James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Yesterday we looked at a very counter-cultural mindset that challenges us to see trials as pure joy! Easy to write, easy to say but very hard to demonstrate when the trials actually come. And yet this is the way that James calls his readers to live and holding a high view of scripture we cannot dismiss his call as ‘not for us’ of ‘unachievable.’
So in the second part of the passage above, he points them, and us, to the way we can strive towards that goal, and it is to ask God for wisdom.
There are 219 occurrences of the word ‘wisdom’ in the NIV and there are a number of words both in Hebrew and Greek translated into English as ‘Wisdom’ and the vast majority of them are related to that which is good and beneficial to mankind.
Paul, writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1.20ff) asks. ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar. Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? And he goes on to say ‘The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.’
Such dramatic contrasts should bring us up short and cause us to think seriously as to where the world is going, having relied on the wisdom of man rather than the wisdom of God.
Ultimately, of course all true wisdom comes from God and in his grace and mercy he has given men and women the skills and abilities to bring great blessings to mankind in almost every area of knowledge and we should rejoice in this. However the other message that we get from the media of every kind is that man’s wisdom, while bringing these many benefits, has left the world in a mess.
In our own nations we see government stumbling from one disaster to another at the political level. We see moral chaos in the realms of abortion and sexuality. We see spiritual chaos as people exalt human wisdom above that of the Creator.
In this situation James’ advice, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’ needs to be heeded.
We cannot solve the massive problems that have ‘doing it our way’ have created, but individually we can seek God’s wisdom, confident in the knowledge that this is something which he is waiting and wanting to give us generously.
As we ask, James reminds us that we must, ‘believe and not doubt’ for the doubter will receive nothing from the Lord. But if we pray, believing, seeking God’s wisdom we can expect to be blessed and be a blessing to others for as he writes in Chapter 3.17
….the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Let us pray for each other today that our lives might demonstrate the truth of this so that others might be drawn by the beauty and powewr of heavenly wisdom.