Does anyone else struggle at times to know when to step out in faith and when to proceed with wisdom? How to live in the tension of our human limits while trusting in the miracles of God?
It’s not always easy to discern how far to go before just taking a leap of faith into the unknown.
There is reason to show caution in a world of evil.
There are times to exercise human common sense.
But there are also times when God asks us to walk into the uncomfortable and often dangerous territory as a pure act of faith and trust in His ability to work all things according to His plan.
The only way to know this is to be in a close, abiding relationship with Christ and to sincerely ask for wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
As I was reading through the book of Daniel recently, I was stunned at his seemingly immediate responses to areas of conviction in his life. He went into these situations with a mind set on who He served.
The Israelite people had just been overpowered and taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Then the king brought forth some of the best of the Israelite men to serve him in the palace. Among these was Daniel. When he was taken to the king’s palace, he purposed not to eat the king’s defiled food (Daniel 1:12). He didn’t ask to be freed but for another way to live within this place – to avoid the king’s wine and live off a diet of vegetables. Daniel was drawing a line in the new world he was cast into.
The eunuch in charge of him didn’t want to get in trouble if Daniel’s new diet weakened him in any way. But Daniel convinced the overseer to let him try it for ten days. And God gave favor and strengthened Daniel (1:9).
Daniel “set his heart” not to eat the food. Perhaps because the king was attempting to assimilate the Israelite men into the Babylonian culture and turn them from their God with the best the Babylonian empire could offer. Daniel 1:8 just tells us that Daniel believed that eating the delicacies and drinking the wine would have defiled him, so he asked for an alternative.
Again, in Daniel 6, he was forced to choose between praying to God or bowing before an earthly king. This was a plot to remove him from favor in the kingdom. These officials knew he was an honorable man and the only way to slander him would be to force him to deny his God. After the edict, Daniel did what he had always done and was caught praying in his home. For this, he was thrown into the lion’s den.
I don’t know about you, but I imagine that I would have had a hard time facing a lion’s den and even refusing to eat the king’s food. A king had the power to kill anyone at his whim. Defiance or insulting the king’s provisions certainly would have been a sufficient reason.
And then I thought about all of the cultural things today that I know displease the Lord that I struggle to walk away from.
There is a cultural theory that Christ doesn’t work miraculously any more or open doors of favor toward those He loves. We believe little at times because we heed the wisdom of the world over the wisdom of God. The wisdom from above is harder to find. It has to be tested at times for genuineness. Wisdom requires seeking God for answers, not looking for the path of least resistance. It also requires that we believe God is capable of far more than we can think or imagine.
As a writer, I know that in the publishing industry there is so much demand for platforms and personas that it leaves me wondering how God will ever use me. I often question how far to go to self-promote before you begin to drift away from the higher calling of God, which is to bring Him glory. I am all for working hard, but I never want to forget that God can open doors for me as He desires. God has the ability to make something happen outside of the norm to meet my specific needs and to keep me close to His heart.
I know for many years I wondered how my efforts to homeschool my kids in a world set up against this system of education would be worked out. It was hard at times not to worry that they would be disadvantaged or held back due to this decision. It required big steps of faith and trust that God was not constrained by cultural ideals.
Yes, there is human wisdom and then there is the wisdom of God.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
This passage in the book of James follows the teaching on how to tame our tongue. From that James contrasts man’s wisdom vs. God’s wisdom:
Wise people show meekness to those around them through the good conduct of their lives.
Earthly wisdom is full of jealousy and selfish ambition. Unwise people live contrary to the truth they speak with their mouths. They betray their consciences.
Earthly wisdom leads to disorder and every vile practice, not life-giving, God-honoring truths.
God’s wisdom is pure, then peaceable. It seeks to unite with others and is outward focused, not selfish.
True wisdom is gentle and open to reason. It doesn’t demand.
A sign of God’s wisdom is fruit full of mercy and goodness – the fruits of the Spirit.
God’s wisdom is also sincere and impartial. It doesn’t pick sides or tell people what they want to hear. It abides in truth no matter the cost.
We can discern the difference by how much peace is sown in our lives and the lives of those we serve.
I wish there were an easy button for my question at the beginning of this post. But in God’s grace, He knew that this tension would create the need for us to draw near to Him for wisdom. Not knowing all of the answers to life’s questions leads us to seek and know Him. Not merely knowing about Him, but to walk and talk with Jesus.
That is a beautiful kindness of God. If we seek, we will find. It may take some wrestling with our own version of wisdom to lay it down before Him. We may have to wrestle some things to make space for the better things of God. Our seeking will take time. But He promises to give it to those who do.
In my case, I have to guard against working to please man with the words God gives to me after careful study. I can’t write to meet the messages of the day and garner the ears of those who can catapult my writing career. I have to write the truth of God in a way that meets the conversations of the world. That enters in but never conforms. That invites those who wrestle to look further and deeper to the wisdom of God.
What are some signs that I am forgetting about the power and wisdom of God to work in my life?
I grow frustrated and weary. I am plagued with doubt. I hear self-talk about how God will never use me. I start scouring every man-made resource I can on a decision without considering Scripture and spending time asking Him for help. At times, I find myself jealous over the success of others when I should be cheering them on. And I feel the tension between being authentic to my God-given voice and trying to “fit in” to “win”.
These are things I wrestle in the flesh. Over and over, God reminds me of truth and gives me victory. When I wrestle from a desire to be changed by truth, God transforms me from one glory to another. It becomes easier to be a Daniel as I purpose in my heart to put these earthly things to death and remain committed to God. And I find myself more assured of His ability to part the waters and calm the seas in me and around me.
He is the source of all wisdom, and I choose it today. I practice it for tomorrow. And no matter what the conventional wisdom of the world around me, God is still in the business of doling out wisdom to those who sincerely desire it and faithfully walk in it. Like Daniel, we can live counterculturally and discern when to eat the king’s food or take a bold step of faith, trusting that God will catch us and settle us on solid ground.
Do you desire to be able to discern the wisdom of God? Have you spent some time wrestling with your questions and fears before Him? Have you asked for wisdom or sought it from man?
Together, let’s believe God. Let’s seek His wisdom and be aware of the signs of its presence in our lives today.