Life is full of tough questions. Life is also full of well-intended counselors. Simply ask a question starting with “Should I…?” or “Should we…?” or “Is it wise if…?” on any given topic and your inquiry will likely yield an opinion, preference, instruction, or a bit of all three. Sometimes, you may receive unsolicited advice.
Lacking clarity about a decision often feels like you are hiking through dense fog in the middle of the night, unable to see whether the next step leads to solid ground or loose gravel. You may hear the voices of those ahead of you giving encouragement and providing instruction. Someone may be alongside you, offering support. Your next step, however, is yours alone. Thankfully, God does not leave us without help. He always provides the means to discern true wisdom.
But wisdom isn’t about being smart or academically gifted. It’s not simply knowing things or being clever. What is wisdom? To borrow from Douglas Stuart, biblical wisdom is about “making choices and doing so in a godly way.” Wisdom is the day-to-day living out of the principles, instructions, and commandments from the divine measuring rod: the Bible. It takes time to glean wisdom and measure our options against the Bible. And like the heart, lungs, and muscles of an athlete, the more we practice and build our reliance upon the Word, the more quickly we can respond with strength, vigor, and confidence.
Here are nine steps to help you step out in wisdom.
Bow in Fear to God, Not Men
We must begin with proper motivations. The Bible commands us not to fear men who are only able to destroy the body. Rather, we are to fear God who is sovereign over the soul and the body (Matt 10:28). Fear is a great motivator, but it must be channeled correctly if we are to live obediently. This is because the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is the fear of God (Prov 1:7; 9:10). But a proper fear of God begins with forgiveness. Only those who have had their sins forgiven in Christ can walk in true fear of the Lord: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps 130:3-4; emphasis added). Once we are secure in Christ, we can rightly acknowledge God’s lordship, supremacy, and authority over all things. We live in his world, and we must yield to him his truth if we are going to walk in wisdom (Prov 2:1-8). Wisdom also grows in a soul that is regularly reminded that we will someday stand before our Lord and answer for all that we’ve done in the body, either good or evil (2 Cor 5:10). The fear of the Lord, therefore, enables us to walk in wisdom (Eph 5:15; Prov 4:26), make the most of our time (Eph 5:16), and understand the will of the Lord (Eph 5:16).
Build your House on Solid Ground
As we’ve already noted, wisdom comes from God, not man. Therefore, let us not rely on man-made philosophies or quaint pithy sayings, nor stubbornly fasten ourselves to preferential thinking, wishy-washy foundations, or so-called “truth” that is somewhere in the middle. The King hands us his wisdom through his word which is sufficient for all matters of life (2 Pet 1:3). From Genesis through Revelation God points us to the Savior while also providing us with practical commands, principles, teachings, and examples, all of which are useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness and equipping us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). “Therefore,” Jesus told his disciples, “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7:24). Inform your conscience with biblical teaching. Without building on the foundation of God’s word, any work we accomplish in this life will be worthless when we stand before the king. The psalmist tells us that it is by meditating on the Word of God that we will experience spiritual prosperity (Ps 1:2-4). What a tremendous comfort it is to know that the Bible has been written for us to know God and walk in wisdom. How deep is his knowledge and how good is his instruction (Prov 2:10)! Search his Word and meditate on it to grow in wisdom.
Borrow the Ear and Advice from a Multitude of Qualified Counselors
As we lean on Scripture, we’ll learn that a multitude of counselors provides safety, establishes our plans, and produces positive results (Prov 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Indeed, it is neither wise nor beneficial to face life alone (Gen 2:18; Prov 18:1; Eccl 4:9). But this is not a call to seek the counsel of just anyone. The Bible warns us that trusting in fools, evildoers, and people who hate God will only lead to our ruin (Prov 1:1; 28:26; Job 2:10). Instead, we are to watch, imitate, and request help from those who actively establish themselves in the Word and prove their faith with good works (Titus 2:2-5; James 1:25). Seek the advice and perspective from godly men and women who fear the Lord and revere His Word. Find men and women who submit to the Lordship of Christ and who consistently point to scripture. They will help you grow in wisdom. “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise” (Prov 13:20).
Be a Berean: Evaluate all Advice with the Bible
The Berean Church was magnified for their diligent study of God’s Word. When Paul preached in Berea, the people were eager to be edified (Acts 17:11a), but they were also ready to test the teachings of the Apostle Paul by the Scripture (Acts 17:11b). Likewise, Scripture instructs us to test the spirits, to evaluate the fruits of teachers, and to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Matt 7:17-18; 1 John 4:1-6; Eph 4:1). It is by the divine standard that weighs all teachings, theories, and talk. Where there is a command or instruction, we must be sure we are following in line with God’s Word. Where the Bible is silent, there is freedom so that we may be liberated from any legalism and human tradition (Mark 7:1-8; 1 Cor 8:1-13). Fully examine your situation, evaluating the counsel you receive and where there is Biblical exhortation. Be humble and listen. Where counsel steps beyond Scriptural boundaries, consider it but know it has no Biblical authority. Godly advice will be approved and affirmed in Scripture. Scrutinize every angle to grow in discernment.
Bathe your Ambitions in Purity
Likewise, use Scripture as a mirror and consider your own ambitions. Take your desires to court, cross examine your aspirations and make sure you find yourself acting selflessly, above reproach, pure in conscience, and glorifying God in all ways. Wash away pride, self-glory, fear of man and laziness or else they will stain your endeavors. Rather, let your ambitions be pure in worship, glorifying God, edifying others, and seeking to be peaceable, and hold fast to the Word with all integrity. Then will you be able to perceive godly wisdom clearly and act with all excellence.
Brace Yourself for the Consequences: There May be Blessings and Blowback
Count the cost. We are warned constantly in Proverbs that our actions have costs and benefits. What you do and how you do it may produce unexpected situations that may lead to discomfort and trial, or create opportunities that demonstrate God’s goodness—or both simultaneously. Know that the godly decision, though biblically right, may not be the most convenient, financially sound, or relationally steady. A wise decision may be very costly in this life; yet, in glorifying God in our decisions, we will experience the greatest joy. Consider the testimonies of the saints of old: Job, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Paul, Peter, etc. Faithful men who received great injustice for righteous and wise living, but who also received great blessing and joy in their obedience to the wisdom of God.
Balance your Approach
Even once a decision is made, the next steps forward must be weighed and balanced with all meditation, advice, and with precise and deliberate movement. Don’t let your situation and decision taint your relationships and color them with unnecessary tension. As much as it depends on you, be at peace with all (Rom 12:18). Don’t let your personality or the attitude in how you step out in your decision unnecessarily provoke the people involved or your counselors (whether you agree with them or not). By your character, integrity, and in Christlikeness, mitigate any unnecessary blowback and resistance.
Boldly Step out in Faith and Be Decisive
Having formed convictions through careful study of God’s Word and inquiring of able counselors, step out in faith knowing that God is sovereign and good. Faith is the belief in the promise of things hoped for. God promises his children that he will discipline them in love. He provides us his Holy Spirit as a counseling force and our fellow saints as guardrails from danger. Sometimes our decisions will cause us to bump into these guardrails or set us against the direction we ought to head towards. But we must have faith that God will correct us, move us, and work all things together for the good of those who love him. He is sovereign over all and as we submit to him, we know we can trust in his Lordship over our lives. Whatever we choose to do, we must submit it to the Lord and pray for his will to be done. If we discover that we have mistakenly stepped out in foolishness and not wisdom, we must abandon any pride, refuse to blame others, and humbly repent and make a better second decision—hopefully sooner rather than later.
Bless the Lord
As we ask the Lord for his help like the psalmist (Ps 16:1), we must also praise him for providing us with wisdom as the psalmist did (Ps 16:7). For God is always true, always loving, always dependable, always stable, and always wise. Whether you face a temptation, a complex relational situation, a difficult decision, a financial obligation, a stumbling block against your principles and integrity, it is God who guarantees that nothing is new under the sun (Eccl 1:9; 1 Cor 10:13) and he has apt words and instruction to equip you to step forward in faith (2 Tim 3:16-17). His words give us help.
So the next time you are faced with the question “is it wise?”, lean not on your own understanding but acknowledge God (Prov 3:5-6). Hear, listen, and obey the voice of our great shepherd (Ps 23; James 1:2-18). Heed his voice and his instruction; hide them in your heart (Prov 3:1) so that you may be able to discern the path of wisdom. And when you finally make it through the fog and find clarity, recount all that he has done and give thanks to the Lord. For if he has been found faithful in the past and continues to sustain you for today, he is certainly worthy of our hope for tomorrow.