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Greater Than Knowledge by Kim Reisman

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Scripture Focus:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)


One of the great myths of the modern era is that humanity can experience perpetual, boundless progress through the application of scientific reasoning. If we look back at events of the twentieth century, it’s easy to see how this myth took shape. Electricity, the telephone, automobiles, airplanes, smallpox and polio vaccines, organ transplants, computers, all turned the world into a place where anything seemed possible. Unfortunately, the inadvertent side effect of the remarkable achievements of the last century was the capacity to kill unimaginable numbers of people. As the world became smaller, people were confronted with other perspectives, and cultures began to clash. Only in the twentieth century has the struggle between ideas and convictions been backed up by such advanced weapons as the tank, bomber aircraft, and even nuclear weapons. Countless numbers of people, civilian and military, have been lost in battles of belief.

With all this progress, with all the new technology that seems to be appearing every day, we have not been able to produce a better human being. The myth of limitless progress may be perpetuated by science’s ability to make people better on the outside, but there has been no improvement on the inside. Human beings are still plagued by the age-old problems of hate, anger, jealousy, greed, and a hunger for power.

For some, the modern myth of progress continues to hold sway; but for many in this post-modern era, the continued collapse of this myth has some very compelling lessons to teach us. During this month when we’re focusing on wisdom, one of the most important is that knowledge isn’t enough. We may be able to probe the surface of Mars, to place unfathomable amounts of information on a computer chip smaller than the size of your fingernail, to bring life to the dying through organ transplantation, but we seem unable to bring justice to the oppressed, reconciliation to the estranged, hope to the brokenhearted.

Wisdom begins where knowledge ends. Over the years I’ve heard that wisdom is our intelligence plus God’s love, presence, and purpose. Proverbs says that reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). True wisdom begins when we recognize the limits of our own human wisdom, when we perceive our need for the sustaining power of God in our lives. It begins when we turn to God in reverence. It flowers when we follow God in obedience.

The mother of a woman in a church I served was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was a serious diagnosis, and she began treatment immediately. Not too long after treatment began, the woman herself was diagnosed with the same cancer. She began her treatment, and her mother continued in hers. Then a remarkable thing took place. The mother, in an act of complete self-giving determined that she would forego the remainder of her treatment in order to be available to nurture and support her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren through their medical crisis. This was a decision that, when viewed through the lens of knowledge alone, made no sense. We all know there is no guarantee in the treatment of cancer. With treatment we may have a chance, but without it we face certain death. Knowledge alone cannot explain such a choice. Yet this determination was certainly guided by wisdom. No other course so fully embodied the self-emptying love of Jesus Christ. No other course so completely personified the love God feels for each of us. The woman survived her battle with cancer; her mother did not. But the legacy of love, rooted in the wisdom of a courageous choice, lives on.

Wisdom needs knowledge, yes; but wisdom surpasses knowledge. When we open ourselves to God’s direction in our lives, when we follow the urgings God plants in our hearts, when we utilize our knowledge for the sake of love, we come close to living a life of wisdom. That wisdom can then guide us and strengthen us as we seek to incorporate the other virtues in our lives as well.

Spend some time in reflection. Bring to mind an experience of wisdom that transcended human thinking and knowledge. Reflect on the past two or three years, locating occasions and relationships when you were given a wisdom not your own. As you continue to pray and fast, I pray you would be open to God’s direction in your life and his desire to provide you a wisdom that surpasses knowledge.

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