I don’t know how these people find me, but I keep getting more and more flyers in the mail from folks asking me to show up at their events so they can teach me about retirement benefits. It started several years ago when I began getting invitations to join an organization that works on behalf of retirees. These reminders all serve to say: “You’re getting older. Get ready!”
I have ignored them all along, but soon enough I’m going to have to break down and go to one of their meetings. I really should be taking action on their suggestions.
Sometimes I hear a similar reminder in the wisdom of Scripture. We know that what the passage says is true about us, but we are just not ready to respond. Maybe it’s a passage like Romans 14:13 that says, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another.” Or the reminder in 2 Corinthians 9:6, which tells us, “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Or this reminder in Philippians 1: “Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened” (vv. 27-28).
As we read God’s Word, we get vital reminders. Let’s take these seriously as from the heart of the Father who knows what honors Him and is best for us.
In traditional African societies, leadership succession is a serious decision. After a king’s demise, great care is taken selecting the next ruler. Besides being from a royal family, the successor must be strong, fearless, and sensible. Candidates are questioned to determine if they will serve the people or rule with a heavy hand. The king’s successor needs to be someone who leads but also serves.
Even though Solomon made his own bad choices, he worried over his successor. “Who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill” (Eccl. 2:19). His son Rehoboam was that successor. He demonstrated a lack of sound judgment and ended up fulfilling his father’s worst fear.
When the people requested more humane working conditions, it was an opportunity for Rehoboam to show servant leadership. “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them . . . ,” the elders advised, “they will always be your servants” (1 Kings 12:7). But he rejected their counsel. Rehoboam failed to seek God. His harsh response to the people divided the kingdom and accelerated the spiritual decline of God’s people (12:14-19).
In the family, the workplace, at church, or in our neighborhood—we need His wisdom for the humility to serve rather than be served.
My niece’s husband recently wrote these words on a social media site: “I would say a lot more online if it weren’t for this little voice that prompts me not to. As a follower of Jesus, you might think that little voice is the Holy Spirit. It isn’t. It’s my wife, Heidi.”
With the smile comes a sobering thought. The cautions of a discerning friend can reflect the wisdom of God. Ecclesiastes 9 says that the “words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard” (v. 17 nkjv).
Scripture warns us not to be wise in our own eyes or proud (Prov. 3:7; Isa. 5:21; Rom. 12:16). In other words, let’s not assume that we have all the answers! Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Whether it is a friend, a spouse, a pastor, or a co-worker, God can use others to teach us more of His wisdom.
“Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning,” declares the book of Proverbs (14:33). Part of recognizing the Spirit’s wisdom is discovering how to listen and learn from each other.
A man worried constantly about everything. Then one day his friends heard him whistling happily and looking noticeably relaxed. “What happened?” they asked him in astonishment.
He said, “I’m paying a man to do my worrying for me.”
“How much do you pay him?” they asked.
“Two thousand dollars a week,” he replied.
“Wow! How can you afford that?”
“I can’t,” he said, “but that’s his worry.”
While this humorous way to handle stress doesn’t work in real life, as God’s children we can turn our worries over to Someone who has everything perfectly under control even—especially—when we feel it is not.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God brings out the stars and calls them all by name (40:25-26). Because of “his great power and mighty strength” not one of them is missing (v. 26). And just as God knows the stars by name, He knows us individually and personally. We are each under His watchful care (v. 27).
If we are inclined to worry, we can turn that worry over to the Lord. He is never too weary or too tired to pay attention to us. He has all wisdom and all power, and He loves to use it on our behalf. The Holy One who directs the stars has His loving arms around us.
When our kids were young, we took a trip to northern Wisconsin to visit my grandparents. They didn’t get very good reception on their television, but TV wasn’t much of a priority with them. After I had seen our son Scott fiddling with the TV set for a while, he asked with frustration, “What do you do if you can get only one channel and you don’t like what’s on that one?”
“Try turning it off, ” I said with a smile. Not exactly the advice he was hoping for. It’s even more difficult to do now, especially when there are so many devices that entertain, inform, and distract us.
Sometimes we do need to just turn it all off and rest our minds for a little while; we simply need to “unplug.” Jesus often drew aside for a time—especially when He wanted to take time to pray (Matt. 14:13). He encouraged the disciples to step away as well—even for a brief time (Mark 6:31). That kind of solitude and time for reflection is beneficial for each of us. In those moments we are able to draw near to God.
Follow the example and wisdom of Christ. Get away by yourself and “rest a while.” It will be good for your body, mind, and spirit.
It’s amazing what you can haul with a bicycle. An average adult with a specialized trailer (and a bit of determination) can use a bicycle to tow up to 300 pounds at 10 mph. There’s just one problem: Hauling a heavier load means moving more slowly. A person hauling 600 pounds of work equipment or personal possessions would only be able to move at a pace of 8 miles in one hour.
Moses carried another kind of weight in the wilderness—an emotional weight that kept him at a standstill. The Israelites’ intense craving for meat instead of manna had reduced them to tears. Hearing their ongoing lament, an exasperated Moses said to God, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me” (Num. 11:14).
On his own, Moses lacked the resources necessary to fix the problem. God responded by telling him to select 70 men to stand with him and share his load. God told Moses, “[The men] shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone” (v. 17).
As followers of Jesus, we don’t have to handle our burdens alone either. We have Jesus Himself, who is always willing and able to help us. And He has given us brothers and sisters in Christ to share the load. When we give Him the things that weigh us down, He gives us wisdom and support in return.
A few years ago, four-star General Peter Chiarelli (the No. 2 general in the US Army at that time) was mistaken for a waiter by a senior presidential advisor at a formal Washington dinner. As the general stood behind her in his dress uniform, the senior advisor asked him to get her a beverage. She then realized her mistake, and the general graciously eased her embarrassment by cheerfully refilling her glass and even inviting her to join his family sometime for dinner.
The word gracious comes from the word grace, and it can mean an act of kindness or courtesy, like the general’s. But it has an even deeper meaning to followers of Christ. We are recipients of the incredible free and unmerited favor—grace—that God has provided through His Son, Jesus (Eph. 2:8).
Because we have received grace, we are to show it in the way we treat others—for example, in the way we speak to them: “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious” (Eccl. 10:12). Grace in our hearts pours out in our words and deeds (Col. 3:16-17).
Learning to extend the grace in our hearts toward others is a by-product of the life of a Spirit-filled follower of Christ Jesus—the greatest of grace-givers.
When Jesus lived on this earth, He invited people to come to Him, and He still does today (John 6:35). But what do He and His Father in heaven have that we need?
Salvation. Jesus is the only way to have forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15).
Purpose. We are to give all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to following Jesus. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
Comfort. In trial or sorrow, the “God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Wisdom. We need wisdom beyond our own for making decisions. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Strength. When we’re weary, “the Lord will give strength to His people” (Ps. 29:11).
Abundant life. The fullest life is found in a relationship with Jesus. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Come!
What is the strongest muscle in the human body? Some say it’s the tongue, but it’s hard to determine which muscle is the most powerful because muscles don’t work alone.
But we do know that the tongue is strong. For a small muscle, it can do a lot of damage. This active little muscular organ that helps us eat, swallow, taste, and begin digestion has a tendency to also assist us in saying things we shouldn’t. The tongue is guilty of flattery, cursing, lying, boasting, and harming others. And that’s just the short list.
It sounds like a pretty dangerous muscle, doesn’t it? But here’s the good thing: It doesn’t have to be that way. When we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, our tongues can be turned to great good. We can speak of God’s righteousness (Ps. 35:28) and justice (37:30). We can speak truth (15:2), show love (1 John 3:18), and confess sin (1 John 1:9).
The writer of Proverbs 12:18 spells out one of the best uses of the tongue: “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Imagine how we could glorify the One who made our tongues when He helps us use it to bring healing—not harm—to everyone we talk to.