Skilful Living - Part 1: Introduction

Get wisdom. This is not only sound advice from Scripture (Proverbs 4:5,7), it is a fundamental for Christian discipleship. As Christians, we are going to find ourselves increasingly at odds with our world. Our recent conference on the Goodness of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was excellent and useful, but counter-cultural. The decision this week by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding assisted suicide is another indicator that the borrowed capital of a Christian worldview that our country has enjoyed is running out. As we stand for the truth and seek to persuade people of the goodness of God and the glory of the gospel, we must grow in wisdom.

What is wisdom? Many preachers over the years have called wisdom, “Skilful Living.” That’s not bad, but it is not an adequate definition. More on that later. Where do we get wisdom? We get it from God. We learn wisdom from the Bible, but not merely as we study privately. Getting wisdom is a community project that must be applied as it is learned. Getting wisdom is a whole Bible, life-long pursuit.

For the month of February, I am planning to write four brief reflections on the book of Proverbs to encourage us to pursue wisdom. Consider these teasers for wisdom-seeking in Proverbs. Conveniently, Proverbs has 31 chapters and many months have 31 days. Why not try reading a chapter a day of Proverbs as a supplement to your regular Bible reading?

One of the keys to finding wisdom in Proverbs is remembering that this is our book. Proverbs is for Christians. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but many believers have a bias against Old Testament books, particularly a book like Proverbs that is not particularly doctrinal. Yes, we can learn wisdom from Ephesians, but we can also learn about God and ourselves and how to live skilfully for the glory of God from Proverbs as well – that’s what it’s for!

Consider the first seven verses of the book:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(English Standard Version)

After my long introduction this week, I’m only going to briefly highlight four things from these verses:

  1. The pursuit of this kind of godly wisdom is for everyone – for the young and simple and for the experienced and wise. We must never give up this quest for God’s wisdom.
  2. You have to work at getting this wisdom. It is not something that just happens along the way. It requires meditation, reflection and application on a consistent basis.
  3. Woven into the fabric of this book – and evident in these opening verses – is the fact that we must humbly receive wisdom from others. This is not a self-help project. To pursue wisdom is to confess that we are lacking and need instruction and help from other people.
  4. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Think of beginning as foundation. The fear of the Lord is not the beginning of wisdom as if it were a starting line that we leave behind once we begin, it is more like the foundation of a building that must stay in place. As we seek to gain wisdom, we must remember that a right knowledge and a right worship of God is basic and essential.

As we make the effort to get wisdom, we must remember that we are totally dependent upon God. We must submit to His Word. We must receive from His church. We must trust that God is at work as we pursue wisdom – this is faith. Most of all, as Christians, we must look to Christ, who has become for us “…wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).