RESOURCES FOR TESTING TIMES
Facing times of testing with a mature outlook demands insight beyond oneself and what is available in the natural realm. In verses 5-8 three things are mentioned as necessary for meeting successfully the trials of life. These are wisdom (5a), prayer (5b), and faith (6-8). The emphasis however is not simply upon the need of these resources. The stress is upon the fact that what is needed is available through the gracious provision of God.
Those that want to understand their trials and obtain growth and wholeness will need assistance. God stands ready to help. This help is made available through prayers that bring believers to wise maturity.
I. ASKING OF GOD, 1:5.
II. ASKING IN FAITH, 1:6a.
III. DOUBLE-MINDED DOUBTS, 1:6b-8.
I. ASKING OF GOD, 1:5.
The first resource available is wisdom which we must ask of God as verse 5 teaches. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he must ask from God, who freely gives to all and does not reproach, and it will be given to him.
You need to grasp that the wisdom needed to handle your trials the right way comes from God. Fortunately, in all Christian trials or temptations wisdom is to be had just for the asking. Many do not specifically ask God for their need of wisdom to understand the life they live and how best to live it. To be willing to ask one must realize the need. Times of testing make us realize our need. [The qualifying “if” should not mislead anyone. The words should be understood to mean: since individuals among you are deficient in wisdom. Often believers lacked the wisdom that was needed to turn trials into triumphs.] James indicates that it is an individual’s responsibility to recognize this fact.
Wisdom is much more than knowledge and intelligence. It is practical discernment, the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances. The Christian needs wisdom so that he might see his trials with God’s insight and make proper use of them. The wisdom that will equip us to meet the ordeals of life is not acquired by reading nor from human teachers. The “fear of the Lord is the starting point to acquire godly wisdom (Prov. 1:7). It can be learned only be received on our knees.
To face life’s quizzes with the right outlook requires continual prayer or perpetual requests to God. When a person needed wisdom, James wrote: let him ask God...(5b). Prayer for wisdom is a mandate. The habitual duty of one willing to recognize a deficiency in wisdom must be to ask God continually for insight. James was recalling Jesus’ repeated teachings and lifestyle. Jesus stressed persistence in prayer and persisted in prayer Himself.
James and his readers understood verse 5 to be an allusion to Solomon’s youthful request for wisdom (1 Kings 3:7). Solomon begged God for wisdom that would be equal to his task. God graciously gave Solomon the requested wisdom for a specific, difficult problem or case (1 Kings 3:16-28). James said God “gives to all,” assuring believers that each one had the same privilege before God as had the famous king. Yet God teaches us that wisdom is derived by asking for each situation. We must ask God for wisdom
God’s generous goodness is an encouragement to prayer. God does not give with a closed fist; He gives with an open hand. He is a God who gives to all persons liberally or freely (5c). Generously and simply, God gives the asking believer wisdom for a specific concern. His gift is without reservation, hesitation, or calculation for a return gift. God’s gifts are marked by a boundless and spontaneous freedom. They are not restricted to certain nations, favored classes, or particular individuals, but available to all believers. No sincere seeker is sent away empty. The text implies that God gives a person wisdom without any secondary motive or deceit. He gives with a single-minded generosity with no strings attached.
That God is predisposed to give good gifts to His children provides a powerful incentive for us to pray. This is true whether the need for wisdom occurs during a time of crisis or relates to day-by-day decisions regarding moral issues or personal concerns.
Furthermore, the gifts of God are always generous. They are unspoiled by hesitation, reservation, or devious intent. Gifts that come with strings attached may not be gifts at all but only exchanges of favors.
James literally titled God the Giving God. The force of the expression is difficult to translate. God’s giving is not so much an act as it is part of His nature. He must give as surely as the sun must give light as it burns or as a flower gives fragrance as it blooms. God’s giving is part of who He is. God simply gives. When believers ask Him to give wisdom, they do not ask Him to do a strange thing.
Thou art coming to king:
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much. John Newton
When a person asks God for wisdom, God simply gives wisdom. God gives such wisdom without finding fault, or “without reproaching.” God does not rebuke, criticize, or complain when one asks Him for wisdom. James specifically meant that God does not reproach the believer for what he/she did with God’s last gift. He does not chide a man for his previous sins, many of which the man may not even know he has committed. He doesn’t says: what did you do with the last gift I gave you? You have wasted everything else; why should I help you now? No, God does not despise ordinary, blundering people who come again and again. That God gives is wonderful. That He gives freely is more wonderful. One may go to Him a thousand times. One may go with needs as great as a vacant ocean. One even may go to Him after years of ingratitude. Nor are God’s gifts accompanied with reproach or scolding. They are not emptied of joy by being packaged with rebuke. God does not reproach those who ask.
“Wisdom helps us understand how our troubles fit in with God’s plan. It assures us that God has not forsaken us. God’s gift of wisdom allows us to understand how God is involved in life’s daily events. Instead of serving as a hindrance, trials present us with a marvelous opportunity to become wise! [Thomas Lea, Holman NT Commentary, 259].
The Bible teaches that God is the source of all wisdom. How appropriate then that we should seek from Him the wisdom that will enable us to endure faithfully during the times of testing! Faithfulness under trials marks the course to spiritual wholeness and maturity.
God gives as an expression of His love for all. This is why we may “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
II. ASKING IN FAITH (1:6a).
God’s generous provision has some prerequisites. To receive God’s wisdom for why trials are occurring and how to get the most out of them verse 6 continues; But he must ask in faith without any doubting. Prayer is effective only when it is asked in faith. Faith is the essential condition of prayer. It is with trust in God that one’s request will be granted according to divine will. It is the simple act of coming to Jesus with some need in complete confidence that He can and will deal with it. It was this attitude of faith that released power in Jesus that made all things possible. He would often say as explanation for his ministry, “Your faith has saved you”. It should be noted that faith clearly links God and men as partners in life and ministry.
God must be approached with confidence in His character and His ability and willingness to give. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please Him. For those who come to Him must believe what He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The Christian must come before God not only believing in His existence but in His loving care. It includes a reliance upon God and a whole hearted expectation that He will heed our request that is according to His will which is uncovered in His word.
We must put away our critical attitude that comes from the fact that God does not answer every thoughtless or selfish request. We give Him our requests desiring that they be aligned with His purposes.
Even more emphatically James urges believers to come without doubting the Greek word for doubting (diakrinomenos) suggests a critical state of mind vacillating between God’s will and self will. This indecisiveness in the Christian life short circuits prayer. When one hesitates between serving or follow God and following the world, or oscillates between belief and unbelief it hampers God’s willingness to answer. Doubting waivers between friendship with the world and allegiance to God (4:4).
A mind that wavers is not convinced that God’s way is best. It treats God’s word like any human advice, and it retains the option to disobey. It vacillates between allegiance to subjective feelings, the world’s ideas, and God’s commands.
If your faith is new, weak, or struggling, remember that you can trust God. Then be totally surrendered to Him. To stabilize your wavering or doubtful mind commit yourself whole heartedly to God.
III. DOUBLE-MINDED DOUBTS (1:6b-8).
It is not enough to ask for wisdom about life, you also need demonstrate faith in God by being willing to obey Him so that He can stabilize your life. An unwillingness to live in faith destabilizes life as verse 6 illustrates. For the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
When believers pray with doubts and wavering’s they become like an inner-tube on the sea driven and tossed by the wind. The thought seems to be that when we pray we are not to oscillate between faith and unbelief, trust and distrust, love of God and love of the world. Faith says yes! But unbelief says no! Trust says yes, then distrust says no! It was doubt that caused Peter to sink in the waves as he was walking toward Jesus (Mt. 14:22-23). Jesus said to him “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter stepped out and began to walk by faith but when he took his eyes off Jesus and placed them on the wind and the waves he began to sink.
Christians who are blown about by doubt, disbelief and worldliness in their prayer life face disaster. Do you see instability in your prayer life? Pray in belief and faithfulness. Jesus said it best in Mt. 21:21-22.
Jesus said to them in reply, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
What is the result of the seasick praying described in verse 6? Verse 7 gives the emphatic warning. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
The doubting wavering disposition is fatal to true effective prayer. A wavering Christian might imagine a divine answer to such divided praying so James sets the record straight. Faith unlocks the divine storehouse, but unbelief bars its doors. The wavering petitioner dishonors and insults God by doubting the truth of His word and treating Him as unworthy of confidence and obedience. We usually do not doubt because there is no clear promise from God but because of low thoughts about God. We are unable to receive the needed discernment about life if our goals are self centered instead of God centered. Divided praying finds that heaven is a brass canopy. Don’t make light of your wavering commitment to God. God doesn’t.
Verse 8 should be taken as a continuing description of the wavering man. Being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James coins a new word here (two-souled) translated double-minded man. It suggest a man having two minds, one set on God, the other set on the world. Bunyan named him “Mr. Facing-both-ways.” He has a sense of what is right but a love for what is wrong. One moment they are obedient, another moment they are following their own ways. Those who wish to pray to God should not have two hearts, one directed to Him and one to something else. Divided praying receives neither wisdom for trials nor anything else.
The essence of the doubting heart is caught by visualizing someone who straddles the fence. This person is drawn in two directions and reveals instability in all his ways. Since the rule of His heart is divided it will affect the whole conduct of life in all that he does. Vacillation leads to an indecisive walk. Such a divided person displays instability through out his life. One who cannot rest in his trust of God may not be trustworthy himself.
There is too much instability in the world today. Stop trying to startle the fence. Neutrality about Christ is double-mindedness. Many have made their decision and wholeheartedly follow the world, but they receive no wisdom from God in testing times.
Serve God and find the stability that only He can give to a life. In that stability God will give you wisdom in all live’s trials and temptations. Be not double-minded, surrender you all today.
In our scripture for today, James referred to a double-minded man. He was speaking of a person who asks something of God but at the same time doubts God’s ways. Even while he is praying, he is probably thinking of some strategy for achieving his goal without God’s help. He is wavering between sheer faith in God and reliance on his own ingenuity. He is double-minded. He is listening to two inner voices.
Imagine trying to listen to two symphonies at the same time. You turn on two stereo receivers. On one you have Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and on the other, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Do you listen first to one, then the other? Or do you block out one symphony completely? Or end up with a big headache?
Sometimes we try to live the Christian life that way. We tune in to the voice of the world, telling us to make value judgments and solve problems by its standards. But soon we find it impossible to listen to both, and we shut out one of the voices.
Don’t give attention to the voice of doubt. Pray in faith. Don’t look for answers from another source. Tune in to God only. That’s how to avoid hearing double. You can’t tune in on Heaven’s message when you’re picking up earthly static.
If you have ever seen the constant rolling of huge waves at sea, you know how restless they are–subject to the forces of wind, gravity, and tide. Doubt leaves a person as unsettled as the restless waves. If you want to stop being tossed about and getting no where in your spiritual life, rely on God to show you what is best for you. Ask Him for wisdom, and trust that He will give it to you. Then your decisions will be sure and solid.
Today, right now, God invites you to place you life in His hands & trust Him to lead you in the everlasting way. 1 way He does that is by leading you to a church which is striving to hear & obey God. This is such a church. Is God leading you to join with us? If so you come, as the Spirit leads.