Do I want to truthfully walk a straight path? This is a tough question for each of us to answer. We often give lip-service to our intention to walk a straight path, making upright decisions, and connecting within wholesome relationships, but then we find ourselves gravitating toward the next thing which pulls us away. Lip service is not really going to get us closer to our goal, is it? Two things which are key to moving beyond lip service in our walk are wisdom and understanding. The more we embrace the wisdom God provides and the understanding which unfolds when we draw close to him, the chances are we will do more than just declare our intent to walk uprightly - we will begin to actually take steps toward living righteously.
So now you can pick out what’s true and fair, find all the good trails! Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion. Good Sense will scout ahead for danger, Insight will keep an eye out for you...So—join the company of good men and women, keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths. It’s the men who walk straight who will settle this land, the women with integrity who will last here. The corrupt will lose their lives; the dishonest will be gone for good. (Proverbs 2:9-10, 20-22 MSG)
If you have ever been the recipient of the results of "poor planning" you know how frustrating this can be and just how much work it is to "clean up" what was not planned well. I have not only been the recipient, but I have been the one doing the planning! Double-whammy! I think this is maybe the kind of "bummer" God wanted us to avoid when he reminds us of the wisdom or value of wise counsel. Wise planning is not always the result of "careful planning". We can be very "careful" and still miss the mark!
Sometimes we just need the counsel which is outside of our minds and hearts to confirm or dissuade us from the planning we have in mind. First we listen to God, but then he also provides wise counsel because he knows we sometimes need those "sounding boards" to help us with the planning of our next steps. Understanding speaks to the application of knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience. This is why wise counsel is so important - there are a whole lot of opportunities to allow the experience of another to steer us clear of the mistakes they have already made!
Wisdom and understanding do a lot to "steer" us away from one thing and toward another. This is very important when we consider relationship decisions, for the wrong relationship decisions can scar us for life. We need to be aware of the "true heart" of another - this can only come as we allow wisdom and understanding to be our guide in relationship, not the fickleness of our heart!
For many of us, this thing we call "wisdom" and "understanding" is fleeting. Try as we might, we just don't seem to grab hold of wisdom and / or understanding quite as easily as we'd like. We are left in some pretty awkward places because we did not plan well, nor did we swallow our pride enough to seek out the counsel of another to help us see our actions from a different perspective. Let me just say this - wisdom and understanding are "rehearsed" - they are learned through revisiting the things we have learned over-and-over again.
It is not the revisiting of the wrong decisions which will magically make us wise, but in revisiting them, we often see the place where we took the misstep. Poor decisions on my part have often become the very thing I seek the wisdom of another in order to learn from those missteps. I may have neglected to seek their counsel BEFORE I made the misstep, but I sure don't want to repeat those bad choices, so I will seek counsel before I take those same steps again! This is wisdom!
We rehearse or revisit a lot of things in our lives, often neglecting the learning God would have us to grasp. We focus on what did not work (the outcome), rather than on what steps we took which produced the bad outcome. It is like looking at the tree and not remembering it has big roots! We sometimes are guilty of not giving God's counsel and teaching more than a "cursory" rehearsal in the face of our failures, and then we wonder why we fail again. Maybe it is because we "rehearse" the wrong stuff!
God's counsel to us is to "store up" his counsel in our hearts - not so we become Bible verse spouting Christians at every turn, but because his "stored up" counsel can actually become the "wisdom" we consult before we step out. To store up means to get a good stock of something which is laid up "against the future" needs you might have. You don't stock the pantry because all those cans look pretty in there. You stock it because you will actually access those colorful cans of vegetables and sauces, using them the prepare what will become your next "nourishing meal". God's counsel is "stocked" in our "life pantry" - not for good looks, but for our use.
I can add one additional point before closing - wisdom and understanding operate best when loyalty is maintained. If you have ever been betrayed by someone you thought was loyal to you, you know how their betrayal made you feel. You are "gut-kicked", right? We have been given many resources at our fingertips - wisdom and understanding are available for the one who seeks with an intent heart. Remaining loyal to the one who calls us into wisdom and expands our understanding is all God asks. As we are "faithful" to him, he helps us be "faith-filled". He brings us into places of understanding and relationships of wisdom because he desires for our hearts to be safe. Our allegiance often determines how well we will enter into understanding and how quickly we will embrace wisdom. Just sayin!