June 3, 2015 – Wisdom, Part 5

– by Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor

First, from Sunday’s sermon….I was talking about surrender and how difficult it really is. For most of us, we temporarily surrender our burdens to God and then we are quite effective at reminding God we can handle it, thank you very much. One of the challenges we face with surrender is the tendency to think it requires passivity on our part. I think it is a misrepresentation of what surrender really is all about. The passage of Scripture from I Peter says…”Cast your cares upon the Lord for he cares for you.” If you are like me, I typically keep the “care” or burden and cast my own responsibility onto God. The text invites us to cast the anxiety upon the God who loves us and do everything in our power to do what we can to get on the solution side of the problem. It is a careful balance between God’s power and human responsibility.

Wisdom…

Every day I pray for wisdom.  I learned from the Psalms the importance of praying for wisdom. The Psalms has a perspective I embrace. I can do everything I can such as study, research, listen, and learn and the by product will be knowledge.  The Psalms are individually and corporately adamant that wisdom is a gift from God. God can give us wisdom in our seeking of knowledge but the Psalmists have come to the conclusion that only God ultimately gives wisdom. I have known very wise persons who do not have a lot of knowledge and I have a lot of persons who have a lot of knowledge and not much wisdom. There are very few who have an abundance of both. It is not that wisdom and knowledge are mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, two sides to the same coin, if you will. Wisdom, if you and I listen well to the Psalms, is a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who take the spiritual life seriously.

Therefore, for the next several weeks, I want to share wisdom with you. I know it is presumptuous for me to name something as wise. But wisdom is like the color green. You know it when you see it. It is like the taste of chocolate ice cream. Very difficult to describe but you know it when you experience it.

A pastor, for whom I have tremendous respect, Jim Jackson, recently retired. He has begun to take Scripture, life experience, professional perspective, and a whole lot of pondering to create a set of “laws.” These are not legalistic practices but principles upon which God has created this earth. Just like the law of gravity, there are spiritual laws at work in this universe and Jesus was always speaking about them using the language of the Kingdom of God. This is how God has arranged this world to work at its best and reality is, as Dallas Willard says, what we run up against when we are wrong.

“The Pleasure of Pursuit”

The law of wanting and getting: By the time we get what we have always wanted, it is not as important to us as we thought it would be.

We can usually have what we do not want. Getting what we want is harder. It takes passionate desire and herculean effort over a sustained period to have what we want. When we do not achieve our desires, it is because we have lowered our aim or been unwilling to pay the price.

Here is the hitch: by the time we get what we have always wanted, it is not as important to us as we thought it would be.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask any over-achiever. They will tell you that the joy is in the pursuit. The prize is like cotton candy

 “Thoughts and Behaviors”

The law of thoughts and behaviors: We cannot think ourselves into a new way of behaving; we have to behave ourselves into a new way of thinking.

How many people do you know who have spent long hours contemplating changes that they needed to make, made lists of things they were going to do different, even made public vows to live differently, but never altered their behavior? Chances are you have to see this happen over and over.

The reason for this phenomenon is because we cannot think ourselves into a new way of behaving; we have to behave ourselves into a new way of thinking.

 “Making Changes Permanent”

The law of awareness: The key to permanent change is awareness.

We are unconscious most of the time. We go through our day with little awareness of the choices we are making. For example, when we drive from the house to the grocery store, virtually all our actions are on automatic pilot. “Muscle memory” takes us there. We might as well be sleepwalking.

Most of the time our unconscious decisions make little difference. But sometimes we develop self-defeating habits, that when repeated over and over, weaken us, enslave us, and hurt others.

The key to permanently changing bad habits is awareness – noticing the pattern, paying attention to our feelings, choosing to interrupt the pattern, making a different choice, and avoiding triggers that cause us to slip back into the old pattern. Awareness makes us an objective observer of our lives. It involves living awake.

There are tools that can help us improve our self-awareness. Journaling and meditation can help us pay attention to our lives. Some people find that posting reminders about our newly chosen behaviors to be helpful. Counselors, coaches, spiritual directors, mentors, sponsors, and wise friends provide the additional benefit of accountability.

Have a great week!

– Jeff

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