Becoming a More Effective ServantFull of Wisdom and Faith
Leslie Basham: No one is born wise, according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We are naturally foolish. We’re all born foolish. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” Proverbs 22 says. We’re born oriented away from God, to live our lives independent of God. And that means we will never be wise apart from being born again.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, February 11.
We’re in part two of a series Nancy began yesterday called “Becoming a More Effective Servant.”
Nancy: The byline for our ministry, Revive Our Hearts, is that we’re "calling women to experience freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.” We don’t want Christian women to be just existing but to be really living life to the fullness of what God intended. He didn’t redeem us to have just a weekend experience of Christianity, just hanging on by our toenails until the rapture, but He wants us to experience here and now the fullness of His life within us.
We’re talking in this short series over three days about what it means to be full of Christ and what that looks like, and we’re looking at a passage in Acts chapter 6 where it says of Stephen, in the early church, who was assigned, appointed to an administrative position to meet a crisis, to meet a need in the church.
It was said of him that he was “full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace, and full of power.” As I shared with you in the last session, those are five things that I have been praying for myself over the last year. “Lord, I want to be full of the Spirit. I want to be full of wisdom. I want to be full of faith. I want to be full of grace, and I want to be full of power—Your power.”
I’ve been praying this for other people. And you say, “Is God doing it?” Well, I believe God hears and answers prayers that are according to His will, so I have to believe that He is doing that even in ways that perhaps I can’t always see. I’m hoping that you’ll grab hold of these five things and begin praying them for yourself; begin praying them for your family members, and for others in your sphere of influence.
Now, we looked in the last session at what it means to be full of the Spirit, to be emptied of flesh and self, and to be filled with Christ. Today we want to look at what it means to be full of wisdom and full of faith.
First, full of wisdom. I think you know that wisdom is not necessarily the same as being smart or having a lot of know how or knowledge. Wisdom is really applied knowledge, knowledge worked out in the laboratory of life. It’s the ability to see all of life from God’s perspective and to make choices that are consistent with that perspective.
Wisdom has to do with how we think, our heart attitudes, responses (especially responses when we get squeezed, when we’re under pressure), our choices, our lifestyle. Every area of your life is affected by whether or not you have wisdom.
So when the early church had this conflict, this administrative issue that needed to be addressed, the apostles said to the congregation, “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3). These men needed to have wisdom in order to be able to resolve the dispute and to make sure that the needs of the Greek-speaking widows who had been overlooked, or so they felt, to make sure those needs were being met.
You and I need wisdom for whatever it is that God has called us to do, and what that looks like in this season may be different than what it looks like in another season. We need wisdom for dealing with issues in the workplace, those of us who serve there, in the church, in your ministry, in your neighborhood, in your family.
Those of you who are moms, you need wisdom to know how to raise that kid for whom no textbook was ever written. Right? You need wisdom at whatever age to know how to honor your parents. What does that look like in a particular season of life? How to bless your mate, how to serve in your church, how to manage your time, how to deal with that neighbor who is cantankerous and is just hard to deal with, how to live with that hard-to-live-with roommate, you need wisdom. Scripture emphasizes over and over again the importance of pursuing wisdom.
Proverbs chapter 4 says,
Get wisdom; get insight . . . Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you . . . Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you . . . She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown (vv. 5–9).
Now, here’s the great thing: When you get wisdom, you get a whole lot of other blessings that come with wisdom. Proverbs chapter 3 says, for example,
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; and in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed (vv. 14–18).
I started this the other day (I didn’t make it all the way through), but I just went through my Bible and just wrote a little “W” next to each time the word “wise” or “wisdom” appeared in the book of Proverbs and looked at some of the blessings that come with wisdom. For example:
Proverbs 2 tells us that wisdom protects us morally. You will face moral temptation, but if you have a heart of wisdom, you will be protected from moral failure.
Proverbs 3 tells us that wisdom will protect you from fear. It will give you freedom from fear.
Proverbs 3 also says that wisdom will give you honor. And on and on. You can look through the book of Proverbs and elsewhere in the Scripture to see some of the blessings that come with wisdom.
Remember when Solomon asked God for wisdom? God says, “Just one thing—what is it you want?”
Solomon says, “I need wisdom.”
And God says to Solomon, “Because you asked for wisdom and not for a lot of other things you could have asked for—money or position or influence—I’m going to give you wisdom, and I’m also going to give you all those other things to go with it.”
So we want wisdom. We want to be intentional about pursuing it. But how can we be full of wisdom? How do we get wisdom? Well, the starting place, I think, is to ask God for it. To ask God for wisdom comes from God. You see that in Job 28, for example, where it says: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? God understands the way to it, and He knows its place.”
Proverbs chapter 2:
If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright (vv. 3–7).
Those verses say to me that only does wisdom come from God, but we need to be intentional and earnest about seeking wisdom.
I was on a call the other day with some friends, just kind of brain storming some aspects of this series. I said to one of the women—I just put her on the spot and said, “Do you intentionally pray for wisdom?” She’s a very wise woman, and I said, “Are you earnest about seeking for wisdom?”
She said, “You know, to be honest, until I read this passage in Acts 6 that we’re looking at, I wasn’t real intentional about it. I just assumed that wisdom just came as you matured in your faith.”
Well, that’s true. I think it does, but there’s also something in these passages that suggest we need to be intentional and proactive about saying, “Lord, I need wisdom.” And one of the reasons for that is when we cry out for wisdom, we’re really saying, “I don’t have wisdom.” It’s expressing humility, need.
See, if we think we have all we need to handle our life circumstances and situations, we’re not going to cry out to God for wisdom. In fact, prayerlessness is one of the greatest evidences of pride in my own life. It’s an evidence of self-sufficiency. “I can do this without God.”
Now, in my head I know I can’t, but when I don’t pray and ask God for wisdom and enabling to do what He’s calling me to do, I’m really saying, “I can handle this.” Sometimes I think God may just kind of look down from heaven and say, “You want to take care of this? Go ahead! Try!” And then, you know how we find ourselves realizing, “I can’t do this. I’m over my head in this.”
I find that day after day after day I cannot do what God is calling me to do without getting wisdom from God. So cry out for it; ask God for it, and then hang out with wise people. Choose your friends carefully, and put around you at least some people who have a wise heart.
Proverbs 13, verse 20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.”
So you don’t want to have mostly foolish people in your life. You don’t want your closest friends to be foolish people. And we laugh at that, but I’m telling you, this is really an important message for all of us but particularly for the younger generation. As you’re teaching your children about choosing friends and who they hang out with and who they Facebook with and who they tweet with . . . Some of you are wondering, What in the world is some of that? You need to find out what it is if you’ve got kids because you’ll find that your kids may be following people who are fools, and then they’re retweeting foolish stuff.
Who you walk with determines a lot about who you are. So as a woman of God or a woman who wants to be a woman of God, I want to walk with wise people. I want to put people in my life who love God, who fear the Lord, who think wisely, who know God’s Word. They know how to apply it to life. I don’t want to hang out with people who think they know it all, but people who are humble, who know they need God. I want those people to rub off on me, and I want to become the kind of person who, if people walk with me, they’re going to become wise as well.
Not only is it important that we hang out with the wise people, but it's important that we have teachable hearts, that we’re learners, that we solicit counsel. This is one of the biggest things, I think, that’s missing from many in our generation today. People think they know everything, and we don’t know anything, that’s the fact. We know so little, and as long as we’ve lived, and the longer you live, maybe the more you realize how little you know. I find it is so important to not only put good people in my life, people who are wise and humble and love and fear the Lord, but to be a learner, to be teachable, to listen, to solicit counsel, to heed godly counsel.
Now, you’ve got to weigh the counsel against the Word of God—don’t just follow it blindly. If you’ve got wise people who know God’s Word, then I want to think twice before I disregard their advice. That would be foolish on my part. To be full of wisdom is to be teachable and to be around wise people who can teach you.
And then, to be full of wisdom begins with knowing and fearing God because, as Proverbs 9, verse 10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
If you don’t know God and fear God, if you don’t have a reverential awe for God, if you don’t have that constant conscious awareness of God’s presence in your life (that’s what the fear of the Lord is), then you have not even started in the journey of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom—the beginning, the starting place. So you start by getting to know God, by fearing the Lord, by honoring Him, by reverencing Him, by letting Him be central in your life, by orienting your life around Him. That’s the starting place for wisdom.
You will never be full of wisdom by filling your mind, your heart, your time with the world’s magazines, the world’s romance novels, the world’s movies, the world’s music, the world’s TV programs, the world’s thinking. You’re going to be foolish if you fill your mind with foolish things. So to be a wise person, to be full of wisdom is to be full of God, to fear the Lord, that’s the starting place.
To be full of wisdom requires that we be emptied of foolishness, of folly. It means we have to renounce and forsake the natural, human wisdom of this world and instead embrace the wisdom of God, which, as far as people in this world are concerned, the wisdom of God is foolishness. If you’re going to follow the wisdom of God, people around you who don’t know God are going to think you’re crazy because they don’t get it.
They don’t have a spiritual sensor. They don’t have a tuner. They don’t have a receiver. They can’t get God’s wisdom. It seems crazy to them to forgive those who sin against you, to choose the pathway of moral purity rather than giving yourself over to moral impurity, to embrace God’s ways of thinking, God’s advice to be a generous giver. That’s crazy in the world’s mindset, to give what you might need for your retirement.
Now, I’m not saying—just hear me right—that God says you have to give your whole retirement fund away, or any of it. I’m just saying God’s way is for us to be generous givers. That’s God’s wisdom, but in the world’s mind, that is foolishness; that’s craziness.
So to be full of wisdom, we have to be willing to forsake the wisdom of the world, consider it foolishness, and to embrace the ways of God, to live a life that is God-centered rather than self-centered.
Now, here’s the thing: We are naturally foolish. We’re all born foolish. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” Proverbs 22 says. We’re born oriented away from God, to live our lives independent of God. That means we will never be wise apart from being born again, being regenerated.
Now, Jesus modeled for us what it was, what it is for a human being to be full of wisdom, and we see in the life of Jesus that there’s progress and growth involved in being full of wisdom.
Luke 2, verse 40 says, “And the child Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” It didn’t happen overnight. As a human, He grew in wisdom.
Verse 52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Jesus is our wisdom, and in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We want to be full of wisdom.
Now, we have just a few minutes left, and I want to talk during the time we have remaining just what it means to be full of faith.
Scripture says in Acts 6 that “Stephen was a man full of faith.” He had confidence in the Word of God, and you see that as you read the account of Stephen’s life in chapter 7 of Acts. He knew the Old Testament well. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” He had confidence in God’s Word. He had faith or confidence in the God of the Word, the God of history, the God of the Old Testament, the promises of God. You see that his life was just full of confidence in God’s Word and in the God of the Word.
He had faith in Christ. He knew, in fact, that Jesus was God incarnate, had lived a sinless life, was crucified, resurrected, ascended, and was now seated at the right hand of the Father, and would one day return in the clouds for His own. It takes faith to believe all that, and Stephen was full of faith. So when he was persecuted for his faith in Christ, he put more stock in what was unseen than what was seen, in those invisible, eternal realities.
Now, Stephen was a man who was “full of faith,” and yet he was still martyred for his faith. He was stoned to death, and that reminds us that being full of faith doesn’t keep bad things from happening to you. It doesn’t mean you won’t get cancer, or that if you do, God will heal you in this life.
Being full of faith doesn’t mean that your children will always make right choices, that they won’t become prodigals or that your husband won’t lose his job or that you won’t lose your job. Being full of faith doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer at times for doing what is right.
Being full of faith will enable you to walk through adversity without being paralyzed by fear. It will enable you to obey God and to follow Him regardless of the circumstances.
Let me ask you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 10. I just want to show you how this plays out in the New Testament. Hebrews 10, beginning at verse 32. I wish we could read the whole chapter—and the whole book, actually—it flows one thought into another. And the writer of Hebrews has been talking about the gospel, the sacrifice of Christ, the atonement He made for our sins, and then he says—he gets very practical in speaking to a persecuted church—he says in verse 32:
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened [after you came to faith], you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew [this is faith] that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence [your faith], which has a great reward.
Doesn’t sound like a great reward what we just read, does it? But he’s saying, “Beyond the suffering, beyond the affliction, beyond the struggle, beyond the endurance, there is a great reward.”
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
For [and now he quotes from the book of Habakkuk], "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one [in the meantime] shall live by faith” (vv. 32–38).
You can’t see, but you trust that God keeps His promises and that Christ will return, and He will redeem this broken earth. He will make all things new, and the reward will come.
He’s talking in the context here about having faith in the work of Christ on our behalf, but that faith doesn’t just give us assurance of salvation. (Yes, I know I’m saved; I’m going to heaven.) That same faith gives us ability to obey God, to serve Him, to follow Him when we would be tempted to fear, when we’d be tempted to throw in the towel, or when God asks us to do things that seem to be humanly impossible. He says,
My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it [by faith] the people of old received their commendation (Heb. 10:38–11:1).
That’s how they pleased God, by faith, by clinging to God when they could not see the outcome of their faith.
He goes on throughout chapter 11 to talk about some of these great men and women of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab.
By faith . . . some conquered kingdoms . . . stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword . . . became mighty in war, put armies to flight. (Heb. 11:32–34).
It took faith to do those things. But look at verse 36. It also took faith to go the route that others went:
Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword (vv. 36–37).
How did they endure hardship? Well verse 27 says of Moses, and it was true of all of these, that “they endured as seeing him who is invisible.” That’s faith—seeing God with eyes of faith when your circumstances look horrific, when you have to endure suffering and pain and anguish. How do you have faith? You keep your eyes on Christ. You “fix your eyes on Jesus.”
And with eyes of faith these men and women were able to see and to trust God’s sovereignty, God’s plan, God’s purpose. When they were suffering, seeing Christ and clinging to His promises by faith, that’s what enabled them to prize Christ as the Supreme Treasure above life itself.
That’s why they were willing to have their houses plundered and their stuff taken and to go to prison and to be martyred and beheaded and stoned and sawn in two. How? They weren’t superheroes; they weren’t super-Christians. They walked by faith. They were full of faith.
I love that chorus of the hymn you’ve perhaps heard Keith and Kristyn Getty sing.
We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul's reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We'll walk by faith and not by sight.
And, O Lord, I pray for those of us in this room, for myself, for those listening to this program by means of the radio or Internet or reading a transcript, podcasting. For all of us, Lord, I pray that we might be full of wisdom, emptied of foolishness, and be full of faith. I pray that we might be emptied of doubt and fear and that we will fix our eyes on Christ, our souls’ great reward. Until the race is finished and the work is done, may we walk by faith and not by sight. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: That message is part of a series called, “Becoming a More Effective Servant.” Nancy’s showing us four important qualities from the book of Acts that godly leaders exhibit. To hear this series online or to order it on CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Well, you know who perfectly lived out all these qualities—Jesus. You’ll appreciate who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do by listening to a new series by Nancy beginning March 5. The series is called, “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus."
Nancy will teach on these names of Jesus during the Lenten season, and I hope you’ll get the companion guide that goes along with this series. It’s also called The Wonder of His Name. In it you’ll read devotionals from Nancy on each of these thirty-two names of Jesus, and you’ll enjoy many of the names interpreted in watercolor and calligraphy by accomplished artist Timothy Bots. When you read about the names of Jesus then listen to the teaching of these names, starting March 5, I think you’ll get to know Him in a whole new way.
We’ll send you the book, The Wonder of His Name, as our thank you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Call with your donation to 1–800–569–5959 and ask for The Wonder of His Name, or visit