Fifty-two Weeks of Wisdom

The Big Ask (#52Wisdom)

morning_prayer_at_tilghman_island_narrowsPray

God of all creation, as I move into this new year, I am humbled by the invitation to practice a rhythm of renewal, with faith for a fresh start. Your word says that the old is gone and new has come. Help me to trust that your grace is sufficient for whatever lies behind, whatever is with me now, and whatever is to come. As I enter in to this study of what your Word says about wisdom, I confess that I have so much to learn and to put into practice. Please help me to stay the course. Enable me to make time for study. Empower me to act on what I learn. Fill me with your light and your love as I seek to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Amen.

Read

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. (James 1:2-6 ESV)

Reflect

You and a friend from church had a misunderstanding. You walked away offended, and so did she. After you had a chance to cool down, pray, and process, you went to your friend to talk through what happened, but her posture toward you remained hostile and she rejected your efforts at reconciliation. Now when you see her, you get a sick feeling in your stomach. You know this is not how things are supposed to be between sisters in Christ, but what can you do? You tried! You can feel bitterness toward her growing in your heart, but you’re at a loss for how to proceed.

You need wisdom.

Your child is struggling at school. You have been given several conflicting pieces of advice on how best to address the issues he’s facing, but nothing seems like the right approach to you. You’re beginning to feel like his academic future is at risk if you don’t get him the help he needs ASAP.

You need wisdom.

You’ve been offered a great job opportunity, but the new position would have a major impact on your family life, affecting your availability to your husband and children during the work week. You could really use the extra money, and it would be so good to be back among adults after having been home with little ones 24/7, but at what cost to your family?

You need wisdom.

Your husband has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He has been given several possible treatment plans, from traditional western medicine to eastern and naturopathic approaches. There is not enough research for this specific type of cancer to guide you with facts and data, so you feel like you’re flying blind.  But you and he need to decide how to proceed, and you need to decide quickly.

You need wisdom.

You have a dear friend who does not share your faith. Lately, you have felt led to encourage her to explore a relationship with Christ, but she has spiritual baggage from having been mistreated by Christians in the past, so you are trying to respect her feelings. Still, you feel like you’re being unfaithful to both her and God by not “going there.”

You need wisdom.

Your teenage daughter has fallen into a deep emotional pit. You think she might be doing self-harm, but you don’t have proof, and the thought of talking with her about it terrifies you.

You need wisdom.

A co-worker you have enjoyed a good rapport with for the past year or so has suddenly expressed inappropriate feelings for you. You love your job and don’t want to leave it, but the emotions that have been stirred up are making it hard for you to work, and you are mourning the loss of what had been, you thought, a great friendship.

You need wisdom.


 

These few anecdotes are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, we face interactions and decisions that require wisdom, from the most mundane of tasks to the most significant, potentially life-altering choices. From how we spend our time to how we spend our money, from how we speak to how we serve, we need wisdom beyond ourselves. But how often do we seek out such wisdom? And from where to we seek it?

The entire letter James wrote to the Jews of the Dispersion is aimed at equipping those who follow Christ to stay the course of faith and to live lives that reflect the goodness and grace of God. It is “a book about practical Christian living that reflects a genuine faith that transforms lives.” And from the very start, before he gets into the practical details of what this looks like (cultivating humility and gratitude, doing good works prompted by faith, exercising self-control and grace when it comes to the words that come out of our mouths), he points to wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.” This is the core idea to focus on this week. Because before we can cultivate humility, before we can enter in to doing good works and caring for the most vulnerable among us, before we can expect to exercise self-control when it comes to the things we say–we need to ask for God’s wisdom.

James says more about what God’s wisdom looks like later on in this book:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18 ESV)

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” As I listen to news podcasts (especially during election season) or look at how people often interact on Facebook, it becomes blatantly clear that we do not live in a culture that values wisdom from above. Instead, we are by and large reactionary, confrontational, harsh, unreasonable, unmerciful, totally partial to our own way of thinking, and often cynical.

What would it look like, I wonder, if people were to commit themselves to seeking out and being saturated by wisdom from above? Can you imagine a world where peace, kindness, mercy, and sincerity were the norm? Can you imagine yourself as someone whose life and character are marked by these things?

When I think about growing as such a person, which is my desire, I imagine that it would affect every aspect of my life, from how I speak to my husband when I’m frustrated to how I pray when a situation seems hopeless. If my life were saturated by wisdom from above, my words would be thoughtful rather than reactionary, seasoned with grace rather than poisoned with bitterness. My desire would be for reconciliation, rather than being right. I would be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

But how do we get there? If walking in such wisdom is the goal, what is the means?

From my reading of this passage (and the entire book of James), it seems that such wisdom is, simply put, a gift of grace. It cannot be mustered up, it cannot be put-on, and it cannot be willed from somewhere deep inside ourselves. It can only be received with open hearts by the one who asks for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom,” James says, “let him or her ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

It seems way too simple. Where is the work? Yet that is the paradox of grace. We cannot work for it. We can simply receive it.

Apply

Pure. Peaceable. Gentle. Open to reason. Full of mercy and goodness. Impartial. Sincere. These traits are our goal, if we are seeking to live as faithful followers of Christ. But they don’t just happen. James says from the beginning that such wisdom must be sought out, asked for in humility, and received from God. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

As we move into this new year, let’s make it a new habit to ask God for wisdom–frequently, and with faith. Not just “when we need it,” but all the time, as part of our regular prayer life. Whether we are facing a big decision or simply needing a general personal transformation, the key is to ask.

And so, we ask. Lord, give me wisdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

 

Additional Resources

Week One Printable: a free PDF containing four images of this week’s verse. You are encouraged to print them, cut them out, and place them in areas of your life (home, car, desk) where you will see them often throughout the week.

Week One Smartphone Wallpaper: an image formatted for your smartphone featuring this week’s verse. You are encouraged to make this your wallpaper for the week, so you will see it every time you use your phone.

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12 thoughts on “The Big Ask (#52Wisdom)

  1. Thank you so much for putting together this weekly study. I am at a similar place as you as far as your previous post and coming out of a season of extreme busyness and the grace running thin and yesterday’s bread being rotten. I have been looking for something to move me forward into this new year and am very encouraged and inspired through the idea of 52 weeks of wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to put this together even though I know you still have lots pulling for your attention!

  2. Thanks Christy! Great words of encouragement and challenge as I enter the New Year! We desperately need wisdom as we navigate the teen years!

  3. Christy, Thanks so much for doing this. It’s been a very long time since I read any of the book of James. I too, am at a place in life where I desperately need wisdom for many major phases and decisions in this time. Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday! xo, CMB

  4. Wisdom . . . a wonderful topic to begin, continue, and end the year. I look forward to each week’s post and am seeking wisdom in my relationships which need restoring. Thanks for a great start!

  5. The danger for me in reading a post about studying wisdom is “I’ve heard it all before-what could I possibly learn?”…..and it’s not you, it’s me, obviously. The problem there is I become immune to the power of the words (not to mention, that’s a terrible attitude. yikes.) However, my spiritual ears perked up when I read the Scripture about being ‘quick to hear and slow to speak.’ THAT reminded me my focus this year is learning to listen better and longer, and for that I will need God’s wisdom and grace. I’m also encouraged by the truth that the grace we receive is a gift from God–we can’t make it happen. I want to learn to rest in that. Thank you.

    1. I hear you, Jody. That is a danger for anyone who has been a student of the Bible for a long time. It’s so easy to gloss over things because we don’t expect to be surprised. I’m humbled that you (and other women who are your peers) are with me here. I have so much to learn from the likes of you (and I am learning from you — all of you!) I’m grateful for your encouragement and virtual presence here. XOXO

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