WISDOM FOR THE WINDS & WAVES OF LIFE
By Cleavon P. Matthews Sr.
May 25, 2003
James a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ has already thoroughly exhorted his readers to consider their various trials joy because the proving of their faith in God will produce perseverance and perseverance will culminate in their perfection when they stand before the Almighty in judgment.
Faith is the cornerstone of the spiritual journey of life in the Lord. James emphatically emphasizes the essential need for active obedient faith. As well the Hebrew writer said, “For without faith it is impossible to please him for he that comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (11:6). Faith is a vital virtue. Faith is a crucial conviction. Faith is a personal profession. Faith is a deliberate determination. Faith is an objective obedience. We are all the children of God by faith. We have access into grace by faith. We are saved by faith.
But along with faith we must have wisdom. In fact genuine faith is rooted and grounded in wisdom. In this vaporous life we will encounter both winds and waves. There will be perilous times. There will be days of plenty and days of poverty. There will be days of multitude and days of minimal. As long as Lucifer is loose. As long as Beelzebub is busy. As long as the Prince of darkness is prating and plotting. As long as Satan is slandering. As long as the lion is roaring. As long as the Devil is deceiving there will be trials in this life. Trouble is just as sure as death and taxes. None of us are exempt from trouble. None of us will escape the pavilion of perplexing problems.
All of us will pass by the intersection of nowhere to run and no place to hide. Certainly we have heard of the patience of Job (5:11). Job was unlike us. He was a perfect and upright man. He feared God and shunned evil. But Job was afflicted with a great affliction. He lost his cattle. He lost his servants. He lost his sheep. He lost his sons and daughters. The record says, “And behold there came a great wind from the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead” (1:19).
Adverse winds will blow in our homes and cause waves to roll in and disrupt the homeostasis of our habitation. When the winds of jealousy, covetousness, prejudice, pride, selfishness, and greed appear be sure the waves of broken hearts, hurt feelings, sleepless nights, broken homes, fear, unforgiveness, and disunity are sure to follow.
We can’t always predicate the pattern and direction of the winds and waves of life. They often arise suddenly, quickly, instantly, and without warning. As the winds and waves move without restriction they leave behind a path of destruction. Drowned dreams. Flooded faith. Uprooted hopes. Crushed foundations. The winds and waves of life leave behind a parade of powerless, lifeless, aimless social outcasts and relationship challenged people yearning for acceptance and love.
We need wisdom in order to deal with the winds and waves of life. We need to be able to navigate through the nautical noise. We need to be able to stay a float and sail through our stormy seasons. Wisdom becomes an anchor to stabilize our position in turbulent times. Wisdom is a guiding rudder mapping out our course from the island of despair to the mainland of eternity! Wisdom is more than mere intellectual astuteness. Wisdom is the combining of principle and practice. True wisdom is never divorced from action. Wisdom always leads to the proper action at the proper time. Wisdom tells us what to do when we don’t know what to do! Wisdom guides us in the proper decisions of life.
When our faith is tried and the winds and waves of life threaten to toss us to and fro we need wisdom. When someone is attacking you wisdom is necessary to instruct you in how to respond. When someone makes you an offer you need wisdom to know whether or not to accept. When you are having problems in your marriage you need wisdom. As a parent you need wisdom. As a Christian you need wisdom. In strained relationships you need wisdom.
James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
The first key to obtaining wisdom is acknowledging our lack of wisdom. Notice in the face of various temptations we are not instructed to pursue power. We are not instructed to pursue strength. We are not instructed to pursue longsuffering. We are not instructed to pursue love. We are instructed to pursue wisdom! Wisdom is power and strength. Wisdom reveals the way to get what God desires for us to possess!
Wisdom is not obtained through secular education. Wisdom is obtained from God. Wisdom does not occur simply through osmosis. Wisdom is not something you wake up with! Wisdom is not something you automatically receive when you are baptized into Christ. Wisdom is knowing what the will of the Lord is and there are many Christians who don’t know what the will of the Lord is! But wisdom is also doing what the will of the Lord is! It is not wise to be hearer of the word and not a doer. It is not wise to be partial in your treatment of people.
We must ask for wisdom. Jesus our Lord said, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you and if ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:7,11). It could be that we are asking for the wrong things! Instead of asking God for the truth we should ask him to give us wisdom to recognize truth when we hear it and wisdom to obey it. I don’t need to ask God to love me because He has already revealed his love. But I do need the wisdom to understand, accept, and act on his love for me! Instead of asking God for a new job we may need to be wise and ask for him to continue meeting our needs until he gives us the new job. Remember James said in 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (NIV). Sometimes our prayers are selfish. We ask not with the motive of spiritual perfection but we ask for temporary and instant gratification to fuel our need for pride. God will not honor those prayers.
But God will honor the prayer for wisdom. Paul petitions for wisdom on behalf of the Ephesian saints. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (1:17-18). God must be petitioned for wisdom because he is the source of wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Our Lord will dispense wisdom without discrimination and with great generosity. Any faithful Christian without respect to gender or age can receive wisdom. You can be young and wise according to Psalm 119:99, “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” Living with a joyful, faithful, enduring attitude through the experience of trials will cause us to cry out for wisdom!
Notice something else in the verse. What does James mean when he says upbraideth not? The NIV says without finding fault. In other words the Lord does not look at his children with reproach and contempt for demonstrating our dependence on Him in asking for wisdom! The Lord knows we don’t always know what we need or what we should do and He is delighted that we would come to Him!
Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The God we serve is wise! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33). The Lord knows the perfect means to achieve the most perfect ends. The Lord always knows what is right and He always does what is right! We should be swift to hear the wonderfully rich words of the Lord’s wisdom. Consider just a sample of God’s wisdom.
• Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. (Pro. 3:27).
• Keep thy heart with all thy diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)
• Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. (Prov. 5:15).
• Reprove not a scorner lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. (Prov. 9:8).
• Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (Prov. 11:14).
• The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and he that winneth souls is wise. (Prov. 11:30).
• Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. (Prov. 15:17).
• A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold. (Prov. 22:1).
James 1:6 “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
When we petition the Lord for wisdom we must have the proper posture! We must ask in faith! There is no room for doubt. It is understood the recipients of this letter believe in God. They don’t doubt in the reality and existence of God. Remember James said in this epistle, “thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (2:19). They believe there is one God. The problem is understanding what kind of God He is! James wants them to avoid the terrible tragedy of doubting God’s character and good intentions for them! He is a God who will reward the faithful! He is God who gives every good and perfect gift! He is a God of wisdom who gives wisdom!
There is not even one degree of space for doubt. When we waver or doubt we are hesitating. We are holding back when we should be moving forward in action. Remember faith is not merely assent but application. Faith is active. To ask God for wisdom and hesitate or refuse to act when wisdom has been provided is ineffective and insufficient. “Wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.”
At the cursing of the fig tree in Matt. 21:21-22 our Lord said the following to His disciples: “Verily I say unto you, if ye have faith, and doubt no, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Obviously Jesus is not talking about vain, selfish, repetitious prayers. He is talking about prayers aimed at aiding the people of God in accomplishing His Divine will. The disciples would encounter impossible circumstances but continued total faith and dependence in the Lord would make even the seemingly impossible become a reality!
James gives one of his many picturesque illustrations. “He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” His doubting becomes a way of life. Just like the wave of the sea he is subject to the driving force of the wind and then he is tossed. He has no foundation. He has no loyalty. His life becomes a downward spiral as he splashes against the rocks and shores of life.
James 1:7 “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
The man who does not ask God for wisdom in faith has a promise from the Lord. He does not need to think he will receive anything of the Lord. This does not need to be casually considered. Faith is the term of our relationship or covenant with God. We can only approach God through faith in Christ.
Doubt is the antithesis of faith! When we doubt God and have no confidence in Him we can never expect Him to honor our requests. When we doubt the Lord in essence we are denying our relationship with Him! Look at the relationship between Abraham and the Lord. “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (2:23).
We need wisdom to land safe on the shores of eternity!
Fathers need wisdom to guide their children!
Leaders need wisdom to serve God’s flock!
Paul didn’t preach with the wisdom of words!
God said I will destroy the wisdom of the wise!
God has made foolish the wisdom of the world!
The world by wisdom knew not God!
The Greeks sought after wisdom!
The crucified Christ is the wisdom of God!
Paul didn’t preach with the Excellency of speech or of wisdom!
Paul’s speech was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom!
Don’t allow your faith to stand in the wisdom of men!
The apostle didn’t speak the wisdom of the world, But he spoke the wisdom of God in a -mystery the hidden wisdom ordained before the world!
This hidden wisdom!
This mystery ordained before the world was Christ and His Church!
None of the princes of this world knew for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory!
God’s wisdom was hidden throughout the ages!
God’s plan was covered throughout the centuries!
Christ is the wisdom of God!
The incarnation of God in man is the wisdom of God!
The sinless perfection of the Lamb is the wisdom of God!
The tabernacling of Christ in human likeness is the wisdom of God!
The preaching of the Gospel is the wisdom of God!
The healing of the broken-hearted is the wisdom of God!
The preaching of deliverance to the captives is the wisdom of God!
The recovering of sight to the Blind is the wisdom of God!
The setting at liberty the bruised is the wisdom of God!
The provision of rest for the weary is the wisdom of God!
The cleansing of the lepers is the wisdom of God!
The clothing of the naked is the wisdom of God!
The casting out of demons is the wisdom of God!
The gifts of hearing and speech to the deaf and mute are the wisdom of God!
The shining of light out of darkness is the wisdom of God!
The saving of the lost is the wisdom of God!
The choosing of twelve is the wisdom of God!
The betrayal by one is the wisdom of God!
The crucifixion is the wisdom of God!
The resurrection is the wisdom of God!
But the Church is also the wisdom of God.
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Eph. 3:10
It was wise…