James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Last week, we discussed James’s words on perceiving trials through a scriptural and spiritual lens – Joy in Trials.
Trials often render one anxious, confused and uncertain. When facing a trial, our prayers may often begin with a focus on the trial to pass or be removed. Understanding lessons and growth through hardships may not be our instinctive response, they come over time and as we commune with the Lord.
It is inarguably a challenge to go through a trial, how then do we look beyond the tangible, to the work of spirit amidst it all, when nothing seems to make sense or no good outcome is perceptible to us at the time. James helps us here in James 1:5-8
James teaches us to turn to God for wisdom.
We go through life seeking wisdom to navigate many situations, a trial calls for us to seek wisdom even more. The wisdom that James talks about here is not acquired information but insight with spiritual implications.
Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” In simple words, turn to God to help you understand and guide you through those times. He is the source of all wisdom. As David prays in Psalm 25:4-5 “Show me your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me.”
The wisdom of this world will seek to glory oneself but godly wisdom honours God, it leads us to advancing His kingdom and reflect His presence in our lives.
Ask God – As I mentioned earlier, through trials, our prayers are often inundated with requests for God to solve the problem, to make it go away. If that was the inevitable and only way God would respond, would we grow to depend on God, wait on Him, trust in Him, and seek Him through the good and the bad times.
The Lord’s cares for us but His greater purpose is for us to grow more Christ like. I intend not to negate the importance of seeking help from the Lord to relieve us of any turmoil or asking for wisdom and guidance through decisions and steps navigating those times. But these verses in James also encourage us to think about how persistent we are, in turning to God for wisdom that is not self-seeking but that glorifies and honours him, that which is truly looking to further the kingdom cause through how we live out our trials.
How does God give wisdom?
Generously and without finding fault. God gives generously to those who ask things that are good, right, and according to His will. He does not hold our mistakes or failures against us, but provides wisdom to everyone who asks for it. Out of the riches of His grace, his blessings flow (Ephesians 3:16). May we remember that truth always. The enemy would want us to hesitate when we approach God and lack confidence in His promises. May we remember that no good thing does He withhold from us (Psalm 84:11)
With the knowledge of how God gives, James also teaches us the mindset we are to have as we ask.
How are we to ask
Without doubt. This is a tough one isn’t it, when has doubt not assailed us. How, why and when are questions we tackle especially in trying times. The one who doubts is likened to one tossed about by the sea. And James writes with clarity, the one who doubts should not expect anything from God and he is double minded.
Let’s draw our attention to the story of Peter and Jesus. This was when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on water (Mathew 14). When Peter walked on water, defying logic and physics, the presence of and permission from Jesus enabled him to do, what man ordinarily cannot. Then Peter began to sink, the storm, the waves and the wind did not change but Peter no longer could stay afloat. Jesus grabs onto Peter and says in Mathew 14:31 “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Doubt had such a huge effect on what Peter was able to do. We read that passage and understand that Peter probably took His eyes off Jesus and allowed the elements around him to dictate his faith.
What is dictating your faith as you ask God today?
Hebrews 11:6 says that Faith pleases God, so then, how do we navigate the doubts that arise in our minds.
Proverbs 3:5-8 teaches us to “Trust in the Lord and not on our own understanding”. Just as Peter relied on Jesus, when Jesus said ‘Come’ to step out on the water, rather than his own understanding, so must we. When Peter took his focus off Jesus and leaned on his own understanding of the impossibility of what he was doing, he began to sink.
In Mathew 21:21 Jesus says, “If you have faith and do not doubt, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Reading this verse can sometimes make us feel the weight of the impossible task of always operating without any element of doubt. But what else does this verse teach and encourage us with, that faith filled prayer is powerful. May this fuel how we pray.
When we struggle to believe, with doubts etching away at our faith, let us remember the story of the father who comes to Jesus for his son’s healing (Mark 9). We read a very relatable and real confession when He asks Jesus “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”. The man believed enough to come to Jesus, he needed Jesus’s help to enable to believe even more. And we can do the same too.
How do we tackle doubt?
Take your questions to God, as we read in Jeremiah 33:3, God says, “Call to me and I will answer.” Be open and honest with how you are feeling, we do not have to approach God only when our faith feels strong. If we are struggling, take it to Him and he will meet us where we are at. Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons against doubt.
Reading God’s word enables us to build a relationship with the Father that will instil trust in our hearts which will pour out when we need it. A life lived in a close relationship with God deepens our understanding of who He is, and it enables us to trust Him when we are yet to see His hand at work.
Lord, forgive us at times we struggle to trust. Thank you for being with us always and doing what is good for us. Help us be at peace with your will and your ways and rest in your character, on your word and in your presence with us.