“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” -Proverbs 2:6
If you found wisdom, what would you do with it, as if wisdom is some tangible thing to obtain, like a puppy or a new blouse or a new automobile? But think with me for a minute about how rare and precious is wisdom.
I’ve been asking a lot of questions these days to find some answers about what is going on with life, ministry, relationships, friendships, culture, politics, etc. And after talking to many of you, it seems like we are all asking the same questions: “Lord, what is going on in the world these days? Why is there so much hurt in the world? How does everything seem to be so emotionally charged these days?”
In my quest to try to make sense of everything going on, I’ve realized the answers I’ve been seeking were not really answers to the question”why,” but really a help for navigating through these challenging times. We are all seeking answers but answers themselves will not help us move forward with what life throws at us. Answers are like looking at a map. We see many roads, exits, rivers and streams, road hazards, little towns, and major cities, but maps (like answers) don’t tell us where we need to go. They just provide information but not the destination. Answers can be helpful but they don’t direct and lead. Wisdom, arguably God’s wisdom, is what brings the guidance, direction, clarity, hope we need in times when we feel lost or trouble.
Last week, I received an email from an old mentor of mine speaking about the times we are facing. His words offered the wisdom I needed rather than the answers I was seeking. His email to me said, “As shepherds of Christ’s flock, one of our responsibilities is to warn the sheep when then wolf is on the horizon. We are in the midst of such a time now.” His email went on to say:
“I do not remember such a sobering moment for us in ministry. There have been many troubling times before, but in some ways, this is the hardest I have seen in my 50 plus years of parish ministry. I have spoken with wise and mature church leaders of various denominations across the country, and I cannot recall ever hearing such sobering expressions of concern about the welfare and future of the local church. We are in genuine danger…
You men are facing three huge difficulties right now in addition to all the normal challenges of parish ministry:
- FIRST, there all the continuing fears, challenges, suspicions, hard feelings caused by the coronavirus.
- SECOND, there is this unprecedented outbreak of racial tension, pent up frustration, and related violence.
- THIRD, the upcoming election looks to be perhaps more divisive than any we have ever faced, and we are being warned that violence will surely follow whatever the outcome of the national election may be.
Preaching or even just talking with your people about any one of these is inevitably tricky. However, you approach these things, you face misunderstanding and the risk of intense anger. Almost anything you say will be taken as divisive.
As I have thought about this, I have concluded that our people need to be warned about the real possibility of division in our local churches, something that Jesus himself saw as a constant and dreadful danger. People are so upset and angry now, and their anger is focused on people on the “other side”…. and the issues are indeed of huge importance in our nation, but do your people realize that there is more to this division than simply people holding to different convictions about urgent issues. Behind it, all stands the dark figure of the Divider.
He is aggressively and continuously seeking to divide our churches. He is behind those inexplicably strong feelings about wearing masks or not wearing masks. He is behind the rage that bubbles up when people disagree over things like systemic racism. This is more than simply righteous anger tho there is plenty of that… The anger and suspicion in our culture are so great that it cannot be blamed simply on people who hold strong views. Or on liars or provocateurs.
Our people need to be warned that our churches are under attack by the great enemy who is not just a deceiver but a divider. This is not just a human or a moral battle. It is a spiritual one. This is how Saint Paul saw the great divide in the early church over law and gospel… I am struck by the repeated apostolic warnings in the New Testament to recognize and stand against the evil One.
- Ephesians 6: when the day of evil comes, stand your guard against Satan (the Divider)
- 1 Peter 5:8: The devil is on the prowl looking for people to devour, resist him.
- John 8:44: There is no truth in whatever the devil is involved in.
- John 10:10: He is the thief who comes to destroy.
- Ephesians 2:2: he is the inspirer of disobedience
- Luke 13:16: he holds people in bondage
- Luke 22:31. He shakes people till they come apart at the seams.
The email continued but ended with this: “Recognize the righteousness of Christ that covers us all in his Body. His grace and imputed righteousness demands that we treat one another humbly as beloved and treasured by God even as we see some things very differently…resist the dismissiveness of others. In faith in the power of God to work in all his might, pray, keep ‘praying for all the Lord’s people.’ And as Paul did, ask your people to pray for you that you may speak the words that God gives you fearlessly and make known the power and the mystery of the gospel as best you can in all these situations…”
I know we are all searching for answers during this challenging and trying time, but what gave me great hope from this email was the direction this wisdom pointed to Christ! The beautiful irony is that in seeking his wisdom, we find the answer: HIM!
Let me encourage you to stop seeking answers to all the questions that are rolling around in your heart. Seek wisdom, Christ’s wisdom, and the questions you find unanswered will no longer carry the weight they once did in your life.
If you find yourself left holding a map not knowing where to go, overwhelmed, confused, lost, hurt, afraid, concerned with what is going on in the world today, let me encourage you to join in Community Group and a Link Group here at Restoration. There you will find others who are committed to walking through life with you and who will allow you to process, question, and journey with you in seeking the wisdom of Christ.