Wisdom is so vital to our lives, as we saw on Monday, looking at stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine, amphetamines, and cannabis and THC (for some). It’s a complex world, and it’s getting more complex by the day. And it’s a world we must navigate with wisdom. For guidance, Psalm 19:7 is one of my favorite texts. The psalmist tells us, “The [teaching] of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Make wise the simple, Lord! That’s the frequent prayer of this simple man. I need wisdom, which is to say, I need the teachings and the testimonies of the Lord.
So, on Monday we applied biblical wisdom when it comes to stimulants. And on this pursuit of wisdom, this clip recently arrived from a listener. It’s from a 1981 sermon from Pastor John, on Proverbs 4:1–13, talking about where to find wisdom. I love this message because Pastor John opens it talking about our pursuit of joy, which is what drives all our lives and the substances we consume. He said,
I believe that all men have this in common — namely, that we all want to be happy. Not all of us agree on how to find that happiness or where it comes from, but we do agree that we want it. I think that’s common ground for all humankind. And that’s not a bad thing; that’s a good thing. That’s the way God made us. Evil is not wanting to be happy; evil is seeking and finding that happiness in the wrong places. And goodness is seeking and finding that happiness in places that please and honor God. I can conceive of a world in which we might be called upon to sacrifice our happiness for God’s glory, but that is not the kind of world in which we live.
Amen! “Evil is not wanting to be happy; evil is seeking and finding that happiness in the wrong places.” Such a great intro to this search for wisdom. Okay, so how do we find wisdom? Here’s Pastor John, later in this same message.
And now, finally, I want to give you five brief instructions as to how to get this wisdom. These have been really helpful for me to think about again, and I think they all come from Scripture. I’ve tried to show that they do.
Step number one, we must desire it, hunger for it, long for it. Proverbs 4:8: “Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” Those are not cheap words. When you prize something and you embrace something, you love it intensely. And therefore, wisdom has to be valuable to us. We have to want it and crave it; otherwise, we will not get it.
Fifteen Minutes a Day
Second, since wisdom is found in the word of God, we have to apply ourselves to meditate upon the word and study the word of God. And I want to add to that this: not only applying yourselves to the Scriptures firsthand, but also giving yourself to read the finest wisdom of the best students of the word for the past 1,900 years. Read great theological books, books that distill the wisdom of God down and help us gain a sense of the sweep of God’s revelation and insight into the true meaning of Scripture. It would be folly for us all to start from scratch when there’s so much help to be had in great books.
And now I want to give you something really encouraging, because I know what goes through many of your minds when I say that: “I don’t have the time or the ability to get anywhere with that kind of literature if you’re talking about great books of theology.” I don’t believe that’s true. Great books are always great because they’re readable, not because they’re obscure. Obscure books are not great books.
“You could read twenty books by this time next year by setting aside fifteen minutes a day.”
Now, here’s the most encouraging thing I can think to say to you this morning. My pastor told me it four years ago — it changed my life. Here it is. Suppose that you can read about 250 words a minute. Now, that’s not real fast; most of us can do that — 250 words a minute. And suppose that you set aside fifteen minutes a day to read a great book — a classic or some book that you’d been longing to read that would help you grow in your wisdom, your understanding. Now, fifteen minutes a day for 365 days is 5,475 minutes a year. Now, you multiply 5,475 times 250, and you get 1,368,750 words that you could read in a year at fifteen minutes a day. Now, an average book has about 300 to 400 words on a page. So we’ll take 350, which is kind of in the middle, and divide that into 1,368,750. And you know what you get? You get 3,910 — almost 4,000 pages a year. An average book has about 200 pages.
Pick a Classic
You see the implication of that? You could read twenty books by this time next year by setting aside fifteen minutes a day. I tell you, when I heard that, I ran home, I sat down, I got out my calendar, I looked for that fifteen-minute slot, and I found it just before supper, at 5:15, because I diddle away that time every night. And I set myself to do it. And I read Jonathan Edwards’s Original Sin, which is a fat book, in two months at fifteen minutes a day. And then I went on to C.S. Lewis and George McDonald, and lots of other things I had been wanting to read, and I read gobs. All that reading of which I said, “There’s no hope — I don’t have time for it; I don’t have any space to fit it in,” was now getting done because there was a fifteen-minute slot that I was using that had formerly been thrown away.
There is hope. You people who think that there’s no hope, there is. You have fifteen minutes — save the fifteen minutes just before you go to bed at night. Go to bed, pick out a great classic like John Calvin’s Institutes, or Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will or Commentary on Galatians, or John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, or Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections, or some great book you’ve just been itching to read and say, “Oh, there’s no way,” and read it at fifteen minutes a day.
A big tree can be chopped down with lots of little chops. That’s a great incentive, I think, to get wisdom.
And then third, we must pray, because wisdom comes from the Lord. And then fourth, we must think of our death very often. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Nothing purges us of folly like thinking of our death.
“A person who loves and trusts and follows Jesus has and owns the treasure of lasting and true happiness.”
And then finally, we must come to Jesus. “In [him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Solomon spoke wisdom; Jesus is the wisdom of God. Others had spoken truths; Jesus is the truth. Others had made promises; in him all the promises of God are yes. Others had offered forgiveness; Jesus bought it. Therefore, in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
A person who loves and trusts and follows Jesus has and owns the treasure of lasting and true happiness. And therefore, when the command comes to us get wisdom, it means, first and foremost, come to Jesus. Come to Jesus in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And now, may the wise God fill you with his godly wisdom, that you might enjoy now and forever the true and lasting happiness that is found in him. Amen.