Living and Acting with Godly Wisdom: A coin flip that changed everything
November 3, 2023 | Brian Butcher
3-4 Minute Read Time
Herschel Walker wanted to join the military. College was not at the forefront of his mind. It was, however, for his parents. Torn between going to college like his parent’s wished or going to the military, which was his desire, Herschel was unsure of what to do. When his mother pressed him on what he was going to do, she still told him, “If your mind and your heart is pure by the Lord Jesus, then it really doesn’t matter about your decision.” Walker decided to flip a coin. One side of the coin represented going to the military and the other represented going to college and playing football. He landed on college.
Disappointed in the results, the question became where he should attend school. Walker had already narrowed that down to three schools: Clemson, Georgia, and Southern Cal. He flipped his coin first between Clemson and Georgia. The Dawgs won. Again, between Georgia and Southern Cal. Georgia again. Not thrilled with his results, he wrote the schools on pieces of paper and drew one out of a bag. Still Georgia. Finally convinced, Walker decided to attend UGA.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Do you flip a coin? Pick names out of a hat? Phone a friend like in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Given enough time, every single one of us will encounter a situation where we don’t know what to do. Ironically, that could be the exact place where wisdom is birthed.
Wisdom in practical terms is applied knowledge. Knowing what to do and how to do it. In Biblical terms, wisdom is much more than that. It requires humility. We see in the book of Psalms that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 9:10). In other words, respect, or honoring God first allows wisdom to come. Wisdom is the recognition that God is the one who defines what is right or wrong. It requires humility because Biblical wisdom is a recognition that God’s ways are better than my ways, my wisdom. In its simplest form wisdom involves following the commands, teachings, and values directed by God. Jesus taught it like this: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Mt. 7:24-25. NIV).
Since the beginning of October, we have been studying the book of James. He was the half-brother of Jesus and wrote about this very idea of putting the teachings of Jesus into practice in his letter to the church. Then he writes this: “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It’s also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It’s full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
James almost seems to suggest that wisdom isn’t just a thing to obtain, but also a disposition to hold. Wisdom lives out the commands of God in a demeanor that honors God. Wisdom is a recognition that we don’t have the answers, but we can follow One who does. He will guide us to make the right choice so that we honor Him. We can do what is morally correct with wisdom. God will help us know and do what is right when we seek to, well, know and do what is right as defined by God.
What if we don’t have a moral dilemma? What if it’s just a choice, like what college to go to? Do I take the job offer or not? Should I talk to my co-worker about their work performance now or wait until next week? How do I talk to my child about dating? There can be good ways and bad ways to address questions like these, but rarely are they morally wrong or right. What then?
Perhaps, Mrs. Walker was right. Perhaps if your heart is right with God, you can’t go wrong. And in a sense, I suppose that should relieve some of the pressure we put on ourselves to make the right choice. I believe if we sincerely defer to God, asking for wisdom to make the right choice that honors Him, we should end up where we need to go. Better still, we can make the hard choice with no obvious answer and have peace about it. Ultimately, a life that is fully surrendered to God will be just fine. And fortunately, there’s grace in the process. Here’s how Herschel put it: “There are sometimes when you are naïve and stupid and God will take care of you. Because [Georgia] was the right decision.” Yes, it was, Herschel.
In reality, when our question of discernment isn’t a moral choice, I think the best possible step is to first surrender the outcome to God. There is no “one size fits all” prescription to decision making like this. Instead, trusting God and showing that trust by obedience as James outlines is the best choice. Prayerfully consider the options and talk to God about them. Sometimes I ask God to close doors for me because I can’t discern which way to go. If it was easy, you wouldn’t need wisdom. The good news is that when you walk with God, trust in His ways, and seek His input into your life, I think God will direct your steps so that your future doesn’t reside in the results of a coin flip. Instead, it can reside in the hands of the One who loves you.
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