St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

The Wisdom of God - A Pearl of Great Price
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Adult Class - May 5/May 16, 2006.


Proverbs 1:20 "Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares."

Orthodox adults have a responsibility to continue to learn throughout life. Orthodox adults have a responsibility to grow in the Faith from the time of Holy Baptism until the time of departure from this life.

We do not know the length of each individual life. We know from the Psalmist that the average life expectancy is 70-80 years (Ps. 89-90:10). The Psalmist admonishes those who would listen: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Ps. 89-90:12).

Pursuing wisdom requires a discipline of the mind and the body. The mind must not be cluttered with wasteful thoughts. The mind must not be exhausted in trivial matters.

The body must be cared for. Strength is necessary to pursue wisdom. Energy is necessary to pursue wisdom. Focus of mind is necessary to pursue wisdom.

Seeking wisdom means setting aside that which is unimportant. Seeking wisdom means establishing wisdom as a primary goal. The Holy Gospel is primary in seeking wisdom.

Wisdom comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Saint Luke we read: "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." (Lk. 2:240).

Individuals seeking the wisdom that comes from God, must want this wisdom badly enough to do what is required. Individuals seeking the wisdom of God benefit from having love for God.

The love for God and recognition of God's love for individuals is inspiration to overcome and deal with the obstacles standing in the way of reaching the wisdom of God.

Incorporating the wisdom of God in the individual's life is supreme enrichment. Incorporating the wisdom of God in the individual's life is supreme fulfillment.

The world takes on a new perspective when the observer's world view is framed and shaped and found in the wisdom of God.

The wisdom of God is there for those seeking to discover the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is there proclaiming the presence of God for those having eyes to see and ears to hear.One need only look at the order of the universe to come to know of God.

Proverbs 2:2-"So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding."

Seekers of wisdom need to listen carefully. God is not necessarily in the noise. The life of the Holy Prophet Elijah teaches the great lesson about how God comes to us.

In I Kings 19: 11-13 we read:

"'Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.'
And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind
tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before
the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the
wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in
the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So, it was,
when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle
and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a
voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?'"

God asks each of us the question" "What are you doing here?" Are we doing what is pleasing to God? Are we seeking the wisdom of God? Are we pursuing the Kingdom of Heaven? Are we working for the salvation of our soul?

The Holy Apostle Paul said he preached Christ crucified, "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (I Cor.23-24). How often do the words of the Lord Jesus Christ enter our ears?

How often do the words of the Lord Jesus Christ enrich our hearts and minds? How often do we find the words of the Lord Jesus Christ spoken on our lips?

When we read, do we read the rich writings of the saints of the Church? When we read, do we read the Holy Scriptures? When we read, do we look for the wisdom and presence of God in what we read?

Do we read for the benefit of our soul? Do we read to strengthen our faith? Do we immerse ourselves in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we pour over the words in the New Testament? Do we look for the connections between the Old and New Testaments?

Do we use Orthodox commentaries in understanding the Holy Scriptures? Is the music we listen to, the music of the Church? Do the conversations we hold daily conform to the teachings of the Church?

Do the words that we speak conform to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do the words we write conform to the standards set by the Lord Jesus Christ?

St. Bishop Nikolai's Velimirovic's book Prayers by the Lake serves as a vivid example of looking to God in our immediate surroundings.i Do we take time to look to our immediate environment and see the presence of God?

Do we see God in the sky above our heads? Do we see God in the earth beneath our feet? Do we experience God with each breathe we take? Do we know the work of God by the action of our senses?

Proverbs 2:6 "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."

The Lord gives wisdom. Do we partake of that wisdom? Do we rely more on our own knowledge and fail to acknowledge the work of God in our ability to learn?

Do we look to God as the Supreme Source of wisdom? Do we read texts which have lasted through the centuries? Do we rely on texts approved by, preserved by and promoted by the Church?

Do we look to "fruits" of the authors of books we read? Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "You will know them by their fruits." (Mt. 7:16) Do we seek to enhance our learning by staying with the mainstream authors of Orthodox books?

Do we turn to God in prayer when we begin our studies? Do we turn to God in prayer that we may benefit from the wisdom of God?

What can we do in our personal lives to increase in benefitting from the wisdom of God? What can we do in our personal lives to make better use of each day of life?

How can we waste less of each precious day? How can we make better use of each precious day? How can we do more each day that is pleasing to and conforms to the way God would have us to do?

What percentage of each day is devoted to learning from and about God? Do we actively try to learn about God? Has our knowledge of God matured through the years?

Have we carefully studied The Ladder of Divine Ascent?ii Have we applied the steps of The Ladder to our own particular lives? Have we given serious thought to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul about renewal of the mind?

St. Apostle Paul told the Romans: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:2)

Learning is experienced in various ways. Believers benefit from experiencing and learning about God in many different ways. During the Divine services, believers have the opportunity to hear the spoken word of God, believers hears about God in the music of the services and believers learn about God in the iconography and frescos of the Church.

Believers experience the wisdom of God in the content of the Divine services of the Church. Believers experience the wisdom of God in the teachings of the Church. Believers learn of the wisdom of God through the monasteries and seminaries and schools of theology.

Believers learn of the wisdom of God through the lives of the saints and martyrs. Do we use the time of our lives to study the lives and writings of the saints? Do we extract the timeless and enduring lessons of God from analyzing the lives of the saints?

Proverbs 2:7 "He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly."

God stirs up wisdom for the upright. The upright must take steps to seek the wisdom. The prodigal son had to begin the journey back to his father. The prodigal son had to make use of the insight he had about the father and the conditions at his father's house (Lk. 15:11-32)

Individuals interested in the wisdom of God must take the necessary steps to make that wisdom an integral part of daily life. God protects and guides His followers.

In Deuteronomy the reassuring words are found: "And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed." (Deut. 31:8)

Saint Apostle Paul told the Ephesians:

"Therefore take on the whole armor of God, that you may be
able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put
on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet
with the preparation of the gospel of peace." (Eph. 6:13-15).

The wisdom of God enables the believer to deal with daily life. The wisdom of God gives the believer hope in the presence of adversity and in times of difficulty. When the believer has no where to turn, turning to God enables the mind to be at peace.

Believers find wisdom in the lives of the martyrs. Believers find strength in the lives of the martyrs. Believers find confidence in the protection of God for those experiencing adversity.

The Serbian Deacon Habukkuk remained firm in the face of threats on his life. He chose to follow Christ rather than convert to Islam. The Deacon Habukkuk was willing to lose his life for Christ. He was not willing to compromise his faith in Christ. His counsel to those willing to listen: "A Serb is Christ's" iii

On Holy Saturday morning, believers hear the Old Testament reading of the three young men in the fiery furnace...Hananiah(Shadrach) Mishael(Meshach) and Azariah(Abednego). They walked into the flames singing hymns to God. God protected the three young men. iv

Each person decides how he or she will find protection in times of adversity. Each person decides whether he or she will turn to God daily for protection in daily life.

Each person decides whether he or she will believe God and the teachings of God. Each person decides whether to be armed with the teachings of God or to seek shelter elsewhere.

Holy Apostle Peter said to Jesus: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (Jn.6:68)

Proverbs 2:10 "When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul."

When we consciously experience God and learn from God we experience joy. The experience of God is different from all other experiences. At times we may not know that. When we are conscious of God's presence, we know of the presence of God.

When we are forgiven our sins in Holy Confession, we feel the weight lifted. We feel the freedom coming from forgiveness by God. When we partake of the Precious Body of Christ and Precious Blood of Christ, we experience Christ in a most personal way.

When the wisdom of God is felt within our hearts and minds, we are enriched and are different. We become different people. We have an additional responsibility. We cannot pretend we do not know.

An informed person has a responsibility to act responsibly. When we know the teachings of God, we are to act according to those teachings. When we are blessed with the wisdom of God, the wisdom of God is to be used for us to live in ways pleasing to God.

Believers instructed in the Faith are expected to live according to the teachings of the Faith. The more we know, the greater the responsibility. Length of time in the Faith does not necessarily guarantee increased knowledge. A person must have the ability to develop an increase of knowledge before he or she can be taught.

Not everyone lives in circumstances giving equal opportunities for learning. Some people live in adverse circumstances where learning is more difficult. Some people have emotional and learning problems and or physical problems which limit the way education can occur.

People with hearing or sight or speech impairments can be limited in the way they can learn. Their learning opportunities can be more limited. People with physical problems with their hands and/or feet can have their learning opportunities limited.

People with psychiatric disorders or extreme physical disorders can be distracted and limited in formal learning opportunities because of treatment and care needs.

God will measure what we do with what we have. The Parable of the Talents is a good lesson in making use of our gifts from God. It is what we do with abilities and resources we have. (Mt. 25:14-30)

Each person has twenty-four hours per day. Each person has seven days a week. Each person decides whether he or she will invest time each day to seeking the wisdom of God.

Each person determines the amount of time and effort each day to be invested in seeking the Kingdom of God.

Proverbs 3:13 "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding."

The person experiencing happiness through finding the wisdom of God has a sense of fulfillment, a sense of wholeness in God.

St. Apostle Paul spoke about the nearness of God when he said: "in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts. 17:28). We may have learning priorities that do not include God and the wisdom of God. We may have interests contrary to God and the ways of God.

Our passions and interests may overwhelm us and we give in to sin. We may be undisciplined in learning though we have the inate ability to learn. We may have be overtaken by greed, by sloth, by pride, by anger. We may give in to lust, to gluttony, to idleness. We may forsake learning to pursue other interests. We may place ourselves in peril by avoiding learning and seeking alternative pursuits.

Being happy in God and in the wisdom of God sounds like the ideal...perhaps it is ideal. Each person must say "yes" to God to experience the joy and gladness in God.

Individually we do not know who in the long run will be faithful to God. Some people are faithful to God throughout life. Some people are faithful to God periodically. Some people fall away from God and never return.

Protopresbyter Stavrofor Radovan Milkovich once said: "Being a believer means more than knowing certain things about religion. It involves a trust, a hope, a decision, a commitment, an inward experience, an awareness of being in God's world, and being loved by God and responsible to Him for one's life and its use." v

Education is not only about the taking in of certain knowledge. It is about putting that knowledge to use. In the case of Christian education, to use it for the glory of God and the salvation of the soul.

Dr. John L. Boojamra in his book Foundations for Christian Education looked at the context in which Christian education is to occur. Dr. Boojamra said:

"All learning is developmentally conditioned; this is the essence
of total parish, total person education. It is precisely this educational
reality that makes the community as educator so foundationally
important for Orthodox Christians. Interaction between the community's
generations provides the living context for that faith in the person of
Jesus Christ, which is our ultimate goal as Christian educators." vi

The Holy Scriptures testify to the possibility of joy in learning. The Holy Scriptures testify of the value of learning. Each believer must draw near to God to move from the possibility to the reality.

Each person exercises the choices necessarily for growth in Christ. Each person choses whether or not to exercise the proper choices.

To reach the goal of God's Kingdom, to reach the joy of learning, the person must do what is necessary to get past the obstacles standing between the person and the goal. The person must come to God in prayer and seek to overcome.

Proverbs 3:19 "The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens."

A person turning to the beginning of Genesis will find the account of the God's creation (Genesis 1:1ff) In a sense, each person is a partner with God in creating the remaining portion of a person's life. To the degree the person views this partnership with God in the ideal is the degree to which it is realized.

Individuals filled with pride and taking full credit for personal accomplishments will be less likely to view God as having a primary part in these accomplishements.

Denying God and God's blessings is to our detriment. Saying that God does not exist, saying that God has no role in accomplishments of the individual does not balance with historical evidence of the presence of God.

Each year on Pascha, believers hear the reading from the Holy Gospel from St. John. Believers hear the words: "He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:2,3).

We cannot separate the time of Creation from the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot separate Pascha from the time of Creation. We cannot separate our willingness to learn from the learning we have thus far.

The environments in which we live and have lived will influence our interest in learning. The nurturing and encouragement we have received will influence our interest in learning.

The accomplishments we have achieved and the skills we have developed will influence our interest in further learning.

Material to learn from is important. At the same time, we must look to the learning that has occurred and been documented and attributed to ascetics. Modern technology can be of help in present day learning. Modern technology can be a distraction.

Dependency on modern technology can become a problem. Learning to find the proper balance for learning is important.

From the Epistle of St. James we know "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights."(James 1:17) Let us be mindful of the creative power of God. Let us be mindful of the ability of God to create in us a newness (2Cor. 5:17)

Let us move from stagnancy to new life in Christ. Let us move from one level of development in Christ to another level of development. The journey from the Baptismal fount to the Kingdom of God can be a long journey. The journey from our earthly life to the heavenly Kingdom can be a long journey.

Seeking the wisdom of God reveals the roads to take. Seeking the wisdom of God alerts pilgrims of dangers along the way and is a form of protection.

Proverbs 3:21 "My son, let them not depart from your eyes---Keep sound wisdom and discretion."

Wisdom establishes a foundation for learning. Wisdom establishes a framework for learning. Wisdom is a goal for learning.

The different qualities attributed and inherit to wisdom reveal wisdom's diverse aspects. To seek wisdom, wisdom must be taken as a primary goal. To seek wisdom, wisdom must provide the firm foundation from which to launch the journey.

To seek wisdom, wisdom must be employed in the establishment and maintenance of the effort. The goal cannot be separated from the effort of the foundation.

A person cannot seek the wisdom of God and use Satan as the foundation. A person cannot seek the wisdom of God and employ illegal or corrupt means.

Seekers of the wisdom of God are identified with the Church of God. Seekers of the wisdom of God are identified with God as lovers of God, as creatures of God.

Seekers of the wisdom of God must exercise choices. The criteria used in the decision-making process should be criteria pleasing to God. "The fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

Individual cheating, lying, being idle or slothful, being angry or hateful cannot expect to abound in the wisdom of God. Individuals failing to be conscientious, individuals failing to express love in relationships with others, cannot expect to enjoy the wisdom of God.

While it is commonly known that discretion should always be exercised, discretion is not always exercised. Flaws in character reveal themselves from time to time.

Stress, abuse of the self through over indulgence of food, drugs or alchol can lessen the ability to use good discretion. When a person compromises his or her integrity and fails to adhere to the teachings and ways of God, he or she must face the consequences.

The high value of the soul is expressed in several different ways. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26).

When Judas became a traitor to Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Judas found no happiness in the money. Judas did not even keep the money but became remorseful. (Mt. 27:3-10)

No substitute exists for being faithful to God. No substitute exists for living in ways pleasing to God. Individuals choosing to invest in the Kingdm of God finds ways not to waste time, talent and energies.

The Lord said: "Seek first the Kingdom of God." (Mt. 6:33)

Proverbs 4:5 "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth."

Many people, many interests, many distractions will occur in the path of the person seeking the wisdom of God. It is the disciplined and committed person continuing on past these hurdles.

The effort to obtain the wisdom of God can be a tiring journey. The journey to obtain the wisdom of God can be a lonely journey. The journey to experience the wisdom of God can be a costly journey.

Only those willing to pay the price will reach the desired end. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mt. 16:24)

When the teachings of God are difficult, when the pain of following of Christ is experienced, some will fall along the way. When the attractions of the world become dominant, when tiredness due to worldly pleasures dilutes interest in God, the effort to pursue the wisdom of God can lessen and stop.

When the cost of time and effort is calculated some followers of Christ chose not to go beyond a certain point. Some consider the price of the Kingdom too high. Some consider the price of the wisdom of God too high.

Individuals who might spend a great deal of time and money on material pursuits might choose not to spend lesser amounts of time and money on pursuit of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Individuals might train extensively for athletic events or recreational events but have not time to seek the wisdom of God.

The value of the wisdom of God proves itself over time. The value of the wisdom of God has endured the ages. The value of the wisdom of God has no equal in earthly terms.

The value of the wisdom of God deserves first place in the hearts and minds of believers. The pursuit of the wisdom of God deserves protection in the daily life of believers.

A protective barrier is necessary to ensure the effort of believers in seeking the wisdom of God. A fortress of faith is necessary to fend off distractions and enemies of the wisdom of God.

The Holy Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you obtain it." (I Cor. 9:24).

Hold on to the vision of the wisdom of God. Hold on to the vision of the benefits of the wisdom of God. Hold on to the value of the wisdom of God to yourself and to your family and friends.

Hold on the value of the wisdom of God to your community, to those with whom you work and those you meet in the course of daily life. Hold on to the value of the wisdom of God for the benefit of a better way of life.

Proverbs 4:7 "Wisdom is the principle thing; Therefore get wisdom."

Getting the wisdom of God is compelling for serious believers. Love for God causes one to want to learn more about God and from God. Love for God causes one to want to be nourished by God, to be fed by God.

When one tastes of the highest quality, anything less is not satisfactory. When one experiences the love of God and wisdom of God, anything less is not satisfactory.

Jesus Christ died upon the Cross.His was the most complete expression of love. To learn from that Supreme Sacrifice, to learn from the Resurrection, to learn from the Holy Ascension, to learn from Pentecost, from the Holy Transfiguration and all others aspects of the life and teachings of Christ summon the serious believer.

The wisdom of God gives definition and perspective. The wisdom of God gives nourishing content. The wisdom of God gives direction and solutions.

The wisdom of God gives reason for existence. The wisdom of God explains existence. The wisdom of God gives hope for the existing.

Learning wisdom can be characterized by joy. Learning wisdom can shape the person. Learning wisdom will reveal the person.

God is experienced in wisdom. God is shared with others through the seeking of wisdom. God is proclaimed in the seeking of wisdom. God is confessed in the seeking of wisdom.

Each person has one life. Each person has a limited time of earthly life. Each person choses what he or she values most in life. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Mt. 13:45-46).

The wisdom of God is a pearl of great price worth every bit of effort and expense.
i Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. Prayers by the Lake. Translated and Annotated by Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Todor Mika and Very Rev. Dr. Stevan Scott. The Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the United States and Canada, Grayslake, Illinois.

ii Saint John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Brookline, Massachusetts, 2001

iii St. Nikolai Velimirovic. The Prologue of Ohrid. Volume Two. Translated by Father T. Timothy Tepsic. Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Alhambra, California, 2002, p. 672.

iv Great and Holy Saturday. Prepared by Rev. Paul Lazor. Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America, New York, 1976, pp. 49-55.

v Radovan Milkovich. Sermons and Speeches. Prepared for Publication by Zivota Stevovich. Raska Skola, Belgrade 1999. pp. 28-29.

vi John L. Boojamra. Foundations for Christian Education. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 1989, p. 166


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