January 31, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 1:17; James 1:5 (NRSV)
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
God gives us, not just wisdom from above, but also the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each Christian. The Holy Spirit reveals divine wisdom to us in a variety of ways. The Spirit grants wisdom through Scripture. The Spirit helps us to know Christ, who is the embodiment of divine wisdom. The Spirit also gives gifts of wisdom to guide us in the daily challenges of work and life. We have access to “wisdom from above” because we have within us the Spirit from above.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Wisdom from Above.
Yesterday’s devotion focused on a phrase from James 3:17, “wisdom from above.” If we’re going to live well, if we’re going to thrive at home, at work, and in the community, we need God’s wisdom. Wisdom from above isn’t only for personal, “spiritual” matters. It informs and transforms every part of life.
How can we get such wisdom? Does it come only through years and years of experience? Do we get it from teachers and mentors? Can you find it in a book? Or on the internet? If you want wisdom from above, what should you do?
James offers a simple answer to that question: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5). Now that’s encouraging! Wisdom from above is God’s wisdom. James says that if we ask, God will give wisdom to us, and not just moderately, but “generously.”
Asking God for wisdom is, of course, an exercise in prayer. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he exemplifies praying in this way: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him” (Ephesians 1:17). In this instance, Paul is not praying for wisdom for himself, but for the recipients of his letter. That he prays this way underscores the truth that God is the source of and the giver of a wisdom from above.
Notice, however, that Paul doesn’t ask only for wisdom. Rather, he prays that the readers of his letter might receive “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” (emphasis added). Other translations prefer “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (NIV, ESV). Revelation comes only from the Holy Spirit, of course. This fact supports “the Spirit” as the best translation.
Paul’s prayer assumes that the Spirit gives, not only revelation, but also divine wisdom. This reflects what we see elsewhere in Scripture. Isaiah 11:2, for example, prophesies about Christ, the messianic “branch,” that “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding.” In 1 Corinthians 12:8, the Spirit gives “the utterance of wisdom.”
How does the Spirit grant such wisdom? Scripture, of course, embodies spiritual wisdom, teaching us God’s truth and revealing God’s own wisdom. As we study the Word of God, the same Spirit who inspired the biblical writers will inspire us to understand and receive divine wisdom. Moreover, Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s wisdom. According to 1 Corinthians 1:24, Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Colossians 2:3 adds that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Thus, as Scripture reveals Christ to us, the Spirit helps us know him and his wisdom.
The Holy Spirit can also reveal wisdom from above when we seek divine guidance for the challenges of daily life. The “utterance of wisdom” in 1 Corinthians 12:8, for example, addresses a particular need of a particular congregation at a particular time. Gifts of practical wisdom come, as James writes, from the God who gives wisdom “generously and ungrudgingly” if we ask (James 1:5). Once again, it’s important to note that these spiritual gifts of wisdom are not only for worship services or private life. They can guide us in all we do, whether we’re at work or at play, whether we’re in church or in class.
We have seen that God gives us, not just wisdom from above, but also the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each Christian. The Holy Spirit reveals divine wisdom to us in a variety of ways. The Spirit grants wisdom through Scripture. The Spirit helps us to know Christ, who is the embodiment of divine wisdom. The Spirit also gives gifts of wisdom to guide us in the daily challenges of work and life. We have access to “wisdom from above” because we have within us the “Spirit from above.”
Can you remember a time in your life when you asked God for wisdom and God answered your prayer in an obvious way? If so, what happened? What did you think and feel as this was happening?
Since Jesus Christ embodies God’s wisdom, what do you know to be true about wisdom from above?
How often do you ask God for wisdom? If you do this regularly, why? If you don’t, why not?
Yesterday, I introduced the spiritual practice of attunement. If you missed yesterday’s devotion, you can check it out here. Simply stated, attunement can help us become more attentive to the Spirit of God. It’s a way of quieting our hearts so we can be more open to what God might say to us through the Spirit.
I’m encouraging Life for Leaders readers to engage in the practice of attunement this week, using online guidance produced by my friends and partners at Attune. Specifically, at this web page you’ll find a ten-minute long audio exercise that walks you through an attunement practice.
I’m encouraging Life for Leaders readers to practice this exercise each day of the week. If you can do it five times, great. But if you can’t do it every day, that’s fine too. And if your life is so crazy that you can’t imagine finding ten free minutes, let me encourage you to set aside five minutes to quiet your heart before the Lord as you ask for wisdom from above.
Gracious God, we praise you today as the only wise God, the One whose wisdom is unlike any other. We marvel at the fact that you have revealed your wisdom to us in many ways, most of all through Jesus Christ who is the embodiment of your wisdom. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, the power and wisdom of God!
Thank you, O God, for the freedom we have to ask you for wisdom. Thank you for giving wisdom to us “generously and ungrudgingly.” Thank you for giving us, not just tidbits of wisdom, but your own Spirit. Thank you for giving us access to your wisdom through the Spirit who dwells within us.
O God, today I ask for wisdom. Grant me wisdom for my work. Grant me wisdom for my key relationships. Grant me wisdom as I seek to live for you in the world. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How Can You Know God Better? Part 1
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.