Aspiring Meditations: 20. Aspiring to Understanding
2 Cor 6:4-6 “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: …. in purity, understanding, patience and kindness”
Job 12:13 To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.
Isa 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
We might be surprised to think of understanding as something to which we should aspire, but it is here, first of all, in Paul’s list of things which, he said, commend them as apostles, and if them, then surely us. Understanding is one of the three things that go together – knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Knowledge is about perceiving fact, collecting information. Wisdom is knowing how to act, what to do, how to live. Understanding is realizing the significance of knowledge. Knowledge might be the fact or information that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. Understanding is the realization of that significance of that statement. Wisdom is then knowing how to live in the light of that statement. (Note our constant use of that word ‘significance’).
In our verses above we see that understanding is one of the things that God has. (Job 12:13). It is also one of the things given to the Messiah (Isa 11:2). We so often say that the attributes of God include the fact that He is all-knowing and all-wise, meaning He knows everything and knows what is best in any and every situation. His understanding is what drives that wisdom. He not only knows everything that can be known, but He also knows the significance of every fact, how it relates to every other fact.
Paul writing to Philemon said, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Phile 1:6) Now that suggests that understanding so often follows experience. As we live out the Christian life, as we share our faith, more and more we find we are coming to a deeper understanding of this life, of this faith, more and more do we perceive the significance of so much in our lives, and of that faith.
For Paul it was obviously a mark of maturity: “since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Col 1:9) We come to know the will of the Father as we come to know the basic facts of the Gospel and as we start to realise the significance of each aspect of our salvation.
Indeed, said Paul, understanding is vital if you are to come to really see this thing I have called a mystery, this thing, this Gospel that was hidden for centuries but has now been revealed. To take this in and fully comprehend it, you need understanding: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” (Col 2:2)
Again and again in his writings, he says this same thing: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.” (Eph 1:7-9) There in the sublime writing of Ephesians we have him speaking of redemption that comes through grace and is apprehended by wisdom and understanding, this mystery we referred to before. We take hold of it and live it out as we see what we need to do (wisdom) having heard the truth (knowledge) and realised its significance for us (understanding). Those three things together are what motivate us forward.
But this ‘understanding’ plays a part in keeping us sharp and alert in our daily lives: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom 13:11) The ‘this’ in these verses refers to all that has just gone before it in Romans, living out our lives of love in the light of the will of God. So, he says, as you realise that your time on earth is limited, as you understand these things, go all out to fulfil the will of God in your lives. Understanding the limitations on us, should energize us even more to seek out His will.
So, it seems to me, there are different types of Christian. There are those who are happy to turn up on Sunday morning and are happy to be spoon fed portions of the Bible – knowledge – and walk out untouched but with more facts. Then there are those of us who hear the basics, yearn for more, yearn to catch a sense of the plan and purpose of our lives, seeing how it is to work for us. These are people who realise the significance of what they read in God’s word or hear spoken on a Sunday morning, people of understanding and that understanding motivates and energises them to ask, “And what should I do, what does God now want of me?” and as they get answers they receive wisdom, the knowledge of what to do, how now to act.
I want to be in these latter groups. I aspire to not only have more knowledge but also to work for understanding and wisdom. Why? Because it is available and there for us and it is clearly what the New Testament teaching implies is essential for a vibrant life that grows and develops and bears fruit. It also makes me realise that we have missed out on (knowledge and) wisdom in these studies, so watch this space.