Pursuing Wisdom

What are you pursuing in life? Most of us have a pretty good idea of what it means to pursue something or someone, right? But, if we are a bit  “fuzzy” about the concept, let’s turn to the old reliable Webster’s dictionary to clarify it for us. Here is the gist of three ways of defining pursue,  (1) “To follow in order to overtake, capture…(2) “to proceed along or follow, as a specified course of action, plan…(3) “to try find, strive for, seek.” Look carefully at these definitions, what stands out that is common to each? Did you notice that each has an action, an effort being exerted?  Here they are: “To follow in order to overtake,  to proceed along a specified course of action, to try to find, strive for, seek..” 

What are you pursuing?

Have you ever pursued something or someone? Of course, you have. We all have, and we are currently pursuing something or someone. Cecelia and I have been married for over fifty-four years and I can vividly recall my pursuit of her when I decided she was the woman I wanted to marry.

As a young, single pastor I was very aware of the potential problems in any kind of romantic involvement with a young woman in my congregation. As a matter of fact, I was dead set against the idea. That was before I met Cecelia, a nursing student in a large town in the area. I was in my second year of master’s work at the seminary and traveled each weekend to the church to preach and perform other pastoral duties. I was attracted to her rather quickly but stuck to my resolve about dating parishioners. As a matter of fact, I asked her to set a date with one of her nursing school classmates.  She did, but I quickly decided this was not the girl for me. Cecelia and I began to meet on casual occasions and I soon determined I wanted to pursue a committed relationship with her. I was ready to take the risk of what I wanted to do and approached the church’s leadership board to tell them I had changed my mind about my “no date parishioner” policy. I realized this decision could end my pastoral work with the church but to my great relief, these men were pleased and encouraging with my decision.

After all these years together, I am so glad I took the chance to pursue her and the life God would give us together.

That’s just one story of pursuit in my life. I have pursued education, financial freedom, and many other things. What have you been pursuing?  Scriptures guide us about the things we should and should not pursue. We are strongly cautioned about making wealth or riches our priority. For example, Jesus tells us what we should and should not pursue, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.

Jesus is telling us to pursue wisdom in the way we live.

What will happen to you when you pursue wisdom?

The book of Proverbs tells us that those who pursue wisdom will learn to practice the following.

You will learn to reverence God. As Proverbs 1:7 tells us, ” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..” This is the starting place, the entry point to a life guided by wisdom. Wise people understand God is the creator, giver of life, and the ultimate authority and judge of our lives. We are created beings who bear God’s image and are here to serve Him by obediently carrying out His plans. God and his will are to have priority in our lives. There is no equal to Him.

You will learn to guard your heart. Because God is to have priority in the way we think and act, we must learn to guard our heart. There are many challengers to God’s sovereignty in our lives. Wisdom counsels us to not allow anything or anyone to take God’s rightful place in our heart. What are the kinds of things we need to guard our heart against becoming our chief pursuit? The fact is that anything can become our god. Anything that becomes more important than God, be it a spouse, children, job, wealth, popularity, fame, or pleasure, is unwise and is considered idolatry in biblical teachings. When Jesus tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” he gives us no room for putting anything or anyone else above God.  It is wise to remember that.

You will learn to guard your tongue. The Bible tells us that “out of our heart our mouth speaks.” This is saying that what is in our heart is expressed through our words. Our tongue is the instrument of our words. The letter of James has some very strong warnings about how destructive our words can be. Here are a couple of examples: James 1:26 “If one thinks himself to be religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” Here’s another, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect (mature) man, able to bridle the whole body as well,” James 3:2. In James 3:10 James calls attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the way we may use our tongue to praise God and insult or disparage people created in God’s image, “From the same mouth come blessings and cursing, my brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”  May the meditation of my heart produce words that praise God and bless and encourage others. Is there someone, a family member, a friend, or a stranger who could use a word of encouragement today? Do it today.

You will learn to guard your eyes. Like our tongue, our eyes function as an instrument of our heart. Jesus teaches us that we have a “spiritual” eye or vision that we need to keep clear and focused on the right kinds of things. ” The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad,your whole body will be full of darkness…” Matthew 6:22-23. The gist of this is that we need to be alert to the temptations around us physically or spiritually to allow our eyes to be attracted to things that can undermine God’s plan for us. What kinds of things are we talking about? Pornography is a large problem for many people. It is a lustful activity that objectifies men, women, and children and violates God’s standard of how we are to see other people. Pornography is clearly a violation of God’s will for how we are to treat others.

It is especially important that young, impressionable children and youth not be exposed to a constant kind of entertainment that will distort or undermine how God wants them to view the true meaning of life. This could be such things as violence, the idea that the purpose of life is to become wealthy, or many other things  Christian parents have to continually correct. We cannot completely protect our children from violence and the crazy ideas that permeate much of entertainment and the real world, but we need to stay tuned in to what their eyes are taking in.

You will learn to live like your time is limited. Sometimes we hear someone say, ” There is nothing sure except death and taxes.” That’s true but there is a third thing I would add. Judgment. The Bible says, ” It is appointed for men to die once, then after this comes judgment.” Hebrews 9:27. Christians will not face a judgment to determine whether or not we will spend eternity in heaven. That hope was secured when we accepted Jesus as our Savior.

However, we will face a judgment of how we have used our time, money, and gifts to serve God. Wise people face the reality that we are not permanent citizens of this world. Therefore, we learn to invest our lives in the things that matter most to God. If we live wisely, we will lay up treasures in heaven that will go before us and serve us well in the judgment we will face when we stand before God. Wise people do not presume we are going to live forever, we live with the awareness that we need to make every day count for the kingdom of God.

So What? What are you going to do about what you have read? Are you going to pursue wisdom?  Wisdom is a choice. You can learn to live by what is right and good for you or you can be a fool. The life of a fool leads to pride, arrogance, and ultimately eternal separation from God in hell. A life devoted to seeking God’s wisdom and direction leads to (1) a reverent recognition of and obedience to God and the benefits of living under His care, (2) how to develop your heart to love what God loves, (3) how to learn to use your words to honor God and encourage others, (4)how to keep yourself pure and uncorrupted by impure and evil influences of our society, and (5) how to live proactively in light of the fact that you are a pilgrim on the way to heaven.

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