Words of Wisdom

The importance of seeking and recognizing wisdom from above.

George Wright
Mar 15, 2020    39m
We know now more than ever how uncertain times can appear out of nowhere. In this message we learn that during uncertain times we should pray and ask God to give us the wisdom and peace we need to get through in the best way possible. Sermon by Pastor George Wright. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 I would ask you now to grab a Bible. The scripture is going to be on the screen there for you as well, but I would ask you to go ahead and grab a Bible and turn to James chapter 3 so you can follow along with me as we walk through this time together. This morning we are in a series called The Power of Words, and we're coming to the end of James chapter 3. And as I was praying this week about what message I would preach, I really was wrestling with, should I go away from the text that I had prepared to preach today in preparation of this series even weeks ago, or should I find something else? And the more I dove into the word, and the more I studied the scripture that we'd be considering this morning, I just began to see more and more. Lord, you have laid this before me and before us as a church, as a gift. That in God's sovereignty, he put this passage of scripture on my preaching calendar weeks ago, heavy for me, having no idea that this is what we would be walking through as a church. But it is incredible to see how relevant and how applicable the word of God truly is.

George Wright: 01:14 Now before I read this scripture, I do want you to know that when I was a young pastor just getting started, I had this recurring dream often on Saturday nights that would cause me to wake up oftentimes in cold sweats on Sunday morning, and the dream was this. I would show up at church to preach, and no one would be there and the parking lot would be empty, and sure enough this morning it was reality. But I'm so glad that you're joining us online, and so thankful through this medium that we have through live stream that we can gather together. And that this is a privilege really to be the church in worship together, and in study of God's word together, even in many different locations all at the same time.

George Wright: 02:07 James chapter 3, this is typically the part of the sermon where I would ask the church to stand and that may feel a little awkward, especially if you're in your pajamas, or if you're in a Starbucks right now watching this on your phone. But if you're willing to stand with me, it would make me feel great and feel like we are at home together, worshiping together. So please stand if you're willing and able to be reminded that the word of God is our authority. Don't we need to hear that today? Being reminded, the word of God reveals to us what is right and good and true. We need to see and hear what is right and good and true this morning. James chapter 3 verse 13, the scripture says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." This is the word of the Lord.

George Wright: 03:55 Let's pray together that God's word would speak into our lives what we need to hear this morning. Father, we come before you now at the reading of your word needing to hear from you. This has been a week where noise has been at an incredibly high volume. Some that we need to hear, some that is only distracting and causing fear. Lord, please in your wisdom, help us to discern your voice. Please Lord God in this time, speak into our lives, for how we need to hear from you. So we come before you today in this message and in this gathering, all around the city, even the state, the country, and the world as people join us here online, and we need to hear from you. Guide us in the truth of your word. It's in Christ's name I pray. Amen. If you are standing, you may be seated and thank you for doing so.

George Wright: 05:21 What a fascinating week, right? It really has been an incredible week. Things have changed so fast, day by day, and really moment by moment. It wasn't even until Friday afternoon that we as a leadership team here at Shandon made the decision to only gather via this live stream because again, things were changing so rapidly. And I can assure you, at every step along the way as we were considering what should our stance be as a church, and what should we do about our gathering, and how should we go about this with precaution but also with faith, and how should we navigate this with the right information in wisdom, and not drive the decision based on fear. Over and over again, we have been seeking wisdom from above. Over and over again, we have been in a situation this week that reminds us of our need for the wisdom of God when we face uncertain times. Over and over again, we have sought to navigate decisions and wisdom that is not from man, but wisdom from above in this season of the unknown. And I would ask your ongoing prayers not only for us here as a church, but for churches all around the world, that the Lord would show us how can we respond to such a season of uncertainty? How can we respond in wisdom? How can we be prepared to know how to react appropriately in faith and in wisdom as we navigate this outbreak of COVID-19.

George Wright: 07:23 It's interesting isn't it, that in the word of God, that James chapter 3 is showing us really two types of wisdom. This is a compare and contrast portion of the scripture, where James is showing us there is a type of wisdom that comes down from above, what could be called the wisdom of God. And there is a type of wisdom that comes from below, what could be called the wisdom of man or the wisdom of the world. To give you just a quick little definition of the wisdom from above, wisdom from above is God's best for us, God's best for us. If you contrast that with what we're seeing here in James 3 about wisdom from below, well, wisdom from below is what I think is best for me. And wisdom from below often eliminates considering what God says is best, and wisdom from below often eliminates considering what is best for others, it is focused primarily on me. And James uses jealousy and selfish ambition to describe this wisdom from below, that runs contrary to the wisdom from above, that is the wisdom of God.

George Wright: 08:52 And certainly we have seen this play outs since the outbreak of COVID-19 has hit our country, have we not? Price gouging for sanitation supplies, people trying to sell hand sanitizer on eBay for $80 or $100 a bottle, right? People rushing to the store to stockpile and to hoard household goods, so that some have an abundance while others cannot find the things that they need. Right? I mean we've seen that play out, wisdom from below. My wife, Megan, on Friday went to Costco, one final run of Costco right before all of this goes crazy. And she was there right as the store was opening, and so she went to the back of the store where they have the toilet paper and the paper products, and she said there was just an absolute rush to the back of the store to the toilet paper aisle. And when all the customers got there, they were somewhat surprised to find Costco employees by the toilet paper, handing out one pack to each customer, what a novel idea. So those who come later in the day might actually be able to get the goods that they might need right in this time of crisis and need, that there could be a distribution right? That some don't just stockpile and hoard, and only think about me and what I need, but that there might be a willingness to ensure that others are considered, that others might also have access to that resource. Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, James writes, there will be disorder and every vile practice. Wisdom from below says, get all you can, keep all that you can, and forget about everyone else in a time of need. Because after all, you are the only one that really matters, that's wisdom from below.

George Wright: 11:21 But the scripture here goes on to show us a very different kind of wisdom, a wisdom that comes down from above. And that's where I want to spend the remainder of my message here this morning, looking at these characteristics, if you will, of this wisdom that comes down from above. What does the wisdom of God look like? How does the wisdom of God play out in your life, and in mine, as we seek the wisdom from above? Verse 17 of James chapter 3, what a gift this verse truly is. It starts and says, "But the wisdom from above is first pure." I love that this is where the scripture starts in talking about the wisdom from above. Each and every week as we turn our attention to God's word, just as we did a moment ago at the beginning of this message, I say something to the effect when I'm preaching this sermon that the word of God reveals what is right and good and true. The word of God points us to what is right and good and true. The word of God, please hear this, reveals that which is pure. Because the word of God is the truth of God that is never tainted, never compromised, never impure. It is always what is best for us and what we need to see. This is so important, the word of God is pure.

George Wright: 13:11 Those who are followers of Christ understand here, that the truth of God's word is what we need to hear. And those who are followers of Christ certainly understand there are not many different truths out there, for many different people, as our culture often tries to claim. No, according to the word of God, there is truth, there is truth that applies to all. God's word is the pure standard of truth, the very description of truth, the very picture of truth, it is what we need to hear in all circumstances. And it speaks to all people, of all backgrounds, at all times. The word of God reveals to us that which is pure, and it points us to the beautiful example of purity that is Christ our Lord. For he is the very word that has been made flesh. Wisdom that is pure, heeds the pure word of God and believes that God's way is the best way. Acknowledging that God knows what we need to hear in any and every circumstance even when, and especially as. We are walking in to the unknown. The wisdom of God is pure, laid before us in his word.

George Wright: 15:03 Secondly, in James 3:17 we see the wisdom of God is peaceable. The wisdom of God is peaceable. To live peaceable is to consider others. Listen to what the scripture reveals in Romans 12 verse 17 and 18 it says, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Don't we need to hear this right now? In the midst of our circumstances where the natural reaction is to only think about ourselves, and what do I need right now in this moment to the neglect of everyone else around us. We need to be reminded of the wisdom from above that is peaceable, the wisdom that considers others, that that puts others first, that is willing to sacrifice and serve and share in a time of need. This is wisdom from above. Wisdom that is peaceful says, I'm not just going to think about me, I'm going to think about how I can demonstrate peace in the midst of fear and confusion. As the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 3, "Eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." For the wisdom of God is peaceable, and seeks to point to peace where there is uncertainty.

George Wright: 16:47 Next we see and James 3:17, the wisdom of God is gentle. The wisdom of God is gentle. Now, gentleness is one of those words that sometimes we don't really know what to do with. It can sound a little weak, it can sound like something that we're not sure if we really want. But gentleness can be described as strength restrained, or strength under control. It is strength that is a gift, or a blessing, as opposed to strength that is destructive or threatening of others. When I think about gentleness, the picture that comes to mind for me is a strong father cradling in his arms, a newborn baby daughter, a baby girl. I've had the privilege to do that twice. I'm not saying I was a strong father, but I have had the privilege of holding a newborn baby daughter in my arms with McKenna and Annabeth, and what a privilege that is to provide gentleness. Strength that is restrained, strength that is under control, strength that is a gift and a blessing, not destructive or threatening. This is one of the ways that Jesus describes himself. He says in Matthew 11, "I am gentle and lowly in heart.

George Wright: 18:29 One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from the great work of CS Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia. A book that is become a movie, that many are aware of called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And I will say this as I bring this book and this movie up, if for sure we are going to be in a situation in the next few days or weeks where perhaps we don't have school, or perhaps there are some restrictions on where we can go and what we can do. To those of you who are parents, I just want to encourage you to see this as an intentional opportunity to pour into your family. I really think it can be a total waste if our kids are out of school, and all they do is sit in front of tablets and TVs for 15 hours a day. Can you find a way to
use this opportunity, if it comes, to be intentional family time? To read together, to play together, to take this gift and use it. This could be an amazing, memorable, privilege for your family, use it wisely. Don't waste it, if the opportunity comes. And one of the great things you might do is read through The Chronicles of Narnia, and then watch the series that is available online. But there's this great scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where the four children are in Narnia. And one of the children, Susan, has a conversation with Mr. Beaver. Okay, it's a fantasy world in Narnia, but go with me for a moment. Mr
Beaver begins to tell her about the King, the King is named Aslan, and the King is a lion. And this is how Susan response, I'd thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion. And Mr. Beaver responds, safe, who said anything about safe? Of course he isn't safe, but he is good. He is the King, I tell you. I love this picture of the gentle strength of our God. Of course he's not safe, but he is good, and his strength is a gift. And those who walk in the wisdom from above, walk in the gentle strength of God that he provides for his purpose and for his glory, that is a gift and a blessing to others. The wisdom of God is gentle.

George Wright: 21:30 But next the scripture continues, verse 17 of James 3 and says, "The wisdom of God is open to reason." Another way this could be translated, it is reasonable. Wisdom that is reasonable, is willing to listen, willing to listen to others, willing to consider facts, willing to look for the truth before jumping to irrational conclusions that lead to rash decisions. How important is this today? To walk in wisdom that is open to reason as we face the unknown, to consider the facts that we have, to listen and to learn and determine in wisdom what is the best course of action we need to take now. And as you think about how you are responding to the challenging and difficult situations that COVID-19 has placed in front of all of us, I would just ask you to consider are you open to reason? Are you reasonable, are or are you only looking to sources that are eliciting more fear and rash decisions for you? The wisdom that is from above is open to reason, to walk in wisdom, as the Lord reveals and leads.

George Wright: 23:06 The scripture goes on in verse 17, "The wisdom from above is full of mercy and full of good fruits." The wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits, this is the gospel on display. Wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits, because those who walk in wisdom from above recognize that they have received mercy in the good news of what God has done for us through the gift of his salvation. I'm going to read this from the old covenant, because oftentimes we conclude that the only place we see the gospel at work is in the New Testament, and actually the gospel is revealed all throughout the scripture. Listen to what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 116 beginning in verse 5, "Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you." This is the mercy of God. What we know through the lens of the gospel, is that the Old Testament is pointing us to the mercy and the grace and the salvation that comes through Christ above all. When people are overwhelmed, when people are irrational with fear in the midst of the unknown, are we flippant and condescending, are we judgmental and mocking them in their fears? Or are we full of mercy and demonstrating the fruit of the gospel, because of the mercy that we have received in the good news of what Christ has done for us? Wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits.

George Wright: 25:19 We as those who are followers of Christ, which I realize you may be joining us today and you may still be
navigating, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? You may have a lot of questions about what it means to be a Christian, we're so glad you're with us this morning. And we believe the word of God speaks into these questions, and we're praying for you to see the good news of what Christ has done for you. But if you are a follower of Jesus, the scripture shows us that to walk in wisdom, we must be full of mercy, full of good fruits as a result of the gospel, that we may show others hope in a time of need.

George Wright: 26:06 And then finally in verse 17 the scripture says, "The wisdom from above is impartial and sincere." Impartial and sincere, this is talking about a genuine care and concern for others in this call that is on the people of God to live with compassion. Now, I would propose to you this morning if COVID-19 has done anything for the church, it has done this. It has reminded us as a church of our need for God, and it is reminded us as a church of the opportunity that he has given us to point others to the good news that we have in the midst of our need. This is a chance for the church to be the church, to point to the hope that we have, that gives us peace even in uncertain times. And I know right now, many are still reeling, and many are still trying to understand, many are still afraid in the church. And I certainly understand that, this is uncharted territory, we don't know what tomorrow will bring. But we do know this, God has given us an incredible opportunity, you could even argue an unprecedented opportunity, to show the world around us that there is hope even beyond this life, and there is peace in the good news of what Christ has already done.

George Wright: 27:56 And when we walk in his wisdom, and when we speak in his wisdom, it gives us a platform that leads to what we see in James 3 verse 18. A platform to sow seeds of peace that can lead to a harvest of righteousness. Look at verse 18, "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." This verse has been my prayer all week, and this verse will continue to be my prayer moving forward in the uncertainty of COVID-19. It is my prayer that we will see the fruit of a harvest of righteousness in the days ahead, as we as the church had been given this opportunity to sow seeds, peace. The peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. God will use this time of uncertainty for his glory as his people sow seeds of peace and point to our eternal hope.

George Wright: 29:26 So church, the final scripture I want to look at this morning before a closing thought is First Peter 3:15 that says this, "But in your hearts, honor Christ the as Holy. Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason, for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect." This is a verse that points us to the wisdom from above in a time of uncertainty. What an opportunity,, as we seek wisdom from above to live different from the world around us as we point to the peace of God that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. I would encourage you, be prepared, be prepared for the open door to have that gospel conversation. Be prepared to give an account for why there is peace in the midst of the storm. Be prepared to give an account for why you have hope, even in a time of uncertainty, and do this with gentleness and with respect that flows down from the wisdom from above.

George Wright: 30:58 In closing, I just want to give you three quick thoughts, that I hope and pray can be a gift to you and your family as you seek the wisdom of God in this season. Perhaps this is even something you can talk through with those who are joining you now for this service via live stream. As soon as we're done with the service, maybe this can be a small group discussion in your family, or with those as you watch online. First and foremost, would you ask God to give you wisdom to know how to point others to the hope that you have in Christ? What are some ways that you can point others to hope right now, even in a time of such uncertainty? Maybe it's just to commit to text some friends some scripture over the next few days. Or to reach out and intentionally pray with someone. Maybe, how about this? Maybe you commit to only post on social media that which is encouraging and points to hope. That would be incredible. what a gift that might be to someone who knows you or follows you. Ask God to give you wisdom to know how you can point others to hope in this time. I realize you may be joining us this morning and you're looking for hope. Maybe you're joining us right now and you say, I am one does not have hope, I am consumed with fear, I feel totally overwhelmed. And I would say to you, look to Jesus. This is an opportunity that God has laid before you inviting you into his mercy and his grace. Ask Jesus to be your hope, ask Jesus to be your peace. Look to Jesus.

George Wright: 33:10 Secondly, I would just encourage you to ask God to give you wisdom to know how to demonstrate compassion as needs arise as a result of COVID-19. If schools close, if more gets sick, I mean there will be opportunities. We don't know what those opportunities may be, but would you ask God to give you wisdom to demonstrate compassion? Maybe you check in on some who are elderly neighbors, and you just ask them, can I pick up anything from the store for you? Or maybe you just reach out and say, can I run some errands on your behalf? Maybe you join together and pray for those who really are fearful. Commit now to respond in compassion when the needs arise, and respond in generosity when the needs are evident. Ask God to give you that wisdom.

George Wright: 34:10 And then finally, as we close, I want to call us as a church back into a very intentional season of prayer. We started the year with 21 days of prayer emphasis, we asked people in the church to pray three times a day, seven days a week, for 21 days. Now I would encourage you to take on a new 21 days of prayer challenge. We're going to be sending out some info about that this week, and how you can intentionally pray. But set a timer on your phone, pray specifically three times a day. Pray for those and leadership in these crucial decisions. Pray for those who've been impacted by this virus. Pray that the virus would lose its power. Pray that God would use this for his glory. Set an intentional time to focus in on prayer as a family, we will be doing this as a church. And there is a very specific prayer request this morning, right now, as it relates to our church body here at Shandon, and I just want to invite you into this prayer. We have one mission team that is still out in the field, a trip from our college ministry that is in Kenya, and their trip home has been delayed now for 24 hours. And they're waiting to see how they can travel to get home, and obviously we are all aware that right now that the airline industry is in a season of uncertainty. And so we are praying that God would give them an open door, and a way to get home as quickly as possible. Would you join us in praying for them, that they can get home as quickly as possible, and that they will be protected. But there are so many ways that we need to be in prayer, will you commit to 21 days of prayer, believing that God is going to use this in ways that we never could have seen or imagined, believing that God is in control, believing that God has given the church an opportunity to be the church, and believing that when needs are so clear, God does his best work through his people. So join us in praying, as we commit to live by faith and look to the wisdom that is from above.

George Wright: 36:46 Let's pray now as we prepare to conclude our service. Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the opportunity again to gather via this live stream. And even as we're not all together in person, we recognize that the church is together in worship of you, and the church is together as we turn our attention to your word collectively. And I pray, Lord, that your word would not fall on deaf ears or hardened hearts, but that your word would fall on fertile ground right now. In this time of uncertainty, Lord, use us to sow seeds of peace. In this time of uncertainty, Lord, use us to show others hope, use us to demonstrate compassion. Lord, I pray that you would work in our hearts and minds, and ground us firmly on the truth of your word, how we need you. We are asking you to move in power, we are asking you to move in such a way that many turn their hearts to you. And we thank you for the opportunity that you've given us as a church to gather together today, but then to be sent back out into our neighborhoods and our households to be a voice of hope and a voice of peace. Lord, use us for your glory. I pray specifically for those who are wrestling with fear, overwhelmed by anxiety, I pray for those who are joining us who feel like they are without hope. Lord, give them the faith today to turn to Jesus to say, Jesus, I need you. I'm ready for you to be the foundation of my life. I'm ready for you to be my strength, my rock in this storm. I'm ready to follow you, Jesus. Oh, we thank you for being a God of mercy and grace, a God full of compassion, a God who is strong and so good, and who leads us to what you know is best in your wisdom. Lord, give us eyes to see your wisdom. We love you, we trust you, and we worship you, our God. It's in Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206