God's Wisdom and You (Part 2)

God’s Wisdom and You (Part 2)

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who know understanding; He reveals the deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

Two Common Myths about the Spirit-Filled Life

Many Christians believe the myth that ‘Spirit-filled’ or even ‘spiritual’ must indicate something or someone a little strange. Depending on how much exposure people have had to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, they might associate the words ‘Spirit-filled’ with people who claim to be inspired by the Spirit to bark like dogs, scream, or roll around on the floor. Such people exist—I’ve seen them!

Eccentric Prophets

Some people try to justify their conclusion that it is spiritual to act strange by pointing to the eccentric behavior of prophets in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah walked around naked (Isaiah 20:1–4)—some scholars say, wearing only an undergarment—and Ezekiel lay on his side for 430 days (Ezekiel 4:4–6). Some also point to Saul, who “changed into a different person” when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6, 10).

These examples, however, don’t prove that one should expect to act strangely if one is to be truly spiritual. First of all, Saul might have just “changed into a different person” in the sense that “God changed Saul’s heart” before he prophesied (v. 9).

The Frantic Prophets of Baal

Furthermore, when you read about the prophets in the Old Testament, you don’t get the sense that the prophets were usually ecstatic and acting strangely. To illustrate the point, when Elijah had his standoff at Mount Carmel, it was the prophets of Baal who “danced around the altar they had made,” shouted, slashed themselves with swords, and engaged in “frantic prophesying,” while they endeavored to get Baal to send fire on their sacrifice (1 Kings 18:26–29). By contrast, when Elijah called on God to send fire on his sacrifice, he merely “stepped forward and prayed” (v. 36).

Strange or out-of-the-ordinary things might happen when people experience the Spirit—like speaking in tongues, dreams, or visions (Joel 2:28)—but such experiences are not the primary indicator of spirituality. That is a myth!

Spirit with Hardships

Another myth some Christians believe is that people who are really Spirit-filled will always experience victory. This belief is a cousin to the idea that if you have enough faith you will always experience health and wealth.

Just as faith doesn’t guarantee a life free of disappointments and hardships, the Spirit-filled life is not a life free of disappointments and hardships. Jesus is the epitome of spirituality, but he never became an earthly king. Instead, “through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself unblemished to God” so his death might give us life (Hebrews 9:14).

In the Bible, “the one who is victorious” (Revelation 2:11) may suffer and face poverty (v. 9). Their victory is that they resist their culture’s anti-Christian values and are “faithful, even to the point of death” (v. 10). And their “victor’s crown” is eternal life, not achieving success in the eyes of the world around them (vv. 10–11).

Spirit-Filled “Success” and “Failure”

The Spirit’s empowerment may at times lead to great successes, but it doesn’t guarantee them. Barnabas, for example, “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” and through his ministry “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:22–24).

By contrast, Stephen, who was also “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5 and 7:55), was stoned to death when he preached the gospel (7:58). Similarly, Peter and Paul both had their lives threatened and were imprisoned on account of Christ, but they continued to preach the gospel because they had power and boldness from the Holy Spirit. Today the Spirit continues to inspire people to stay committed to Christ in the face of adversity, even to the point of martyrdom.

Spirit of Hope

Aside from the fact that those we minister to can “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51) and, therefore, our Spirit-empowered ministry is not always well-received, we live in a fallen creation that is yet to “be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21). As a consequence, even though we “have the firstfruits of the Spirit,” we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23).

However, as we long with hope, God does not abandon us, for the “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (v. 26). As James Dunn observes, the Spirit is not only present “in the heights of spiritual rapture,” but also “in the depths of human inability to cope.”[1] This means that if we find ourselves outside of some experiences of victory, this is not necessarily a sign of a lack of spirituality—in fact, at those times the Spirit might be particularly active in our lives. And that is no myth.

Click here to read Chapter 1 and order Simply Spirit-Filled.

 

*This is an edited excerpt from, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Andrew K. Gabriel, © 2019 by Emanate Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

[1] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 38 (Dallas, TX: Word, 1988), 479. 

 

 

God’s Wisdom and You

Daniel answered and said, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are His. He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings, and sets up kings.

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who know understanding; He reveals the deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

I thank You, and praise You, O God of my fathers, Who has given me wisdom and might, and has made known to me now what we desired of You….”

— Daniel 2:20-23

Daniel was giving thanks to the Lord for revealing to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation. Less familiar portions of the Bible can have gold nuggets hidden in them, and so it is here. There’s a lot of treasure for prophetic people in this short passage, so let’s take a look at what God has for us.

God desires to share His wisdom with us.

Daniel starts out by extolling God for His wisdom and might. He mentions that these two qualities belong to the Lord: they are His. He ends with thanking and praising the Lord, “Who has given me wisdom and might.”

Isn’t it amazing that the Lord of the whole universe delights to bestow on us what He possesses? Paul says in Romans 8:32“He Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” He also stated, in 1 Corinthians 3:21, 22“…All things are yours, whether … the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” We so easily take the gifts of God for granted, but if we would think about them more deeply, our hearts would be inspired to overwhelming awe.

All true wisdom originates with the Lord. We cannot get it anywhere else. We should not even attempt to glean wisdom from so-called wise men who do not worship the true God, nor should we attempt to use their techniques for achieving peace or revelation. In Christ alone “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Furthermore, “Beware, so that no one spoils you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:8, 9).

Now, the Holy Spirit might enlighten us to a portion of His wisdom through another person. He does that through sermons, godly counsel, and the word gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. We should also expect to receive wisdom directly from the Lord. But there is no other source of wisdom besides Him, and we get ourselves into a mess of deception if we go looking for it outside of Him. We can have confidence that, if we ask Him, He will be eager to give it, because He has already promised, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally and does not upbraid [reproach], and it shall be given to him” (James 1:5).

God changes the times and seasons.

Whether it is what is going on in our personal lives, or in our nation and the world, we need to stay keenly aware that God has specific times and seasons for things. When His season is up, He moves on. We must stay attuned to Him, so that we don’t miss His shifts from one thing into another. When He is breathing life into something, it continues, increases, and thrives. But when He is done with it, it’s dead. You can enthusiastically kick that horse all you want, but without the Lord’s life in it, it’s not going anywhere.

Most of us like staying put in what is familiar. Change is disconcerting. Jesus commented on this tendency, when He likened the old and new covenants to wineskins. He said, “No man also having drunk old wine immediately desires new: for he says, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5:39).

When upheaval is happening in our personal lives or in the nation or world, it is often because God is preparing a new thing. If we understand this, we will not let what we observe in the natural make us afraid. Keep your eyes on Jesus, Who does all things well (Mark 7:37), and be ready to move with Him — even quickly. There is blessing for the person who is open to the new works of God.

Lately I have been praying, “Lord, help me to recognize when You are shifting the seasons, give me Your understanding of how to respond, and help me to keep up with You!”

There are a few more lessons we can learn from Daniel 2:20-23. We’ll continue with them next time.

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