Wisdom and Prudence and Important
Ephesians 1:7-10 (ESV)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Paul was writing here, and he mentioned 2 key words, wisdom and prudence (or insight), linking these words with knowing the mystery of His will, which is set forth in Christ. Clearly these 2 words are important, especially if we want to know God’s will for our lives.
Those of us who know God believe that He has a will for our lives. He says,
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Well, God might know, but we often don’t know what He knows. God’s will is described in today’s text as a mystery. The English word comes from the Greek word MYSTERION, meaning something secret or hidden; not plainly seen.
So many people want to know God’s will, or the Universes or whatever, for their life. People tell me all the time, I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t seem to have purpose and I’m not sure of God’s will for my life.
There are 2 aspects to knowing God’s will…
How can you know God’s will for your life if you cannot hear His voice. On occasions He might speak supernaturally, but mostly He speaks by His Word. The more you know and understand the Word of God, the more you will know and understand God’s will for your life.
In my experience God speaks out of my daily Bible reading, not random openings of the Bible.
Matthew 27:5 (ESV)
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, Judas departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Luke 10:37 (ESV)
And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
And some things are easy to hear and easily understood. Some things are pretty clearly spelled out. The Ten Commandments lay out some pretty straightforward ideas that most of humanity loosely agrees with.
Is it God’s will that you should murder someone? No, Exodus 20:13. Does He want you to steal, or be envious or covet someone’s stuff? Nope, Exodus 20:15,17. Interestingly, even people who do not know God, inherently know that adultery is not right. Their conscience picks them. Might not stop them doing it, but most agree that stepping out on your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend is not right.
So God’s will in moral issues to me is most often pretty clear, if you listen to Him and not the cacophony of media and social media.
And God doesn’t have moral laws to mess up our life, but to protect us.
But what about His individual will for you. This is the second part of knowing God’s will…
God will lead you into an incredible destiny, but not if you disobey Him. If you refuse to obey, the penalty is that you reap what you sow. Many times you get what you selfishly deserve.
Proverbs 1:29-31 (ESV)
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my (wisdoms) counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
Galatians 6:7 (ESV)
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
If your life is a mess, if it is in disarray, chances are it is the product of your own poor decisions. I see it all the time! People make unwise decisions, then blame God for the results, when He never told them to do those things. A girl sleeps around then gets mad at God when she falls pregnant. A guy gets drunk and drives and then blames God that he loses his licence.
Obey God and you will find His will for your life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
WISDOM AND PRUDENCE
So let’s get back to looking at these 2 key words form knowing God’s will. When we come to God we ask Jesus into our life as our Saviour, meaning we are redeemed, that is bought back by the blood of Jesus and set free from death and hell, and also as our Lord, meaning we listen to Him and obey Him.
In contrast to man’s empty philosophies, the apostle Paul declares that the second result of redemption is that God, through Christ, has given us wisdom and prudence – or “knowledge and insight.”
How profound! Only through Jesus Christ can we have true wisdom and prudence, genuine knowledge and insight. Men have been groping around philosophising and searching for both of these for millennia, when all they have to do is open the pages of God’s Word. Let’s look at these 2 words in depth.
The Greek for wisdom is “sophia”, a very important word to the Greeks. It spoke of a quality or attitude rather than an action. Its basic meaning, according to Aristotle, is “knowledge of the most precious things.”
While Aristotle didn’t fully know what the most precious things were, he did have the main concept right. It referred to deep knowledge and learning, “implying cultivation of mind and enlightened understanding.” In other words, sophia speaks of the knowledge of deep things, the things that really matter, in fact, the things that matter most.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV)
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
My Dad was a smart guy, but being a farmer, he was a simple guy. He couldn’t recite pi to the 10th decimal place, he couldn’t prescribe complex medications or tell you how far away the moon is or how to make millions of dollars with bit coin. But he knew stuff. He knew God, and he knew life and he knew stuff that was really important in life. He had wisdom, he knew some of the deep things of God and of life. The book of Daniel describes God in this way,
Daniel 2:22 (ESV)
he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
If you are doing the Bible reading plan you will have read this in today’s reading,
Psalms 42:7 (ESV)
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
I used to call Fiona “O deep one,” because she always wanted to have a deep and meaningful talk. Having just moved interstate, one day she was painting a waterfall, strangely, and was lonely feeling she had no-one to talk to. She felt God say to her, you can talk to me, so she went to her Bible and read that verse!
Wisdom is knowing those deep things of life, and only God can give you true wisdom. Even smart guys make dumb decisions because they might have knowledge, but they lack wisdom. They lack God…
James 1:5 (ESV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Prudence, is phronesis (in Greek), another important concept to the Greeks. Its basic meaning was “way of thinking, frame of mind, intelligence, good sense,” but it often had the fuller idea of “discernment and judicious insight.”
Prudence is being able to see beyond just the knowledge of a thing, to see how that it was applied and how it was practical. Aristotle defined it as the knowledge of human affairs and of things in which planning is necessary. Plutarch called this the practical knowledge of the things that concern us.
We could, therefore, translate this as “insight” or even discernment, which means to sift, that is the ability to apply wisdom in a practical sense and discern God’s will for your life. Joseph, for example, not only knew the deep things of Pharaoh’s dreams, but he was able to apply that deep wisdom in storing up grain in the 7 years of plenty for the 7 years of lack.
THE GETTING OF WISDOM, AND PRUDENCE
Proverbs, known as a book on wisdom, personifies wisdom as a woman (sorry guys)
Proverbs 4:5-9 (ESV)
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Paul uses these two terms in Ephesians 1 to show that the believer has been given both wisdom and insight to thoroughly equip him for life, but only if we choose take hold of it. Sophia emphasises a deep knowledge of things that really matter, that is, the truths of God, truths such as: life and death, God and man, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, and so on. Does the world have knowledge of such subjects? No, but the believer does.
Phronesis, then, emphasises how to make all of this practical, how to make the things that matter most apply to daily life. Depth is important, but what good is deep knowledge if it is not practical? The two are beautifully intertwined, and they should be the hallmark of a committed, growing Christian.
HOW DO I GET WISDOM AND PRUDENCE
Wisdom and prudence are attractive qualities, even to those in the world. They might mock and attack us for what they think we believe, but when things go south, they seek wisdom and prudence to help them, and they see and sometimes even admire us for these qualities. Clearly God wants us to possess these 2 admirable qualities in increasing measure, but how can you do this in a practical sense?
I’ve already shared the secret, the mystery knowledge… Listen and obey. I’ve already revealed that listening and obeying is all about knowing God’s Word. Here’s one of my favourite verses…
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Let me tell you that if you are not reading God’s Word regularly, you are missing out on developing wisdom and prudence.
The Bible is not just a way of hearing God, it is the only offensive weapon in the armour of God. I’m not advocating smashing people with your leather bound KJV, but the Bible describes itself as living, active, and razor sharp. It’s not a dusty old book, it is God’s wisdom that cuts to the heart of man and his sin.
This verse describes the Word of God penetrating or piercing the soul and spirit. What does that mean?
Your soul is your mind, will and emotions. Many people live in their soul. They are controlled by their intellect, thinking they always know best, or their will, saying “I don’t care what they say, I’m doing it anyway,” or their emotions. I’m up today, or down today, you hurt my feelings. People living soulishly are described by Paul like this…
Ephesians 4:14 (ESV)
children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Most people, including many Christians, live out of their soul, and their lives are a chaotic rollercoaster of hurt feelings, anger, bitterness, and self-centredness.
Your Spirit is the real you, the inner you, the one that connects with God. Living by the Spirit results in different fruit to the soul,
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Word of God divides the soul and spirit, it judges thought and attitudes. The Word of God is what grows wisdom and prudence into your life, judging each thought and attitude so you are not a product of your circumstances, but a product of God’s grace.
So today I want to encourage you to press into God, read His Word and seek wisdom and prudence from God. Remember, wisdom is the deep knowledge of God, and prudence is the practical application of this knowledge, and we need both to make known the mystery of His will in our lives.
And there is much at stake. I need God’s wisdom to lead Ignite into our new season. You need God’s wisdom to live in your homes, your marriages, your jobs and studies.
And some of you need God’s wisdom right now for decisions and situations you currently face.
If you are facing a big decision and you need God’s wisdom, stand up.