unnecessary worry and panic about the future to focused, content and heart-felt labor.