READ: Proverbs 4, Mark 8, James 5

PROGRESSIVE UNDERSTANDING

Wisdom does not rush upon us like a flood, overwhelming our folly and leaving us unalterably discerning. Wisdom is a continual acquisition and we need to be as patient with ourselves as Jesus is with us. Because we are so slow to understand, we can often become discouraged and give in to the depressing thought that we are never going to learn our lessons, that we will ever be prey to the same sins and mistakes. God does not share this pessimistic view. God is committed to the process of making us wise and He is confident of the end result–our ongoing understanding.

Mark likes to make truth sandwiches; he puts the meat of one truth inside complementary stories. In chapter 8 of his Gospel Mark tells the story of a blind man who Jesus heals progressively. After the first touch of Jesus, the man can partially see; he sees men as trees walking (v. 24). Jesus touches him again, and this time full sight is restored. Earlier in the chapter, Mark details how the disciples are slow to understand who Jesus is. Jesus warns them about bad doctrine and they think He is scolding them for forgetting to bring bread. The passage following the healing describes Jesus rebuking Peter immediately after he calls Jesus the Christ (vv. 29, 33). Peter’s understanding (like ours) is a work in progress. It is not realistic for us to think we will wake up wise. Wisdom is a walk and our human limitations dictate that the accumulation of understanding happens all throughout the journey. Wisdom is neither front- nor back-loaded; it is measured out steadily in daily dosages.

James 5 encourages us to be patient in the wisdom process. Our hearts need to be established over time through a process of suffering and endurance (v. 11). As we plod along the way of wisdom, we need to look in three directions: up, straight, and down.

  • Look Up: A diligence is required to tend our heart, the wellspring of the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). We constantly look to Jesus. The wisest thing we can do is acknowledge we are not wise and we need help. We look to Jesus to keep us simple even as He makes us deep, to give us counsel even as we deliberately choose what we know is the right thing to do.
  • Look Straight: Wisdom doesn’t look through other people’s windows or at other people’s wives. Wisdom tends to mind its own business, eyes straight ahead (v. 25). If we are over-consumed with the folly of others (or even their faith), we lose momentum in our own walk.
  • Look Down: We are to ponder the path of our feet (v. 26), not turn to the right or left (v. 27), but turn our feet to God’s testimonies (Psalm 119:59). It is normal to be slow to understand. Jesus is not bothered by slow progress, as long as we keep plodding, daily conforming our behavior to His Word.
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