Does Not Wisdom Call Out? Pt. 6
Study Guide, August 25, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
This was the 50th year of the celebration of the Moon landing. It’s still amazing when you look at the Moon to realize that space crafts have landed there and astronauts have walked around up there. Some have even driven around on the Moon with a lunar rover. And do you remember those famous words of Neil Armstrong? “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The audio was a little weak, so most thought he had said, “That’s one small step for man…but he had said ‘a man’. Either way, it was a giant leap for mankind. And on the next flight to the moon, Apollo 8, as the astronauts orbited the moon on Christmas, they took turns reading from Genesis chapter one. And on the Apollo 16 mission to the moon, astronaut Charlie Duke played a most appropriate song for the occasion; ‘How Great Thou Art.’ And in remembering what he saw in space he said this: “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
And that’s one of the ways that ‘Wisdom’ has been and still is calling out to everyone; even the heavens are declaring the glory of God. And they are calling out for every person to recognize the glory of God, along with the fact that He is Creator and ruler of all things created. And in response to that, then every person should call out to God and submit their lives to Him and order their lives according to the rule of God. And in doing so, a life of wisdom will be lived out, along with all of the joys that wisdom brings to life.
In our last study on wisdom we saw that one of the key disciplines of living wisely, or of wisdom, was this ‘discipline of sharpening’. And one great help right away in how to activate this discipline of sharpening in your life is to recognize the great benefits that come from being sharpened. You know, these astronauts were not only willing to receive any instruction or correction from the ground crew in Houston that they could, but they also knew that there very lives depended on it…depended on making any flight adjustments or instrument corrections necessary for a successful flight.
So again, if we will adopt an attitude of seeking instruction and of being willing to receive corrections and sharpening, we will not only benefit greatly from it in our own lives, but even more…we will be of much greater usefulness to God, both now and in our rewards to be given to us in the coming Kingdom. And remember, usefulness to God is true success in life.
So let’s return to one of the keys we pointed out in this great discipline of sharpening. It’s was the key of ‘initiating’…initiating the sharpening process. It’s really just letting others become aware that you have this ‘goal’ in your life to be sharpened in order to be as useful to God as you can be, and you could really use their help in doing so. Plus, remember that if you will adopt the identity of being a ‘useful tool in the hand of God’ then a continual goal of yours will naturally be to become a sharper tool for God’s use. But, again, in order for this to happen you need the assistance of others around you, like in those five arenas of your life that we pointed out in our last study. We won’t describe them each again, but we’ll just list these arenas – the arena of your relationship with the Lord and your walk of faith, your family, your church, your community, and your world. So if your goal is to be sharpened and to become sharpened in each of these arenas then you will need the feedback and the assistance from others in each of those arenas. And it’s not like you have to put people on the spot about it, but again, you can simply ask others from time to time if they would help you with this goal of yours, or with this discipline of sharpening, by giving you some feedback on anything that would help you be more useful to God and helpful to others.
They might even be fascinated to learn that there is such a thing as this ‘discipline of sharpening’, as the book of Proverbs so often talks about and instructs us to practice in our lives. Just an example of this is from Prov 15:31-33 – “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, humility precedes honor.” NLT
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where there is so much destructive criticism going on that it has created a very defensive society. And as a result, people have become very resistant to correction and instruction. And as a result of that, even Christians have neglected the benefits that come from seeking out and receiving constructive criticism and helpful correction. And as a result of that, many of God’s people are not, as the Proverbs point out, growing in the kind of understanding and wisdom that only comes from the ‘corrections of discipline’.
If wisdom was a house, there would be a part of the house that could only be reached by going through ‘the hallway of correction’. There is no other way to get to it. And so if a person refused to walk down that hallway by refusing correction or resisting instruction or not being open to constructive criticism, well then they would never get to that part of the house, nor benefit from the knowledge and blessings that are found waiting for them there.
That’s kind of a limited illustration, but it does show us that unless we are open to correction, we are the ones that are harming ourselves, or we are the ones that are stunting our own development, or we are the ones that are limiting our usefulness to God. That’s what the Proverbs are telling us, like
Prov 12:15- “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” NLT You see, it doesn’t require any sharpening from others to become foolish. People can accomplish that on their own. But it does take the sharpening of others in order to become wise. Actually, the first verse of Proverbs 12 states it even stronger. Are you ready for this? Prov 12:1- “To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” NLT
So one of the disciplines we need to add to our life is this discipline of seeking out and being open and willing to receive the corrections or constructive criticisms of others. But at the same time realize that this discipline or this desire to be sharpened and receive sharpening is an acquired discipline, like an acquired taste. You see, We don’t naturally crave correction. But when we come to better understand how necessary correction is in order for us to develop wisdom we will feel a whole lot better about seeking it out. And actually, if our goal is to be sharpened for the purpose of being as useful a tool in the hand of God as we can be, then we will become even more receptive to correction from even those that we didn’t seek out, but came to us anyway.
An example about that is from a guy in a Bible Study group where I served as a Prison Chaplain. I once asked him how he dealt with the trash talk he got from other inmates about his commitment to living as a disciple of Christ’s. And he said that for one thing, he would just consider the source, but then he would also try to listen to see if there was anything that they said that he could use to make any changes he needed to in order to be a better witness for Christ. I thought, “Wow. This inmate could teach us all something about how to become sharper followers of Christ.”
But now back to an example of initiating sharpening: As the initiator, you can simply let others know something like this: “Hey, one of the continual goals of mine is to become a sharper tool for God to use. But in order to do this I need some feedback and assistance from others around me…to help with the sharpening. So I’d really appreciate it if I could ask you from time to time for some help in this.”
Now, If it’s someone close to you, like a family member, after they’ve picked themselves up off the floor from fainting… you can then talk with them about it further. Seriously though, our goal is to increase in the things that make us more useful to God and to decrease in the things that make us less useful to God. And does that cause you to think of what John the Baptist said about that as he thought about Jesus? John 3:30- “He must increase, but I must decrease.” NASU And that was not only concerning ministry, but also concerning things like character and conduct.
So what we should do now is give some examples of things that we can focus on as to what kind of things should be increasing or decreasing in our lives; like in our character and conduct. Let’s list them like this: Our goal is to be:
Increasing in being: Decreasing in being:
Teachable Not teachable
Cooperative Negatively Critical
Agreeable Easily Offended
Christ centered Self-centered
And so on… But what we see from this list is that in order to increase, or to develop the kind of things in our character and conduct that God can use, we first have to identify what it is that we are seeking to grow in, and we also have to identify what it is that we are seeking to guard against. And that’s where enlisting or seeking the help of others comes into the picture. We need the help or the counsel or the correction of others to help sharpen us in ways, such as these, that will increase righteousness and godliness in us, and will decrease unrighteousness and ungodliness in us. And here’s the deal: If we don’t have a plan to do just that, then we have already planned not to do it. You see, it’s just human nature to naturally be defensive about being sharpened, particularly about our character and conduct. That’s why we have to intentionally choose by our new spiritual nature to overcome our natural defensiveness and begin seeing any opportunity to be sharpened as a Disciple for Christ as something that is both useful and valuable.
It’s not like we’re going to say to others: “Hey, lets look for ways to criticize each other, okay? The snarkier the better, you know?” No, that’s not sharpening…and that’s not going to build you up. That’s going to tear each other down. But it is like saying to one another: “Hey, how about we help sharpen each other to be even more useful to God by helping each other with things like; our blind spots, or something we can adjust in our character or conduct?”
You can word it differently if you like, but you get the point. We have to be intentional about being sharpened or else we will just naturally default to dullness in our spiritual usefulness to God.
Another important point to make in connection with this is to clarify that sharpening has nothing to do with being judgmental. These are completely different. Being judgmental is judging others by your own standards, rather than God’s standards, which are revealed to us in the Word of God. Remember, when it comes to things like different personalities, and different looks, and having different tastes in things like music and arts and vocations and so on, God loves the variety of it all. Just look at the variety in nature and people that God made. So we are to also appreciate the variety in all of these things as well. So sharpening is not coming against one another, but more like coming alongside of one another, with an attitude of appreciation and commendation for them, and then sharing some insightful instruction and some encouraging correction whenever that would be helpful.
It’s like in the book of Acts, when two disciples heard a new convert named Apollos teaching the Scriptures, they came alongside of him to help deepen his understanding even more. Acts 18:26- “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” NLT You see, that’s part of this discipline of sharpening. And then when the Apostle Paul saw that there was a need to exhort the believers at Thessalonica, notice how he put it: 1 Thess 4:1- “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” NASU
The Biblical method of sharpening is: Commendation before correction. As we act on this discipline of sharpening with another brother or sister in Christ, we are to begin with commendation before we offer correction. Like with these disciples and like with the Apostle Paul, the commendation assured them that they were being honored for their good works already, and so the correction was then viewed as a helpful service and a benefit for them, as well as it would also then benefit others whom they were serving. Why, even when God had to deal with hard things and chasten some of the seven churches of Revelation we see Him saying things like: ‘I know of your good deeds, I see how hard you have worked, I see how you have endured suffering for My sake…but I have this against you…’ And then He would give the correction.
So the point is that we are to see this discipline of sharpening as one of the most valuable disciplines of our lives. And then act on this discipline by using the method we see that the Lord and the followers of the Lord in the Scriptures used to sharpen others in their walk of faith and in their growth of wisdom. Remember: Commendation before correction, but correction with an attitude of humility and love for your fellow Brother and Sister in Christ. And start with yourself – initiate the sharpening by seeking out others to help sharpen you for the sake of being ‘a sharpened tool in the hand of God’ to use for His glory and others gain…even your own.