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A. Mothers Day
B. Last week we focused on James 1:2–4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
C. This week, even though the subject seems to switch to wisdom, it is still about trials. It’s talking about wisdom in the context of trials.
D. James 1:5-11 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
E. The goal of being put through trials is to be “complete, LACKing in nothing.” One of the things you won’t LACK is wisdom. But the trials is sent partially because right now we DO LACK wisdom. And so those who are being tried ought to be eager to learn the wisdom the trial is designed to impart. And God is only too willing to impart it. So pray! Pray for the wisdom which the trial was designed to impart.
F. So, we see that James continues talking about trials. Last week he said to accept trials because they are designed to help us grow stronger and more mature.
G. And now this week his point is that in the midst of trials we need to ask the Lord for wisdom.
H. You see, maturity doesn’t come simply by endurance, but by enlightenment, by the impartation of wisdom, something God gives when we seek Him.
II. Let’s look more deeply into v.5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
A. When you’re suffering, if you ever need wisdom, then you should ask God for it.
1. What is wisdom here?
a. It doesn’t so much mean guidance, like what should my major be, or should I get my car repaired or buy a new one, or should I tell my friend that she hurt my feelings or not?
b. The kind of wisdom you need when you are suffering is to be able to have the Lord’s perspective on what you’re going through. How should I be thinking about what’s happening?
2. The fact is, a significant amount of our suffering is actually a result of our foolishness. A lot of our pain is a result of the things we tell ourselves about what’s happening. We interpret it wrong, we believe lies, and that’s what gets us so upset.
a. Now, don’t misinterpret. I’m not saying that if we just interpreted everything rightly, we wouldn’t experience pain. Jesus experienced plenty of grieve/pain and He interpreted everything perfectly.
b. Let me illustrate. Take a person who is really anxious about dying. Every time he gets a cold or a headache, he feels like this might be the beginning of the end. He always expecting someone to jump out of the shadows and kill him. He thinks about it constantly when driving in a car, he’s even afraid of walking near cars because he is always imagining one will run off the road and run him over. Even when he’s at home sitting on his couch he thinks about asteroids crashing on him.
c. Now we realize that there are a lot of dangers around. But we also realize that there is a danger of fear destroying your life. And if we can’t trust God to manage our dangers for us, we will be so afraid of death that we will never be truly free to live. A person with unreasonable fears needs the wisdom of God.
d. Or what about the girl who studies hard for the SAT because she wants to go into a certain field or be accepted to a certain school. Then, she doesn’t do well enough. And she’s devastated. She needs the wisdom of the Lord. Maybe this is actually a good thing. Maybe the Lord wants to guide her in a different direction. Maybe her suffering is unnecessary.
e. Sometimes the very reason we’re suffering is because we aren’t seeing things from the Lord’s perspective, we’re not seeing them according to His wisdom. A lot of what we experience as pain is actually the result of the lack of wisdom with which we are seeing our circumstances.
f. What we really need is to understand the truth about ourselves, about the world, about the people around us, about right and wrong, about God, about His purposes in our lives.
g. The thing which determines whether we face something with peace and grow from it or whether we face it with bitterness and are damaged by it is whether or not we face it with God’s wisdom.
h. This trouble was brought to pass by Someone who is infinitely wiser than I am. And if it doesn’t seem so, then you need more wisdom.
i. To be happy, and to handle difficulties in a healthy way, we need something from outside of ourselves. Happiness isn’t in you, happiness is in God. And wisdom isn’t in you, it’s in God.
j. You know that according to the Bible, a person who thinks he’s wise in himself and doesn’t need God’s wisdom is a world-class fool.
3. If indeed the world is ruled by Someone else other than us, someone else who knows all things and has all wisdom, then this is the way we need to think. We need to stop trying to be ourselves, stop trying to structure the world according to our own thoughts, and start trying to learn from Him.
a. What we really need is wisdom, the wisdom God gives.
b. When we have a financial set-back, we need the Lord’s perspective.
c. When we get a cancer diagnosis, we need the mind of Christ about our situation.
d. When we lose a loved one, we need the Lord’s wisdom.
4. Wisdom is not usually what we feel like we need when we are suffering. We need relief! We need escape! We need deliverance! We need a change of circumstances. This is the way modern people think!
a. Wise people try to learn how to live in and think about the world as it is.
b. But so many people expect the world around them to adjust to them. They are the center; they are the important one; they are the masters of their own fate.
c. You see, the world wants us to ask, “What do I want?” and follow that dream.
d. But God wants us to ask, “What does God want of me?” and follow His will.
e. Gaining wisdom is having a change of heart to match our hearts to the reality into which God has placed us.
5. Wisdom isn’t the same as knowledge – or it would say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should read books.” Wisdom is something which only God can give. So, the only thing to do is pray!
6. Some of you are being tried right now. It’s all you can do just to survive each day. You desperately need perspective; you need insight; you need your eyes opened; you need wisdom!
7. And God is saying, “All you have to do is ask!”
B. And then a special point is made that God gives wisdom generously and without finding fault.
1. “let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, & it will be given to him”
2. These are beautiful and powerful words in English, but even more so in the original Greek.
3. When we ask for wisdom in the midst of our struggle, God gives it willingly, whole-heartedly, eagerly, generously, sincerely.
4. We saw last week that “Count it all joy when you face various trials” was a take off if what Jesus said in the SotM: Matt.5:11–12 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”
5. Well, verse 5 seems to be an echo of what Jesus said in the SotM (Matt.7:7-11), “Ask and it will be given to you... For everyone who asks receives... If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
6. — (The wisdom part, though, doesn’t seem to have come His brother Jesus, but from the book of Prov.2:2-6 My son, make your ear attentive to wisdom, seek her as silver, search for her as for hidden treasures! Then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.)
7. Do you know that you have a loving heavenly Father who is eager to help you when you ask, especially to give you wisdom in the face of baffling realities.
8. There is no reluctance or hesitation. It is His delight to give to us!
9. The impression you get is that it is almost painful for God to NOT give to us, it is hard for Him to wait for us to ask, He is so eager to give.
10. And then it adds, ‘without reproach’ or ‘without finding fault.’
a. The great King on the throne of the universe “gives generously to all without reproach.”
b. There is a person who gives little and finds fault much.
c. And I think many of us as parents know what’s it like to give with a little correction thrown in, as if our generosity is mixed with a little unhappiness – or even disgust.
d. God is not someone who looks at you with love with one eye and with criticism with the other eye.
e. If anyone has a legitimate reason to find fault it is God. But love doesn’t focus on wrongdoings.
f. Psalm 103:8–14 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
g. I can’t tell you how many times when I’m dealing with my children – and even at times with the congregation – I have failed to exemplify this kind of patient generosity. Just recently, one of my kids was sharing a lessons they had learned, and it was everything I could do to NOT say to them, “You know how many times I told you that very thing back then!”
h. But this is not the way God is. He knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust.
i. That’s something to be thankful for.
j. This is important to say in light of v.6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting... 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.
k. Fault-finding can ruin generosity! But God’s generosity is not accompanied by finding fault.
l. It is pure, sincere, and eager. And if that’s not your impression of God, you’re impression needs to be corrected.
III. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
A. The first thing to hit us here is that right after saying He does not find fault, He is finding fault.
B. Well, He doesn’t find fault with the imperfections of our request for wisdom. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t find fault with those who are insincere in their prayer, those who pray hypocritically and unbelievingly.
C. He’s not talking here about the person who needs more faith, He’s talking about a person with no faith.
1. In James the opposite of faith is doubt. So doubt is synonymous with unbelief.
2. Prayer doesn’t work when it’s not true prayer. Not only doesn’t it get the desired result. But God won’t listen; God rejects it; God despises it.
D. God does not have this generous, big-hearted attitude toward everyone.
1. False prayer doesn’t work with God. False Christianity doesn’t work with God.
E. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting”
1. Doubting here doesn’t mean you have unanswered questions. All of us have doubts in that sense.
2. The kind of person James is talking about questions whether God is actually good, is actually trustworthy, is actually loving, or is actually there.
F. So, this is a warning to those who try prayer because they want something but they don’t really trust in God.
1. Some people try to play both sides. They try to get the benefits of Christianity as well as the benefits of unbelief. They’re trying to get paid both by the devil and by the Lord. And they think God won’t notice.
a. Ultimately their goals are entirely earthly, and they will use anything to get what they want.
b. They’re thinking of prayer as a magical way to get what you want, not as a way to address the personal all-knowing God.
G. This person is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. He is double-minded, unstable in all his ways.
1. He goes back and forth between God and other things. To him, God is not Lord, He is someone you sometimes try to get things from.
2. He clings to God’s wisdom one day and to the world’s wisdom the next.
3. Like a person who is looking for love, and it doesn’t matter much to them where they find it. They will do whatever they need to do with whomever they need to do it with to get love.
4. Trying various things looking for something which works.
a. “Christians” who call the witch doctor in Africa
b. Asking non-believers to pray or send their positive thoughts when you are sick or in trouble
5. That kind of person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.
IV. I was reading this week in Zechariah 13:7–9, one verse of which is quoted twice in the NT, “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered.” It talks about the fact that when the Father strikes His Shepherd, He will also allow the little sheep to suffer. And we certainly see that in the NT that after Christ is crucified, His followers suffer as well.
A. As a result, it says, two thirds of them will be cut off and perish. So, the suffering and persecution causes two thirds of those who professed faith to say, “I’m outta here!”
B. The other third, it says, will be tried through fire – to be refined.
a. As Jesus said, “Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” Jn.15:2
C. But instead of saying, “I’m outta here,” this third calls upon the Lord in the midst of the fire.
D. And then, it says, God answers them and says, “You are My people.” And they respond by saying, “The LORD is my God.”
E. It’s very similar to what’s going on here in James 1:5. Believers are put through the fire of testing, and from the midst of the fire they call out to God, and He is most happy to answer.
F. Is there any greater wisdom we need in the midst of our suffering than to know we are His people, His treasured ones? That’s what we forget! That’s what we lose sight of!
G. Yes, some will leave Him; they will reject Him; they will go their own way.
H. But the rest will seek Him, even in their pain, because they know they have nowhere else to turn, no one else to help. In spite of the pain of being pruned, they turn to the master pruner for help.
I. About 6 weeks ago my wife had an artificial knee put in – major surgery. Her doctor told her that starting on the third day she would hate him – because the pain would set in. And it’s been quite uncomfortable. But where does she turn in her pain? She calls the same doctor who inflicted the pain. Should I take this medicine? Is something wrong with my recovery? You see, he doesn’t want to hurt her. He wants to help her. And the surgery was the best way to help her in light of all the pain in her old knee. She actually doesn’t need the pain removed. She just needs perspective, she needs wisdom. She needs to hear that this is normal. And she needs to hear that it is temporary, and that she’s on the right road – the road to healing and functionality and relief from pain.