Archives For Wisdom and Decision Making

Wisdom is the saw we use to cut our way through life. Without sharp saws, life is like cutting through a piece of oak with a butter knife.  So how do we sharpen our saws? Answer: By spending ongoing time reading and meditating on Proverbs. 

All of us make decisions that have great implications for the future. What we decide to do impacts our families and other people to whom we are connected.

It can be scary to consider how much impact our decisions have on the future, especially when we consider that eternity is at stake. What you do today, might influence where your children spend eternity. 

And it is by no means a given that we make good decisions. People with good intentions make disastrous decisions every day.

So a central question becomes, “How do we avoid walking into the airplane propeller of bad decisions?”

The answer is “wisdom.” Wisdom is skill for living rightly. Wisdom is how we navigate life. 

But like any skill, wisdom is not automatic. It must be learned over time (Phil 1:9-11, Romans 12:2). The skill of wisdom is learned by spending time in God’s Word, especially Proverbs. The book of Proverbs was given for the express purpose that we might develop discernment. 

2  To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3  to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4  to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—Prov 1:2-4

  A handy aspect of Proverbs is that there are 31 chapters: one for every day of the month. If the date is the 21st, then read Proverbs 21. When you do, take time to identify and reflect on at least one verse. For example, Proverbs 21:1 reads:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

This Proverb reminds us that no matter how much we prepare for important events in our life, if God is not on our side, then all our labor is in vain. Proverbs 21:31 is a call to prayer. 

Two questions follow. The first is, “How long do I have to study Proverbs in order to grow in wisdom?” The answer is, “The rest of our lives.” I believe that all of us – – especially those with leadership responsibilities —  need to read a chapter of Proverbs daily until we die or Jesus comes back. Wisdom is that important.

If you’re a bit of a contrarian (like me), you might counter – – “So you read Proverbs every single day?” The answer is “no.” I miss lots of days. But I have a general habit of reading Proverbs. Sharpening my wisdom saw in Proverbs is a “go to” spiritual discipline that I have practiced over the years.

I would think that if — on average — you read the day’s chapter of Proverbs 3 out of 7 days every week (42.86% of the time) you would be on a good pace. The important thing is to observe the habit of reading Proverbs the rest of your life.

If you are looking for resources on Proverbs, I would make two recommendations:

  1. Dan Phillips’ book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is excellent. (For more see here). 
  2. Derek Kidner’s pithy, Proverbs (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) is also gold. 

 Some of the below posts may jumpstart your thinking on how to read Proverbs.

See also:

Dig for Wisdom Like Its 1849 (Prov 2:4-5)

What Questions Did You Ask Yourself Today Based on Proverbs 12?

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom (Prov 9:10)

Why Grooms Should Make the Wedding Dresses (Prov 24:3)

Be Thankful for Your Wife on the 31st  (Prov 31)

Derek Kidner on Understanding the Genre of Proverbs

We Know You Don’t See Your Blind Spot. Duh. It’s a Blind Spot. (Prov 17:10)

Even in Laughter the Heart May Ache (Prov 14:13)

A Chapter of Proverbs Today the 29th (Fear of Man Will Prove to Be a Snare) (Prov 29:25)

On Not Grabbing the Dog’s Ears (Prov 26:17)

The Sluggard is No Freak

If Your Boss is Atilla the Hun (Prov 27:18) 

The Meaning of Proverbs 17:6 – On the Beauty of Grandchildren

Two Classic Pillars of True Old Testament Religion (per Derek Kidner) (Prov 2:5)

Feeling Overwhelmed and Undermotivated? (Prov 6:6-10)

Where There is No Fear the People Perish: One of the Most Misapplied Verses in the Bible (Prov 29:18)

Who Are You? Don’t Be Too Sure You Know! (Prov 16:2)

Tim Keller on Proverbs

Before You Make this Loan, “Ask How God is God’s Credit?”  (Proverbs 19:17)

Dream Big and Be Excited to See God Direct Your Paths in Unexpected Ways (Prov 3:5-6)

A Guide to Proverbs Within Proverbs (Prov 3:3-12)

Why the Circle Doesn’t Always Remain Unbroken (Prov 16:28)

Leaders Know How to Pick Up a Crumb and Carry It Into the Next Room (Proverbs 30:25) 

Don’t Let Failure Give Way to Failure (Prov 24:16)

Sharpen Your Wisdom Saw Today (Read Proverbs 18)

Frame On Why We are Sometimes Contentiously Foolish (Prov 20:3)

There are Two Ways to Deal With a Lion

The Fear of Man Lays a Snare (Prov 29:25) 

A Time to Use the SW Word (Prov 10:19)

Ever Fall on Your Face Like Kurt Warner? (Prov 16:18)

Mark Twain: A Lie Can’t Get Half Way Round the World Before the Truth Even Gets Its Boots On (Prov 26:20)

Gossip Affects Your Spiritual Waistline (Prov 18:8)

Facing Some Orcs in An Adventure You Didn’t Ask For? Persevere (Prov 24:16)

If All Your Friends are Named Beevis, Guess What Your Name Is (Prov 13:20)

Set the Bar for Spiritual Disciplines Low 

Teaching Our Children to Work 

 

HT: Challies

Haddon Robinson:

If we think about it, peace cannot be the proof that we’re in God’s will.  If ever anyone was in God’s will, it was our Lord Jesus Christ.  But the Bible tells us that just before His crucifixion, Jesus, sweat great drops of blood.  With strong cries and tears He asked that, if possible, this cup be taken from Him (Luke 22:41-44).  At that moment Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father in Heaven, but if these are the marks of a man at peace, it’s certainly a strange kind of peace.

Look at a contrasting example.  If ever anyone was out of God’s will, it was Jonah.  God commanded Jonah to go to Ninevah, which was to the north and to the east.  But Jonah, the reluctant prophet, immediately headed to the south and to the west, and boarded a ship sailing out into the Mediterranean.  After the boat put out to sea, a tremendous storm arose, and the pagan sailors were terrified.

But Jonah didn’t worry – – he was asleep in the lower deck of the boat.  He had peace, perfect peace, i the midst of the storm.  Yet the prophet was completely out of the will of God.

These accounts of Jesus and Jonah demonstrate that inner peace cannot signal whether or not we are in God’s will, Scripture simply does not hold up such a theory.

Are older pastors wiser?

Chris —  October 7, 2010

Not necessarily.

Earlier this week, I observed that wisdom should grow with age.  One of the comments balances that post in a wonderful way.  The below comment is from Pastor Jess Miller and is worth reading.

This is an interesting post Chris. I have had the privilege in my Christian experience to sit under the ministries of two age groups of pastors. The first was a man in his 70′s. He played the wisdom card a lot, but as time went by it became apparent that he made many foolish mistakes that revealed a lack of godly wisdom that eventually led to the demise of his church.

The other two pastors I have had were both under the age of 40. As a matter of fact, one was under the age of 30! I was actually older than him! Each of these pastors have displayed wisdom in their ministries that far exceeded that of the older pastor. The older pastor’s church is down to about 20 people, where God has clearly blessed the ministries of the other two.

That really got me thinking about the concept of wisdom and how it is acquired. I do agree that godly wisdom should come with age, but as you stated in your post, that is just a general principle that does not alway correspond with reality. True wisdom comes from God, and He often has gifted younger men with wisdom beyond their years because they humbled themselves and sought Him for it.

I think that it is also important to distinguish between different kinds of wisdom. For instance, I may go to an older man in my congregation to seek wisdom on buying a house because I know he has wisdom in that area. However, I may not seek that man’s wisdom for leadership decisions in the church because, although he is older, he may lack wisdom in that area.

With that said, I agree that young pastors need to be continually seeking God for wisdom and confessing that they are unwise so that He can grant it to them. They would also be wise to find older pastors to whom they can turn for help and advice. I heard a man say once, “I’m an idiot, who by the grace of God knows he’s an idiot, and that makes me wise.”

Thanks for your post!

It’s not necessarily a sin to be under 20 years of age any more than it is a sin to be a pastor who is under 40.

Having said that, there are unique temptations for those who are young.  One of these unique temptations is to presume one has the wisdom which can only be attained over the course of life.

In our church, we are doing a series on Christian decision making.  It’s an extended exposition of Romans 12:1-2.  The ongoing metaphor is to picture Christian decision making as a saw that must be sharpened.  Wisdom is the saw Christians used to cut their way through life.

If you have no wisdom, then your saw is dull.  Even if you have the best of intentions, and work as hard as you can, if you have no Christian wisdom, then making Christian decisions is like trying to cut down an oak tree with a butter knife.

While not all people develop sharp saws at the same rate, it is a biblical principle that only as we get older do we really develop wisdom (Proverbs 16:31, 20:29).  Young people may be physically strong, but those with gray hair are wise.

If you are reading this and you are a teenager, don’t despair that you are working with a dull saw.  That’s part of being young.  But, be sure you lean on your parents and/or others who have sharpened their blades over the years.

If you are a young pastor (say under 40), don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.  Set an example for the believers.  But, remember there is a lot of sharpening of your blade that needs to take place.  Listen to advice and accept instruction.  Eventually you’ll be wise (Proverbs 19:20).  Seek wisdom.  Keep looking for it.  Pursue it like it is treasure (Prov 1-2).

Stating the obvious, we don’t see blind spots.  That’s why they’re called blind spots.  So, rather than being defensive when someone points something out, let’s listen to advice and accept instruction – – that in the end we can be wise (Proverbs 19:20).

Proverbs 17:10 – A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.  That is, a man of understanding doesn’t defensively deny blind spots when they come his way.  He allows them to shape his character.

imageBrauns highlights for 2010 (D.V.!).  We are thankful for your prayers.

  • Okay, the move to Switzerland is temporary.  Our church is giving me a sabbatical this summer (not to be confused with vacation – – see a Matt Schmucker article on sabbatical here).  As a part of the sabbatical, our church has been awarded a Lilly grant which means that we will be spending 5 weeks in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland (as seen in this picture).
  • I am writing a book with Moody the goal of which is to motivate equip churches looking for a pastor to call a pastor in a Word-centered way.  This was the subject of my doctoral thesis.  Can anything be more strategic for local churches than to call a pastor in a Word-centered way.  You can read a portion of my doctoral thesis here – – but, remember this is written in an academic way, whereas my book will be written for people in local churches.
  • The Romans Project continues on Sunday mornings, but in the Fall, I will preach a new topical (but expository) series: Direction for the Journey: Confidently Stepping Forward in Life.  These are such uncertain, confused times.  Believers so often struggle to know what to believing about God’s will.  This series will show people how to confidently step forward in a Christ-centered way.
  • One of my most significant goals for the next 5 years is to see God continue to develop men in our church as leaders.  This week I am meeting three times with men.  I am focused on this goal.
  • Our oldest daughter turns 16 this year . . . Since we brought her home from the hospital yesterday, this is an adjustment for me.
  • I will be preaching mostly to the Bricks, but also:
    • At a special conference on forgiveness in the Milwaukee area on March 20.
    • At a double ordination service at Morningstar church March 28.  I have never preached at a double wedding, let alone a double ordination.
    • As a keynote speaker at the Peacemakers National Conference, September 16-18, near Washington D.C.  (Here for the Peacemakers blog).

The O.H.I.O.* principle has been very helpful to me in time management.

OHIO stands for:

Only

Handle

It

Once

In a time management seminar, I learned:

  • When going through my mail, sit next to the trash can.  Immediately pitch extra mail. Only handle it once.
  • Schedule bills to be paid and record them appropriately.  I find online banking to be a great time saver.  Keep other material only if you can put it in a place where it will be later accessed.
  • Develop a good filing system so that when important information like tax documents arrive, you can immediately put them in the right place.
  • Avoid the basket full of assorted papers in which bills can be too easily lost.  One late payment can cost a significant chunk of money.

I still haven’t arrived perfectly in OHIO, but I’m getting closer every day.  And, it is saving me a lot of time.

*A book on forgiveness notwithstanding, I’m still bitter about a Hawkeye loss at the Horseshoe in 1986, in a Christian sort of way.  So, I’m conceding nothing to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

How to make better decisions

Chris —  January 4, 2010

Christian decision making is a topic that generates a lot of interest from believers, and rightly so.  Here is one of the better posts on this subject I have read.  Think carefully about this one.

In our culture we expect to make our own decisions. But decision-making must have a communal dimension.

First, we need the community to make good decisions. God does not have a specific will for our life that we have to somehow discover. The Bible speaks of God’s sovereign will (all things are under his control, good and bad) and his moral will (the revealed way of life to which he calls us all). Sometimes God guides in specific ways, but more often we make decisions with the wisdom that comes from fearing of the Lord and with our priorities set on God’s kingdom. The problem is we often find reasons for doing what we want to do. We need one another to help us see when our reasoning is corrupted by our sinful hearts.

Second, we should involve the Christian community in decision-making to the extent that our decisions affect the community. . .

The rest here.

HT: Z