Smarter by John Burke (Smarter, Faster, Stronger, Wiser?)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series.

Everyone wants to get smarter, faster, and stronger when a new year rolls around, but those goals can come and go. What if we actually set as a new year’s resolution to become wiser? God’s wisdom found in the Proverbs affects every area of our lives and doesn’t just make us a little better in the short run. Are you looking to God to help you get wiser and to right-order your life this year?


These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.


Smarter, Faster, Stronger… Wiser? – Smarter from Gateway Church on Vimeo.


We all want to self-improve in the new year. We want to be smarter so we succeed in our careers and finances and relationships and grow in understanding more about things that matter.  We want to be Faster—more productive with all we need to get done day to day or year to year—talk about next week.  We want to be Stronger, healthier people–inside and out–yet if you look at the graph of most Self-improvement efforts, there’s a huge spike in the first month or two of the year, followed by a roller coaster drop off.

The Power of Wisdom

So what if this year, we didn’t just resolve to get smarter, faster, stronger—but wiser about all of it?

There’s lot of information and knowledge at your fingertips, but if it doesn’t help you live better it’s foolishness. Wisdom makes the difference. We can get better at getting things done, but if we’re productive in the wrong things we’ll end up climbing the ladder of success to the top, realize the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Wisdom changes that.  We can be in shape, healthy, strong, beautiful on the outside, but if you’re spiritually weak, you won’t find lasting love, peace or joy, courage, inner strength. Wisdom can help you gain both.

So we’re gonna look at the book of Proverbs in the Bible.

The Wisdom of King Solomon

Solomon was king in Jerusalem around 900 B.C., asked God for wisdom to be a good ruler for people—God honored that prayer for wisdom, he ruled the wealthiest, most creative, peaceful Kingdom of that age. Kings and Queens came from Asia and Africa to learn God’s wisdom, which Solomon wrote into pithy Proverbs.

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior doing what is right and just and fair. Proverbs 1:1-3

Solomon was the wealthiest man alive, when he compares the value of money and stuff to Wisdom, he says:

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold.11 For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it. Proverbs 8:10-11

Why?  Because Wisdom right orders all other things—all blessings can become a curse without wisdom. Ever known really smart, knowledgeable people no one could stand? Or really successful productive people who blew up their marriage and kids and no one liked?

But wisdom leads to a well-ordered life—that’s why it’s so valuable—it helps us get the most out of all things.] Jesus is the human example of God’s Wisdom pressed fully into flesh.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52

This month as we seek self-improvement:

  • Read a Chapter of Proverbs a day (31 chapters)
  • Read a chapter of Matthew (28 chapters) to see how Jesus lived out this wisdom.
Getting Smarter

We can miss the depth of  our Humanity if we have knowledge, but no wisdom.

But we have to seek wisdom.

Think about how much information now bombards us. Smartphones constantly stream information, but this is not necessarily making us better people.

I found a book called Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg. I found the book after we named this series. Duhigg studied the most productive people to discover wise commonalities. Regarding information, he writes:

“In theory, the ongoing explosion in information should make the right answers more obvious.
In practice, though, being surrounded by data often makes it harder to decide.”

He talks about how more information streaming to us through social media and the internet and phones can actually make us less wise in decision making–if we don’t have a framework for processing it. The problem is not that Social Media or mass information is bad, it’s the lack of Wisdom in how to use it.

Proverbs says:

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:2-6 

God is the Source of Wisdom.

Makes sense, only God understands how all knowledge fits together and the meaning of it all. So Wisdom takes knowledge and brings understanding—and that’s what comes from God when we seek God’s wisdom. See, someone is giving you a framework for processing information—either other people through your education or your parents, or your friends.

Since people historically have motives other than your best interest, shouldn’t you seek God’s wisdom as a framework?

Wisdom right orders all you do, but you have decide to seek God’s wisdom.

Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

This Fear is not fear of punishment or fear of anger. The word might better be translated as “Awe, Reverence, Great Respect.”

God is love. That’s what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

  • No one loves you more.
  • No one has your best interest in mind more.
  • God is also infinite in power and knowledge.
  • God is the Source of life, joy, peace, excitement.

If you truly understood how good God is and crazy in love with you God is, you’d be beside yourself and in awe.

That’s what Jesus was like – wisdom embodied – which is why so many struggling, hurting, sinful, needing to improve people were drawn to him. They felt hope to become more.

A Framework for Knowledge and Information

It means we have to be wise about knowledge and information. We need a way to sort, even pre-sort, what’s worth our time and what’s not.  We don’t want to get dumber and dumber with more and more information streaming at us, but no wisdom about what matters or how it’s shaping us. So how can we become wise people with knowledge and information?  Such an important question in our high-tech info-stuffed world.

So we need a framework for sorting information that leads to wiser choices. So let me suggest a framework in a series of questions as you’re streaming info on phone or computer, TV or reading books–so you get wiser, not just smarter like Alexa.

1.Will this matter to me 30 years from now and if so why? 

Think about this. All the information and time spent keeping up with social media, news, this feed, that feed, YouTube videos…All the possible books to read, knowledge to seek—it’s overwhelming. So how do you decide? You only have so much time, and you will never know all there is to know, it’s impossible. And just knowing information doesn’t help your life anyway—it’s knowing what to know, what it means, what will really matter in the long run.

So here’s wisdom in our information age. When you get lost in your phone or online—ask yourself “Will this matter to me in 30 years?” If not, do something with your time that will. Make yourself reflect on who you want to be—in 10 years, in 20 years, 30 years, eternity—you’re an eternal being

  • Is this information helping you gain the wisdom to become that person?
  • What are your goals in 10-20-30 years?
  • Is this information giving me greater wisdom that will help me with those goals—if not you’re wasting your time—read a good book.            
2.What knowledge do I need to seek?

If you’re going to be truly wise, don’t expect what you need to know to come find you—you have to go find it.

 “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment…I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me. I have riches and honor, as well as enduring wealth and justice. My gifts are better than gold…. Proverbs 8:12, 17-19

You have to search to find wisdom. If you seek out wisdom from God about what you need to know, you’ll discover knowledge and discernment, and it leads to success in other areas. But it starts with a decision: I’m going to really seek Wisdom from God. That’s why I’m challenging you to start reading God’s Wisdom found in the Bible.

Think about it, the Bible is the most widely read, widely translated book of all history, billions say its wisdom changed their lives for better—how can you say you’re smart if you haven’t even read the most read book of human history?

If you claim to follow Jesus, but don’t seek knowledge about him – that is not wise.

Remember—God is like your best friend, but the wisest, smartest best friend—so He cares about all that you care about and wants to right-order it so it actually gives life to you.

Pray through the areas of your life in light of those 10-20-30 year goals.

Career wise—ask “What do I need to be learning? Lord, lead me to the right books or information because You know I will need for my future.”

God is real, and Wisdom, and if you’ll engage him as real, he’ll really direct you.

Pray for Wisdom, then search for it.

Don’t just assume wisdom and discernment will come across your facebook feed—you have to seek it out.

3.Will this help me be the person God created me to be?

Knowledge and information are not unimportant, they shape us. We shouldn’t just be passively shaped. What we ingest informationally, shapes us.

Ask: “Is this helping me become the person God created me to be?”

Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist who wrote the Science of the Reading Brain. She says:

“We are not only what we read. We are how we read.”

Dr. Wolf says the reading we do on the internet puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, weakening our capacity for a kind of deep reading that most shapes us. We become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections remains largely disengaged. Deep reading, Dr. Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking. If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.”

The Proverbs says of God that

He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.11 Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.12 Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. Proverbs 2:8-12

Be wise about what flows through your mind—it’s shaping you. Don’t eliminate reading books that make you think and reflect on who you are—scanning content without times for deeper reflection make you a shallow person. Neuroplasticity Researchers say it literally reshapes your brain.

Now, sometimes we’re just browsing information or content for entertainment—for a good mind-numb.  I get that. Sometimes I need a mental break, but don’t think your mental break isn’t shaping who you’re becoming — make sure that mental break is a wise one.

4.Will this help me love God or people better?

There’s a KEY to Knowledge – Love!

The religious leaders of Jesus day knew a lot, most learned scholars, lots of Bible knowledge, but it puffed them up in pride rather than love. Jesus said:

“What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” Luke 11:52

What Jesus is saying is ultimately, the key to knowledge is found in God’s kingdom will and ways—which Jesus summarized as “Love God, Love People.”

Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Ultimately knowledge can be a weapon that puffs us up, tears others down, or a tool to love God by building up others.

So as you stare at your phone or computer, ask these 4 questions as A Framework for Wisdom:

  • Will this Matter to me in 30 years?
  • What knowledge do I need to seek?
  • Will this help me become the person God intended?
  • Will this help me love God or people better?
Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!