Saturday, April 23, 2011

Divine Depths

“The reason we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with God is that we so seldom acknowledge our utter nothingness before him.” (Thomas Merton)

“As important and intriguing as divine depths might be, they defy discovery by the natural means of our minds. He reserves these things for those whose hearts are completely His…for those who take the time to wait before Him. Only in that way can there be intimacy with the Almighty.” (Charles Swindoll)

“(For my determined purpose is) that I may know Him—that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding (the wonders of His person) more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection (the power it exerts over believers); and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed (in spirit into His likeness even) to His death.” (Philippians 3:10, AMP)

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken—nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.” (Henri Nouwen)

“An inner restlessness grows within us when we refuse to get alone and examine our own hearts, including our motives. As our lives begin to pick up the debris that accompanies a lot of activities and involvements, we can train ourselves to go right on, to stay active, to be busy in the Lord’s work. Unless we discipline ourselves to pull back, to get alone for the hard work of self-examination in times of solitude, serenity will remain only a distant dream. How busy we can become…and as a result, how empty! We mouth words, but they mean nothing. We find ourselves trafficking in unlived truths. We fake spirituality.” (Charles Swindoll)

“He patiently waits for us to yield, to quit fighting Him, to allow His plan to run is course, to turn to Him for our security and significance. As He witnesses our doing that, He begins to reveal Himself and His will in greater depth.” (Charles Swindoll)

“The great mystery of God’s compassion is that in his compassion, in his entering with us into the condition of a slave, he reveals himself to us as God…His self-emptying and humiliation are not a step away from his true nature…Rather, in the emptied and humbled Christ we encounter God, we see who God really is, we come to know his true divinity.” (Henri Nouwen)

“Though he was God he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20)

As we grow in our trust of Jesus, the Son of God, who made Himself nothing and gave His life for us, we can count everything else loss in order that we might know Him more deeply. As we allow Him to live His risen life in us, He will put our prideful self to death so that we are able to live lives of abundance in these earthly bodies, free from the bondage of sin. As we acknowledge our emptiness, our nothingness, and our brokenness before Him, He will fill us with Himself, making us complete and whole, truly lacking nothing.

Lord, help us to get rid of our scaffolding so that we can examine our hearts and connect with you. Keep us from so being busy with activities and distractions that we miss the solitude we need to see ourselves as you see us and to know you as you are, in the divine depths.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Silence of Jesus

In writing about “The Discipline of Solitude” in his book The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that one of the greatest difficulties we have in being silent is our desire to defend and justify ourselves in order to protect our reputation.  He writes:

“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying on words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding…Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.

One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out. There is a story of a medieval monk who was being unjustly accused of certain offenses. One day he looked out his window and saw a dog biting and tearing on a rug that had been hung out to dry. As he watched, the Lord spoke to him saying, ‘That is what is happening to your reputation. But if you will trust me, I will care for you—reputation and all.’ Perhaps more than anything else, silence brings us to believe that God can care for us—“reputation and all.”

Foster’s thoughts cause me to consider the amazing example of Jesus.“He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would respond to His crucifixion in silence, hundreds of years before He walked on this earth: “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Mark’s account of Jesus’ silence during his trial and persecution reveals the strength that Jesus used to not to defend himself or to accuse his persecutors. “Then the leading priests accused him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to say something? What about all these charges against you?’ But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.”(Mark 15:3-5)

“Two criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of his. And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery, ‘Ha! Look at you now!’ they yelled at him. ‘You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? Well then, save yourself and some down from the cross!’ The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!’ Even the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.” (Mark 15:27-32)

Henri Nouwen writes: “Jesus Christ allowed the will of his Father to be done through Pilate, Herod, mocking soldiers, and a gaping crowd that did not understand. How little is asked of me.”

During this season of Easter, let us follow the example of Jesus’silence and experience the “freedom to let God be our justifier.” As we trust our Father to take control, we can “leave our case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Solitude of the Heart

Continuing to think about “Seeking Solitude,” I just read the chapter called “The Discipline of Solitude” in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I really appreciate his thoughts on cultivating ,what he calls, "heart solitude":

“Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude.”

“Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds.”

“But loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”

Solitude is more than a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentivenessIn the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

“Inward solitude has outward manifestations. There is the freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better. Jesus lived in inward “heart solitude.” He also frequently experienced outward solitude…the seeking out of solitary places was a regular practice for Jesus, so it should be for us.”

I also love this quote from St. John of the Cross that Brad Jersak highlights in the chapter called “The Meeting Place” in his book, Can You Hear Me?

"O thou soul, most beautiful of creatures, who so earnestly longest to know the place where thy Beloved is, that thou mayest seek him and be united to him! Thou are thyself that very tabernacle where he dwells, the secret chamber of his retreat where he is hidden. Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all thy good and all thy hope is so near thee as to be within thee; yea, rather rejoice that thou canst not be without it, for lo, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’”

And, recently, I’ve really enjoyed reading Henri Nouwen’s Circles of Love. I selected several of his daily readings related to this idea of the solitude of the heart:

“The discipline of solitude…is a simple, though not easy, way to free us from the slavery of our occupations and preoccupations and to begin to hear the voice that makes all things new.”

“The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God. The prophet Elijah did not encounter God in the mighty wind or in the earthquake or in the fire but in the small voice.”

“Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray, or to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.”

“Those who have entered deeply into their hearts and found the intimate home where they encounter their Lord, come to the mysterious discovery that solidarity is the other side of intimacy. They come to an awareness that the intimacy of God’s house excludes no one and includes everyone. They start to see that the home they have found in their innermost being is as wide as the whole of humanity.”

“The center of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbors and embrace them with his love.”

Lord, help our hearts to become this kind of home, so that you can speak both in and through us words of Truth and Grace. Help us to be listening for your “Divine Whisper” through the solitude of our hearts. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeking Solitude

Recently I’ve been pondering how we can seek solitude in the midst of fast-paced, noise-filled, stress-full lives. I’m challenged by good friends of ours who live in one of the world’s largest cities and ask: Does solitude always mean that we have to “get away” to a quiet place (preferably in nature) and be alone for an extended time? Is it possible to kindle a kind of solitude and stillness within our own hearts that can strengthen and renew us in a similar way that the “physically-getting-away” solitude can, and draw us ever closer to God? Can we experience intimacy with God while we remain surrounded by buildings and people and chaos?



In Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll describes the four disciplines we need to develop intimacy with our Heavenly Father: simplicity, silence, solitude, and surrender. I love all of these concepts, and my heart resonates with the subtitle: Encountering Christ in the Secret Places of Your Life. But, my question after reading this inspiring little book, is how we can learn to find this internal rest and intimacy even during times that our external environment doesn’t promote stillness and solitude.

Swindoll refers to 1 Samuel 30:1-4 when David and his men returned to Ziklag and were disheartened to discover that the Amelikites had burned the city and taken their women and children captive. He writes:

“Just imagine! On top of the unending pressure from Saul, the exhaustion from battle, the loss of their homes, and the intense concern for the safety of their families, murmurings of mutiny spread like cancer throughout the camp.

No one came to David’s defense or rescue. Few have ever felt more alone, but no one ever rose to the occasion more responsibly or more maturely. We read his secret in a few words: ‘David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.’ (v. 6b)

Don’t miss the point—David faced the situation with realism; but he refused to panic, to fight back, to run, or to dissolve in self-pity. Realizing his dire need for time alone with God, he moved away from his embittered companions, away from that chaotic scene, and sought a place of quietness and stillness to strengthen his soul.” (p. 48-50)

But, I wonder, did David actually leave the scene? Did he need to physically remove himself from that very non-ideal place to be, in order to strengthen himself in the Lord? Could he have found a place of quietness and stillness within his own soul to strengthen his spirit (still surrounded by people who wanted to kill him)?

Swindoll also describes the passage when Jesus said to his weary disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:30-32) He writes:

“(Jesus) was well-acquainted with the draining influence of ‘many people coming and going’…so he encouraged them to slip away as He got them in a boat and sailed with them to ‘a lonely place” Why? So they could be in a place ‘by themselves.’ Clearly, Jesus saw the value of solitude…the need for escape from activity. It was there that serenity could be cultivated.” (p. 64)

But, in the scene that immediately followed Jesus’ invitation, the crowds ran ahead and met Jesus with his disciples as they got off the boat. And because Jesus had compassion on them, he began to teach them. The time got late, and Jesus multiplied the fish and the bread in order to feed the more than 5000 hungry people. So did the disciples ever get their rest? After finally dismissing the crowd that night, Jesus made his disciples get into their boat and go of him to Bethsaida. (v. 45) Jesus then went alone on a mountainside to pray. And he walked out to their boat on top of the lake about the fourth watch of the night, while they were straining at the oars because the wind was against them.

What did Jesus want to teach them?

I think he wanted them to seek solitude and a quiet place to rest, but to be able to find an inner rest for their souls even when the crowds were still there. He showed them how it was possible by his own example. Once, when Jesus was tired and took a rest by a well, he asked for a drink of water and then revealed his identity as living water to a Samaritan woman, completely changing the course of her life. When his disciples later returned and urged him to eat, he told them that he had food they knew nothing about, which was to do the will of his Father. (John 4:4-34).

When the disciples didn’t get a quiet place to rest, they wanted to send the crowds away (Mark ). But Jesus had compassion on the crowds and was “fed” by teaching them, because he was doing his Father’s will. The disciples could have been fed in a similar way, through listening to Jesus’ teaching and through Jesus allowing them to be part of the miracle of the multiplication of a boy’s lunch. But, Mark records that the disciples were amazed when Jesus climbed into their boat late that night and the wind died down, “for they had not understood about the loaves and their hearts were hardened.” (Mark ) We can easily identify with these disciples who were such ordinary men, and often didn’t really understand what Jesus wanted them to learn until later.

As Jesus walked toward his disciples on the water, they were terrified that he was a ghost (Mark ). I believe that in addition to Jesus wanting his disciples to learn to find rest for their souls, even in an environment that didn’t feel restful, he wanted to teach them to recognize who he was and what he had the power to do. If the disciples understood who was in their midst, they wouldn’t panic or worry about where they were going to get enough food to feed all the people, or how they could find the strength to row against the wind all night, or whether they might drown in a storm.

Mark’s account of Jesus sleeping in the boat during a fierce storm records the disciples waking Jesus with an accusation, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark ) I’ve often wondered when Jesus responded with “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40) if it was the wrong thing for the disciples to wake him. But, I think that he must have been disappointed in their attitudes (not upset that they woke him up). With the words they spoke to Jesus, we can imagine that they were fearful, angry, resentful, panicked. How could Jesus have been sleeping at a time like this? But, if they knew who Jesus was and how much he cared for them, would they have responded that way? They could have “strengthened themselves in the Lord” as David did. They could have remained calm, and not given into despair.

I believe this is what Jesus wants for us to learn as well, as we face life’s storms and physical exhaustion and situations beyond our control: to trust Him, to find our strength in Him, to seek time alone with Him, and to develop the solitude of our inner hearts so that when our external environments don’t allow for extended times away, surrounded by nature, we can still find peace, rest, and renewal for our soul.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trust

As I walked down the market street yesterday afternoon, I heard a wonderful story of trust from a woman who has become my first new friend here!

We talked about our families, and my friend shared how her marriage was arranged by her father 11 years ago, when she was 18 years old. The first time she saw her husband was on their wedding day! “Were you afraid?” I asked her, imagining how I would feel, with no control over the selection of the man with whom I would share the rest of my life. “No,” she simply replied. “Because my father loves me so much, I knew that he would not make a bad choice for me. I trusted my father.”

Isn’t that the way our Father wants us to trust Him?

Because He loves us so much, we can trust that He will not make a bad choice for us. Everything that happens (big and small, good and bad) has to pass through His fingers before reaching us, because He holds us in His protecting hands. He allows exactly what’s best for us, and is able to transform circumstances that even seem terrible to us, to actually work for our good.

The trust that enabled Isaac to lie down on the altar and to offer himself as a sacrifice, because his father instructed him to, was the same trust that made it possible for Abraham to tie this precious son on the altar, and to lift the knife. He was willing to sacrifice the fulfillment of God’s great and long-awaited promise, because his heavenly Father asked it of him.  (Genesis 22)

Father and son simply trusted and obeyed. And God was honored and glorified on that mountain.

What amazing examples of trust are these forefathers of our faith!

What a beautiful example of trust is my new friend in the way that she fully believed her earthly father would make a good choice for her husband.

We too can have a childlike trust in our Father, when we know that He is good and His plans for us are good. Because He loves us so much.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Contentment

Webster’s definition of content: happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different; satisfied

Psalm 46:10 “Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God.”

“O Lord, Thou hast created us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” (Augustine)

A heart at rest.

I have been struggling to experience true contentment and rest as we adjust to living in a new city.

Last night though, God helped me to identify two lies that have subtly attacked the truth of who I am, and have formed a gray cloud of discontentment (that has matched the grayness outside this past week!).

I am not doing enough. (inadequate)
I am not good enough. (inferior)

These lies have tried to answer the rumblings of some of my questions and self-evaluations:
“I should have some friends here by now (it’s been 7 weeks).”
“How and where do I start?”
“I wish my Chinese were more fluent, and that I could communicate better.”
“What do I have to offer anyway?”

Then I hear the Lord speak truth to my heart:
You are exactly where I want you to be.
You are exactly who I want you to be.

And with these words, I can rest (cease striving). The defeating clouds of “not enough” melt away in His reassurance and in His presence. The light of Truth brings hope and abiding peace to my soul.

It is true that I am not enough, on my own. But Christ lives in me. And He is more than enough.

In Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning says that “living in the awareness of the risen Jesus…is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ. Everything that happens is designed to this end…Through union with Him…nothing is wasted, nothing is missing. There is never a moment that does not carry eternal significance…The apparent frustrations of circumstances, seen or unforeseen, of illness, of misunderstandings, even of our own sins, do not thwart the final fulfillment of our lives hidden with Christ in God.” (p. 108)

I believe that God does have a purpose for my life here, even though I can’t see what that looks like yet.  When I accept the lies that I am not good enough or doing enough, my focus is on my failures and inadequacies, and I lose awareness of the risen Christ. When I depend on His power at work within me, He will provide both the guidance and courage I need to follow Him into unknown territory, so that I can take risks without fearing rejection or mistakes. I can find my contentment in God alone, and to know Paul’s “secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12) In plenty or in want, with or without friends, in sickness or in health, and with or without the affirmation/approval/acceptance of others.

“I can do everything (that God has planned for me) through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

A heart at rest.
Find rest my soul in God.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God's Wisdom and Ours

These are notes from a chapter by this title in J.I. Packer’s Knowing God (Intervarsity Press, 1973).
His thoughts on wisdom have greatly challenged and encouraged me, so I typed them up today!

Whence comes wisdom? What steps must a man take to lay hold of this gift? There are two prerequisites, according to Scripture. First, one must learn to reverence God. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10; Prov. , cf. Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; ). Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty (‘the great and terrible God’, Neh. 1:5, cf. ; ; Deut. ; ; Ps. 99:3; Jer. 20:11), acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours. It is to be feared that many Christians spend all their lives in too unhumbled and conceited a frame of mind ever to gain wisdom from God at all. Not for nothing does Scripture say, ‘with the lowly is wisdom’ (Prov. 11:2).

Then, second, one must learn to receive God’s word. Wisdom is divinely wrought in those, and those only, who apply themselves to God’s revelation. ‘Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies,’ declares the psalmist, ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers:’ why?—for thy testimonies are my meditation’ (Ps. 119:99f). So Paul admonishes the Colossians: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom’ (Col. 3:16). How are we men of the twentieth century to do this? By soaking ourselves in the Scriptures, which, as Paul told Timothy (and he had in mind the Old Testament alone!), ‘are able to make thee wise unto salvation’ through faith in Christ, and to perfect the man of God for 'all good works’ (2 Tim. -17)…

If you stand at the end of a platform on York station, you can watch a constant succession of engine and train movements…But you will only be able to form a very rough and general idea of the overall plan in terms of which all these movements are being determined…If, however, you are privileged enough to be taken by one of the high-ups into the magnificent electrical signal box…you will see…the entire track layout for five miles on either side of the station, with little glow worm lights moving or stationary on the different tracks to show the signalmen at a glance where every engine and train is. At once you will be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control it: you will see from the diagram why it was that this train had to be signaled to a halt, and that one diverted from its normal running line, and that one parked temporarily in a siding. The why and the wherefore of all these movements becomes plain, once you can see the overall position.

Now, the mistake that is commonly made is to suppose that this is an illustration of what God does when He bestows wisdom: to suppose, in other words, that the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is going to do next. People feel that if they were really walking close to God, so that He could impart wisdom to them freely, then they would, so to speak, find themselves in the signal-box; they would discern the real purpose of everything that happened to them, and it would be clear to them at every moment how God was making all things work together for good. Such people spend much time poring over the book of providence, wondering why God should have allowed this or that to take place, whether they should take it as a sign to stop doing one thing and start doing another, or what they should deduce from it. If they end up baffled, they put it down to their own lack of spirituality…

In Ecclesiastes…the author speaks as a mature teacher giving a young disciple the fruits of his own long experience and reflection (11:9; 12:1, 12). He wants to lead this young believer into true wisdom, and to keep him from falling into the ‘York-signal-box’ mistake…What the preacher wants to show him is that the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgement that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all….

It is to this pessimistic conclusion, says the preacher, that optimistic expectations of finding the divine purpose of everything will ultimately lead you. (cf. 1:17f). And of course he is right. For the world we live in is in fact the sort of place he has described. The God who rules it hides Himself. Rarely does this world look as if a beneficent Providence were running it. Rarely does it appear that there is a rational power behind it all…Be realistic, says the preacher; face these facts; see life as it is. You will have no true wisdom till you do.

Many of us need this admonition. For not only are we caught up with the ‘York-signal-box’ conception, or misconception, of what wisdom is; we feel that the honor of God (and also, though we do not say this, for the sake of our own reputation as spiritual Christians), it is necessary for us to claim that we are, so to speak, already in the signal-box, here and now, enjoying inside information as to the why and wherefore of God’s doings. This comforting pretence becomes part of us: we feel sure that God has enabled us to understand all His ways with us and our circle thus far, and we take it for granted that we shall be able to see at once the reason for anything that may happen to us into the future. And then something very painful and quite inexplicable comes along, and our cheerful illusion of being in God’s secret councils is shattered. Our pride is wounded; we feel that God has slighted us; and unless at this point we repent, and humble ourselves very thoroughly for our former presumption, our whole subsequent spiritual life may be blighted…

(We may enter into) a state of hard-bitten, joyless apathy of spirit. There is a lot of it around today in Christian circles; the symptoms are personal spiritual inertia combined with critical cynicism about the churches and supercilious resentment of other Christians’ initiative and enterprise. Behind this morbid and deadening condition often lies the wounded pride of one who thought he knew all about the ways of God in providence and then was made to learn by bitter and bewildering experiences that he didn’t. This is what happens when we do not head the message of Ecclesiastes. For the truth is that God in His wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which He is working out in the churches and in our own lives. ‘As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all’ (11:5 RV)

But what in that case, is wisdom? The preacher has helped us see what it is not; does he give us any guidance as to what it is? Indeed he does, in outline, at any rate. ‘Fear God, and keep His commandments’ (); trust and obey Him, reverence Him, worship Him, be humble before Him, and never say more than you mean…(5:1-7); do good (3:12); remember that God will some day take account of you (11:9; 12:14)… Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly (7:14; 9:7ff, 11:9f)…Seek grace and work hard at whatever life calls you to do (9:10), and enjoy your work as you do it (2:24; 3:12f; 5:18ff; 8:15). Leave to God its issues; let Him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you (11:1-6).

This is the way of wisdom. Clearly it is just one facet of the life of faith. For what underlies and sustains it? Why, the conviction that the inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption. We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world-order, and who compassed the great redemption from Egypt, and who later compassed the even greater redemption from sin and Satan, knows what He is doing, and ‘doeth all things well’, even if for the moment He hides His hand. We can trust Him and rejoice in Him, even when we cannot discern His path…

God’s work of giving wisdom is a means to His chosen end of restoring and perfecting the relationship between Himself and men for which He made them. For what is this wisdom that He gives? As we have seen, it is not a sharing in all His knowledge, but a disposition to confess that He is wise, and to cleave to Him and live for Him in the light of His word through thick and thin.

Thus the effect of His gift of wisdom is to make us more humble, more joyful, more godly, more quick-sighted as to His will, more resolute in the doing of it and less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in this fallen world  is full. The New Testament tells us that the fruit of wisdom is Christlikeness—peace, and humility, and love (Jas. )—and the root of it is faith in Christ (1 Cor. ; cf. 1 Tim. ) as the manifested wisdom of God (1 Cor. ; 30). Thus, the kind of wisdom that God waits to give to those who ask Him, is a wisdom that will bind us to Himself, a wisdom that will find expression in a spirit of faith and a life of faithfulness.

Let us see to it, then, that our own quest for wisdom takes the form of a quest for these things, and that we do not frustrate the wise purpose of God by neglecting faith and faithfulness in order to pursue a kind of knowledge which in this world it is not given to us to have.                                                                   

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