Peace to you beloved in the name of Jesus Christ, the name above all other names. We praise the Lord that He preserved us through hurricane Sally. Last week was quite a trying time. How quickly our ordinary lives can be turned upside down. The Lord brings the storms. The Lord takes the storms away. But our Lord is our constant abiding powerful helper. (Ps.46:1-11)
Well we are back at our study in the book of James. Today, is our third study. I am not altogether certain the total number of lessons that we will have, perhaps fifteen to twenty something like that.
Take out your Bibles please to James chapter one. Read along with me James 1:5-8, hear the holy perfect word of our holy perfect God. Read.
James 1:5. 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. 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.
As always let’s begin by asking the Holy Spirit’s help with our study. Remember what we especially need is for God to warm us up spiritually, to cause us to read and to think by faith as James says. The great danger even to true believers is that we would study God’s word and pray to God in a merely formal way. Oh, beloved our hearts need to be in this. Let’s pray.
The directive to pray.
James makes a statement and then he gives a directive that we should pray. Beloved, Christians are to imitate our Christ and live as a praying people, to live in vital communion with the living God from whence we derive all our spiritual life and health.
If anyone lacks wisdom, they should ask God in prayer for wisdom. Verse five then tells us the main subject of this section, it is about wisdom. In Greek the word for wisdom is sophia.
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.
Briefly, wisdom is the right use of knowledge. For example, John 3:16 is the gospel, this is true knowledge. How and when and where we share John 3:16 properly requires graced wisdom.
The applications of this request.
A helpful word here. We can legitimately use this passage and make application for all sorts of petitions from God. No doubt you have heard preachers say (using this passage), if you lack peace, ask God. If you lack strength, ask God, a job, ask God. Of course, this is the right thing to do.
Along these lines here is one of my favorite Bible verses.
I Peter 5:7. casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
God, our heavenly Father, delights in His children seeking Him for all we desire and need. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray to our Father in heaven to seek His glory and our good. Listen to the three manward petitions Jesus taught us to pray.
Matthew 6:11. (Our Father which art in heaven) Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
So, ask God for all that you need and all that you desire. It is always best to ask for things which are Biblically lawful. (I Jn.5:14-15) I am not being silly. We cannot suppose that God will grant our petition for something sinful. Unless of course He means to correct us by it.
However, this passage is not specifically about those things, only wisdom. More on that in a bit. So let’s be careful we do not use Scripture wrongly, making God say something that He did not say.
The misuse of this request.
Along those lines let me point out a common misuse of this particular request or petition of God. Some well-meaning Christians believe that this passage teaches if you ask for anything and believe “enough” or have enough faith that God will (have to) give it to you.
For example, if you really really believe that God is going to give you a sixty foot yacht that you asked for, then He will give it to you, so long as you have no doubting. Beloved, this is silly. God is not a magic genie in a bottle to be manipulated by carnal man. This is a misuse of the Bible. (2 Pt.3:14-18)
Wisdom in Scripture.
Again, the immediate context is asking God for wisdom. Much as king Solomon asked God when he began his kingly service for the people of God. (2 Chron.1:7-12)
The wisdom that James writes about is knowledge of God and of His will. In our context wisdom would be understanding God’s word, the Bible and how to apply it in particular circumstances. God not only teaches us this wisdom though His Word but also as we study His Providence via His Word.
Psalm 19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Ps.119:98, Prov.1:4, Prov.4:1, Jer.8:9)
2 Timothy 3:14. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O LORD, And whom You teach out of Your law. (Heb.12:5-11, Lk.19:41, Dt.4:6)
So, part of the maturity and the completeness or the perfection that James has just written of requires wisdom to use the holy Scriptures. (James 1:3-4) Wisdom to think about our life through the lenses of Scripture, to think, feel, and act according to God’s word in a Christ honoring fashion.
Think of this. God requires that we believe certain things about Him as He reveals Himself in His word. And I would add, as He reveals Himself in Nature. We need His wisdom to do this. For example, God is. Or, that God is good. We need wisdom to apply these truths about God in our everyday life, in every situation.
God requires certain duties of us. To do and not to do certain things. We need His wisdom to live in a God pleasing way in a Christ hating world. Let’s ask Him and believe that He will help us.
Wisdom in trials.
It appears that the specific kind of wisdom lacking and asked for is wisdom in suffering and trials, the trials that we are to count all joy. (Jas.1:1-4) Well we especially need God’s wisdom to consider painful things in a good light. Our flesh always responds wrongly to suffering and afflictions and oppositions.
We need wisdom how to respond properly to hard things. It is beyond our natural abilities to manage our afflictions in a Christ-honoring way. We cannot. But God can.
We can apply this word to those things.
Romans 8:16. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Phil.1:29, Phil.3:10, I Thess.3:3, Acts 14:22, Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10, Jn.16:33)
Romans 8:28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
James has graced wisdom.
Notice James opens with a conditional ‘if’. If anyone lacks wisdom. Rather than coming right out and stating to his audience that they ‘do’ lack wisdom, heavenly wisdom, which he will imply later in the book (Jas.3:17-18) instead James says if. This is a indirect way or a passive or gentle way to correct.
This shows that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that James has wisdom. Who likes to hear that they are wrong, or that they are ignorant? No one. Man is a proud creature. Even regenerate man still has so much remaining pride in his flesh.
Proverbs 16:21. The wise in heart will be called understanding, And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
As believers we have the mind of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit making us wise unto salvation by faith in Christ. So what James is speaking of is more wisdom, increasing our wisdom, maturing our wisdom. Another aspect of our sanctification.
This wisdom is the kind that taught Paul to be content in whatever estate he was in. He learned this wisdom from God, the practical application of Biblical knowledge. (Phil.4:10)
Philippians 4:9. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Man must ask God for wisdom.
We are God’s beloved blood bought children and we come to our loving heavenly Father and we ask for what we need. We do not have. God does have. So, we ask from God. This is the same way with our little children. They want a cookie. They cannot reach the cookie jar. They know we can. So, they ask us. 😊
James 1:5. 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. 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.
God is the source of knowledge and wisdom. (I Cor.1:30) Actually He is the source of all that we need. (Jas.1:17, I Pt.4:10)
Again, Christians must be people of prayer. It is often through the means of prayer that God gives us our daily bread, and our daily protection from spiritual harm. (Mt.6:9-13, Ezek.36:37, Ps.116:1-2, Zeph.3:10, Ps.24:6)
Proverbs 2:3. For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
I think it is helpful to point out that often when we encounter hard things, confusing things and we lack knowledge or understanding on what to do, or how to think our flesh is apt to fall down dejected, depressed. But this is the opposite of what we ought to do.
God says, do not fear or fret, rather, pray.
What would our lives look like if we followed the word of God more faithfully in this?
Later James will tell us we do not have because we do not ask, and often when we do ask, we ask for the wrong things or with the wrong motives. (Jas.4:1-5)
A word of exhortation. Jeremiah Burroughs, one of the Westminster Divines said, an earthly minded person is earthly in spiritual things (like prayer). An earthly man considers toiling for earthly things to be light and easy but let him come to spiritual things (such as prayer) soul business that concerns God and their spiritual estates every little difficulty puts them aside and discourages them. Every molehill is a mountain in their way. And they find spiritual things (such as private prayer) to be wearisome. (see Mal.1:13)
God will give wisdom to those that ask.
God gives to all generously.
God receives all.
God gives wisdom to all that ask in faith. Jew, Greek, free, and slave, young, old, etc. Even as Christ said any and all that are heavy laden and burden, come to Me and you will find rest. (Mt.11:28)
What a great encouragement for all to pray to our heavenly Father who cares for us.
This is one of the many Bible promises that God gives to His children. For those in Christ every blessing is yes and amen. (2 Cor.1:20)
WSC 100 What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us? The preface of the Lord’s prayer (which is, Our Father which art in heaven(1)) teaches us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us;(2) and that we should pray with and for others.(3) (1)Matt. 6:9 (2)Rom. 8:15; Luke 11:13 (3)Acts 12:5; 1 Tim. 2:1,2
God gives all we need.
We learn God is not stingy or austere. (Mt.25:24) God does not give by dribs-and-drabs. God gives generously and graciously. God delights to give good gifts to His children. God gives according to His own heart, His own nature, which is perfectly good. (2 Sam.7:21) He gives us more than we even ask for!
Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.
Think of it, Abraham asked for a son and God gave him nations descending from him, even the Christ. (Gen.17:4-6)
And God’s generous gifts are free to us. We do not ‘earn’ them, God gives them. God does not require payment from us. This is all grace or gift to us – merited by Christ for His people.
God does not give and then upbraid us.
And God gives without reproach. This word reproach means to express disappointment for misconduct. In other words when God gives the wisdom that we ask for He does not give it to us along with a lecture saying that He is displeased with our lack of wisdom. Some men give help, but they also give with a quasi-scolding lecture.
Sometimes children do not go to their parents for help because they know they will be scolded for needing the help, perhaps the neediness is a result of their own sin. How unlike our heavenly Father.
Or, perhaps we go to a good man to help meet our needs, but we would be embarrassed to go to him too many times, even if we were still in need. But God does not treat us this way. (Lk.6:35-37) God’s thoughts and ways are not ours. (Isa.55:8-9) His goodness in Christ is boundless.
James tells us to keep asking. (James 1:6)
He restates the duty or the requirement of those that lack godly wisdom he or she must ask.
Jesus says the same thing if you lack then ask, seek, and knock. (Mt.7:7-8) Elsewhere Jesus tells a story in which He commends the widow that continues to hound the local judge for justice from her opponent.
The point there is that the woman perseveres in prayer, she keeps asking. (Lk.18:1-7) Like Anna praying in the temple for years and years. (Lk.2:37)
The person that asks for wisdom must ask God to give him wisdom believing that God will give him heavenly wisdom. He or she must ask in faith.
Because without faith it is impossible to please God. This presupposes a saving faith in Christ Jesus. This prayer of faith reflects a spiritual communion with the Triune God.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Matthew 9:27. As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
I John 5:13. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Listen to how our secondary standards summarize our primary standard on faith.
WCF 14.2 By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein;(1) and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands,(2) trembling at the threatenings,(3) and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.(4) But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.(5)
(1) John 4:42; 1 Thess. 2:13; John 5:10; Acts 24:14. (2) Rom. 16:26. (3) Isa. 66:2.
(4) Heb. 11:13; 1 Tim. 4:8. (5) John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Gal. 2:20; Acts 15:11.
Ask without doubting.
Next, the Holy Spirit through James tells us to ask God for wisdom without doubting and God will give it. Doubting is the opposite of believing. (Jas.1:6)
Matthew 21:21. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
The doubting being condemned is doubt directed at God. Doubting His ability to help. Doubting His goodness to help. God wants us to be sincere in our requests.
Now James gives an illustration to prove his point. And like we all do; we draw illustrations from our common experiences. James grew up in Nazareth which was about 15-20 miles to the Lake of Galilee (towards the East) and also about the same distance to the Mediterranean Sea (towards the West). The idea is the waves are rocking back and forth. A double minded man is spiritually unstable and restless.
James 1:6. 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.
The double-minded man.
If you doubt God, then you will not receive from God. Now which one among us does not often feel like the frightened father in Mark 9:24, Lord I do believe; help my unbelief.
Having weak or small faith in Christ is still having faith. Christ says even if our faith is the size of a mustard seed that in Christ, we receive a favorable hearing in heaven and that by faith nothing will be impossible for us. (Mt.17:20, Lk.17:6, Mal.3:6, Heb.6:17-18)
The double-minded man seems to me, to be an unbeliever. The Greek word here literally means a man with two souls, two hearts. (Jas.4:8, Hos 10:2)
But perhaps this is just God’s gentle correction of Believers against praying like unbelievers?
Beloved, we are loved in Christ, more than we can fathom. God in His providence keeps us in a continual state of need or lack, for various reasons. This keeps us constantly dependent upon Him. This constantly exercises our faith in Christ. (Mt.5:1-12) It makes us ask, seek, and knock. It makes us look for His answers. It makes us praise and thank Him when He does answer us. Oh, what a good and a loving God we have. He supplies all our needs. Ask Him. 😊
- What is prayer? What is our rule for prayer? For what ought we to pray? For what ought we not to pray? How should we pray? When should we pray? How is prayer a part of worship? How should Christ’s praying affect our praying? (Ps. 62:8, Jn.16:23, Rom. 8:26, Ps.32:5-6, Dan. 9:4, Phil.4:6, WLC 178, WSC 98, WCF 21.3, WLC 108, 179, Mt.6:1-15, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Jn.17:1-26, Heb.5:7, Lk.3:21, Mt.14:23, Lk.5:16, Mt.26:39)
- What is religious or Biblical knowledge? What is Biblical wisdom?(Jas.1:5, Prov.1:7, Ps.111:10, Prov.2:1-22, Eccl.7:12, Isa.11:2, Col.2:8, I Cor.3:19-20, Jas.3:17, Prov.4:1-27)
- What are some truths we learn by Solomon’s prayer for wisdom? What does he ask for? What does he not ask for? Why does he ask for wisdom? Why does he need it? Where will he get it? What will it be based on? (2 Chron.1:7-12, Jas.1:15, Mt.7:7-12, Jas.4:1-5)
- Why is the Bible our source of wisdom? How can the Bible make us wise regarding God’s providence in our lives? How can the Bible make us wise to think, feel, speak, and act to situations in our lives in a Christ’s honoring way? (Ps.19:7, Ps.119:98, Prov.1:4, Prov.4:1, Jer.8:9, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Ps.94:12, Lk.19:41, Dt.4:6, Jas.1:3-4)
- Why do we need God’s wisdom or Biblical wisdom especially in times of pain, affliction, suffering, sorrow, opposition, and the like? How is our flesh apt to respond in these times? Give some Biblical examples of people that acted wisely in hard times? (Jas.1:1-4, Rom.8:16-18, Phil.1:29, Phil.3:10, I Thess.3:3, Acts 14:22, Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10, Jn.16:33, Rom.8:28, Job 1:21, Mt.26:42, Lk.22:42)
- Interact with this quote by Jeremiah Burroughs. What lessons do we learn? An earthly man considers toiling for earthly things to be light and easy. But let him come to spiritual things soul business that concerns God and their spiritual estates every little difficulty puts them aside and discourages them. Every molehill is a mountain in their way. And they find spiritual things to be wearisome. (I Cor.2:11-16, Rom.8:7, Lk.14:16-24, Lk.17:26-30)
- James 1:5. let him ask of God, who gives to all generously. What “all” receive the wisdom and the gifts of God? (Jas.1:5, Mt.11:25-30, Gal.3:24-29, Rev.5:9, Eph.2:3-9)
- Describe how and why God gives wisdom and all other gifts generously. Use examples from your own life? Through whom do you have your gifts? (2 Cor.1:20, Mt.6:9, Rom.8:15, Lk.11:13, Acts 12:5, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Mt.25:24, 2 Sam.7:21, Mt.7:11, Eph.3:20, Gen.17:4-6)
- What does it mean that God does not give us wisdom (or any gift) and then reproach us? What do we learn about God by this? How do people “give” us gifts and then reproach us? How does this make you feel? Do you do this to others? 😊 (Jas.1:5, Lk.6:35-37, Isa.55:8-9, I Jn.4:7-12, Lk.6:35-38)
- Why should we pray in faith and not doubt? What is it to pray in faith? What does it mean to doubt in prayer? Doubt what? What does it mean to be a double-minded person in our prayers? Why should we not expect God to answer doubting double-minded prayers? (Jas.1:6-8, Mt.21:21-22, Mk.9:24, James 5:16-20)
- Why does God keep us in a constant state of neediness? What are we taught about God and us as His children by this? What are some spiritual benefits we derive by this?