Jennifer Speer Notes: Week four
Real Wisdom/James 3:13-18
The word “wisdom” like the word” tongue”, which we studied last week, permeates Scripture. The word “wisdom” is in the NASB two hundred and sixteen times. If you add the word “wise” it moves toward 400 times in Scripture. It must be IMPORTANT!
The most prominent place we find the subject of wisdom is in the writings of Solomon-the wisdom literature of the Bible. 1 Kings 3 is a pivotal account in the life of Solomon.
Solomon is the newly anointed king of Israel. God appears to him in dream, telling Solomon he can have anything he desires. Instead of riches or fame, Solomon asks for wisdom to judge the people of Israel. God is pleased with Solomon’s request and gives him wisdom as well as all the things Solomon did not ask for. Chapter 3 ends with a riveting account of Solomon’s great wisdom.
James says we are to demonstrate wisdom as well. It is not just for Solomon. It is for believers in Christ. So what is Biblical wisdom?
I. The Definition
The Greek word for wisdom is sophia. The Greeks sought wisdom. They imagined wisdom to be the ultimate pursuit. Philosophy grew out of their love for wisdom. (Philo=love. Sophy=wisdom). The ancient Greek philosophers are still recognized and studied today.
Unfortunately, the wisdom of Greeks could not lead them to Christ. It was empty and useless. Paul contrasts the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the Greeks in First Corinthians 1: 19-24. He calls the wisdom of men, foolishness. For the Greeks, wisdom was more an intellectual pursuit. It was the gaining of vast knowledge but it did not lead to Godly wisdom.
Godly, Biblical wisdom can only come from God. Certainly, we must acquire knowledge of Christ, the moral laws of Christ, Scripture, doctrine, and theology.
But only the Holy Spirit of Christ living within us can apply that knowledge to our lives and produce Godly wisdom. Wisdom in its simplest definition means applied knowledge.
In 1 Corinthians 1:19-24, the Apostle Paul presents a well-designed argument using a play on words. He is writing to Christians who live in Corinth, a Greek city mesmerized by the pursuit of wisdom. James, however, takes a more direct approach. Imagine that!
II. The Contrast
Read James 3:13-18 and you will find the word “but” in verse 14 and 17. “But” is a contrast word and James is presenting a sharp contrast between useless wisdom and Godly wisdom. He presents the truth in verse 13 and then does what he does so well—he illustrates and contrasts so we understand with no doubt.
Verse 13, “Let him show by his good (right, Christ like, mature) behavior his deeds (both words and actions) in the gentleness (grace of the soul, strength under control, a virtue born in strength of character) of wisdom.”
A. Useless/Worldly wisdom
Verse 14 begins the contrast with the word “but”. James states that if you think you are exercising wisdom but there is bitter jealousy (grieving because we desire the good someone else has) and selfish ambition is involved, you can be sure it is not Godly wisdom. It is empty and useless.
Knowledge has a tendency to make people puffed up and arrogant. Godly wisdom does not necessarily belong to the smartest person in the room. Neither is it good ol’ common sense.
Verse 15 lets us know that worldly wisdom differs from Godly wisdom at its source. The source of worldly wisdom is either our sinful flesh, the world system which is in opposition to God, or the devil/demonic power. The result of exercising useless wisdom, especially in the church and in relationships with other people, is disorder (commotion, turmoil) and every kind of good for nothing evil.
The source, characteristics, and the results of worldly wisdom are in sharp contrast to Godly wisdom.
B. Christ like or Godly Wisdom
James lists eight characteristics of Godly wisdom. The source is God Himself, working in us through the Holy Spirit, applying knowledge.
1. Pure-free from defilement, unpolluted, often used for sexual purity
2. Peaceable-free from strife, untroubled, undisturbed
3. Gentle-meek (but with no negative connotation) grace of the soul, power under control
4. Reasonable (entreatable)- approachable, able to ask a favor of
5. Merciful- a special and immediate regard to the consequences of sin, with holding the punishment which one deserves
6. Good fruit-beneficial results, Godly results
7. Unwavering (steadfast)-impartial, free from discrimination especially in regard to people and relationships
8. Without hypocrisy-genuine, honest, no pretending
When we exercise Christ like wisdom, our words and our behavior will exhibit these 8 characteristics.
Dr. T.W. Hunt was a seminary professor of mine. He wrote an outstanding book, “The Mind of Christ.” He explains James 3:13-18 in great detail and includes a chart that intrigues me. He lists the characteristics of James 3:17. He lists the opposite of the Godly characteristic. But he also lists the perversion of those Godly characteristics. Perversion simply means taking a good thing and twisting it. The chart is rather self-explanatory, but I will insert some notes to make a few of the words more clear.
Virtue Opposite Perversion
pure impure puritanical
peaceable fussy compromise
gentle harsh unkind restraint
entreatable (reasonable) unapproachable yes-man
merciful unmerciful indulgent
fruitful fruitless obsessed with results
steadfast (unwavering) wavering ridged, inflexible
honest dishonest brutal
T.W. Hunt, The Mind of Christ, p.48
The perversion of Pure is puritanical (prudish, looking down your moral nose at someone)
The perversion of Peaceable is Compromise (peace at any price, even throwing out standards and principles)
The perversion of Gentle is unkind restraint (knowing the right thing to do but cannot do it. Dr. Hunt gives the example of a dentist who knows you have a cavity in need of filling, but cannot bring himself to hurt you by giving a shot or filling the cavity. His neglect to do the work then becomes unkind and unhelpful)
The perversion of Entreatable is yes-man (never saying no, always doing what people ask)
The perversion of Merciful is indulgent (Mercy does not disregard God’s standard. God does not disregard his own standard—we suffer consequences when we sin. Mercy from God however, can use those consequences for our good and His glory. Likewise, when we show mercy, we cannot disregard God’s standard while also seeking to show kindness in response to someone else’s sin.)
The perversion of Fruitful is obsessed with fruits (bragging about results, prideful striving for results)
The perversion of Steadfast---ridged (inflexible, unkind and immovable)
The perversion of Honest—brutal (truth void of grace and mercy)
James 3:18 “and the seed (wisdom) produces righteous fruit (Godly results-those 8 characteristics) is sown (planted in other people’s lives) peacefully (without strife) by those who make peace (peace loving people).”
III. The Solution
Read Proverbs 2:1-6. Wisdom comes only from God, yet we are to seek it and desire it because we value what God values.
James 1:5 says ASK! Like Solomon asking for an understanding and wise heart, we too must simply ask for Christ like wisdom.
Philippians 2:13 is important. “It is God at work in you both to will (to desire, to want to do His will) and to do (to live out daily) His good pleasure.”
The Holy Spirit works in us, using the Word of God to stir up even the desire to please God. When we respond to that stirring, God then equips and strengthens us to live in the way He has commanded us to live.
Please understand. The Lord cannot apply knowledge we do not have. We must daily be about the task of gaining knowledge from God’s Word. It is this knowledge which the Holy Spirit applies to relationship, circumstances, and daily life to produce in us Godly wisdom.
IV. The Results
In the life of a woman, Godly wisdom has its greatest impact on our personal relationships. As women, we must plant good seeds and cultivate good fruit in the lives of our families, husbands, friends, churches, and work associates. We must constantly evaluate our words and actions to see if we are demonstrating those 8 characteristics of wisdom presented in James 3:17. Remember, other people are not our standard of measure. God’s Word is our standard.
Listed below are some verses. For homework, I asked the class to look up and record their insights about the results of Godly wisdom. I encourage all of you to do this as you study further the results and benefits of Godly wisdom.
WEEK 4 NOTES
MOTHER , MAY I?
As children, Many of us played the game, ‘Mother, May I’? Someone was the mother. Everyone else had to ask her a question that would hopefully move them closer the finish line. “Mother” could answer anyway she chose. If she really liked you, you would probably win.
Sometimes, we tend to think prayer works the same way. We make our requests and on a whim God answers in the affirmative or negative—depending on how much He likes us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you know not.” The word “call” means to cry out. It is a specific cry, to a specific person with a specific request.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The word “confidence” means to speak boldly all that is on our hearts.
Over an over, we have been invited into the presence of God and told we can ask boldly for specific needs. To do so, we are admitting our need for the Lord and we are declaring our dependency on Him.
For the Christian, lack of prayer is the greatest declaration of pride.
This week we move to the fourth index sentence in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the one we have waiting for!! “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yet even in our asking, we cannot detach this sentence from the previous sentences. Thy Name. Thy Kingdom. Thy Will. These truths transform our asking.
John 14-16 is known in theological circle as the Upper Room Discourse. These chapters are the last words of instruction Jesus gives to the disciples. We tune in when we know it is someone’s final words to us. Jesus gives much instruction on the subject of prayer in these chapters. I have written out 7 questions that came to mind as I studied Jesus teaching on prayer.
1. What does it mean to pray “in Jesus name”? John 14:13-14, John16:24
In Jesus name is not something we tack on to the end of our prayers to let people know we are about to finish praying. It is not the magic phrase we must say in order for our prayers to be heard and answered. Praying in Jesus name has two (at least) aspects.
a. Relational. We come to the throne of grace because we are related to the Father thru Jesus the Son. We have a relationship with Christ therefore we have a relationship with God. We come as His children not strangers who are beggars. John 14:6, John 16:27
b. Representative. When we come to the throne of grace and ask in Jesus name, our requests represent the heart, will, attitude and desires of Jesus. Our desires have been conformed to His desires. (Psalm 37:4)The name is the summation of the person. The name represents every aspect of that person. Therefor to use the name of Jesus in our prayers means we presenting our prayers as a reflection of Jesus Himself.
We do not have to verbalize, “In Jesus name we pray” every time we pray. It is a relationship and a mindset. It is a reality from which we pray. But to verbalize it, reminds us of that reality lest we take if for granted and become selfish and self-centered n our praying.
2. How do I know if what I am asking is representative of Jesus? How do I know I am praying “Thy will be done?”
James 4: 30 reminds us that often we ask and do not receive because we ask with wrong motives. Here are three truths that guide our asking.
a. Abiding in Christ. John 15:7
There is an inseparable link between abiding in Christ, His Word abiding in us and our experiencing answers to our prayers. John 15:7 and 1 John 3:21-22 explain that knowing the word and being obedient to the word are important in prayer. If we want to know the will of God we must know the word of God. We cannot separate our prayers from Scripture. The word of God abides in us as we read and meditate on it and it becomes a natural overflow in our life. It is a constant guide for our prayers. (Psalm 119 is a great study in the benefits of God’s Word in our lives.)
b. Attuned to the Spirit-John 14:16-21 and John 16:13-15
The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to teach us the ways of God and the Will of God. We must be attuned to the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit who discloses truth to us through the Word. He leads us into all truth. He reveals the heart and will of God through Scripture. He convicts of sin and points us to obedience through Scripture. The word and the Spirit are linked.
c. Asking in Faith
“Asking in faith” is so misused and abused in today’s church. We have been fed a lie, thinking we can claim something in faith and then demand God answers because we sincerely believe it to be true. That, my friends, is not faith. It is an attempt to manipulate Almighty God. It is also a place where many Christians become disillusioned and spiritually shipwrecked.
Hebrews 11 gives us a clearer picture of faith. The people listed did something great and the Bible says it was by faith. But wait a minute. Did they come up with some great idea for God and then claim it “in Jesus name” and ask God to come through and bless their great idea or venture? NO!!!! God told them to do something. The person believed God, trusted the Word of God and then acted on whatever God asked. That action is faith. Faith is acting on revealed truth! Now apply that same definition to praying in faith.
The Spirit in us reveals the will of God through the Word of God . We trust the character of God and then pray the things He reveals to us in Scripture. We can cry out with confidence when our requests are based on the revealed truth of the Word. This is praying in faith!
Last week we looked at Matthew 16:19. We learned that we have authority in this Christian life. It is bestowed authority-it belongs to Christ and does not originate with us. Matthew 16:19 says we can bind and loose what has already been bound and loosed in Heaven. We DO NOT have license to some wholesale kind of binding and loosing of every demon, evil, healing or blessing just because we think of it or want it. We bind and loose things based on the Spirit of God revealing truth to us in the Word of God and then we ask by faith to bind and loose in the manner that God directs us through revealed truth. We get answers when we pray in this way. This is praying in faith!
3. What can I confidently pray for in faith—based on the Word of God?
a. Freedom from sin Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Psalm 119:9-11
b. For the lost to be saved. John 3:16 2Peter 3:9
c. Wisdom. James 1:5
d. Peace. John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7
e. Strength. Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 3:16
f. The fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22
g. The mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16, Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12: 2
h. And the list is endless!
If we pray the things God has already given us the freedom to pray, we would find there are not enough hours in the day to pray it all.
Colossians 1:9-12 is Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossae. It covers so much. If I pray these verses for my children, I have covered in prayer everything in their lives. God has given me to the freedom to pray these verses in confident crying out to the Heavenly Father who loves me and hears and answers. He answers because these verses are His will for every believer. His Word says so!
4. How do I pray for every day practical needs and decisions and concerns?
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Several truths stand out to me.
Give us---it’s plural. Nowhere in the Lord’s Prayer will you find me, my or I. It is always “us”. This keeps us from selfish praying. It reminds us that we are n a family and we are not God’s only child.
This day---WE are asking for the needs of one day. We are not to look too far down the road. Otherwise our praying just becomes verbalized worry.
Daily Bread--- Bread was an every meal food. Meat was occasional. Fruits and vegetables were seasonal. But for the people of the day, bread was every day, every meal. So we are indeed to ask concerning our everyday needs.
Matthew 6:31-34 states that the Father already knows what we need but He wants us to ask Him. It proves our dependency. It removes our pride. It brings us closer to Him. We experience His provision firsthand when we ask for our needs to be met. We cannot however, present our daily needs apart from the truths of asking in His Name, for His Kingdom and according to His will. Those truths ALWAYS apply.
Personally, I have asked for the simplest things and seen God answer. Early in my first marriage, we were so very poor. I needed laundry detergent and payday was not anytime soon. I told the Lord my need. That day in the mail, I received an advertising sample of laundry detergent. Enough to wash the clothes. I fully believe God provided that simple need for the day. The joy of knowing my Heavenly Father hears and responds was boundless!
5. Can I pray for healing or relief from suffering?
Many times in Scripture and in today’s world, people are physically healed. Sometimes however, they are not. Paul asked for a thorn in his flesh to be removed. It was not. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God had a purpose in the thorn remaining. Yet James tells us the prayer prayed in faith (remember the definition of faith) for the sick will restore them. James 5:15. So how do I know what to pray in the case of sickness?
In the New Testament, there are two words for “word”. One is logos which means “the complete expression of”. Jesus is referred to as the logos in John 1.---the fullest and most complete expression of God. The whole Word of God is also the logos., the complete revelation of God.
There is another word for “word”. It is rhema. Rhema is a specific word or promise within the complete Word.
We must know the overall Word of God. We must learn God’s overall teaching on a given subject. We cannot pick and choose verses to support our own idea. We must know the whole council of God. BUT there are times when God, through the Holy Spirit will direct us to a specific verse or promise in Scripture for which we are to pray.
When Dana died, I believe God gave me a very specific promise for my children. Matthew 7:25. I have prayed it, clung to it, reminded God of it many times. He has been faithful to His word. I will continue praying it as long as I live. It is a rhema.
On the other hand, for many years I thought Dana and I would adopt a child internationally. We tried three different times. It never worked. I thought I had a specific word from God about adoption. I did not. I was wrong. The problem was not with God. It was with my understanding of what God wanted. Today I have three stepchildren. I can apply my rhema about adoption to those wonderful stepchildren that God has grafted into my heart.
Now on the subject of healing and suffering, sometimes God will indeed give us a rhema . But dear friend, hold them loosely. In the difficult days of life it is easy to claim a promise or misunderstand a verse and incorrectly apply it to our lives. If we try to claim something in faith that God has not revealed by His Spirit, and we try to strong arm God into answering because we Sincerely believe we are right----our faith will crumble. We will be disappointed with God if He does not answer as we have asked.
Pray for healing. Pray for relief from suffering. Search the Word for the heart and mind of God in each instance. Ask God to be glorified—His name, His Kingdom, His will. And then trust God. Sounds so easy—but it is not.
I have been on both sides of the healing equation.
In 2005 my husband was in a car accident. He lived for nine hours. During those nine hours, hundreds, even thousands were praying---all around the world. In those nine hours I heard God saying clearly, “I Am the resurrection and the Life.” I thought there would be a resurrection—I believed Dana would live. He didn’t. He died and even as he slipped into Heaven, I heard, “I am the resurrection and the Life”. I wrestled with God on that one. It was my rhema. My promise. My plea that night!! And God did not answer like I (and hundreds of others)asked or expected.
When I got home in the wee hours of September 26, I searched for that verse. I found it in John 11. “I Am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in Me shall live, EVEN IF HE DIES.” Dana died but God was still God. The promise was indeed true. I only had a portion of the promise. I had enough to comfort me in those awful moments. I learned the rest of the promise and it will comfort me for a lifetime.
On the opposite side of the healing issue, in December of 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. People prayed. The pastor and the deacons prayed over me. They asked for healing. This month, I will be cancer free for one year. God answered the prayer for healing. Did I have more people praying than prayed for Dana.? Were there better, more powerful prayers for me than for Dana? Did God somehow love me more than Dana? NO. NO. NO.
Dear one, it is not about how many people are praying or how much we claim in faith that matters when it comes to prayers for healing. It matters that we simply trust the heart of God as our Heavenly father. He knows what we need. He knows how to accomplish His will in our lives. He knows how to take the hurt and suffering of this life and glorify his name with it. He knows what we do not, no matter how sincere our faith or strong our rhema. God is still God and I must ask, trusting His heart for me, for my children, for my family, for my friends.
Even Jesus prayed before His crucifixion for the cup of suffering to be removed. And then he submits to the Father’s will—“not my will but they will be done.” Luke 22:42. It is not cop out to pray “Thy will be Done.” It is a submitting to the Father’s will when have no ability to see the big picture or to completely understand His ways.
6. So what if I do not know how to pray in a particular situation?
a. Pray the desire of your heart being as closely aligned with the Word of God as possible.
b. Understand the Holy Spirit is interceding for you. Romans 8:26. He is transposing our limited praying to the will of God. He intercedes when we are weak, or tired, or distraught or short sighted. There is much grace at the throne. God knows we are children and cannot get it all right all the time. He applies grace to those prayers. The Holy Spirit rewrites them for us. That is amazing, wonderful grace!
7. Is praying the end of it? Do I just sit and wait for God to answer?
Psalm 37:3 says “Trust in the Lord and do good.” We trust God and then we live obediently. We do not just pray and then live any way we wish. We participate in our prayers!
We participate in praying by our obedient actions.
If we pray for peace, then we live in such a way as brings peace (Philippians 4:9)
If we pray for wisdom , we ask for it and then seek wisdom in the Word of God and from wise counsel.
We do not ask and then sit on our hands and wait for it to drop through the ceiling. We can put feet to our prayers. We can participate allowing God to open and close the doors.
If I pray for a job, then I participate by applying for jobs, trusting God to open and close doors of opportunity. I am participating in my prayers but trusting God for the answer. Get it?
If I am praying Colossians 1:9-12 for my children, then I participate by imparting truth to them on a daily basis and by living out that truth in front of them and providing an environment for that truth to take root. I am participating in my praying!
Participating is one of the great joys of prayer. God and I work together. If I have a decision to make, I ask God to give me direction then I head out!! I walk down every road and knock on every door until that road ends or the door closes. I pursue a goal until God says stop-usually when I have no peace-or the opportunity dries up. I can trust His direction!
Oh no!! What if I miss it!! What if I make a mistake? Grace my dear!! There s grace in God’s will! He will not club us over the head is we make a mistake. He will cover it with grace and use it for his Glory!! Rest. Pray. Move forward.
It is a lifetime of learning. Keep praying. Keep asking. Keep seeking His will and His ways through His Word. Move forward in participation. It is a wonderful journey!