Do you have a theme that seems to continually stand out to you as you read in Scripture, or one that feels very close to your heart?
For me, that would be wisdom. I’ve read through the book of Proverbs more times than I can count, and it still comes alive for me with each new perusal (maybe more so every time). I never tire of hearing about, studying, or learning to live out this topic. Wisdom applies so directly to practical, daily life, which is probably why I gravitate toward this so much; I definitely tend to be a practical sort of person.
I’m sure this contributes to the fact that one of my most cherished “lifeline” verses is James 1:5 (and if you’ve been a reader here long enough you’ll almost certainly have seen it in other posts).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
I don’t like this verse just because it sounds good: this verse has proven to be true again and again as I have asked God for wisdom in every sphere of life. He has shown Himself to be faithful to His word.
Wisdom, Faith, or Both?
It struck me recently after reflecting on a number of conversations throughout the years that there seems to be a trend: Christians have the proclivity toward focusing more on either faith or wisdom. Those of us who lean toward the wisdom side can sometimes downplay the importance of faith in everyday life (again, going back to that practicality element). Conversely, those who are drawn to the subject of living by faith can sometimes downplay the role wisdom is supposed to have practically in the life of a believer.
In short, we can either tend to be over-practical or over-spiritual.
But are these two at odds with each other? Absolutely not.
If you continue to read past James 1:5 (above) to verse 6, it says,
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
This is a wonderful illustration of how faith and wisdom work together. True wisdom can only come from God, and begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). But this ultimately starts with being grounded in faith: believing God is who He says He is and placing our trust in Him (Romans 1:16-17). For the believer, faith and wisdom go hand-in-hand.
Without faith, there can be no true wisdom. And faith is evidenced by a life full of God-given wisdom.
So, how do faith and wisdom work together in our everyday life?
Defining Faith and Wisdom
First, let’s define faith and wisdom according to the Bible.
Faith is: “The assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith is believing and walking in the reality of truth we cannot see: that there is a triune God, that Jesus died for our sins, that the Holy Spirit dwells inside followers of Jesus, that God is going before us and will never leave us on our own, and that one day we will see Him face-to-face (to name a few). We believe these not because we have tangible evidence in front of our physical eyes, but because we believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. And, as we choose to believe and walk in them, we experience the realness of these unseen truths more and more with each passing day.
It’s a bit harder to find a verse that defines exactly what wisdom is, but I think Charles Spurgeon summarizes it quite well:
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.”
In essence, wisdom is taking what we know, and applying it correctly to everyday life. Someone can be very, very knowledgeable about a certain subject, even knowing many facts about something like the Bible. But unless we are diligent to seek God for wisdom, we will veer from applying this knowledge—or any knowledge—correctly.
What Walking in Faith is Not
Judah and I have had many conversations with others who are wrestling with what walking in faith really means (we’ve had to wrestle through it ourselves, too). Often, these people feel directionless and stagnant because they are waiting around for God to drop a lightning bolt showing them what the next step in their lives is supposed to look like. They are afraid that if they choose one of a few good options that are in front of them without being absolutely certain it’s the right choice, they will be in disobedience to the Lord. But that’s actually not what walking in faith means. Walking in faith often requires taking steps forward; unsure of exactly what the outcome might be, but spurred on and motivated by the fear of the Lord (Hebrews 11 is a great passage on this).
Where Wisdom and Faith Meet
When walking in faith requires us taking two roads that both seem as though they would be honoring to the Lord, this is exactly the time when God wants us to apply the knowledge He has given us—both through His Word and in the world around us—with wisdom. Too often we think in terms of right and wrong when, really, neither might necessarily be wrong. In these situations we should instead be thinking in terms of “which of these seems wiser?”
I often use the following example:
When I am going about a normal day, I have a list of things that need to be accomplished, all of them good and important tasks. These might include folding laundry, picking up groceries, replying to an email, and changing the sheets on the beds. But I don’t sit back and wait for a “sign from the Lord” as to which of these I should do first, or second, or third. I’m not afraid that I’ll be disobedient if I choose to go grocery shopping when, maybe, I should have folded the laundry. That’s because, I know that all of these things I’m doing are under the banner of a life of faith. They are good tasks that I am called to in this season of my life. It is wisdom that informs my decisions as to what the next right thing is in that moment. This doesn’t mean God can’t step in supernaturally and make it exceedingly clear that He wants me to do one of these things over the other – sometimes He does. But that isn’t the norm, it’s the exception.
Now, I know there are some life decisions that hold far more weight than whether we choose to fold laundry or pick up groceries: who we marry, vocation choices, whether we do overseas missions, and so on. However, we can still take this same principle and apply it to these bigger choices we’re faced with. We examine ourselves to be sure we’re walking in biblically-defined faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), and then we ask God for wisdom as we move forward. God will usually bring clarity, but often it is after we have chosen to take a step in faith informed by wisdom.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to be very helpful in deepening in my understanding of how faith and wisdom work together.
1. Fix Your Eyes on Christ, Not on Your Decisions
When we have significant decisions to make, it can be very easy to become hyper-focused on figuring out that decision. But some of the most valuable advice my husband and I have received from godly mentors in our lives is to fix our eyes on Christ, not on the decision. When our focus is primarily on the decision, it can cause anxiety, confusion, and spiritual near-sightedness. But when our eyes are on God, we can rest in His faithfulness, love, and direction. When He is our focus, we remember the ways He has led us in the past, and believe His promise to make our path clear as we trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Practically, how might this look? For us, it has often meant a deliberate choice to commit the decision to Him, then do the next right in front of us right now (which usually is a “normal” thing like changing a diaper or making a meal). It might then include intentionally expressing gratitude for His displays of goodness. It may be purposefully meditating on the Gospel, returning to the fundamentals of our lives as believers. It also probably will include delighting in the practical joys of life like time with friends and family. And, most likely, it is some mix of all of them!
Ask the Lord what fixing your eyes on Him in this season looks like on a daily, practical level as you anticipate upcoming decisions in your life.
2. Study Faith and Wisdom
We hear the words “faith” and “wisdom” used in a myriad of contexts and ways today that can cause confusion as to what they truly mean. But we need look no further than the Bible to give us a correct understanding of these topics and how they apply to our lives.
You could start by doing a word study on each of these (in the ESV there are 278 uses of “faith” and 213 uses of “wisdom.” That will keep us busy for a while).
Note the various ways these words are used. Consider the contexts. Ask God to sink these truths deeply into your heart and mind, and to give you understanding. He will not leave you hanging.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdomProverbs 2:1-6
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”Hebrews 11:6
One of Judah’s and my favorite sayings is, “Do what you do in faith.” And I’m gonna add something to that: “Do what you do in faith informed by wisdom.”
God is the one who grants us the grace to walk by faith, and the one who provides wisdom as we seek to live in faithful obedience in every sphere of life. It is all from Him, through Him, and unto Him. And He will be faithful to sustain us and guide us until the day we see Him face-to-face.
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