Surviving Wisdom (Leopards and Spots)

Did you ever wonder, when the scriptures tell us that God will give wisdom generously to anyone who asks, why He doesn’t just pour it on in the moment?  One minute you’re asking for it and the next minute you have it?  It sure would be grand to go through life without making any mistakes, wouldn’t it?

I was pretty much a willful idiot when I was younger! I say that in humor, but I really did make one bad decision after another, and was a perfect picture of the kind of person the book of James in the bible references in the first parts of chapters one and three.  I’m relatively certain that if I ever ran for public office, the media would have no shortage of material. There are many moments in my life where the thought of them makes me cringe, and I am so grateful the internet was not yet a part of everyday life!

As I began to have a closer walk with God, however, I remember being intrigued by anyone who was “learned”, knowledgeable, experienced, or accomplished at a very young age.  Alexander the Great, for example, was said to have conquered the majority of the known world by the time he was 29.  He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders, becoming the measure against which military leaders compared themselves.  Me, well, I was still trying to figure out exactly who I was when I was 29. Thinking of all the time and years wasted that could have been spent getting to know Christ more intimately, advancing the Kingdom through willful obedience, makes me sad.

If I was responsible for capturing the history of my life, I would be sure to focus in on the moments of brilliance instead, highlighting only those things that might make someone reading my life story centuries from now wish they could have accomplished so much in so short a time as well.  But the truth is, I am no different than many bible characters we read about.  God has a way of laying everything out for all the world to see, the good with the bad, the brilliance with the dull, the boastful with the embarrassing.

There are, in fact, many people who, if you were to ask them if they believe I would ever accomplish much for God, might say they would be surprised if I ever accomplished anything.  After all, a tiger can’t change its stripes, a leopard can’t change its spots, and how do I dare even call myself a Christian? It is true that we do not have the power in and of ourselves to ever change ourselves.  So, in a sense, those people are right about me.   I am who I am and I will never change that.

But by the grace of God my story does not end there, for I am confident that He who began a good work in me will Himself complete it (from Philippians 1:6)! Why? Because I am in Christ, and therefore I am a new creation; old things passed away, and all has become new (from 2 Corinthians 5:17).  It is the presence, purity, and power of Christ in me that gives me a whole new spiritual DNA.

Why is it important for history (HIS story) to reflect the bad parts of our life as well as the good?

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” Ephesians 1:17-19

It is through the bad, through our weakness that we discover that the good parts are only by the power and grace of God.  When people see me in the process of my maturity, the more I become one with Christ, the more they will see Him instead.  Apart from Christ, I have sufficiently demonstrated I am nothing (John 15:5)!  But in Christ, my weakness amplifies His power!

“”But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.””  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NET).

I like to use Peter as an illustration of this. In the 22nd chapter of Luke, right before Peter was about to make the willful choice to deny Jesus, we find Jesus praying for Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32

An interesting side note, we all know that the name “Peter” means rock, but did you know the name “Simon” means “listen”?  I can just picture Jesus looking straight at Peter, maybe even pointing towards him, and saying “Listen, listen! Satan keeps asking permission to knock you off your feet, and you will allow it, but know this – I AM interceding on your behalf so that your faith doesn’t fail, and I know you won’t stay down for long.  When you get up, remember, I have a purpose and a plan to transparently display My power through your weakness, so that by it you can infuse hope to your brothers, and all those who come after, clearly illuminating the path to Me.  Remember, Peter, upon this rock I will build my church. Got it?”

Got it!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… (Psalms 111:10). If you think about it, when we go through trials as James mentions (and we all do), and we ask for wisdom, in essence we are asking for enlightenment in our ability to understand how utterly dark and sinful, how devoid of hope we are apart from Him.  Godly wisdom is the revelation of who we truly are so that we can more fully understand who HE truly is, and have complete confidence and trust in His plan and sovereignty over our lives.  Isaiah had this kind of revelation, and his reaction was “WOE to me”, which in the original text has an implication that Isaiah believed he was a dead man because he knew he was an impure man standing before a pure and holy God.  But God imparted purity to Isaiah, and he was, like Peter, immediately commissioned.

If God were to pour out that revelation of wisdom on you liberally, could you survive it?  How would that impact you going forward?  Could you dare walk away the same?  Only the Creator of the leopard can change the leopard’s spots. Are you willing?



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