Book of James – If You Lack Wisdom – Ask and You WIll Receive

Peninsula Community Church

January 20, 2013

Wisdom from God 

James 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.  

People do dumb things. A man in our church in New York was cleaning his gutters and windows one spring. He was having trouble reaching one of the windows because his ladder was too short. To resolve the issue, he decided to put a picnic bench on top of a picnic table and then put the ladder on top of the picnic bench. I am sure that you know the outcome already but after he put the bench on the table and the ladder on the bench; he climbed the ladder. All went well until he found that he could not reach the corner of one of the windows so he leaned over to reach the outer edge of the window. That was just another bad decision in a series of bad decisions. It was at that moment that chaos broke lose. The ladder slipped on the bench and the bench slipped off the table and he began to fall. As he was falling, he said that it was in that moment that he realized how dumb this decision was. The amazing thing is that he only received a broken arm in the fall.

Another man related this story to me. He was a cross country tractor trailer driver and had been on the road for a while and was getting hungry. He looked over his shoulder and realized that his lunch was sitting on the bed in the truck’s sleeper compartment. He came up with the idea that he would put the truck on cruise control, stand up in the cab and reach for the bag. The problem was that the bag was just out of his reach. So, in a moment of total stupidity he let go of the steering wheel and quickly grabbed the bag. It was in that moment that he realized that he had let go of the steering, that he was traveling 70 MPH and he had a full load of sugar on his truck. It was also in that moment he realized how dumb that decision was.  

Believers do spiritually dumb things too. James shows us that one of the dumb things we do is try to navigate through the trials of life without asking God for help. We take things into our own hands without considering God’s purpose, plan or Word but without God we make a mess of things. For one, we will not understand the purpose of the trial and we will miss the positive results that come from successfully navigating a difficult situation. Remember that it is in our trials that we understand ourselves better and we understand God better as well. 

As we look at this passage, there are four key things we can learn. 

First, James says that if you lack wisdom, ask and you will receive it. This verse must be read in context with the previous verses to understand the true meaning of James’ admonition. When you are facing various kinds of trials, there is at your disposal the ability to ask for wisdom to know how to navigate these issues. The fact is God wants us to successfully navigate the difficulties of life but He also recognizes that we need to ask for divine intervention. It is here that James suggests that one of the best ways to secure divine intervention is to ask God for wisdom. It is important to note that He is calling us to do the asking as wisdom is not a given for us. There are some things that God will do for us without asking but here we see that we must pray for wisdom and we must do so regularly.  

The idea presented in the verb “to ask” is the idea of continually asking. This is the same tense as the word “ask” in Matthew 7:7 where Jesus states that when we “ask we shall receive,” and when we “knock it shall be opened,” and when we “seek we shall find.” Each of these verbs carry the idea of continually doing something. Therefore, the request for wisdom is not a one time deal but requires that we continually seek God for wisdom. 

To fully understand wisdom, we must understand that wisdom is a process of right thinking. The goal must be to think the way God thinks and not settle for our own thinking that is removed from Biblical truth. The truest form of  wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). This is the beginning of wisdom as the fear of God is foundational to all wisdom. The fear of The Lord does not push us away but draws us to him with grateful hearts and with minds that anticipate answered prayers. 

Second, we must understand that there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is understood as the gaining of information while wisdom is understood as the appropriate application of the information obtained. While we have an abundance of information,  the problem is that we lack appropriate application of the information. For example, the man who placed the ladder on the bench and the bench on the table had correct information in that this would give him the right height he needed but if he had appropriately applied the information he would have been warned of the possible effects of making such a move. 

We are living in the information age where there is an abundance of information. There is no lack of information because of the internet, the availability of books, TV shows and magazine articles. I recently spoke with my family doctor about this. He stated that one of the most challenging issues he faces today is that people have such access to all sorts of information they often come to him with some sort of self-diagnosis. He stated that while some are good diagnostics, most are exaggerations and misdiagnoses based on false information. 

While there is much knowledge in the world, what is missing is godly wisdom. In James 4, two types of wisdom are evaluated. There is earthy wisdom and there is wisdom that comes from above. It is this spiritual wisdom that James calls us to ask for. For knowledge to be useful, wisdom must be applied. The problem is that most of the world uses its knowledge based upon the wisdom of the world and ignores God’s plan. Man thinks that he is as good, or better than God, or doesn’t believe in a supreme God at all. 

Third, we see that God gives wisdom generously and without reproach. If we ask, he will give us the wisdom we need without holding anything back. He is a generous God. We ask and He gives. There is no end to His ability to supply and meet needs. The thing we must understand is that he uses a variety of avenues to send His wisdom to us. It can come through experience, through counseling with others, through advice given by way of professionals who give us appropriate advice and wisdom comes from the Word and by way of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts.

God also gives wisdom without reproach or judging. The term reproach means to have shame or insult. Regardless of the reason for the need to request wisdom, God gives wisdom to those who ask without shaming or insulting the requesting the wisdom. He does this even when we make bad choices and have self-inflicted trials. God wants us to ask and He generously and without shame or insult gives wisdom. This is so different from what we tend to do. When someone id facing a trial or they have made foolish choices we attempt to belittle or lecture them. God does not lecture, he gives generously and without shaming you. 

Fourth, James explains that we must ask without wavering. We cannot be double minded in our approach to asking God. I am reminded of a woman who called me one day and stated that she had already spoken to her psychiatrist, her doctor, her case worker and her other pastor and wanted to know what I thought about a particular issue. I told her she would have to chose one as each were given her different counsel. 

To be double minded is to have a divided heart. We want to trust God but also want to trust non biblical and non godly avenues for gaining wisdom. The problem that exists is that we lose faith and trust altogether. James warns that when we start to see things from God’s perspective we should believe what we see and not doubt. A person who says they have faith in God, yet doubts God’s ability, power and plan, are in essence putting their faith in both God and in worldly wisdom. Such a person is truly double minded and they should not expect to receive anything from God!

We cannot rely on God and the world’s wisdom. We cannot ask God for wisdom and then reject His plan and His response. I worked with a pastor who came to me for counsel about pastoring the church he represented. I would give him counsel and he would agree to it but when we would meet again he would share that he did the opposite which created more conflict. We do this to God as well. He gives us counsel but we reject the counsel and life gives us more conflict as a result. 

God offers us wisdom today, will you accept it? Where do you need wisdom? Got a big decision coming with your career, your marriage, or your kids? God wants to help. He has wisdom to offer. Remember what James says. If you want wisdom from God, you’ve got to ask! If you ask, he’ll give it.

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