Spiritual Wisdom

“I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”
‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Apostle Paul, languishing in his prison cell, was on a different plane. In a different zone. His thoughts were focused on his friends in the Ephesian church. I can just imagine him smiling to himself as he brought into his mind one person after another. And he never stopped thanking God for them. Just as an aside, when was the last time we thanked God for our family and our church friends? Truly, a zone worth spending time in, because God has gifted us with people around us. It might not feel that way sometimes but He did!

Paul continues in these verses by assuring his readers that he constantly prays for them. And not just random prayers, “Please bless …”, but a specifically focused prayer for wisdom. He could have prayed for protection, for finances, for all sorts of things, but he instead narrowed his focus to the topic of spiritual wisdom. This morning the story of Solomon came into my mind from 1 Kings 3. In a dream, God asked Solomon what He could give him. And Solomon’s humble response unfolds in the story, with his request for wisdom. God’s response to Solomon was, “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!”. So Solomon received a double blessing – God was pleased with Solomon’s request. And the memory of this encounter between God and Solomon has coined the phrase, “You’ll need the wisdom of Solomon to sort that issue out” or something similar.

Wisdom appears high up on God’s list of gifts. Without it we cannot function well in this life. And Paul, in praying for the Ephesians, obviously knew that. In that more unstable society he could have prayed for gifts such as protection and security. But it had to be wisdom.

So what is Spiritual Wisdom? It starts with having an effective and intimate relationship with God. From that can come guidance and insights that provide the optimum response and reaction to life’s problems and challenges. But there’s more. As we spend time in God’s presence, getting His take on life events, following His wise paths, we start to understand how He is thinking. We find out that His approach to our fellow inhabitants and situations on this planet is often very different to ours. We find out that our initial responses to the hassles and injustices of life are totally at odds with His, at least for most of the time.

So Paul, in his wisdom-prayers for his dear friends back in Ephesus, knew what they needed. Then, as now, being a Christian was not an easy path to follow. Wisdom is an essential ingredient for the pilgrim. Wisdom will ease the trail before us, helping us to avoid the man-traps and the boulders the enemy will place in our way. Please God, give us wisdom, Your wisdom. Amen.

Credentials

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The first verse in the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians contains much information. Paul starts by claiming his apostleship – the account of his conversion from a Christian hunter and persecutor to a Christian maker and lover on the Damascus road can be read in Acts 9 and 22. History records Paul’s credentials as an apostle. The verse continues with a description of who the epistle, the letter, is addressed to. It wasn’t to everyone – just “God’s holy people”. Credentials describing those who faithfully followed Jesus. And because of the God-credentials of both the writer and the reader, God’s blessings of grace and peace in the second verse can be uttered and received, real and true.

What are my letter-writing credentials in life? In writing a similar letter to someone, how would I describe myself? Something like, “Fred, the husband of Chloe” or “John, the accountant in London”? Or perhaps something with spiritual weight, such as, “Matt, a believer in Jesus”? But how we describe ourselves, who we are and what we claim, will impact the receiver of our letter. Often, our self-description can be at odds with our behaviour though. Hmmm…

Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church would have been read out in a public meeting. And what a letter it was. The grace and love of God dripping through every stroke of his pen. And this epistle is read and re-read today, fresh and real, because of the credentials of the writer, Paul. A servant of God; a life dedicated to His service.

In our pilgrimage through life, we need letters. Epistles of encouragement, correction, guidance. Biblical accounts and passages that we can always refer to because God is in them. Step by step we can hear God’s voice, providing for us all we need. There is a man near me who lost his son to multiple sclerosis 30 or so years ago, and just last week he had to have his dog put to sleep because of an incurable spinal condition. And he is devastated by grief. The death of his son is still raw many years later and now the loss of his wee dog, who was like another son to him, has opened up all the old wounds. A pilgrim without the comfort and presence of God facing into the realities of life alone, uncomforted. And he has rejected the One Person who is able to help him. He needs a Letter, God Himself, to bring peace to his soul.

What do I need today? What do you need today? Whatever it is, there is a Letter written by the Creator of the Universe. Jesus came as God’s Word bringing the solution to all our worldly dilemmas and assuring us a future with the Letter Writer Himself. John 1:1-5 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” What a Letter Jesus is. His credentials are indisputable. Irrefutable. Eternal. And His letter is written just for you and me.

Obey for Wisdom

“Praise the Lord! 
I will thank the Lord with all my heart
as I meet with His godly people. 
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! 
All who delight in Him should ponder them.
All He does is just and good, 
and all His commandments are trustworthy. 
He has paid a full ransom for his people. 
He has guaranteed His covenant with them forever. 
What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has!
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. 
All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom. 
Praise Him forever!”
Psalms‬ ‭111:1-2, 7, 9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Psalm that starts and ends with the praise of God. And the Psalmist scratches down his thoughts of God’s goodness and mercy, His provision to His people, His trustworthy commandments and the wisdom available to His people. In this Psalm there is perhaps even a prophetic glimpse of the coming Messiah, peering round the edge of the parchment. 

But there is a profound, far-reaching, and even mind-blowing statement in verse 10. Can we really achieve “true wisdom” by following God’s commandments? It might be said that there are many around lacking wisdom but who have still kept the commandments. But the Bible has many more “commandments” than those we find in Exodus 20. The word implies what is perhaps a way of life, a mindset devoted to follow and understand God and His ways. A devotion to mine the diamonds contained within His Word, the Bible, bringing to the surface all the wisdom-thoughts contained there. A commitment to assimilate God’s ways, thoughts and instructions, that have been implanted in print over a period of 4000 years or so. Accumulated wisdom that is available for our use. It’s all about aligning our lives away from the materialistic and worldly secularism around us and instead adopting a life-style crafted and modelled on God and His Kingdom. The driver for all of this is the use of the word “fear”. But it’s not a meaning that implies the thought that God could zap us any time we stray out of line. Instead it is the thought that He is our real, living, and ever-present Creator, inviting us to respond to Him with a holy respect, a sense of awe, and a serious appreciation of who He is. 

The word “obey” isn’t a popular one either. It conjures up thoughts of subservience at odds with our “Me – it’s all about me” society. Thoughts of “Who are you to tell me what I should do” rise up within us and lead us down a destructive path of rejection of God’s ways, of God’s commandments. But God has placed His wisdom within His Word for us to find and apply in our lives, and to do that we have to adopt an obedient and willing attitude, gratefully embracing all God has for us. And by doing so, His wisdom makes the transition from the pages into our hearts. 

The Bible is a wonderful book. It is truly “God-breathed” and I constantly marvel that every time I read a few verses, something new leaps out of the page. Let’s redouble our efforts in reading His Word – it won’t do us any harm, and it might just save our lives.