Theology 101

Gaining Wisdom to Discern God’s Will

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“How do I know what God wants me to do in this situation?”

This is a question I often hear. It’s a question I had myself as a college graduate from University of Florida. I thought I might be called to be a pastor, but I wasn’t sure. I attended Union Seminary for one year. During that year, I realized I was not called to this vocation. God wanted me elsewhere. I left Union and moved to Fort Lauderdale, where I started my career—and calling—as a businessman.

How did I realize this? Other people around me at Union spoke wisdom into my life. I didn’t have all the knowledge I needed to make a decision about my career and calling. I had some idea, but not a complete picture. I needed the wisdom and knowledge of others to fill in the missing pieces.

Wisdom and knowledge can help us know God, make life choices, and deepen our sense of humility. The path to wisdom, knowing what to do next in a given set of circumstances, requires understanding, or what the Bible often calls discernment. This brings facts into crisp focus within a framework of biblical truth.

The challenge of understanding is compounded by what we have described as the knowledge problem, or as we often say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

So how do we overcome the knowledge problem to accomplish goals, answer our callings, and create value for others?

Humility and collaboration are essential for overcoming our lack of knowledge. One person seldom has all the knowledge needed to solve any given situation or problem. We need to cooperate and assist each other with our particular gifts and areas of expertise in order to accomplish what God has called us to do, especially in our vocations.

There is an old folk tale describing this problem. It tells of six blind men who encounter an elephant. Since they are all blind, none of them are able to actually see the large animal; they are each only able to experience a part of the elephant using their sense of touch. One touches the elephant leg, another his tail, another the elephants’ ear, and so on. Each man thinks he is experiencing the whole elephant and discounts the other men’s descriptions because it differs so vastly from his own.

Since none of the men can experience the entire elephant on his own, the only way to fully grasp the whole thing would be to share and accept each other’s observations and then add them all together. If they all were able to do this, the entire picture of the elephant could be realized.

This is exactly what the Apostle Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12 as he describes the unity and diversity within the body of Christ. We begin to see the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world when we share the knowledge and understanding God has given each of us.

We must be both humble and wise, seeking to proactively share our knowledge with others while learning from the knowledge that they have been given.

As C.S. Lewis writes in his classic book, Mere Christianity,

He [God] told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves,’ but also ‘as wise as serpents.’ He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.

The Apostle Paul sums this all up in his instructions to the Ephesians:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:11-16).

How do we create long-term value for the kingdom of God? By sharing our knowledge with others, and learning from them as well. The proper use of knowledge leads to effective action. We must make every effort to apply what we’ve learned so we can create real, long-term value for God and his kingdom.

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