They kept begging me to run for PTA president. Having served on a PTA nominating committee I know how difficult it can be to fill two key positions – president and treasurer. At least the treasurer can hide from people, but the president must stand in front of rooms filled with either at best bored or at worst annoyed parents. My children attended an elementary school with almost 1,300 students K-5. We put on large community events. And our parents and teachers were very demanding. On top of this, our school was about to go through a few major changes. I told them “no.” Actually, what I told them was: “You don’t want me to be your president. You won’t like how I will clean up the ‘old boys’ way of doing things.” But they kept asking.
Eventually I caved. I recall clearly after I said yes, I finally prayed for the first time. “Lord, help this not to have been a mistake.” I did that a lot many years ago. You know, make a decision and then beg God to make it turn out ok. I’m pretty sure King Solomon didn’t write a proverb saying, “Decide, then pray for your will be done.”
As I moved along on my Christian spiritual growth chart, I realized that order of things was a bit backward. With each switching up of the order of prayer vs. action, I was getting closer to the concept in Ephesians 5: 15-16, “Be careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.
James 1: 5-8 challenges believers to wise decision making. He gives us the action we must take (asking God for wisdom) and the result of not accepting and acting on that wisdom (double mindedness).
You see, had I prayed to God in the midst of being asked to take on such a large role as PTA president I would’ve acted in God’s name, not mine. If he told me to do it, I would know I had His strength to aid me in difficult times because it was His will not mine. If I was told to not do it then I would’ve been able to clearly and confidently say, “no thank you.” And importantly – not feel guilty about it.
There are two ways to seek wisdom – spiritually and earthly. While we can take both paths together, if we only use earthly knowledge, we live without an anchor to truly define what is “right” and “good.” That is the Humanists’ approach. They make decisions more based on what feels right or good or what society deems worthy or correct. But God is immovable. His Word never changes. When we use that as a touchstone for our lives, we know we start our wisdom journey on solid ground. God has all the solutions — while we can usually only see them in a narrow, protective framework.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “How foolish would the believer be who would lay up his treasure anywhere except heaven?” In other words, you only have one life to live. It’s precious and what you create, such as children, are precious. Why would you ask the world how to live your life, raise your kids, invest your money, use your time, instead of God? He went on to say, “Change is written on the forehead of nature so don’t put your trust in earthly things.” This reminded me of a friend I had at an old job. She had her kids in the 1970s. With her first child she was told by the nurses to absolutely not breastfeed her child. It was imperative that women not be tied down to a child and instead be free to do whatever she pleased. When her second child came along the winds had shifted. She was encouraged to breastfeed. She cried as she told me what she realized she missed out on with her first child – the bonding and loving moments breastfeeding affords. She was angry she had let a nurse decide for her what was right and good.
Warren Wiersbe defines God-given wisdom this way, “Wisdom keeps us in harmony with the principals and purposes that the Lord has built into His world so that as we obey God, everything works for us and not against us.” I don’t know about you but I’d like to know more about how to get things to work for me and not against me!
Step 1 for gaining that sort of wisdom – praying.
But not just any praying. Praying for His will to be done, not ours. Praying for wisdom and good discernment means asking God to light the way for us. He alone knows ALL the possible solutions and outcomes. We can only know a limited number of solutions, based on our limited knowledge and emotions. We can’t possibly know the outcomes. When we pray to God for our will we need to be careful He might just give us what we keep asking for – and that can frequently be exactly what we don’t need. God tailors our teaching based on where we are in our spiritual growth. He might give us a little leeway or He might admonish us. But we will definitely learn a lesson if we listen and pay attention.
Step 2 in our wisdom growth is listening.
James 1: 19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this, we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” After we’ve prayed, we need to shut up and listen. He will speak to you. But if we keep yammering on to him, our friends, people we don’t even know on social media, we will assuredly miss His voice. We need to be like Jesus – slow down and hear from God. Instead we frequently start worrying and researching and talking and fretting and more worrying. In my study group we asked the question: “What are some challenges that come with obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit?” We all agreed that discerning whether it is God or our own voice (or worse, Satan) speaking is the greatest challenge. The solution is knowing the character of God. Thankfully, there’s a complete autobiography about God at our fingertips – the Bible.
Step 3 is reading His word.
I’ve heard people call Christians “sheep.” The assumption is that we don’t need to think for ourselves once we turn our lives over to Christ. But we don’t put our minds on a shelf and stop thinking. In fact, we must turn our lives to more active thinking and discernment when we become Christians. One of my BSGs (Bible Study Girls) and I were talking the other day and she told me she was glad the Bible can be read at different understanding levels. She says she has always had a more difficult time delving deeper and between the lines – not just when it comes to reading the Bible but any literature. She appreciates those of us that have that skill. That is the beauty of the Bible and God’s gifts. One friend of mine sent out a text that said, “The Bible is the only book that as you read it, it reads you.” Amen to that!
There are a few books in the Bible considered “wisdom books” but the most recognizable is Proverbs. The words “wise” or “wisdom” are used 125 in this book. Its wise words are made to be memorized since the people of that time didn’t have access to books. One liners can be easily remembered such as:
“Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it, resist them.” 28:4
“Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.” 29:1
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” 21:9
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife.” 17:1
Then there’s longer, deeper instruction such as Proverb 1: 32-33
And Proverb 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways submit to Him and he will make your path straight.”
I wish I had read that one before deciding to be a PTA president. From day 1 the bickering and strife and lies and hurts I faced were almost unbearable. I cried to the Lord for help. His help came in the form of wisdom – how to pray first, listen second, and read His Word third and then act.
In my Bible study library I now have Bible commentaries, devotionals, books about prayer, apologetics books and more. When I read a passage in the Bible that either seems confusing or sounds like a message I really need to hear, I pull out various other tools to help guide me, in addition to praying over the verse. This has expanded my study time from about 15 minutes to about an hour. It centers me for the day ahead and places my feet on His path.
Praying, listening, reading. These steps help us to gain God’s wisdom. Without taking these steps it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish God’s plan for us. I love what Proverbs 8 says, speaking as God’s Wisdom:
“Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
I am issuing a challenge today. Take Proverbs and create a “Wise Words” list. Create categories that each 1 liner falls into and place it in its category. Some of the proverbs are repeated so you don’t need to write them again – but you might put a tick mark by the verse to show how many times it is mentioned.
For comments today, let us know a time that either 1) you didn’t pray and got yourself into a mess or 2) you heeded God’s word and realized what a blessing it was!