How to gain wisdom
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)--A number of years ago, I attended a men's retreat at which the speaker challenged us to begin a practice he said would change our lives dramatically. I was ready to write down a complex spiritual formula, and I have to admit I was initially a little disappointed at what I heard: "There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. I challenge you to read a chapter a day each month for the next year. If you do that faithfully for a year, you will have read the book of Proverbs 12 times and your life will never be the same."
I decided to accept his challenge. I was amazed at how many times I found myself in a situation during the day for which I had insight (or direction or a warning) taken directly from that day's reading in Proverbs. I came to the conclusion during that period of my spiritual life -- a conviction I continue to hold today -- that Proverbs offers the simplest, yet most profound, daily spiritual "pick-me-ups" to be found in all the Bible.
Why is Proverbs so powerful, such an effective stimulant for spiritual living? Because each proverb provides the one thing we all need in large daily doses: wisdom. But lest you think wisdom is something possessed only by philosophers, professors and political sages, let's look at what the word really means. There is no more practical, hands-on word in the Bible than wisdom.
Wisdom's roots run deep into Old Testament soil. Interestingly, the word did not at first signify "wisdom," but rather "skill." We tend to equate "wisdom" with "intelligence." But one can have great intelligence without great wisdom, and vice versa. If the root idea of wisdom is skill, then we can say that Proverbs will teach us the skill of living. Just as there is skill in sewing, designing, speaking, navigating and carving, so there is skill needed for living life effectively and successfully. And that is the kind of wisdom the book of Proverbs offers its readers.
Think of all the encounters you have in a week, and how many of them require skillful navigation. Not a day goes by in which we don't feel hesitant, even confused, about how to act. Pure and simple, we need wisdom -- the skill of living life. And there are numerous verses in Proverbs which address every category of crisis we will ever face.
Fortunately, wisdom from God is just a prayer away. The book in the New Testament most like Proverbs is James. The hands-on nature of James mirrors its Old Testament cousin. And James is the one who tells us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
The author of Proverbs, King Solomon, gained the wisdom to write more than 3,000 proverbs the same way James advises us to get it: by asking God. When Solomon succeeded his father David as king over Israel, God presented Solomon with a blank check: "Ask! What shall I give you?" (1 Kings 3). Understandably, 20-year-old Solomon's knees were knocking at the prospect of being king. So instead of asking for riches and long life, he asked God for wisdom, and God was true to His word: "I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you" (1 Kings 3:13).
For specific wisdom in unique situations, we may not have because we have not asked (James 4:2). But in many more of life's situations, we may lack wisdom because we haven't poured over the proverbs of Solomon. I invite you to take up the challenge I accepted -- a challenge which changed my life. Check today's date, read the corresponding chapter of Proverbs, and keep it up for a year. I believe you'll be amazed how something so simple can energize your spiritual life -- and give you needed skill for living. Get ready for 31 days to a more powerful you.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College. For more information on Turning Point, go to www.TurningPointOnline.org.