Today we concluded our series called Fresh: Prayer Recipes for a Changed Life at Gateway Church in Austin.
We should pray for wisdom to make the best decisions for ourselves and others, with God’s guidance.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Big Idea: We need God’s wisdom to navigate the complexities of life.
If you are new to Gateway, you may not know that we refer to Sundays as our inspire service. Our goal is to help you, equip you, inspire you to take a next step in your spiritual journey.
- For some of you that could be to continue to explore God as you are considering who God is and who Jesus is.
- Maybe you are coming with a level of interest or curiosity or genuinely searching.
- Others of you have had an experience with God. At one point in your life, you may have surrendered your life to follow Jesus and discovered a relationship with God.
Wherever you are in your journey, there is always more. There is always an invitation to something deeper.
Now some of us may not be exploring God or trying to grow in your relationship with God. You may be here as a courtesy to a family member or a friend or because your kids want to be here. I want you to open your heart and mind to the possibility of more.
Sometimes crisis opens us up to the spiritual in ways the normal day to day may not.
At the beginning of the pandemic,
- a study by the University of Copenhagen found that google searches for prayer in ninety-five countries increased exponentially during the global pandemic.
- They found that prayer was relatively stagnant, but as the number of Covid cases rose, so did the number of internet searches on prayer, surging to the highest level in the past five years by March 2020.
- The pandemic unleashed an urgency to seek God in ways the world hasn’t in a while.
- For fun, do a google search on Covid 19 prayers, and you will find page after page of them.
Since the new year, we have been looking at some different ways the Bible shows us how to pray and seek God through a variety of different circumstances.
Each of them, so far, has been related to how to pray during times of difficulty, trial, or sin. It’s not surprising that times of crisis lead people to seek God for help and answers. But, we know that we need God above and beyond those times.
Our commitment to prayer and seeking God is a daily need, no matter what we’re facing.
Our hope is that you not turn to prayer as a last resort but as a first priority!
The Bible contains over 600 prayers, in addition to the book of Psalms which consists of another 150 prayers!
“Prayer is so great wherever you look in the Bible, it’s there. Why? Everywhere God is prayer is.”– Tim Keller
Today we’re going to end our series by talking about the importance of praying for wisdom.
This is a great place to land because it’s something we all need for any moment, each and every day. It also sets us up for our next series where we will explore this concept of wisdom and how to live by it in our daily lives.
We make thousands of decisions every day. A while back we did a message on how our decisions impact the world around us, they carry weight.
How often do we seek God in these decisions, especially the ones where we are unsure of what to do next?
We may respond in a variety of ways.
- Is our first thought to ask God for wisdom, or is it to text a friend or turn to the internet for our favorite influencer’s hot take on the subject?
- Or, maybe we do go to God for help with a decision, but really we’re looking for God to drop the answer from the sky?
“God, just tell me what to do, what is your will for my life?”
We just want to sit passively till God tells us what to do, instead of partnering with Him in living wisely.
With all the decisions we make in a day, with the multiple interactions we have with strangers and loved ones, we need God’s wisdom to navigate the nuances and complexities of life.
But what exactly is wisdom and why should I seek it?
What is wisdom?
There are many different ways to articulate the concept of wisdom, but what when we are talking about Biblical wisdom, it boils down to is this:
Wisdom is truth applied in context.
It isn’t about flashes of brilliant insight, it’s about knowing “Truth” in context, combined with the discipline to act.
This definition implies certain premises that we must be clear on if we are to pursue wisdom
We must acknowledge that there is Truth.
This runs counter to the trends of our culture that truth is something we determine or discover within ourselves, rather than something that is fixed by our creator.
That’s why we hear things like, “that’s your truth” or “speak your truth.”
We must acknowledge that Truth is deeply embedded in who God is, how He created the world, and how He has designed us (His image) to live in it.
By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place -Prov. 3:19
This truth can be found on the first page of the Bible. There is a design and order to which God created the world and a right and best way to live in it.
We must acknowledge that the world does not operate by God’s design, so life is messy and complex.
Wisdom was lost in the garden. The choice to eat from the one tree God said not to, was a choice to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong instead of choosing to submit to God’s definition. In other words, the choice resulted in doing what was “wise” in our own eyes instead of choosing to grow in God’s wisdom.
God’s wisdom no longer comes naturally to us. We are bent toward defining right and wrong for ourselves instead of submitting to God’s definition. And as a result, the world is not as it should be and we are not as we should be.
Whereas, certain decisions should be quite obvious, like, “Should I lie on my taxes or should I cheat on my spouse?”
Some decisions are messy and figuring out what is right or true can be really, really difficult.
An obvious place to go in Scripture to witness this reality is the story of Solomon. Although he was flawed in many ways, King Solomon is still renowned for His great wisdom and is believed to be responsible for penning most of what is known as wisdom literature in our Old Testament (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs). The genesis of Solomon’s wisdom is found in 1 Kings 3 when he has just assumed the throne of his father David. (David, the man after God’s heart who conquered nations, united the twelve tribes under a united monarchy and was promised by God to never lack a son to sit on his throne forever.) So, no pressure, Solomon!
It’s important to note, right off the bat, that Solomon “loved the LORD” and was “walking in the statutes of his father David.” It’s clear Solomon is beginning his reign from the best starting place, a relationship with God, when God appears to him in dream and makes a simple, yet astounding request-
“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” – 1 Kings 3:5
The God who created the universe out of nothing just handed Solomon a blank check and said “you name it. There is no limit.”
What would you ask God for?
Solomon’s response is baffling. He doesn’t ask for what you might think- wealth, power, military strength, although he gets that as a bonus.
Without hesitation he says, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.”
So, instead of first jumping into the answer to God’s questions, he takes time to acknowledges God’s faithfulness and goodness to his father and his people.
Then he continues-
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.”
Now we see Solomon acknowledging his own limitations. He is young and inexperienced and he has much self-awareness around that. He begins his reign humbly recognizing his place and the daunting role that is before him. Seems like he’s already off to a wise start!
And FINALLY, Somolon gets to the answer – 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Solomon is anywhere between 18-24. I don’t know about you, but at that age if someone handed me all that power, I would ask for something entirely different.
Of all the things he could ask for, he asks for a discerning heart, or more literally, a listening heart, to be able to lead God’s people from the place of knowing God’s definition of right and wrong.
It is a reminder of how much listening is involved in making wise decisions.
Solomon’s humble request reflects all of the premises we just talked about- he acknowledges that there is truth embedded in who God is, how he’s created the world and how he should live in it, but that governing this people is messy and he needs God’s wisdom to know how do it well.
This request pleased God so much that he tells him he will not only grant him “a wise and discerning mind, “like no one before him or after him” but also what he did not ask for- riches and honor like no king before or after. Pretty sweet deal!
Solomon’s wisdom is put to the test in the very next scene-
In 1 Kings 3:16-27, King Solomon demonstrates his wisdom when two women come to him with a baby, each claiming to be the child’s mother.
Solomon suggests cutting the baby in half and giving each woman half.
One woman agrees, but the other begs Solomon to spare the child’s life and give him to the other woman.
Solomon then identifies the real mother as the one who showed compassion and love for the child, and he awards her full custody of the baby.
This event showcases Solomon’s discernment and wisdom as a ruler.
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. 1 Kings 3:28
This scene shows us wisdom in action. His wisdom showed up in making the right decision given the information he had. The baby, in the end, went to the mother that truly cared about him.
Here see one important aspect of wisdom on display:
Wisdom is contextual (not black and white) because life and people are messy.
Do you ever come across people (or maybe you are like this yourself!) who always seem to have the answers for all the world’s problems? And you’re like, no, life is not that simple or clearcut! The right thing to do is not always black and white.
We all know this, right?
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with two kids who have been in a fight? Getting the full story is tricky and figuring out the right way to handle it is tough.
Truth applied in one situation may not work the same way in the next.
How you handle one situation with one of your kids is not necessarily the wise way to handle the same situation with another.
The way you lead some people in your workplace may be different from the way you need to lead others.
As we read on in Solomon’s story, God does indeed give him
and the ability to rule well so that His people are described as happy and flourishing. His wisdom was so great, it attracted people from all nations to travel to hear his great wisdom.
Here is another confirmation about wisdom-
God is pleased when we ask for wisdom and pleased to give it.
“It pleased the Lord that Solomon asked for this.” -1 Kings 3:10.
If wisdom is submitting to God’s definition of right and wrong and acting on it, would that not be something God is eager to dish out?
James, the half-brother of Jesus, and leader of the Jerusalem church wrote a letter clearly drawing from the wisdom of the book of proverbs. He says…
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5
God is not stingy with wisdom. He is delighted to give it to us. The problem is that we don’t ask for it.
One other thing we learn about wisdom from Solomon’s story-
Wisdom must continually be sought after.
It’s not a one and done thing, but something we must constantly choose and ask for. We see this to be true in the tragic end of Solomon’s story- he eventually abandons God’s wisdom.
Whereas, Solomon began his reign, loving God and walking in the ways of his father, David, it ends with him loving many foreign women and those women turning his heart after their gods.
You see, God’s secondary blessings of wealth, power, etc. became sources of downfall b/c Soloman didn’t steward the initial blessing of wisdom and God’s instruction to “walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life”- 1 Kings 3:14.
The consequence is disastrous, resulting in the fracturing of his great kingdom.
If he had only stuck to his own advice-
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Prov. 4:6-7
We never arrive and get our fill of God’s guidance in our lives.
Jesus was constantly getting away alone with God, we see this especially in key moments of weighty decisions.
If we are to know the truth embedded in who God is, we have to pursue knowing God for who He is. Praying for wisdom and getting to know God’s wisdom through His word must go hand in hand. If we want God’s wisdom, His answers to our problems, but we don’t want God, that is the road to foolishness.
Will I know what is wise when I see it?
Walking in God’s wisdom will often look foolish to the world.
It is a difficult choice and not necessarily popular.
As we learned recently through our series on Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The ways of God’s kingdom are upside down and to follow them may look ridiculous to those around us. It’s self-denial instead of self-indulgence; It’s forgiving instead of retaliating
Walking in wisdom requires courage.
Remember, biblical wisdom is truth APPLIED in context. It’s more than just knowing the right thing to do, but knowing how to do it and then acting on it.
This is challenging to do. In the age of information overload, where there are a plethora of voices and opinions vying for attention. Where we are instructed to just look inside ourselves to find truth and discover who we are. Where the culture’s idea of wisdom is to trust our emotions, intuitions, desires and follow our heart as faithful guides to living a good life.
One of the biggest hindrances to our pursuit of God’s wisdom to be aware of is the pervasive influence of technology and social media.
In his recent book called Digital Liturgies, author Samuel James makes this bold observation:
“In the online age, our default is to lose touch with reality… Every person living in a modern, digitally connected culture is constantly inhabiting a moral and intellectual habitat that distorts the biblical story of reality.”– Samuel James, author of Digital Liturgies
Whether we are aware of it or not, it forms and directs our loves and desires. We need to train ourselves to identify and interact with technology in positive ways that are uplifting and soul-forming (while also recognizing that our default is to doom-scroll towards our own malformation)
I’ve noticed that I have an urge to scroll when I have downtime or I’m just tired. It is compulsive. I want to mindlessly flip through funny videos of strangers, tips on how to make quick, easy meals, and how to parent my two year old. The truth is, though, that it is not mindless, or heartless. It affects both. I walk away feeling discontent and with the sudden desire to buy things I don’t need or be doing more with my life than God is asking me to do. I leave believing a different story than what’s actually true. I don’t like that. I don’t want to be formed by the images and voices on my screen, but by God’s word. He knows me best and He knows what’s best.
Walking in wisdom requires community.
We need others in our life to help us in this spiritual journey. Too often our Westernized viewpoint makes us so individualistic we refuse to ask for help or we isolate or we make decisions that keep us too busy for genuine relationships.
My life has changed so much because of this community. Gateway South has become like my extended family. Sundays are like a family reunion! God works in my heart through the worship, through the message, through the times in prayer, and through the conversations in the lobby before or after.
But Sundays are really just the beginning. True community happens in a group.
In this new season, I want to encourage you to step out of anonymity into a community.
If you aren’t in a group, today is a perfect day to choose one.
Whether it’s a serve group on Sunday mornings, a grow group to go deeper in Scripture, a heal group to help in a difficult life season, or a community group where you can meet others and belong.
Listen, the truth is there’s no context for following Jesus in isolation. Christianity can only be done in COMMUNITY.
Walking in wisdom produces good fruit.
Back to the question from the beginning, do we turn to the advice of others before turning to God or are we waiting for God to drop a sign from the sky on what we should do. If we are walking by God’s wisdom that will be evident by the fruit it produces.
Once again, James sheds some light on this truth.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. – James 3:13-16
There are two kinds of wisdom here, the “wisdom” of the world, which produces things like bitter envy and selfish ambition.
James goes on to explain that the wisdom that comes from God is “ is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
Would it be wise to post this comment on facebook?
What am I hoping it will produce in me and others?
We can recognize wisdom from its fruit.
Life is messy and not black and white; we need God’s wisdom to navigate the complexities of life.
Many of us are facing tough questions, some of them showed up in the prayer cards over these 3 weeks of pray first
- God, give me the wisdom to know how to be a light to my children who are far from you.
- Give me the wisdom to know how to navigate the mental health of loved ones.
- Help me know how to talk to my child about their struggle with sexuality or gender.
- Should I move my family or stay put?
- Should I get a new job?
These are difficult decisions and we’re terrified to make the wrong move. Here’s the good news.
We can pray for wisdom. Praying for God’s wisdom over our own, is how we continue to surrender to His idea of human flourishing. It’s saying, God I trust you and submit to what you say is best, not what I think is best.
We can read and reread God’s word where we find the story of God’s wisdom and how we are designed to live in it.
We can let others walk with us. We have so many ways to connect with others where you can know and be known by them. Step into a group where you can navigate the complexities of life with those who are also doing the same. We are not meant to do it alone.
Solomon had wisdom beyond imagination, but even he failed to live by God’s wisdom completely.
And there were many who came before and after him that showed potential, but ultimately failed as well.
Then Christ came, the one who submitted to God’s wisdom perfectly in every situation. He is the Truth and Wisdom personified.
When tempted to choose His own way, He remained faithful.
The wisest thing we could ever do is choose Him, love Him, and be like Him in the world. If you’ve yet to take that pivotal step toward Jesus, which means to turn from choosing what’s right in your own eyes toward Jesus’ perfect wisdom, receiving the gift of what He has done for you, and committing to following Him with your whole life, that invitation is open for you today. Please come talk to someone on our prayer team about taking this next step.
Today, we’re going to see Jesus’ wisdom on display as we witness people taking the step to publicly identify with him through baptism and submit to following Him with their whole lives.
Stick around to support them and if you’ve never been baptized before, but think this might be your next step, come talk to one of our pastors or leaders up at the front to find out more.
Let’s close with this famous prayer for wisdom by Reinhold Niebur, one that we say every Monday night at Restore. It’s the Serenity Prayer. Would you say it with me?
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.