Fear Stupidity, Crave Wisdom
When I was young in the Lord, I would fear sinning and "messing up". I grew out of that, and started fearing Satan and demons. Then I grew out of that, and started fearing self. I have grown out of that, and now I fear the one thing I should have feared all along: stupidity.
As I ponder my few decades of existence, I am peeved by this irritating truth. Many of my defeats and low points were not because of a pernicious sin habit (though some were), nor did demons make me do it, nor was I being entirely selfish. I lacked what I call God's Success Trinity: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
We’ve all been to Stupid School.
Stupidity in Scripture
Proverbs 12:1 (NIV): ...whoever hates correction is stupid.
Ecclesiastes 10:3 (NIV): Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are.
The more common Biblical words for stupid are "simple" and "foolish" (Pr 1:22,32, 8:5, 9:13). The term simple describes someone who is an elementary and impatient thinker, and therefore, prone to foolish, one-dimensional behaviors. Proverbs 14:18 says (NIV), The simple inherit folly...
Life is complex. It is multidimensional, like a labyrinth, filled with layers, subtleties, hidden passageways, and trapdoors. Simpletons, though, have an oversimplified reality. They rarely think hard or think deep or think through. They are emotion-first creatures, behaving by instinct and reaction. They often shoot themselves in the foot for what they do not know and do not notice. They go in circles year after year after year, asking themselves the same redundant questions and self-answering with the same redundant answers. Little or no fresh insight. Little or no fresh illumination.
Knowledge is a start, but not enough.
Knowledge is the accumulation of information. To have success in any area, you must accumulate and continue to accumulate as much information as possible about that area. Observe someone very successful in any domain; they are an encyclopedia about that domain. Simpleton's think their handful of sayings, truisms, and factoids are good enough, the ones they quote like a broken record. Wrong. Their lack of fruitfulness betrays them.
But knowledge alone is not enough. I know too many people in ministry who have enough scholastic degrees to form a new alphabet, yet, they lack ministerial power, relevancy, and eternity-measured fruitfulness.
Understanding is even better, but still not enough.
Understanding is the comprehension of information. To have success in any area, you must comprehend or discern the meaning of the information you've collected. This takes time in deep thought framed in deep prayer. Knowledge is having all the parts of a machine, understanding perceives how to assemble those parts. Simpletons do not stretch their mind and force it to assemble information. It takes too much energy.
The Competitive, Manipulative Cerebral
Occasionally, after I speak, someone puffed up on knowledge will approach me. They will pose respectfully at first, but then start rambling on about this or that, quote some scriptures, and try to one-up me their knowledge. It is a form of power-play and unhealthy competitiveness and simple manipulation. Yuck!
A pattern keeps emerging, though. These heady, headstrong types do not understand the deeper, fuller meaning of the information they possess. They are like computers--data in, data out--with little discernment or insightful understanding. If they had this they would not use their knowledge as a psychosocial weapon, or at least the impulse would not be so strong. Of them the proverb is true (Pr 26:9 NIV): Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Wisdom is the principal thing.
Knowledge is the accumulation of information. Understanding is the comprehension of information. Wisdom is the skillful application of understood information.
According to God's Word, wisdom is the principal or most important thing. Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV): Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. Wisdom takes what it understands and works it skillfully into real life. It is the best use of information in real-life situations. As a result, it creates children of success. Jesus said in Matthew 11:19 (AMP), ...Yet wisdom is justified and vindicated by what she does (her deeds) and by her children.
Wisdom Creates Success
Wisdom can make anybody, anywhere into a child of success. Matthew 11:19 says (AMP), ...Yet wisdom is justified and vindicated by what she does (her deeds) and by her children. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says (NKJV), ...wisdom brings success.
This is because wisdom is action-oriented, it is not cerebral only. Wisdom is fueled by the dual-engine of knowledge and understanding, but it manifests as skilled application. This is why the Old Testament Hebrew words for wisdom are sometimes translated "skill". A wise person is a skilled person in that particular area of wisdom.
A person is not wise if the information stays in their head. They are intellectual, yes. They are knowledgeable, yes. They have understanding, yes. But they are not wise until they have applied that intelligence skillfully so that it creates success in that area. Remember Ecclesiastes 10:10; only wisdom brings success.
Discipline & Diligence Piggyback Wisdom
Discipline and diligence piggyback on wisdom. Proverbs 1:3 (AMP) says, Receive instruction in wise dealing and the discipline of wise thoughtfulness.
Think with me. Wisdom is the skillful application of information, however, application is not always easy or natural or pleasant! How many times have you known and understood what to do, and even how to do it well, but did not have the discipline to do it? Or, maybe you had the discipline to do it once or twice, but not the diligence to keep doing it habitually until success appeared? For wisdom to birth her children of success, sometimes discipline and diligence are required. No discipline, no diligence, no wisdom. If you do not have discipline or diligence at the application level, you are still not wise.
Grace as an Excuse for Laziness
Do not believe the falsehood that the arrival of grace somehow abolished discipline and diligence. Here are some New Covenant scriptures on the two.
Colossians 2:5 (NIV): I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are...
2Timothy 1:7 (AMP): For God did not give us a spirit of timidity...well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
Titus 1:8 (NIV): Rather, he must be...disciplined.
Hebrews 6:11 (NIV): We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.
Romans 12:11 (NKJV): ...not lagging in diligence...
2Peter 1:5 (NKJV): But also for this very reason, giving all diligence...
Wisdom is Departmental
Wisdom is departmental. For example, one can have great wisdom in the area of relationships, but little to no wisdom in managing money. One can be wise in how to grow a business, but a tragic simpleton in how to lead a family. One can be skilled in developing a congregation, but a dunce in how to love his wife. How many powerful intercessors are also financially broke or physically obese? How many successful people cannot get a second date, or even a first? Wisdom is departmental. Practical smarts in one area does not automatically translate or extrapolate to other areas.
From Simpleton to Sage & Success
We must declare war on the simpleton within. Eventually we will have no more feet left to shoot. Some things can be ruined beyond repair (Pr 29:1, Ecc 1:15). If you have a department of consistent failure or frustration, here's what you need to do.
First, begin with knowledge. Accumulate, and continue to accumulate, as much information as possible about the area in question. This means read, read, read and listen, listen, listen until your brain is fried. Then, read and listen some more.
Second, seek to understand. Pray and think deeply to comprehend and discern the meaning of the information you have collected. Proverbs 2:3-6 (NIV) says, ...if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding...then you will understand...For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Finally, act on what you have learned, but act skillfully. That is wisdom. There are dozens of ways to do something, but there are one or two ways that are best or most skillful or most productive. Find it and do it (discipline) and do it habitually (diligence) until wisdom rewards you with success in that area (Pr 4:7-9).
From Cerebral to Sage & Success
Also, we must reject stopping short at the cerebral level--knowledge and understanding only, but not wise, disciplined, or diligent. If you are a Cerebral only in a certain area, then you need to mature into wisdom. Your success trinity is incomplete. Proverbs 2:6 and James 1:5 promise God's direct help with this critical last step.
Practically speaking, maturing into wisdom means finding the best, most skillful, most productive actions for the department in question. Then, whether you feel like it or not, do it. That is discipline. Then, you must keep on doing it until wisdom rewards you with success in that area. That is diligence. If you ever want to succeed in that department, sooner or later you will have to get out of your head and into real-life, disciplined, diligent action.
Stop being a talking head, heady, and headstrong. You are talking too much and acting too little. Any observant person can see that your cerebral encyclopedias are worthless if you cannot bear meaningful fruit. When you have borne abundant fruit in that area, then you deserve to be heard and heard much.