Starting a new year is like starting a new job. It’s full of exciting possibilities and promise. Speaking of new jobs, there is a young man in the scriptures, who is about to begin on a new job.
He oversees public work projects. He provides oversight to the department of justice and functions as the final judge in difficult cases brought before him. He meets regularly with his army generals to talk about treaties and pacts that he has with neighboring nations, and to advise on the need to defend the borders against any imminent threats. He is responsible for setting policy and guidelines for national taxation. He provides vision and direction to the civil servants in his governments employ. He also serves a religious function, leading the people in his own devotion to the national God.
This man, in case you haven’t guessed it, is a king. And when we meet him in the scriptures, he is young and on the threshold of new and exciting possibilities.
In 1 Kings 3, we meet this king, and his name is – you guessed it, Solomon. The Lord speaks to him in a dream and makes him an offer. He asks Solomon what he would like more than anything else.
Now, if you are Solomon you pause and take a deep breath. To this point you have only heard about things like this happening in fairy tales and children’s books. But now you have a real opportunity to make a wish, to state your claim and God – not some Genie from a bottle – but the God of the universe who can grant your request. So what do you ask for? As you begin a new year what would you ask for?
Maybe your wish is for longer life. Maybe you have traded in the gym for Geritol. Maybe the wrinkles are appearing faster than you can find products to make them disappear.
Maybe you would ask God to wipe out your bills, fill your account with just enough money to be comfortable. You don’t desire riches, but you could do with a couple hundred thousand to make your financial headaches vanish for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps you’ve been at war with rebellious kids and you have a growing impatience with your in-laws. Perhaps you would ask God for a new wife, or maybe for a husband with fewer annoying personal habits. You might just be happy if people would leave you alone, and let you enjoy your life in peace. Maybe you would just like a new group of co-workers.
Perhaps you wouldn’t mind it if someone took notice of your efforts or patted you on the back for your hard work. Just little esteem in the eyes of a co-worker or in the eyes of a boss would be nice, after all.
These are all things for which God must receive regular requests. He could have granted them. God says he could have granted long life, peace with enemies, or wealth, even honor makes the list (see 1 Kings 3:11,13). No doubt God often gets requests for these things – so Solomon could have asked for them. But Solomon did not ask for them!
You might be surprised to know that Solomon asked for wisdom.
Sounds a little boring, right? I mean, imagine being filthy rich, imagine being famous, imagine being the oldest person alive, imagine being at peace with everyone. Those things have a certain allure. But wisdom? What difference does wisdom make?
Well, I am going to contend that wisdom makes all the difference.
You see, wisdom is a word which refers to skillful living. It is the ability to live with excellence. Now, maybe you are looking forward to 2011 being an average year, but if you want an excellent year, if you want a year where you are able to navigate everything that life will bring your way, you will need wisdom for that task. When opportunities to sin present themselves – and they will, only wisdom will help you avoid it (Prov.1; 2:1-11). When evil companions pressure you to participate with them in wrongdoing, only wisdom will help you avoid such pitfalls (Prov.13:14). When you need to decide on a particular course of action, only wisdom will enable you to make the right decision (Prov.24:6).
It is my desire that my life in 2011, and your life in 2011, would be characterized by the thing for which Solomon asked – for wisdom. My God give us skill in living and aid us as we apply what we know is true to how we live, to how we work, to how we behave. May God give us wisdom in our dealings with each other within the church and wisdom in our relationships outside the church.
To this end, I am proposing Ephesians 5:15 as the theme of my life and the theme of our church this year! Let’s learn by God’s grace to walk in wisdom!