I think I am pretty smart. Not a genius or anything, but I can analyze a problem and usually come up with a solution. If I can’t, I know where to find someone who can. It’s common sense, practical wisdom: how to survive in the world. Most people who grow to adulthood possess at least a reasonable amount of this knowledge. We learn to figure things out.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 speaks of God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom. They are polar opposites, in direct contradiction to one another. It says the gospel – God’s message – is foolishness to the unsaved (1:18) and that man’s lofty wisdom will be destroyed and frustrated (1:19).
So why do we ever think we can do this ourselves? And by “this” I mean live our lives – especially our Christian lives. Why do we think we can figure out how to overcome sin and grow to be more like Jesus? To be faithful servants in His kingdom? To make a difference? Because we really can’t, not on our own.
In Isaiah, God reminds us that His wisdom and ways are far superior to ours:
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
Man’s wisdom has resulted in many world religions. Religion calls us to work hard, follow the rules, strive to be better people. Religion tells us that we can get to God and be pleasing to Him if we just observe rituals, perform sacraments or do enough good deeds.
This attitude creeps into our thinking because it’s how the world operates: it’s “just common sense.” If I study hard in school, I will get good grades and top honors. If I am diligent in my career, I will likely be promoted and successful. If I am struggling, there are a myriad of self-help books, seminars and counselors available to help me improve. The term self-help means I can figure this out on my own!
But God’s ways are the opposite of ours. Our wisdom is foolishness. He wants us to humbly come to Him, to believe in Him, and admit our need. He wants us to rest in His arms and sit at His feet.God’s ways are the opposite of ours. Our wisdom is foolishness. He wants us to humbly come to Him; to rest in His arms and sit at His feet. Click To Tweet
Hebrews 11:6 calls this faith and says it’s the only way to be pleasing to Him. This is the irony of our so-called wisdom and self-reliance: we cannot do anything to make ourselves right with God.
Self-reliance is the enemy of faith. God hates pride. Confidence in our own power and wisdom is abhorrent to God. Peter was a great example of this. After the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples they would desert him and Peter argued, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33)
This confidence of his resulted in a spectacular failure – denying Christ three times!
Instead, our confidence and hope must be in God: Psalm 44:5 says “Through You we push back our enemies, through Your name we trample our foes.” In James 4:7-10 we’re told to humbly submit to God, draw near to Him, and grieve over our sins. He promises to draw near to us in return and help us. It’s all His work, even our faith is a gift!
Our faith should produce the fruit of good works (James 2:14-17) and we must drink deeply and immerse ourselves in God’s Word. But not because of obligation or a desire to climb the ladder of success.
Because of love and gratitude.
Because we desire a relationship with Jesus, who has chosen and forgiven us.
Because we need Him.
Remember Peter’s spectacular failure? Jesus forgave him and cooked him breakfast on the beach. He spoke tenderly to him, encouraged him. And then Peter and the other simple fishermen went on to change the world.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. I Corinthians 1:25