Today we’ll continue our look at how to face trials. In this section, James talks about how to get the wisdom we need to endure trials victoriously.
Jam. 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
If you lack wisdom
This passage continues James’ counsel about how believers should respond to trials. It’s great to know that God has a purpose in our trials, but His help doesn’t stop there. Some of the worst decisions we make, we make in moments of crisis. When you’re facing trials, you need wisdom, and God is willing to give it to you. What does it take to get it?
First, you need to recognize that “you lack wisdom.” Admitting your need is the first step to having that need met. You’re in over your head, whether you know it or not. The sooner you realize it, the better.
Pro. 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (7) Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
OK, so you know you need wisdom. Next you need to ask God for the wisdom you lack. As James said later in this letter, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” (4:2) We need to get over our pride, face our need, and go to the Source of wisdom. The good news is that God has the wisdom you need and He’s willing to share it with you liberally (generously).
Pro. 2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
Not only that, but He will not upbraid you for lacking, or asking for, wisdom. Upbraid means to rail on, or taunt – He will not throw it in your face.
Ask in Faith
When we ask God for wisdom, we need to believe that He will do what He promised. We need to expect it; to be on the lookout for it. How will God give us wisdom? Through His Word. Through wise counsel. By ordering our circumstances. He leads us by His Spirit (Rom. 8:14). We must not let the winds of circumstance, human opinions or opposition change our minds. If we want to receive from God, we must believe God. Faith is an essential requirement for answered prayer:
Mat. 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
Mar. 11:22-24 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (23) For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. (24) Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
You might be saying to yourself, “Hold on – I received things that I didn’t really think God was going to do and He did.” That happens often, I think. But remember, you may not be the only one praying. It might be someone else’s faith that God is responding to. Remember the man whose four friends tore the roof off to get him to Jesus? What did Jesus react to?
Mar 2:3-5 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. (4) And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. (5) When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Don’t forget that Christ is praying for you, too (Heb. 7:25).
James calls this mix of asking and doubting being “double minded.” The Greek might literally be translated “two-souled.” God doesn’t want your unwavering trust. He wants His reliability to be a settled issue in your mind and heart. The Bible often expresses God’s desire for you to decide to believe Him:
Jos. 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD
1Ki. 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.
And the people answered him not a word.
You might think it’s sophisticated to be open minded, and to take your religion with a grain of salt, but that’s not what God wants. He would rather have you reject Him outright than to be a fence-sitter or a pretender:
Rev. 3:15-16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
The person who is not utterly convinced of God’s trustworthiness is unstable. He can’t be counted on and he doesn’t make much progress in the Christian life.
The Bible speaks of the Christian life as a walk. Imagine two men walking. They begin at the same time, walking day after day. Both men walk the three thousand miles it takes to cross the United States from sea to sea. They expend the same effort and experience the same weariness. When they’re finished, one man has crossed the country a step at a time and the other hasn’t seen anything but the front of his house. Why? Because the second man walked 100 feet forward, then turned around and walked 100 feet backward. He spent a lot of energy, but he didn’t get anywhere because he couldn’t decide which way to go. A ridiculous example, sure, but it’s the way many Christians spend their whole lives.
This instability is not limited to a single area; the double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways.” Unbelief reveals itself in his family, his work, his church – it influences his entire life.
How’s It Going?
- Do you recognize your need for wisdom?
- Are you asking God for wisdom?
- Do you believe God will do what He has promised?
- Are there signs of double mindedness in your life?
- Isn’t it about time you got all the way into, or out of, this life of faith?
Read James 1:9-12 and think about these questions:
- In what way is the brother of low degree exalted?
- In what way is the rich brother brought low?
- Why are they both to rejoice?
- What is the real measure of success in a believer’s life?