"So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly." Ecclesiastes 7:25
Solomon asked God for wisdom and became wiser than any other king on earth. There’s no disputing the vast stores of wisdom he amassed, much of which is recorded in the bible. But Solomon did not always act wisely.
Going against God’s design for monogamous marriage is certainly not wise. Did Solomon actually think he could marry 300 women, have 700 more babes on the side and there wouldn’t be any negative consequences? No strife and no difficulties? He knew the danger of being led astray by courting foreign women. God had warned against this. Yet the playboy King had lots of lovers of various descent. He was playing with fire and he knew it. The allure of using that kingly power for indulging in sexual escapades with beautiful women was too great to resist. He sowed unto the flesh and reaped a whirlwind of heartache because of it.
The canonical book of Proverbs stands as a strong warning against foolishness, wickedness and folly. Poignantly, it proclaims the riches of godliness and wisdom.
Keeping a diary and recording the lessons we learn as we go through life is profoundly profitable. And once a person suffers the consequences of a bad decision in one of those life-events, nobody can rightly say that he is not qualified to speak on the issue, whatever it may be.
I’m picturing Solomon, who wrote most of Proverbs, recording life-happenings as a very young fellow, learning through sundry experiences—sometimes the hard way. Maybe one of his journal entries read something like this. “Note to self: ‘Don’t pull on a dog’s ears unless you want to get bit. It is foolish to do so.”
Perhaps somewhere along the line Solomon meddled in someone else’s arguments and difficulties, which had nothing to do with him. Ending up embroiled in a mess he could have avoided by minding his own business, he would have learned another valuable lesson. So he uses both incidents to write one of my favorites. “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” Proverbs 26:17 (NIV)
However it was that Solomon learned these two pearls of wisdom, I’m glad he records those warnings for us. We can heed his counsel, and learn the easy way. We don’t have to make those mistakes ourselves.
I’m convinced Thomas Edison was scoffed at for goofing around trying to invent the light bulb after thousands of failures. But through a process of elimination, he was finally successful. Now, we don’t have to try all those things that don’t work to make a light bulb, because he’s already found out for us what does not work.
I remember a certain pastor who ridiculed another minister for counselling a young married couple in marital affairs. He said the man was not qualified to give counsel on marriage because he’d been through a divorce. Of course his divorce was long before he’d been called to the ministry. Who in their right mind would go to a divorcee for marital advice? I would. Why? Because that man has made the mistakes and knows what to not do! Besides, if he is a spirit-led minister, God would be directing him on how to counsel others. And God knows all things.
So how do we gain wisdom? What does the bible have to say about it? James 1:4 lays the ground work for verse 5, which speaks of wisdom.
“And let endurance (patience) have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.…”
Notice the element of time in gaining wisdom. This accounts for good decisions, which bring favorable outcomes, as well poor choices resulting in bad happenings. The words endurance in the NIV and patience in the KJV, both require the element of time to be perfected. And whether one learns them through mistakes or otherwise, the important thing is that we have learned them.
Patient endurance while trusting God is the road to wisdom.
Remaining steadfast in faith while patiently enduring all that life throws at us, in conjunction with seeking the Lord’s mind on every issue, is the path to godly wisdom. I think each of us probably has a few regrets. And we’ve learned a thing or two the hard way, whether it was rushing into a bad marriage, discovering that fire will burn you, or any number of things. So let’s not discount others because of past mistakes or failures. They may have experiences which we can benefit from, just as Solomon made his share of bad choices. Yet we learn much from his writings.
Gaining wisdom is a process—one in which we can be proactively engaged.
Let’s review what we’ve discussed and latch ahold of these 7 keys to wisdom. Note: This is not an exhaustive list.
1. Ask God for wisdom and heed His counsel. ie: Obey Him.
2. Keep a journal of things you’ve learned and how you’ve come to understand them.
3. Study God’s word, the bible.
4. Maintain humility: Have a teachable spirit.
5. Be patient and understand that it takes the element of time.
6. Learn from your mistakes.
7. Every person in your life has something to contribute to your wisdom.
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