“I’m not sure what to do.”

A phrase spoken by leaders more commonly than ever.

Part of this is natural; of course, we don’t always know what to do. Leaders create change and make progress. We live in new territory. We navigate uncharted waters in an ever-changing culture.

But Scripture says that if we lack wisdom and ask God for it, He will give it to us.

That’s true; He will.

Then why doesn’t it seem that simple?

  • It’s difficult to discern and apply truth.
  • The application of Scripture is challenged.
  • Agenda and opinion rule the day.

So, where do we start? Let me first offer the foundational building blocks of wisdom.

HUMILITY

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, which is based on humility. (He is God, and we are not.) Therefore, when we take control and lead on our own, we communicate we do not need wisdom.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. 

Proverbs 11:2

MATURITY

A major element of wisdom is connected to maturity. Godly wisdom cannot be trusted with an immature adult who uses it for selfish purposes or out of alignment with the purpose of God.

..until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:13

PRACTICALITY

When you gain wisdom, the question becomes, “What will you do with it?”

Wisdom that remains a lofty thought in the clouds and never gets its feet on the ground is still true but not helpful. What will you do with the wisdom you receive?

Is it possible that wisdom is slow to come to those who don’t apply it?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 

James 3:13

4 Layers to Gaining Wisdom

1) Slowing Down    

Wisdom is rarely gained on the run, skimming the surface, in the autopilot nature of daily life.

Acquiring wisdom requires a slowing down and thoughtful process of pursuing something more priceless than gold and silver and a willingness to apply it intentionally.

A good place to start in pursuing wisdom is to ask yourself why you want it, which means what you will do with it?

There are many worthy purposes, from being good parents to becoming the spiritual leader you genuinely desire to be. However, the clarity of knowing why you seek wisdom will shape how you ask, what you listen for, and the insights you gain.

I often struggle with slowing down, and I’ve learned that there is nothing wise about that.

The irony is plain to see.

Nothing on my to-do list is more important than seeking God and His wisdom.

Wisdom is not instant; it’s a cumulative process of layer upon layer. It’s like a bank account of great value, but investments must be made.

It does not come without discipline and a willingness to reflect in quiet and wait while continuing to lead. The beauty is that we are not required to beg God and hope. Instead, he wants to give you wisdom.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! 

Proverbs 16:16

2) Looking Up    

God is the source of wisdom, and we are instructed to ask if we are in need.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

I love the simple promise of asking for and receiving wisdom. (James 1:5-6) You probably do, too. However, the next verse requires something of us—belief, not doubt, meaning faith and trust.

That is not always easy. I know God can, but will He and when? Or did He already answer, and I wasn’t able to hear?

God is a generous God but desires for wisdom to be applied in a way that glorifies Him and His purpose. In other words, in alignment with His will.

Perhaps that’s why wisdom sometimes seems slow in coming. But rest assured, it’s not God who is unwilling to answer our prayers for wisdom. Sometimes we are not ready for it just yet.

Keep praying, and don’t give up.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:6

3) Digging In  

Slowing down, asking God, and what’s next? Digging in.

Gaining wisdom requires a willingness to think at deeper levels, ironically in places perhaps we don’t understand and need wisdom to access.

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. 

Proverbs 14:8

You may be making a million-dollar decision, contemplating releasing a beloved staff member, or selecting a city for the next campus launch.

There is so much information in your head that everything is just spinning to the point that it turns to mush. And you need wisdom to get out of the mush, let alone make a decision.

We’ve all been there.

This is where a needed breakthrough from wise counsel becomes invaluable.

A meaningful conversation with two or three spiritual leaders you trust, and respect can help open doors to wisdom that seemed unattainable or at least elusive on your own.

You need not travel the road alone in your pursuit of wisdom, wise leaders can help you, but you must be willing to dig in and invest effort and energy on your part first.

4) Pressing Through  

Wisdom is not like a beautiful painting on a wall, hanging there for us to admire and enjoy. Instead, it’s meant for use.

A great deal of wisdom is accumulated first from God, and then it’s up to us to press through and not give up.

Pressing through problems is part of leadership.

If we are not facing problems, engaging difficulties, and working on solutions, wisdom has no place to take root and show fruit.

When we learn from our mistakes, develop character, and stay close to God, His wisdom in us compounds over time.

When you press through challenging situations, don’t just put your head down; close your eyes and march dutifully forward. Then, look up, learn, and accumulate wisdom from any roadblocks or setbacks you experience.

Wisdom is a lifetime endeavor. There is beauty and joy in knowing we’ll never know all there is to know, but God does, and He is with us!

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

Proverbs 4:5-6