I live in a small rural community where people often burn brush, trash, and other debris that they do not want to take the time to dispose of. It is common in the summer and fall to drive past houses where dark clouds of smoke are billowing from the back...
So, you’ve done it, graduates! You’ve completed what could possibly be one of the most challenging and important seasons of your life. You are about to enter a new environment and a set of new opportunities. It will be exciting but it will also bring great challenges.
During this season of academic achievement and graduation celebrations, I only have two exhortations. My encouragement for you, graduates, is to get wisdom and be wise.
A Lack of Wisdom
Years ago, a man who worked for the United States Navy placed what he thought was a routine order for supplies. As he typed the necessary code, one number was mistakenly entered. As a result, two heat shields, whose primary use is for space shuttles, were delivered to a medical clinic. That was not supposed to happen.
In my estimation, the man who placed the order was not the biggest problem. No, we all make mistakes. But what’s so hard to understand is there was a team of people whose responsibility was to ensure all military organizations made proper purchases. And, it’s unfathomable to think that someone believed a medical clinic actually needed or could use heat shields meant to protect a space shuttle.
The true issue here was a deficiency of applied knowledge. Put another way, the problem was a lack in wisdom.
When those two heat shields were sent to the medical clinic, there was a space shuttle that needed them but did not have them. That shuttle would then have been unsafe and unprepared for travel outside of the earth’s atmosphere.
In the same way, graduates, you need the acquisition and application of wisdom to help protect you from the dangers you will face in this world.
But what exactly is wisdom and how do we obtain it? Here is a working definition of wisdom to help us begin:
Wisdom is insight that glorifies God and it contains both knowledge and practices required for godly living
Don’t we all want to live godly lives? Don’t we all want to do what is pleasing in the Lord’s sight?
If you answered yes to that question, then the first exhortation you need, the first heat shield, for living a godly life is to get wisdom.
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching. (Proverbs 4:1-2)
How do you acquire wisdom? To be clear, getting wisdom is not a one-stop achievement, but it is a lifelong journey. Wisdom is something to build upon each and every season of our lives. The writer of Proverbs gives us several practical ways to get wisdom.
First and foremost, you must acquire it from the Word of the Lord (Proverbs 4:4). I encourage you to take time to personally read the Scriptures every day of your life.
Second, you obtain good doctrine from the local church. The church is God’s designated place for his people to get connected through the Christ-centered preaching and teaching of God’s word.
Third, I encourage you to engage in consistent fellowship with godly men and women. We can all read the Scriptures on our own and come up with different interpretations. Therefore, we must look to godly men and women who will help direct us in the ways of the Lord.
Fourth, you could enroll in academic institutions which stretch your thinking and help you to solidify your personal convictions. The acquisition of knowledge is an element of gaining wisdom.
After you have acquired wisdom, the natural progression towards godly living is to be wise.
God desires that you apply the wisdom you have gained, for it is the motivation which compels what we think and what we do. Here are some ways to apply the wisdom that has been acquired.
First, we must remember the teaching we have received (Proverbs 4:4, 11, 21). This theme has been repeated in Scripture over 140 times. Therefore, it must be important.
Second, we must not be foolish. Don’t be foolish and lose sleep because you are doing evil or causing someone else to fall (Proverbs 4:16). Don’t be foolish by being wicked or violent (Proverbs 4:17). And, don’t be foolish by stumbling around in the darkness (Proverbs 4:19).
Third, we must work hard to keep our hearts from failing during the challenges of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Fourth, we must not speak lies (Proverbs 4:24). People who tell lies will be lied to in return.
Finally, fifth, we must be intentional about our lives. We need to think about where we are going before we end up there. Satan and the spiritual forces of darkness can only make suggestions and whisper in our ears those activities which displease the Lord.
But did you know that those who belong to God have a choice? We can think rightly about where we go and what we do.
What’s the Benefit?
Will wisdom actually do something for those who acquire it? O dear friends and graduates, the answer to that question is an astounding yes. Look at these five promises found in Proverbs four:
- Wisdom will keep you, if you don’t forsake her; she will guard you, if you love her (Proverbs 4:6)
- Wisdom will promote you, if you prize her highly; she will honor you, if you embrace her (Proverbs 4:8)
- And, wisdom will prolong your life, if you receive her teaching (Proverbs 4:10)
- She will place on your head a beautiful crown (Proverbs 4:9), and
- She will give you good footing while on your journey (Proverbs 4:12)
So, grab a hold of wisdom and never let go, for she is your life (Proverbs 4:13).
The final location and ultimate destination of wisdom is found in the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’s work on the cross, we can now have a healthy relationship with the One who gives wisdom generously.
O graduates, those of you who put your trust in the Lord Jesus can be fully assured that the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Don’t you know the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisest man ever recorded in history? Don’t you know the weakness of God is stronger than any bodybuilder to win a competition?
So it is in Christ Jesus, he is the gospel, he is the good news that we preach because he is the One who has brought us the wisdom of God. And Jesus has done much more.
He has brought us righteousness and redemption and sanctification and one day he will bring us glorification. For as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
So, I urge you, graduates, to embrace these two heat shields. Do not look to the wisdom of the world. Instead, look to the wisdom of God as revealed through his Word which gives hope to those who believe. You see, like the two heat shields, the gospel will rescue us from death and destruction.