One of our sons recently said to me, “Dad, you’re the wisest man I know.” I was humbled by these words of appreciation because I know how foolish I can be at times.
I just don’t think of myself in these terms. If I had said, “Yes, your father is wise and it took you too long to find out” I would have exposed my lack of wisdom.
I think about the warning from Proverbs 3:7 not to be “wise in your own eyes.”
Perhaps even the title of my blog (Wisdomforlife) could sound a little arrogant as if someone should look to me for wisdom. The truth is “the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). And “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Don’t ever follow my counsel if it doesn’t line up with God’s truth!
But my son’s compliment caused me to reflect on an intense time in my life just before I began pastoral ministry (29 years ago). I distinctly remember a prayer that filled my heart during that time. The scene from which this prayer originated is amazing.
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you'” (I Kings 3:5).
What would you have asked for? Long life? Prosperity for you and your loved ones? Wealth and influence?
“Solomon answered, ‘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.
“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. 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?'” (I Kings 3:6-9).
In thinking about God calling me to pastoral work, I quickly identified with this prayer. But after spending a bit of my life running the streets of Philadelphia and finally being thrown out of High School, there were plenty of rough edges for God to refine. I adopted this as my prayer and then found that the path has often felt like an uphill climb with the wind in my face. Yet God has used it to remind me that He “put His treasure in a jar of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7). I had no idea what it would involve to answer my prayer for wisdom.
Wisdom is not easily gained! Scripture says that, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” (Proverbs 22:15). Words alone will not dislodge the foolishness. Sometimes I’ve been confused and discouraged because I ‘ve felt that God’s “rod of discipline” has been heavy on my life. But dislodging the foolishness has not been an easy project. How true are these words of Scripture,
“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10-11).
The rest of the story
“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for — both wealth and honor — so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
still learning to walk in obedience by grace,