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James 1; 5-8

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Ask God for Wisdom

Jas 1:5–8 “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.”
Recap last sermon.
James, The brother of our Lord and leader in the early church at Jerusalem, wrote this epistle to dispersed Jewish Christians calling them to authentic Christian living. The overarching theme is to be doers of the word and not hearers only. It could be said that James’ epistle in the How-To-Guide to living out your Christian faith.
James very briefly and humbly introduces himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then wasting no time he instructs the immediate audience and of course us as well to [count it all joy when we meet trials of many kinds.]
We as Christ’s redeemed people are to be joyful in our trials. The trials we go through are not just happenstance or chance though. As Nick pointed out last week, our sovereign God ordains them for our good. In Genesis 50: 20 Joseph speaking to his brothers regarding their selling him into slavery and fabricating a story to tell their father, Jacob , that he was killed by a wild beast has this to say;
Genesis 50:20 ESV
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Think about this . This pretty terrible thing (or several terrible things) happened to Joseph. He was hated by his brothers and they at first plotted to kill him. But one of them lovingly suggests to the others
“let’s just throw him into a pit”, afterward he was sold into slavery. He eventually ends up in prison for a very long time and now years later on the other side of all the bad, instead of being biter, he sees the good that God meant in all of it. Not just his own good, but the good of his brothers and their families and the entire nation of Egypt as well as surrounding lands who could come and buy food during this 7 years long famine.
Some of you can relate to this a lot better than the rest of us. Before you were saved you may have been in the lowest possible place in your whole life . You may have been addicted to drugs or alcohol or both, you may have been the victim of abuse, or some other equally bad situation. And in that lowest time in your life, you may have asked God “why me?” But even though someone who victimized you meant it for evil, or you yourself meant it for evil, (seeking the pleasure of sin to your OWN detriment) God meant it for good! And most likely not just your good. There are people who are witnesses to the change that happened to you and your conversion is a testimony to the power of God to save sinners.
For some of you, your pre-salvation experiences (I mean the lowest times) are the very thing you draw upon to minister to others. You can relate to a person who has had a similar experience better than anyone else.
In those times of trial pre and post conversion God is doing something in you. Pre conversion, he is leading you TO the cross by showing you just how weak you are and how you need Him so very much. Post salvation, when trials come, they are meant to sanctify us. They (as James writes) test our faith. They reveal weaknesses in us and sins not yet put to death. They help us to increase in piety and holiness as we hold fast to the hope that our Savior lives and He intercedes to the Father on our behalf. These trials strengthen our faith because they stretch our faith to limits it could never reach in easy times. Trials back us into a corner and surround us on all sides until there is nowhere else to look but up.
Psalm 44 is a wonderful illustration of dependence on God in tough times when He seems far away. If you have your bible please turn there with me now.
Psalm 44 ESV
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
These Sons of Korah, believing in the greatness of God and His power as informed by their forefathers are reaching out to Him. Even though he seems far away and they are not feeling blessed in their current circumstances, they are seeking His face as a direct result of their consequences. They are crying out to the only one who can save them out of their state of misery and defeat. You see, it is these trials that they are going through that God is using to disciple them, to teach them to depend on Him in all circumstances.
What is happening here is sanctification. God disciplines us to make us more like Jesus. This transformation that happens through the entirety of our Christian life, this growing us in holiness, removal of sin, teaching us to rely on God in all aspects of our lives, growing us in Christlikeness, to better reflect the character of God, whose image we bear is certainly for our good. But, more than that it is for God’s glory. And the author or author’s of this psalm get that. You see it in the last line of the psalm “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” For the sake of the fame of YHWH. So the world will know that this is the kind of God we serve. So that anyone who witnesses our plight and sees God pulling us up out of it will know that He is faithful to His promises and that He loves His chosen people.
The prayer I pray most often is this. “God, please don’t leave me like this.” Because I still live in this body of sin and I too easily forget that my eternal destination is far better than my current location. This kind of prayer will surely be answered by God giving us “trials of various kinds” as they are called in James 1;2.
That is a long way to go to get us caught up to where today’s verses pick up, but with all that in mind, the what (trials) and the why (making us more like our Savior), In verse 5, James gives us the HOW.
Verse 5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” One commentary I read in preparation for today says those words could also be translated “Since you lack wisdom”. This would certainly make sense because we know from Proverbs 14 12
Proverbs 14:12 ESV
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Navigating God-given trials alone will lead us in the exact opposite direction they are intended to lead us. Living life apart from God, we make a real mess of things. We desperately need His help.
On my way home from work on Friday, I drove past a woman whose car had just run out of gas. She had 2 kids in the car and was pushing it towards a parking lot, trying to get out of traffic. I am sure she thought this would be easy enough since the initial push was down-hill. But, while she was pushing, her kids were trying to climb out of their seats and, also there was no one steering the car and the whole thing could have gone really bad for any number of reasons. I pulled over to help her and now with help she could steer while I pushed. Then at a certain point I had to pull the car, with my truck, up-hill into the parking lot and even before the final push to put her car safely into a parking space she had her head down and was praying. Thanking God for sending help. She could not have gotten her car there on her own.
James tells us to ask God for wisdom in trials. We should consider how amazing it is that this is even possible. A wretch like you and me, sinners who by our very nature rejected God and lived life only for our own pleasure and sometimes still do because we struggle to remember who we are in Christ. We who “were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind Ephesians 2;3
WE? can now come before the throne of grace in the name of Jesus and ask for wisdom from God who is Holy, Holy, Holy? YES! this is possible because God so loved the world that HE gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3;16. And we have been adopted as sons and daughters. And because God the Father is a good Father, he gives generously to all without reproach.
Our Heavenly Father gives wisdom WITHOUT reproach.
Contrary to probably every father’s day card I have ever recieved, I am not the world’s best dad.
Sometimes when my children ask for something my response is “get it yourself” or “ask your mother”.
God is not like that. He does not chastise us for our lack of godly wisdom. He does not chastise us for the timeliness of our request. He gives without reproach. He is a good, good Father. He is generous and full of grace. HE is abounding in steadfast love. He is faithful and just. Blessed be the name of our God.
The surety that God Will give wisdom is made clear here but not the method. God may choose to impart wisdom to you by recalling to your mind a verse of scripture that is helpful in a moment of weakness. It may be that he has surrounded you with godly people who council you through a particular situation or hold you accountable in your sin struggles. Maybe it is your spouse, or parents. We are particularly blessed in a way that the original recipients of this letter were not. We all have a bible that we can consult for God’s instruction. And if you don’t have one, please don’t leave here today without one. The bible is God’s living word. 2 Tim 3 16-17
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
However, asking another Christian for godly council or reading scripture is not some formula for success. I can’t just leave it at “ask God for help.” because James does not leave it there. Verse 6 starts with the word “But.”
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.
Faith in the finished work of Christ at the cross is absolutely essential for our salvation. When we pray to God, we are not praying to some generic lower case g god that we think may or not exist.
Have you ever seen a movie where someone prays something like “god, if you are out there please help me?” Why are they asking for help from a god they don’t believe exists? Who are they even praying to?
There is but one God, YHWH, the triune God who exists as Father, Son, and Spirit. And there is only one mediator betwen God and man, the man Christ Jesus. That is why we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Spirit. There is no other god to pray to. When we pray for wisdom, it is by faith in the one true God. It is He who we expect help from and no other because we truly believe that He is the only one who CAN help us and we know by faith that he WILL help us. He WILL give us the wisdom to face trials because he GAVE us the trial in the first place to MAKE US MORE LIKE HIM. More and more like Jesus. The second person of the trinity.
We were made in God’s image and, in us, that image is stained and corrupted by sin. But, God is making all things new. He is cleansing and polishing us. Removing the stain of sin, repairing the damage we have caused.
If we ask without faith, if we doubt He will give us the wisdom we ask for, James says we are like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. We may appear to be heading in one direction but the next stiff breeze changes our course. Waves can be huge and powerful and seem unstoppable, but they eventually lose intensity or crash and break against land.
If we ask without faith James says we must not suppose we will receive anything from the Lord.
If we don’t believe he will provide, what is the use in asking?
Psalm 44 which we looked at a few minutes ago is both a prayer for deliverance and at the same time a worship song. Asking the one true God for anything, including the wisdom we are addressing today in James, is an act of worship. We are acknowledging His holiness, his power, and his faithfulness. We are depending on Him in faithful anticipation that He will do what he promised.
God is the keeper of the covenant. We are just the benefactors of His faithfulness. We have faith, yes. Faith that He gave us, faith that he empowers and sustains. The object of our faith is Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We believe His righteousness stands in the place once occupied by our sin. Sin that is now as far from us as the east is from the west.
We have so much to worship God for. If we ask for wisdom in trials without faith, we are not believing the trial has a purpose, we are not believing we will get wisdom in the midst of it, and we are not worshiping God because we are not displaying any faith in Him.
We would be a “double minded man” or a double minded woman. Unstable because we are acting contrary to what we actually believe. We would be lying to God to pray for wisdom from Him and at the same time not believing He will deliver. We would also be assuming God to be a liar because we think He says one thing but does another.
Let us not be such men and women!
Brothers and sisters, God gives us trials as a means of sanctification. He means for good what the wicked mean for evil.
In Ephesians Paul writes to “put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
What soldier would go into battle without their armor on? We need to be equipped for the trials that will surely come.
Respecting The Whole Armor of God Paul says “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one”
This is the faith that we are to have when we ask for wisdom. Faith that our God is the God of promises. That he is unchanging. Faith that he is abounding in steadfast love. Faith that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
The false doctrine of the prosperity gospel does not exist in the 66 books of the bible. We know that to live is Christ. Christ lived a life of service. And for it, he was ridiculed. He was called a blasphemer for speaking the truth. He was abused and murdered even though God had promised his coming for the purpose of redeeming His people. But it was this very death that made it possible for us to be redeemed. By His stripes we are healed.
After Christ’s death on the cross He rose on the 3rd day defeating death. His redeeming work in finished and he is seated at the right hand of the father. He now intercedes on our behalf. And one day he will return.
This is the truth we believe, Lord help our unbelief.

Give the context
full armor of God. acknowledging His power to provide
two farmers illustration for asking in faith
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