6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: God wants us to be wise not so that we can get ahead in life, but so that we can know how to be godly in every circumstance in life.

Imagine that a genie appeared to you just like in the movie Aladin. Instead of granting you 3 wishes, you get the economy version and the genie tells you that you are granted 1 wish of your choice. (As Genie on Aladin says, “Ixniah on wishing for more wishes”) What do you choose? So many things that you need. Would it be money? Power? Position? Would you want some difficult situation resolved? Tough question isn’t it?!

A situation like this happened one time. It was during a transition time in the nation of Israel. King David had recently died and there was a new king on the throne, David’s son Solomon. God came to him in a dream and told him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” With no qualifications, provisos, or anything, Solomon could have asked for the world. Instead he asked for something that could give him the world, wisdom. “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties….So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” I think it is safe to say that the first act of wisdom that marked the life of Solomon was his decision to ask God for wisdom when the opportunity arose.

I have a book on my shelf at home How To Do Everything Right. It covers all kinds of practical issues from taxes to travel tips, and even tells you how to find lost contact lenses in the carpet. Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to have is a copy of a 75 page book to know how to do everything right?

But wisdom doesn’t come that easily, does it? Some issues can’t be translated into black and white on a page.

- When your children or your parents or your siblings are giving you fits, the books don’t always have the answers.

- That book doesn’t have any chapter entitled, “How to fix everything that is broken, including relationships, hearts, and trust.” Life is really not that easy that you could get a couple of experts together, ask a few questions, and have the answers. Why, you would be lucky to get the experts to agree what the questions are.

That’s why James spends no little amount of time discussing wisdom in his book. Remember, in his letter, James is interested in telling us how to experience “everyday worship.” How to live life facing God. After beginning his book by diving into the deep end with a discussion about suffering, he moves right into the subject of wisdom. This morning we are going to look at James 1:5-8; 3:13-18. I want you to notice something. If you look at the passage in your bible you will notice that his words about wisdom in chapter 1 are within his discussion of how to deal with suffering. That is no accident. I have found that it is in the middle of the hardest times that we need wisdom the most.

- When you are suffering through the pain of health tragedies, there are often life and death decisions that need to be made.

- When life has thrown you a curve ball and the most unthinkable situation occurs, you have to decide how to respond.

- When your situation changes such as when you lose your job, a loved one dies, you graduate from school, or you go through some other type of life transition, you will invariably find yourself in situations that call for wisdom. Decisions have to be made, and there isn’t always a handy reference book to tell you “How to do everything right.” So what do you do? (Pause)

James says that you should turn to God. (Read James 1:5-8) What a pious sounding answer. It almost sounds like one of those generic church answers for anything that we are so good at giving. Some time back I spoke in the evenings to a group of 4-5 graders at church camp. You want to talk about a challenge, keeping the attention of these kids for 15-20 minutes while getting a message across. I tried to involve them by asking questions. The first night I started out talking about the Hall of Fame. I asked the question, “What is the highest honor for a baseball player?” Hands went flying up into the air. The first girl I called on said, “Jesus.” Now how do you respond to that one? “Well, that is usually a good answer, but not the one I was looking for.” I restated the question and got them on the right track.

We are so conditioned to hearing the church answers that we repeat them without thinking. And that doesn’t work with my mind, because I’m way too skeptical about pat answers. So when James says, “If you lack wisdom, ask God,” all kinds of red flags go up. That sounds way too simplistic for something that so many people struggle with. And just how does God tell me the answers? Is He going to write on a wall, or will it come in a bolt of lightning, or will I get a warm feeling in my belly when I come upon the right answer. That’s the way many today determine what to do, according to if it feels right or not. But as I looked at what James said about wisdom, I noticed that he didn’t say “If any of you lacks answers, he should ask God.” God is not the “Shell Answer Man,” doling out advice. God is not a book that claims to tell us “How to do everything right.”

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