James 1:5-8 (NKJV)5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Last week we noted that James lays before us the truth of God with no mealy mouth flattery. James cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. You want to know what to do with trials, James asks? Let me tell you – rejoice in them, for through them our Lord is training us into the kind of men and women he wants us to be.
In the text today James takes up the matter of wisdom. But let us remember context. James has just told us to do something incredibly counterintuitive – to rejoice in our trials. To support us in this determination, James now encourages us to seek wisdom from God in how to do this very thing – seek wisdom from God in how to rejoice in the midst of trials.
It is important to note this context because the passage before us is one of the more abused texts in the book of James. Mormons, for instance, tell us that Joseph Smith was endeavoring to decide which of the various denominations around him to join when god himself appeared to Joseph and announced that he was to join none of them. However, note that what Joseph was seeking was not wisdom but knowledge – knowledge which he should have acquired by studying the Word of God and then applying it to the situation of the day. The promise that James makes here is one of wisdom in the midst of trial – how can I possibly count it all joy? Ask of God.
And notice the promise that James makes in connection with this conditional statement – if you ask of God in the midst of your trials for wisdom in how to count it all joy – guess what? – God will give it. Why? Because He is the kind of God who gives liberally and without reproach. He delights to lead and guide His people through the valley of the shadow of death – and so encourages us to seek His face in the midst of the valley.
But there are a couple conditions laid down by James for us. First, we must seek the wisdom – God doesn’t give to him who does not ask. And so, bang on the door like the importunate widow; seek out the judge; ask Him for wisdom. Second, we must seek the wisdom in faith. There is no easier time to doubt the promises of God than when we are in the midst of trials. But there is no time when it is as important to do so. And so James, in his blunt manner once again, tells us not to doubt – because if we doubt then we’re like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind – moving up and down and around and lacking the stability that comes from building on the rock, Christ. God is free with His wisdom. He liberally bestows it on those who ask. But to those who aren’t really asking; who, when they receive God’s answer through His Word by His Spirit, question whether His answer is really relevant; to those who doubt, in other words, there is no promise that they will receive anything being double minded and unstable.
Reminded of the promise of God – that He will supply wisdom in our times of deepest need and distress – let us kneel before Him and confess that we have failed to seek this kind of wisdom from Him.