The Good Life
Who among you is wise and intelligent? Let him by his good conduct show his [good] deeds with the gentleness and humility of true wisdom.
Grounded. Unflappable. Got it together. A few people among us seem to have learned the secret of life. When others around them are losing their cool, these people remain calm, think clearly, and make good choices. No, they aren’t supermen and superwomen, and no, they aren’t on drugs. They’ve learned to tap into God’s wisdom.
The Scriptures give us a thousand snapshots of wisdom, and the Proverbs paint many pictures of wise living. People who are wise have a deep reverence for God, first of all. They are in awe of His power and love, and their trust in Him permeates their response to every situation, every interaction, and every decision. A shift has taken place in their hearts. They have learned to care more about God’s purposes than their own selfish desires. They’ve found out that pursuing God’s design with an open mind and a full heart leads to the richest life possible.
At work, they function with integrity, and they make everyone around them more successful. At home, their spouse and children know they are loved and safe and they enjoy being with one another. They have learned to handle money wisely, and they receive God’s many gifts with a heart of thankfulness. They never brag, because they don’t have to prove themselves, and they resolve conflicts so that each person comes out with his or her reputation intact.
Is this kind of life possible? Yes, and it begins with an honest assessment of our current condition.
That best portion of a good man’s life: His little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
Sometimes when we read the story of creation and about Adam and Eve in the Garden, we may wonder how in the world could they give up paradise and such a close relationship with God for a piece of fruit. Was having the knowledge of good and evil so important to them that they were willing to exchange all they had for it? In the same way, we too, are often willing to strike out on our own, make our own plans and decisions, perhaps feeling that our knowledge, experience, and wisdom are sufficient for such things. For most of us, this conduct has often led us to regret as we’ve discovered that all we thought we knew was based on false information, perceived wisdom that was in reality foolishness, and nothing in our experience prepared us for the consequences of such choice.
Thankfully we have a God who meets us in our failures and offers us a way out of trouble. His grace, mercy and forgiveness, once received, give us an opportunity to start over with life. But they don’t always eradicate the consequences of our previous decisions. So many of us wrestle with the consequences of our past even though we have been forgiven and restored. That day when Adam and Eve chose the fruit over their walk with God, God provided forgiveness and grace but they also reaped the consequences for their decisions. Evicted from paradise, having to live by the sweat of the brow, painful childbearing, and death were the consequences of their choices. We read that later they suffered the pain of losing their first two sons; one by murder and the other by banishment. Oh the horrible results of living our own way, making our own decisions, and trusting in our wisdom.
It doesn’t have to be this way or stay this way. We have the potential of living the good life. I’m not talking about a life trouble free or one in which we have everything we could desire. I’m speaking of a life filled with joy, peace, contentment, and blessing. How can we have such a life? Proverbs says that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. This word fear doesn’t mean to be terrified but to be in awe. When we come to the place where we begin to know God in a small way, we see the incredible work of His hands in creation, we marvel at the wondrous work He is doing in our hearts, and we begin to learn to trust Him. We also learn to consult Him before any move or decision we make. We learn that our wisdom is untrustworthy so we begin to rely more and more on His wisdom. We search His Word for direction and answers. We seek His face for assurance and peace. We yield our hearts to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We begin to see that wherever God is guiding us that He is also providing what we need. Our lives begin to be molded and shaped by Him until His desires become our desires and in some way our desires become His.
In the 40th chapter of Isaiah and the 31st verse we read:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become tired or grow weary; There is no searching of His understanding. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who has no might He increases power. Even youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.”
Wise people tap into the strength and wisdom of the Everlasting God. Isaiah tells us that He never becomes tired or grows weary. Many of us make poor decisions out of fatigue. After wrestling with something over and over, we often make rash decisions hoping to be able to just move on. I wonder how many times Eve battled the temptation to eat the fruit before she finally gave in. All of us will come to the place of weariness and tiredness, but those who have learned to live the good life have discovered that when their strength has ran out if they stay connected with God through prayer and the Word, the Holy Spirit will renew their strength daily. Isaiah says that even the young and strong stumble with fatigue and everyone comes to the end of their strength. But listen to what God is promising us if we will only turn our hearts fully to Him: “there is no searching to His understanding” meaning that the depths of His knowledge cannot be tapped out. No matter what the circumstances or how impossible something may seem, there is nothing beyond the knowledge of God. I’m told that we only use about 5% or less of our brain capacity. Imagine what we could do if we could use 10% of it. I’m more convinced that the most spiritual of us only use a tiny particle of the vast wisdom and power that God makes available to us. I’ve learned that when every ounce of human knowledge and wisdom is insufficient, the wisdom of God isn’t even challenged. I think it’s important for us to remember that two of the gifts that the Holy Spirit has made available to us is the “word of knowledge” and “the word of wisdom.”
Isaiah goes on to say that God gives “strength to the weary.” Zechariah 4:6 gives us this bit of wisdom:
“Then he said to me, “This [continuous supply of oil] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [prince of Judah], saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of whom the oil is a symbol],’ says the Lord of hosts.”
This vision that Zechariah is given is that of the candlesticks continuously being filled with oil so that their light never diminishes. We too, have available for us the continuous flow of “oil” through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. Jesus said it this way:
“He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water.’” But He was speaking of the [Holy] Spirit, whom those who believed in Him [as Savior] were to receive afterward. The Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (raised to honor).”
The idea is that we can have a continuous, uninterrupted flow of the Holy Spirit like a river flowing from our our hearts. That River, exceeds any power or might and God our Father accomplishes in us and through us and for us everything by the power of the Spirit rather than through our might or power.
So we may ask, “How can I have this?” Isaiah gives us the simple instruction: “Those that wait upon the Lord.” The Hebrew word translated “wait” is an interesting one. Most of us think about waiting as staying put until something happens or being eagerly impatient for something to happen. Another meaning for wait is to serve such as waiting on tables. Neither of these two meanings apply here. The word “qavah” means specifically to anticipate action by God. But it’s more than that. It literally means to intertwine one’s heart and soul with God’s presence like a vine that wraps itself around the mighty oak tree, drawing strength from it. Left to itself, the vine would have no strength to rise from the ground. Left on the ground it would become trampled in the dirt and eventually the pummeling would draw out its very life. But when that vine begins to attach itself to the mighty tree and uses its strength to grow, it begins reaching for the sky. At any point along the way, separation from the tree would end in a fall and back to the trampling of those who pass it by. This is the picture that the Bible paints of those who have learned to live the good life. Every storm, every trial, every experience that life brings causes them to draw closer to the source of wisdom, strength and power. It’s not that they are so strong or so wise. It’s really because they have acknowledged their weakness and their lack of wisdom and have sought to intertwine themselves with God understanding that in Him lies all wisdom and all power. They know that the mighty tree can withstand the storms and if they stay wrapped around it, they will too.
Wherever you are in your journey of faith, choose today to intentionally wrap yourself tighter to Christ. Confess to Him the pride of trusting in your wisdom and strength. Admit that on your best day, you aren’t capable of making the best decisions nor do you have strength to resist the temptations the devil brings. James sums it up for us this way: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee.”
Wise people have learned to lean on God, to trust His wisdom, and to surrender their whole being to His keeping. Because of that, they walk in peace, joy, and contentment. They, without boasting, will declare that of all people they feel the most blessed. They choose to make their concerns prayers instead of worries. They choose to rest in the provision of God realizing that they can trust Him with all things. This doesn’t come instantly but it will come to those who begin to implement “waiting of God.”
Dr. John Thompson