How to Make Wise Decisions

This is the fourth study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:

Proverbs 3:1-26, the purpose is to help recognize the factors that make for a wise decision.

Although knowledge will help us in making decisions, it is even more critical that we choose wisely. Wisdom combines good judgment, knowledge, experience and understanding, but it is different than any of these.

What was created even before the world was founded? Proverbs 8:22-31, 3:19-20

What is a definition of wisdom? After listening to each other, how would you now change your answers?

  1. Accumulated philosophic or scientific learning (knowledge)
  2. Ability to discern inner qualities and relationships (insight)
  3. Good sense (judgment)
  4. Generally accepted belief
  5. The ability to see beneath the surface of things
  6. A wise attitude, belief, or course of action
  7. The teachings of the ancient wise men

What is wisdom? What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?

The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” This is a theme that is recurring throughout the Bible. We know that knowledge, on the other hand, is defined as having information through experience, reasoning or acquaintance. God wants us to have knowledge of him and what he expects of us. But equally important is having wisdom. Knowing facts about God and the Bible is not all there is to having wisdom.

Wisdom is a gift from God. James 1:5 says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Wisdom is what God will bless us with in order for us to glorify Him with the knowledge we have of Him.

The book of Proverbs is perhaps the best book in the Bible to study when seeking to learn biblical wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 also clearly explains what it means to have biblical knowledge: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When we fear the Lord, which is the most basic form of knowledge, God can then begin to provide us with wisdom through Jesus, whom the Bible says is wisdom itself. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Knowledge is what is gathered over time through study of the Scriptures. It can be said that wisdom, in turn, reveals itself by acting upon that knowledge. In other words, knowledge manifesting itself in any given situation through wisdom. If one lacks knowledge, he will also lack wisdom. The two go hand-in-hand.

Who do you consider to be wise? How has his or her wisdom been demonstrated?

The book of Proverbs offers practical advice through poetry; short, pithy sayings; and vivid comparisons. The main point of the book is that we should always seek the wisdom of God.

1. This passage describes many benefits of wisdom. Which of them are most attractive to you?

2. According to Proverbs 3:1-12, what characterizes a wise decision?

Wise decisions consist of following wise teaching, being motivated by love and faithfulness, trusting in the Lord, going God’s way instead of our way, giving to God generously, and submitting to God’s discipline. A decision made on the basis of these criteria is promised to bring great reward.

3. Why is a commitment to “love and faithfulness” (Proverbs 3:3) important to making a wise decision?

A decision that is based on love and faithfulness is given the promise of winning favor with God and humanity. A decision that is NOT motivated by love and faithfulness will allow us to become self-serving.

4. Some people would argue that it is unwise to trust anyone but yourself. How would you answer them after reading Proverbs 3:5-8?

Proverbs 3:5-8 “are to Christ’s disciples what the wedding ceremony is to newlyweds. They spell out what is and is not to be done within the relationship. They set the terms of what it means to live with God at the outset of our commitment to Him and through every step of our pilgrimage. They are the ‘to have and to hold from this day forward’ of our marriage-covenant with God” (David Hubbard).

5. Why is it wise to “honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9) instead of spending it on yourself? How have you done this?

The principle of firstfruits comes from Deuteronomy 26:1-15. It is the practice of giving God the first produce to ripen and be harvested. To give the firstfruits is an act of trust because the giver has no guarantee that the rest of the crop will actually be harvested. “Prosperity, gratitude, and charity are an indivisible triad of experiences in biblical thought, and notably in Proverbs” (Hubbard).

6. How do people today “despise the Lord’s discipline” (Proverbs 3:11)?

To “despise” and “reject” God’s discipline is the opposite of the trust that is spoken of in Proverbs 3:5-8. People despise discipline when they live in denial, make excuses or pass blame.

7. What role has God’s discipline played in making you wiser (Proverbs 3:11-12)?

8. What makes wisdom so valuable (Proverbs 3:13-17)?

Wisdom is valuable because it provides understanding, brings prosperity, lengthens a person’s life and gives peace.

9. How can you “embrace” wisdom (Proverbs 3:18)?

10. According to Proverbs 3:19-26, what can wisdom accomplish?

We know that our world is a fruit of God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:19-20). Since we can clearly see what God’s wisdom has already accomplished, the author now assures us of what it can do for each of us personally. Wisdom will give us life, keep us safe, banish fear and build our confidence.

11. In what ways are you like and unlike the person described in Proverbs 3:2l-26?

12. What can you do to become more like the wise person pictured here?

13. What have these proverbs taught you about wisdom and how to find it?

Pray for godly wisdom in the decisions you face.

Now or Later: Read Jesus’ parable about wisdom and foolishness in Matthew 7:24-27.

The wise and foolish man both faced the same decision where and how to build a house-but they made very different choices.

  1. What factors do you think influenced their decision making process?
  2. Why are so many foundations built on sand?
  3. What does this parable teach you about making wise choices and avoiding foolish ones?

Open Bible Notes:

  • Proverbs 3:1-2 – The connection between keeping God’s commands and enjoying long life is supported by the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12).
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – These verses, worthy of being memorized, which sum up the biblical approach to life. Wisdom is not the result of mere human insight, but of learning God’s unchanging ways.
  • Proverbs 3:7 – Fear the LORD … depart from evil (see Job 1:1).
  • Proverbs 3:9 – To honor the LORD meant to give Him the portion of material goods that He required (Deuteronomy 26:1-2, 9-13). Firstfruits were the first items harvested, and often the best.
  • Proverbs 3:24-26 – Serving God saves us from many fears.
  • Proverbs 3:27-30 – The wise person does not delay payment. Delay may lead to misunderstanding and strife.

Warren Wiersbe:

Your heart (Proverbs 3:1-8). What you do with your heart determines what you do with your life (Proverbs 4:23).

  • Cultivate an obedient heart (Proverbs 3:1) that
  • Receives God’s Word (Proverbs 3:3, 2 Corinthians 3:1-3) and
  • A trusting heart that obeys (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • Proverbs 3:5 does not suggest that you ignore your mind or common sense, but that you not lean only on them and reject God’s way.

Your possessions (Proverbs 3:9-20). Put God first in the way you use His wealth (Matthew 6:33) and major on the things that money cannot buy (Proverbs 3:13-18). When God corrects you, accept it as an evidence of His love (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Your conduct (Proverbs 3:21-26). Let every part of your body be controlled by God’s wisdom (Romans 12:1-2). Restful sleep is one of the tests of faith and true surrender to God (Psalm 4:8).

Your neighbors (Proverbs 3:27-35). If you want God’s blessing on your home, be a blessing to those around you. Share what you have and never plan evil against others (Romans 12:9-21).

The Revelation of God

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

Here we are to investigate how the cross was a word and a work. And we ought to listen attentively.

The Glory of God: According to John, Jesus referred to his death as a glorification, and event through which he and the Father would be supremely glorified or manifested. The Bible tells us that heaven and earth are filled with his glory. The flowers in the field had glory exceeding Solomon’s, God showed his glory in delivering the people from Egypt (Ps 19:1, Isaiah 6:3, Matthew 6:29).

We had a glimpse of his glory at the transfiguration, and was manifested in the miracles or signs. John tells us that we have seen his glory. The cross appeared to be shame, but it proved to be glory. The synoptic gospels tell us that suffering is the pathway to glory. His coming death was his hour of glorification:

  1. Some Greeks came to see Jesus, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” and then talked about his death (John 12:23).
  2. Judas leaves the upper room, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31).
  3. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus says, “Father the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).

In the cross there is a clear and public demonstration of God’s justice (Romans 3:25-26) and his love (Romans 5:8).

The Justice of God: There is seeming injustice in God’s providence: Abraham’s plea with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, the entire book of Job, and Psalm 73 where evil people prosper.

Romans 3:21-26 – the reformers interpreted “a righteousness” to mean a righteous status which is of God; it is bestowed by him. We read about the sacrifice of atonement was to demonstrate God’s justice.

  1. The first look is to the past (all sins in the past had beforehand been unpunished, Romans 3:25), and it looks to the present and future (so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:26).
  2. Why had he not judged sinners according to their works? Although self-restraint might postpone justice, he could not allow a backlog of sins to mount up indefinitely.
  3. The cross shows both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner.

The Love of God: How can the horrors of the world be reconciled with the love of God? Why does he allow them?

  1. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Apart from Jesus, we know nothing about love.
  2. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). The words, “live” and “propitiation” betray our severe need. Because of sin, we deserve to experience death and to die under the righteous anger of God. But Jesus bore the wrath instead of us.

God poured out his love (Romans 5:5) and he demonstrated his love (Romans 5:8).

  1. God gave his Son for us. He did not send another being or creature, but himself.
  2. God gave his Son to die for us. The incarnation was the beginning of his self-giving, having emptied himself, humbled himself and became obedient to death, on a cross.
  3. God gave his Son to die for us. For underserving sinners who have missed the mark.

Three marks of false love:

  1. Mark of limitation (something is withheld)
  2. Mark of control (someone is manipulated)
  3. Mark of detachment (we remain self-sufficient, unimpaired, and unhurt)

Three marks of authentic love:

  1. Characterized by limitless self-giving.
  2. Characterized by risk-taking with no guarantee of success.
  3. Characterized by vulnerability that is easily hurt.

Both the Father and the Son suffer the cost of their surrender, though differently:

  1. The Son suffers dying; the Father suffers the death of the Son.
  2. The grief of the Father is just as important as the death of the Son.
  3. The fatherlessness of the Son is matched by the sonlessness of the Father.

Is there more emphasis on God’s love over the cross? Is there repentance and salvation without the cross? Some stories illustrate God’s forgiving mercy and contain nothing about the need for an atoning sacrifice.

  1. Did Paul corrupt church dogma and make the cross necessary for salvation?
  2. Islam claims that the boy is saved without a Savior. The incarnation, the cross and the resurrection are all unnecessary. If God is truly great, he can forgive without all of these things.
    1. Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: one was justified (Luke 18:9-14)
    2. Parable of the unmerciful servant: the king freely forgave and cancelled the debt (Matthew 18:23-35)
    3. Parable of the Prodigal Son: welcomes him back and reinstates him (Luke 15:11-24)

Middle Eastern understanding: the prodigal was returning in disgrace. Punishment was inevitable. The father bears the suffering rather than inflicting it. The father ran (his age ran nowhere under any circumstances), cultural humiliation, taking on the shame. This is the humiliation of the incarnation and the shame of the cross on our behalf.

Wisdom and Foolishness of the Cross: (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5) – Jews demand miraculous signs and the Greeks demand wisdom. We preach Christ crucified which is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. Paul came without a message of human wisdom, or his own strength. Instead he brought the foolish, revealed message of the cross. He had to overcome his own weakness, fear and trembling and relay on the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Desire to Be Wise

I believe that growing up in spiritual things involves growth in wisdom. It’s not just about being smart, but how your life experiences have taught lessons as well. It might help to define wisdom. The Holman Bible Dictionary tells us this:

Real Wisdom Is the Fear of God: Three basic definitions of wisdom summarize the status of the field of study very well. Note that the first two of these definitions are quite secular in nature while the third is religious.

  1. First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently, ancient persons learned very early that there was an orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Proverbs 22:17–24:22).
  2. Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly, much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31).
  3. Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one’s faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28).

When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Everyone wants to be wise, yet here Paul taught the Corinthians that true wisdom or discernment requires the believer to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Because Satan’s greatest impact on us occurs when he deceives us, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Spiritual discernment enables us to

  1. Draw conclusions based on God’s perspective
  2. Make wise decisions in difficult circumstances
  3. Recognize the activities of God’s Spirit
  4. Distinguish the correct and incorrect use of Scripture
  5. Identify and expose false teachers

Ask God to give you his discernment and wisdom as you serve him. Let that discernment guide you in your daily walk with Christ.

[print_link] [email_link]

The Wisdom, Goodness and Word of God

This is the first lesson for the New Beginnings Bible study class at King’s Grant Baptist. Our study in the book of James begins this weekend. It is a practical little book about Christianity in blue jeans. It helps us to see what a mature believer looks like and how that person lives in the world.

Here is a brief outline of chapter one:

The Wisdom of God (1–11). You need wisdom in trials so you will not waste your suffering and miss the spiritual growth that should result. When you trust God, trials work for you and not against you; but be sure your heart is wholly yielded to Him. If your heart and mind are divided, trials will tear you apart. I want to show this video in class this Sunday:

The Goodness of God (12–20). When you realize how good God is to you, you will have no interest in the temptations the enemy puts before you. When you are tempted, count your blessings; and you will soon have strength to say no.

Have you ever thought about how to change the world? Sometimes we wonder about any goodness in the world. Why do bad things happen to good people? The better question may be, “Why do any good things happen anybody?” We are the hands and feet of God, so if God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), he can certainly work through us to bring it about. This video clip suggests that if we want to change the world, start with one random act of kindness (goodness):

The Word of God (21–27). The Word gives us spiritual birth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22–23). It is like seed planted in the heart that produces spiritual fruit (James 1:21). It is a mirror that helps us examine ourselves (James 1:23–25) and cleanse our lives. We must do the Word of God, not just read it or study it; the blessing is in the doing.

When we encounter God through his Word, lives are forever changed. When we read the words, we must allow them to abide in us and allow Christ to mold us into his image. Grace is the foundation of the gospel, getting something we can never earn and will never deserve. This clip shows how God’s Word, forgiveness and grace changed several generations of a family:

Here are “famous” verses we will encounter in this little book:

  1. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James 1:2
  2. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach.” James 1:5
  3. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
  4. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19–20
  5. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” James 1:22
  6. “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
  7. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:2–3
  8. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
  9. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:7
  10. “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
  11. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

I hope to see you this Sunday in the Welcome Center.

[print_link]  [email_link]