By: Staci Stallings
Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom
We will now begin looking at each Gift and seeing how they build on each other.
A Foundation of Knowledge
“Knowledge” is the first Gift of the Holy Spirit. Think of knowledge as the foundation upon which the other gifts are built. Knowledge is simply an accumulation of facts or data.
For a moment, think of something in your life that you have studied or learned to do. Can you identify individual pieces of knowledge that you acquired in order to be able to understand the subject?
For example, when I studied a particular subject in school, it was often helpful to memorize terms and definitions even before I started to read. This way when I read the material, I could more easily understand what it was saying rather than having to constantly turn to the back to see what words meant.
In history, it was important to understand geography and time lines in order to orient myself to where I was studying and in what time period the information was happening. It would be both pointless and confusing to study the Civil War as if it happened in Europe in the 1940’s. But without a base of knowledge, that’s about what we’re left trying to do with God and the relationship He wants to have with us.
These individual “pieces” of information or data are knowledge.
It’s important to note that we all gather knowledge differently. Some of us gather knowledge by reading or listening. Some watch videos or listen to CD’s. Some tune in to particular radio stations or television shows. Some listen to music.
You can gather knowledge through sermons, reading the Bible, listening to a lecture, taking a class, or even just talking with a friend. Bible studies are a great way to gain knowledge. Going to church, helping with a church organization, teaching Sunday School, helping with the youth—there are countless ways that one can gain knowledge.
I will now be generous with myself and admit that memorizing all those lists wasn’t a total waste of time. Each list that I memorized was a piece of knowledge that I would need later on. It was as if I was going to put a puzzle together, and I dumped it out on the table.
I knew there were browns and greens and blues, but I didn’t have them in any order that I could work with them. Occasionally I would get lucky and fit two pieces together, but those moments were few and far between.
However, knowledge is definitely a Gift of the Holy Spirit, for without knowledge, you will not be able to access the power inherent in the other six gifts. Trying to use the other six without knowledge would be like trying to put a puzzle together without pieces. It would not be possible.
But knowledge without the other six is basically useless as well. Memorizing lists and not putting them into use might be intellectually challenging, but it doesn’t improve your life.
So, by all means gain knowledge. Read. Learn. Discuss. Gather.
But please, don’t stop there.
Understanding—Putting Pieces Together
Back to that puzzle again. Once you have gathered pieces of knowledge, the fun begins.
If you’ve ever put a puzzle together, you know that you can take random pieces and try to fit them together until you chance upon two that fit. You can try it that way, but in no time you will be frustrated beyond belief. You may even give up.
A better way to tackle the challenge of a puzzle would be to “group” certain colors together. Can you see the white of the light house on some pieces? Put all of those over here. Find the edges. Put them near each other. Then put all the ocean blue to one side and the green of the shore to the other. Group all the sand together.
Now you have a strategy to work with.
As you begin to fit the individual pieces of your puzzle together, you will begin to see not just shapes and lines but whole images. The lines and images begin to fit together to make whole sections.
Oh, look. I got the grass altogether, and the rocks go on here on top of them. The left side of the border is done, that corner goes here. This is the bottom right corner. Oh, the ocean must go here.
What you are doing is taking the individual pieces and putting them together so that they make more sense than they did apart.
Understanding is putting the pieces of knowledge together so that they make more sense than they did as small, individual pieces.
Let’s say you know there is a Bible. Great. Then you learn that the Bible is divided into two sections: The Old Testament and The New Testament. Then you learn that the Old Testament is about God’s relationship with the early people on earth and the New Testament is about when Jesus Christ came as God.
Each of these revelations makes the whole picture of the Bible make more sense. The pieces of knowledge fit together to let you see something you wouldn’t have seen with just the individual pieces.
Now let’s go deeper and say that you are studying the letters of Paul. You are assuming (because you’re new to this stuff) that Paul was always a very learned man who knew Jesus and was very close to Him. After all, he sure seems to be that in all those letters.
Yes, you have put many pieces together to form an understanding, but that understanding is challenged when you learn that Paul was first Saul, a man who not only persecuted Christians but who had his own cousin killed for being one. Suddenly the puzzle looks very different, does it not?
As you absorb this piece of knowledge into your understanding, you begin to read the letters of Paul very differently. When he speaks of nothing comparing to God’s love, you know he was a very learned man of the Temple in his earlier life and that he relied heavily on his own strength, position in life, and understanding at that time. So, Paul proclaiming that nothing—not learning, not position, not birth—nothing compares to knowing Christ Jesus makes a much greater impact because of the additional knowledge you now have built into your puzzle.
Consider this: The spiritual puzzle you are building, the spiritual life, is not a 2-dimensional puzzle that you can lay on a table. It is far more a multi-dimensional puzzle that changes when you add even one new piece of knowledge. Not only the area you are working on will change, all of it will change.
At first, that may seem overwhelming, but I think you will quickly find that it is exciting beyond belief. The more knowledge you gain, the more you will understand. The more you understand, the more rich and multi-faceted your spiritual life will be.
I challenge you to give yourself over to understanding, seeking not just to gain knowledge but to ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are learning. Asking, “Where does this fit? How does this go with what I already know? Have I heard this before? Is this new? Is this something I’ve heard but in a different way? Does this change anything about something I already knew?”
In short, get excited about learning because the Holy Spirit gets excited when you learn. When you really begin to understand what He’s all about and how incredible it is to be in a relationship with Him, life gets a whole lot more fun.
When I first started on this road of understanding, God and I often played games—Him putting lessons into my life, me trying to figure out what He was showing me.
I remember teaching a friend of mine how to do this, and she said, “I always thought we just lived. I didn’t know there were lessons!” Ha! Ha! The truth is, there are lessons, and God wants you to pay attention and begin to understand what He’s doing in your life. If you do this and take this challenge, I guarantee, life is going to get really interesting very soon.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2010