In our Sunday evening study of James, Deon tackled verses 5-8 this week: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
As if James anticipates the struggles we will have "joyfully" facing the trials mentioned in verse 2, he moves right to the topic of prayer. What do we typically pray for when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial? Usually, we pray something like "Lord, get me out of this situation!" - or - "Lord, make this trial go away!" James, on the other hand, counsels us to pray for wisdom.
For wisdom? First, James says to "count it all joy." Pretty radical. NOT my natural response to suffering or difficulty. Then, when I'm screaming out "Lord, send me some relief!", James says, "No, ask for wisdom."
Deon explained it this way: We read about God in Scripture. We study to know God better. But, we need wisdom to know how to apply the truths of Scripture to the messiness and heartbreak of life in this fallen world. That kind of wisdom is not natural to man - it is going to have to come from God. This is the kind of wisdom that changes our cry from a frantic "Get me out of this!" - to - "Help me to grow from this, Lord, and to know you better."
James encourages us further: he immediately assures us that when we pray for wisdom in trials, we are petitioning a God who gives generously, who does not belittle or scorn us for our ignorance and weakness, who is eager to answer our prayers. But....
Then James exhorts us to "ask in faith." Verse 6 has always troubled me. I believe God can do anything He pleases. My problem is, I'm often uncertain if I'm praying His will. I want my friend Amy to be quickly healed from cancer. What if God has other plans for her? I ask God to supply my daily needs, and I have some pretty specific things in mind...but maybe what I perceive as needs are really only wants? I've long struggled with the fear that I am, as James puts it, "a double-minded man." That it's presumptuous of me to expect anything from the Lord.
"Faith is not believing God can. Faith is believing God will." Deon thus described the view he once had about this faith mentioned in James. That's my problem! I thought, I know God can, but I'm not sure He will! That uncertainty has long haunted my prayer life, but Sunday, God met my doubt head-on.
"That's what I used to believe," Deon continued. "But then I learned, if what I'm praying is not God's will...He won't. Faith is not knowing that God can, or knowing that God will. Faith is knowing God." He went on the explain that the kind of faith that stands through trials is faith based on knowing God, on believing what He says is true about Himself in Scripture. Folks, by the end of Deon's sermon, I felt like a tremendous weight of doubt and guilt had been lifted off my shoulders.
I don't know if God will heal my friend Amy. I don't know if He will give me a reliable vehicle to drive. But I do know....God is sovereign. God is good. God loves His children perfectly and gives us exactly what we need to grow in righteousness. I can pray with confidence, not because I am assured of the outcome I desire, but because I am certain, through the teaching of Scripture, that God is all-powerful and all-wise and He will give me nothing less than what is best.
My prayer is that the all-wise God will give this feeble, ignorant child the wisdom to see His purposes, to desire His will over my own, to approach trials saying, "Lord, teach me." I have no doubt - NO doubt - that, in time, He will do exactly that...because He told me He would, right there in the first chapter of James.
2 months ago