Second Sunday After Christmas
January 2-3, 2021
“A New Year’s Prayer”
I Kings 3:4-15
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I got a ton of neat presents and gifts at Christmas. I received enough sugary treats to finally make me sweet (and fat). I got some new clothes, a walking stick, some cologne. But I really didn’t get what I needed for Christmas, so I’m going to ask for it in the New Year.
I want wisdom. Do you know what it is? It is not just being smart. Smart is not the equivalent of wisdom. It is not having the highest GPA in school or getting the designation of Summa cum laude (With Highest Distinction) with your degree. Wisdom doesn’t come with great scores on the SAT or the ACT. Some of the smartest people in the world can be the most foolish. Sometimes smart people can act pretty dumb. As I enter a New Year my prayer is that I would have wisdom for all that lies before me. I hope that you make that same petition for you and your life.
Solomon may have been about 20 years old at the time he took over as King of Israel at the death of his father, David. What does he pray for? Wisdom!! The Lord came to this 20-year-old in a dream and said that he could ask for anything and that he would receive that request. What would a twenty-year-old want? A million dollars? A mansion? Power over anyone and anything? Here is Solomon’s prayer, “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (I Kings 3:7-9)
I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to be in a position of leadership. Why would anyone want to be the President of the United States? Why would anyone want to be the Governor or a Senator, the head of the school board, a CEO, the Principal of a school? Those tasks are heavy and hard. There are risks that one assumes in those positions. But for everyone who takes on such a task they need one thing more than anything else – WISDOM.
Abraham Lincoln, President during a troubling time in the history of our nation, prayed this prayer, “Almighty God…Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there will be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (A Prayer for Peace, Abraham Lincoln)
Through my years at Peace Lutheran in Arvada I helped supervise 15 vicars – student pastors. I would know shortly after meeting them how the year would go. Some came in wanting to learn everything they could in the year of their internship. They asked questions. They asked how they could help and serve. But some didn’t have that way about them. They knew everything already. They didn’t need anyone for anything. They lacked a hunger for wisdom.
Wisdom begins with humility. “I am only a child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” When Solomon knows that the task was too much for him he looked to God. He wanted a discerning heart, one that could choose between right and wrong, good and evil. He wanted God’s wisdom.
Wisdom is likened to faith. It is a gift. We come empty and in need and we leave full and complete. Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom. You probably know Proverbs 3:5-6, some of you have these words hanging on some wall in your home, but today I’m going to continue the reading to include verses 7 and 8. It combines faith and living. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
A New Year’s Prayer is, “Lord, make me wise. Take away from me my selfish pride and let me in humility look to You for everything.” This week we will bury Mel Raddeman and the family asked to sing the hymns that we sang at his wife, Eileen’s, service 6 years ago. One of the hymns is “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”. Verse 3 of the hymn reads:
Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Wisdom is not something a Christian gains by self, it is one of those divine gifts given by God. In Isaiah 11 the promise of the coming of Jesus is spoken by the prophet. “A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions to the poor of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:1-4a) Jesus, a descendant of David (whose father was Jesse – spoken of in Isaiah 11), was given wisdom and it showed in His actions.
Do you know why I need wisdom? My life touches the lives of many other people. Decisions that I make not only affect me in my little world they also affect others as well. But that is why I want you to make the prayer for wisdom yours as well. You touch the lives of so many others. Your friends, your neighbors, relatives, classmates, family, people here in this congregation, are all connected to you. Sometimes we understand clearly what an overwhelming task it is that we have. If you have ever had the joy of bringing new life into the world did you feel that this task of parenting, raising and loving a child is just a little bit much for you? I bet you asked for wisdom daily to do what is right.
Solomon, in his best moment, in humility, with a gift of trust in God’s care, asked for wisdom to live his life well. Solomon asked for a wise mind; God gave him a wise heart. That is what we need. Ephesians says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (5:17) If we wish to be wise we must be connected to God in His word, the Bible. If we wish to be wise we need the support and encouragement of fellow believers. If we want to be wise we must make it ours by strong ambition and godly prayer. James, the half-brother of Jesus speaks about wisdom like this, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:13-17)
This is the New Year. So, what do you want God to give you? What do you want Him to do in you? May I suggest that you ask for the same thing that Solomon did? Ask for wisdom. Your life and the lives of the many people who know you will benefit from humble, faith-filled wisdom. Such a prayer is a godly one.
Lord, Fill me with Your wisdom. Amen!!