James 1:5-8 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Regular members of OneWay are intimately familiar with this passage in James because it is tightly intertwined with Proverbs, the book we are currently studying on Sunday mornings. Where the first nine chapters of Proverbs speak repeatedly about the need for men to seek after Godly wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, these four verses in James explain why so many people ask but never receive.
Are you in that position? Have you in the past, or are you now currently praying for wisdom only to find God silent? If so, perhaps James chapter one is the explanation for your difficulty. Allow me to explain.
Receiving wisdom from God is not a hard or elusive thing; God loves to give men wisdom and does so with liberality and great pleasure. But like everything God does, if we are to receive we must do so according to the way HE set forth, not our own way or the way the world suggests. God’s way of receiving wisdom is through unwavering faith. Now, since the term “faith” is often misunderstood, we need to define it before we can continue.
First of all, faith is not the same thing as belief. Consider the following Scripture references:
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Eph. 2:8+9]
“You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” [Jas. 2:19]
From these two references we can surmise a couple of things. First of all, the gift of salvation is given to man based upon God’s grace and that man’s acceptance of the gift in faith. Second, we can see from the James reference that the devils believe in God just as most men do. But that begs the question, are the devils saved? Are they born-again? Obviously not – they lack faith, and therein is the key.
According to Isaiah and Revelation, the devils are merely angels who rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven as a result. They now continue to live in rebellion to God, attempting at every turn to interfere with his plan and take control of what rightfully belongs to him. In other words, they lack faith.
Still don’t get it? Take a moment to read Matt. 8:5-13. In this story of the Roman centurion whose servant was sick, we see the centurion displaying both faith and belief. His belief was in the fact that Jesus could heal his servant if he chose to, but what about his faith? According to Jesus, who responded to the centurion’s explanation of authority, the man’s faith was displayed in the fact that he willingly surrendered to the authority of Jesus and accepted whatever outcome followed his request.
In plain English friends, faith is an individual choice whereby a man willingly surrenders his own will to God’s and accepts whatever outcome God has chosen. It’s that simple. If God said to me, “Speak to Mount Everest and tell it to get up and cast itself into the sea,” a proper faith reaction would be to submit to what God has said and then obey him. Guess what would happen, Mt. Everest would get up and go cast itself into the sea (Matt. 21:18-22). Not because I’m anything special, but because I surrendered to God’s authority, I obeyed, and I accepted whatever outcome he chose.
If we apply this to asking God for wisdom, we must then consider why we are asking and what we intend to do with the answer. God says he wants unwavering faith; he wants us to accept whatever wisdom tells us and be obedient without any wavering. Let me give you an example.
Let’s just say I am struggling with my finances to the point where I may lose my house, my car, and some of my investments. A brother counsels with me and tells me I need to seek God’s wisdom to learn how he wants me to handle my finances. If I ask the Lord for wisdom and I’m fully prepared and willing to do whatever the Lord tells me to do, without compromise, then he’ll pour out his wisdom like a drowning flood. However, if I ask for wisdom with the attitude that I’ll wait until I hear God before I decide whether or not to do as he says, then I can forget about it. God will not give me an ounce of wisdom.
The idea here is that God’s wisdom is always correct, always applicable, never out-dated, and never subject to failure. If I want his wisdom in my life I must surrender my will; my pre-conceived notions; my plans, desires and goals to the Lord, and purpose in my heart and mind to do whatever he wants without wavering. If I do that I’m golden.
Did you notice the phrase “double minded” in the last sentence of today’s text? To be “double minded” is to play both sides of the ball, if you will. Using my financial example once again, my money problems are always due to my using the resources God gave me in a way that’s not pleasing to him. If I want to get my finances back in order, but I don’t want to stop spending in ways that are displeasing to God, that makes me double minded. According to James that also makes me unstable. Before I can receive his wisdom I need to get my mind and heart on stable ground; I must be ready and willing to stop spending money the way I have been doing all along.
I hope my explanation has helped you understand this portion of James. If so, would you mind dropping me a note? If not, feel free to contact me and ask questions. That’s why I’m here.