Introduction: This week the Huffington Post carried an article on the subject: “7 Secrets of Wise People (And How to Become One…Now).” It was a pretty good column, and I thought I’d read a little of it for you: “Quick — who are the wisest people you know? Chances are they have at least a few things in common: They’re experienced, kind, and of a certain age. Wisdom, the thinking generally goes, is hard-earned by putting in your time and piecing together scraps of knowledge along the way. But maybe a younger person also sprang to mind — someone who, despite his or her relative youth, you regard as genuinely wise. That’s because wisdom — which University of Florida, Gainesville sociology professor Monika Ardelt, defines as a combination of cognitive, reflective and compassionate qualities — is not the sole purview of the elderly. Wisdom… is something that can be cultivated, and the potential pay-offs are big: Her research has shown that wise men and women enjoy improved well-being as they age, because they’re better able to deal with challenges, such as declining health and the loss of loved ones. So what are the secrets of those people who are wise beyond their years? Ardelt shares a few traits that wise people tend to have in common, as well as several pathways for getting there … soon: (1) Wise people have a lot of experiences; (2) Wise people are sponges. They soak up lessons wherever they are; (3) Wise people see what’s right in front of them; (4) They meditate; (5) They grow from crises. And not just big crises, but wisdom also comes from managing smaller problems, such as a bad day at work; (6) They have a strong support network; (7) They’re tolerant. Compassion is a key component of wisdom.”
That list has some biblical components to it; which shows that even secular sociologists have to agree with the Bible on this subject. Wisdom is a biblical quality, for the message of the Bible is one that comes from an all-wise, omniscient Creator. God is the author of wisdom, for He alone is truly wise; He alone knows everything; and He alone knows how to use that knowledge for the best of all. We are only wise as our thinking begins to increasingly correspond to His.
Exposition: That brings us to our Scripture reading tonight. We’re working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians, and we’re coming to the last part of chapter 2. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:16: Who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ… As Christians, we’re to think as Jesus did. We’re to make decisions as He did. We’re to look at life and at daily events and at other people as He would, were He in our place. We have the mind of Christ.
Now, let’s look at this in its context. In Acts 18 and 19, the apostle Paul planted two churches—one at the gateway to Europe and the other at the gateway to Asia. One was in Corinth and the other in Ephesus. I believe he wanted these two churches to be his signature works and to serve as forward operating bases to evangelize their respective regions. The church in Ephesus became strong and healthy. But the reverse happened in Corinth, which was plagued with problems from the beginning. I believe the Lord allowed those problems so we would have 1 Corinthians, which is a manual on dealing with terrible conflicts within a local church. Paul deals with these problems one after another as you work your way through the book. The first four chapters deal with unity and disunity. The Corinthian church had splintered into fragments, and in chapters 1 and 2, Paul said it happened because they people had not reflected the wisdom of God. See 1 Corinthians 1-2. Paul said his message was not one of human wisdom, but of divine wisdom, which is available for us in spiritual words taught by the Spirit. The Corinthians had been terribly immature and that immaturity had caused divisions. True wisdom is mature and patient and promotes wisdom. (See James 3:13-18). In a church, a denomination, a ministry organization, a home, a family, or a marriage—when people are wise, it has a unifying effect; when people are foolish, you can feel the tension. With that in mind, I want to give you seven simple rules for wisdom that you’ll not find in the Huffington Post.
Rules for Wisdom
1. Cook a Pot of Risotto. My wife Katrina and I have become big fans of risotto. We’d never had risotto before last December, but we were in New York City and went to a French restaurant named Marseille in Hell’s Kitchen. Mushroom risotto was on the menu, and Katrina ordered it. I ordered some chicken concoction, and when the food came I didn’t care for mine but we both loved hers. So I came back and found a recipe that approximated it and we’ve been cooking risotto ever since. Here’s the thing about risotto. You take one cup of Arborio rice, sauté some onions, and pour the rice into the pot. Then you start stirring. In a nearby pot, you have four or five cups of hot chicken stock, and you add it a half-cup at a time, and you keep stirring. It takes about a half-hour, but somehow those little grains of rice soak up all the chicken stock and give off their starches and become just right—not too tough, not too soggy. And then when the rice is rich and creamy, you can throw in some cheese and some mushrooms or veggies and make whatever kind of risotto you want. But those little grains of rice will keep soaking up that chicken stock. They are like sponges. Now, I don’t want to sound trivial. But God pours each of us into the environment of His choosing, turns up the heat, ladles the Scriptures into our mind one passage at a time, and starts stirring. In the process of time, we soak up the Scriptures and began to take on the texture and flavors of wisdom. There is no shortcut to this.
2. Learn to Audit Yourself. After every failure or negative episode, review it in your mind, learn a lesson from it, then put it behind you and go forward with the resolution of being wiser next time. For six years now, I’ve served on the International Mission Board of our denomination. We’ve faced some very difficult and complex issues. I go into every board meeting afraid I’ll say something stupid or impulsive or uninformed. And very often I have. But as I drive home, I review every meeting in my mind and I ask myself, “Was that a wise statement? Should I have said that? Why did I say that? How could I have spoken more wisely or, even better, convinced myself to keep my mouth shut?” We have to audit ourselves. Someone told me years ago: “A day is never lost if a lesson is won.”
3. Take a Walk. Time to Think Through Things and to Pray Through Things. I can think of a number of times when stalling for time helped me make a good decision. When you have a decision to make, and you have to make it immediately—at once—just pray and make the best decision you can. But if you have time, take all the time you can to think and to pray it through. This is also true for studying a passage of Scripture. After studying a verse or passage, take a walk and think it through from every angle.
4. Never Miss a Chance to Keep Your Mouth Shut. Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise; and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Will Rogers pointed out that it’s a lot easier to let the cat out of the bag than it is to put it in.
5. Be Congenial. I think a lot of people are a little adversarial or unpleasant because they have a low self-image. They’re always on the defensive. They’ll always on the verge of being offended. They’re down on themselves so they take everything personally. Don’t take things so personally. Smile and be congenial.
6. Be Patient – You can measure your wisdom by your patience.
7. Ask God for Wisdom at Every Point.
Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!