Summary: God will give us wisdom for trials, but we must ask, believing.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Following the rule that when we’re looking at a passage that begins with the words ‘but’ or ‘therefore’ we have to glance back and find out what they refer to, we look back and remind ourselves that James has begun his letter with encouragement for times of trial, and admonishes his readers to endure in faith and thereby be made strong and mature spiritually.
So when he says “But if any of you lacks wisdom…”, we naturally conclude that he means wisdom pertaining to trials.
Endurance in a time of trial does not merely imply gritting our teeth, suffering in silence and digging in our heels until the pressure is off.
The troubles of life almost always call for some decision-making, some counsel sought or given, some action taken. Therefore they also call for Godly wisdom. If we react to them in our own strength and worldly wisdom we will never submit to God’s will for us in them.
Wilmington’s Book of Bible Lists gives 25 reasons for our suffering, with scripture references.
1. To produce the fruit of patience Rom. 5:3; James 1:3–4; Heb. 10:36
2. To produce the fruit of joy Ps. 30:5; 126:5–6
3. To produce the fruit of maturity Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
4. To produce the fruit of righteousness Heb. 12:11
5. To silence the devil Job 1:9, 10, 20–22
6. To teach us Ps. 119:67, 71
7. To purify our lives Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10–12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7
8. To make us like Christ Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12–13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7–10
9. To glorify God Ps. 50:15; John 9:1–3; 11:1–4; 21:18–19; Phil. 1:19–20
10. To prevent us from sinning 2 Cor. 12:7, 9–10
11. To make us confess when we do sin Judg. 10:6–7, 15–16; Ps. 32:3–5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3–4
12. To chasten us for our sin 1 Pet. 4:17
13. To prove our sonship Heb. 12:5–6
15. To help our prayer life Isa. 26:16
16. To become an example to others 2 Cor. 6:4–5; 1 Thess. 1:6–7
17. To qualify us as counselors Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3–5
18. To further the gospel witness Acts 8:1–5; 16:25–34; Phil. 1:12–13; 2 Tim. 4:6–8, 16–17
19. To make us more than conquerors 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
20. To give us insight into God’s nature Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14–15, 18
21. To drive us closer to God 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
23. To provide for us a reward Matt. 5:10–12; 19:27–29; Rom. 8:16–17; 2 Cor. 4:17
24. To prepare us for the kingdom 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12
25. To show God’s sovereignty Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10–12; Gen. 45:5–8; 50:20
WHERE WISDOM IS FOUND
Now James is kind here and says, “…if any of you lacks wisdom…”. I say kind, because he would have been very accurate in saying, “Now since no one of you has wisdom…”
There is no wisdom apart from God. What we call ‘worldly wisdom’ is just that. It is of the spirit of this world and will inevitably lead away from God and truth. (James 3:15)
Job understood this:
“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.” Job 28:12, 13
That’s Job 28:12, 13. In your own time if you go there you can read the rest of that chapter and see the things Job says about wisdom. For the sake of time I just want to tell you now how he ends the chapter.
“And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;…” (vs 28)
That line should take the mind of the faithful Bible student to the Psalms, which declare “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Ps 111:10
We have not begun to search for wisdom and have not begun to be in a place of being able to expect to find wisdom, until first there is in our heart a deep and real reverence for God.
James’ next phrase is ‘…let him ask of God”. The scholars of the Biblical languages I researched tell me that the Greek is imperative. That means it’s not a suggestion, it’s a divine command.