This is a third post from a series I started that summarizes J. Oswald Sanders’ highly-regarded book on Spiritual Leadership[Post 1 here, and post 2 here]


Sanders cites Webster’s dictionary, which defines wisdom as “the faculty of making use of knowledge, a combination of discernment, judgment, sagacity, and similar powers. . . . In Scripture, right judgment concerning spiritual and moral truth.” And Sanders concludes, “Wisdom is heavenly discernment” (p. 58).

We may possess knowledge, but it does not classify as wisdom until we are called upon to do something with that knowledge. I would, then, define wisdom as “the  right application of knowledge at the right time in the right way.” I have witness many folks who want to lead have boatloads of information. They fail to apply that knowledge rightly because they don’t understand how it is meant to affect other people. For example, Job’s counselors had right knowledge as it stood isolated from suffering. They did not realize that since God is, indeed, sovereign over all things, he has the prerogative to decide when suffering, how suffering, and to whom suffering will fall. They presumed upon a formulaic 1:1 correlation between God’s absolute sovereignty and Job’s (unverified, mind you!) sin.

I know others who have the right application of truth but do not apply it at the right time. Telling a grieving spouse that she has no need to cry because her husband is rejoicing with God right now, while at the funeral (!), is the wrong time to impart such truth. While it is true, and right application of knowledge, it is the wrong time.

I know others, myself included, who have infamously quoted Romans 8.28 to those suffering in the wrong way. That is, Paul writes Romans 8 with a certain angst, a hope-filled angst, but an angst nonetheless. When we comfort a suffering person and glibly say, “Well, you know, all things work together for good for those who trust the Lord,” we probably do more harm than good in the long run. What we need to do, is wait. Weep. And wait. Weep. And at the right time, encourage our friend with Paul’s exhortation. What is more, we do so while still weeping. Or groaning, as Paul puts it.

So, wisdom, dear leader, is “the right application of knowledge at the right time in the right way.” All the while, wisdom is a gift from above (James 1.5; 3.17). We gain knowledge by study of the world and God’s word. We gain wisdom as we keep in step with the Spirit.