The Beginning of Wisdom

book laid open on an outdoor stone wall
Wisdom begins with a proper understanding of who God is and who we are not.

What’s true in the realms of medicine, construction, accounting, and sports is true in the core dimensions of your life as well. There are laws and principles that must be adhered to if you are to succeed in the arenas of marriage, parenting, personal finances, friendship, work, and time management. Some of these principles are intuitive; others are not. But knowing and submitting to these principles make all the difference in the world. For it is within the context of these life rules that wisdom is found. They inform the decision-making process.

Every time you give someone advice, you are drawing upon your insight about how some aspect of the world works. Through the years you have stumbled onto some of these laws and principles. Some you have learned the hard way. You may have been exposed to others through the wisdom of your parents and teachers. But you know a thing or two about how life works. There are certain bad decisions you can spot a mile away. You can see trouble coming. At times you have tried to warn some unsuspecting soul to get out of the way—just like somebody warned you in a previous chapter of your life.

With all of this experience as a backdrop, let me ask you a couple of questions. If I can’t expect my children to create masterpieces on canvas when they do not know and submit to the rules and principles of oil painting, how can we expect to make masterpieces of our lives without knowing and submitting to the laws and principles of life? If I can’t expect my mechanic to make wise decisions about the maintenance of my car without first knowing how the car works, how can I expect to make wise decisions about my family and finances without first knowing the laws and principles that govern these important arenas of life?

Let me take it one excruciating step further. How do you expect to make a masterpiece of your life if you are unwilling to surrender to the Author of life—the One who knows which textures and colors are best blended for the outcome you desire? How do you expect to make wise decisions regarding your family, marriage/love life, and career if you are not willing to submit to the promptings of the One who knows more about those things than you or I ever will?

In the Beginning

Perhaps it was this line of reasoning that led the wisest man in the world to pen these words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom begins with a proper understanding of who God is and who we are not.

Don’t rush past this too quickly. I am challenging you to ask yourself, “What is the wise thing for me to do?” To fully leverage our question, you need to address it to your heavenly Father. For he is the source of all wisdom, and wisdom begins by properly aligning ourselves with who God is.

Solomon used the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” In this context, “fear” refers to recognition and reverence that lead to submission. You may want to write that down somewhere. Wisdom begins with the recognition of who God is. This does not mean simply recognizing his power and knowledge. This is recognizing that you are dealing with the one and only Creator of all things. God with a capital G. Wisdom begins when we rightly recognize God’s position as God!

Proper recognition results in reverence. Reverence is the appropriate response to the One who created and controls all things. The practical side of reverence is submission. Those who recognize and revere the Father have little choice but to embrace his right to rule all that he has created. That moment of recognition and surrender is the beginning of true wisdom.

The Aha! Factor

Lest we lose sight of the highly relational side of our heavenly Father, Solomon restated his point in different terms. Here’s how the entire verse reads:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

Allow me to paraphrase this amazing verse for you this way:

Wisdom begins when we recognize that God is God and then we respond accordingly. The proper response, of course, is surrender. Once we have surrendered, God is more than happy to reveal more and more of himself. And as we discover more and more of the character and nature of the Father, we gain greater understanding of the world he has created. Our expanded understanding results in an improved ability to choose wisely. Thus, true wisdom begins with a proper recognition of who God is coupled with a proper response—surrender.

If the idea of surrendering to your heavenly Father scares you, consider this: you unknowingly surrender to his principles and laws every day. Every time you make a wise relationship decision, you are applying or surrendering to one of God’s principles. Every time you make a wise financial decision, the same thing is true. Every time you submit your body to the knife of a competent surgeon, you surrender yourself to the laws of God. The surgeon is simply making decisions based upon his understanding of the way God created the human body. Every time you submit to a human authority, you are applying one of God’s principles.

“But that’s different,” you argue. “I’m just using good judgment.” That may be the way you see it. But if you are simply applying principles that existed before you chose to apply them,
you are borrowing from—and recognizing the wisdom of—the Father. Think about it. We have discovered and leveraged principles of physics; we have explored and manipulated the genetic
code; we have pinpointed and eradicated many diseases. Our forefathers harnessed high- and low-pressure systems and used them to travel across the seas.

Every single day we benefit from the way God designed things to work. Everything we claim to have created in our human endeavors finds its ultimate source in something God created that we simply discovered and manipulated. Every time we take a breath, we declare our dependency upon and submission to the Father physically. Why then would we hesitate to submit our wills? Why are we so afraid to surrender to him our relationships, our finances, and our careers?

A wise physician does not ignore the way God created the body. A wise accountant does not ignore the principles of mathematics. The beginning of wisdom is recognition of and submission to the One who designed things to work the way things work.

Adapted from Ask It by Andy Stanley by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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About the Author

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author and founder of North Point Ministries Inc. (NPM). Since its inception in 1995, NPM has grown from one campus to five in the Atlanta area and has helped more than 30 strategic partner churches globally. Each Sunday, more than 25,000 people attend worship services at one of NPM’s five campuses. Andy’s books include Communicating for a Change, The Next Generation Leader, Visioneering and How Good is Good Enough? Andy lives in Alpharetta, Ga., with his wife, Sandra, and their children.

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