James 1:6

Thursday, 6 June 2019

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

James just said that those who lack wisdom (speaking of during times of trial) should “ask of God, who gives to all liberally, and without reproach.” He now makes a statement concerning such a request that is a necessary part of it. When asking for this wisdom, the individual is to “ask in faith.”

First, in order to make a request of God, one must believe in God. Thus, the words are to be an act of faith in God. Many people who claim they don’t believe in God will cry out, “Oh God!” when something terrible happens. They may even ask for help at that time – “Oh God, what shall I do?” In essence, they are asking, “Oh God, give me wisdom.” However, they may simply be reaching out in desperation, not having faith that the God they have always denied will hear and respond.

Secondly, the request must be made properly. If one calls out, “Oh God of Islam, give me wisdom,” he is not calling out in faith to the true God. Because of this, no response should be expected from the true God. It would be contradictory for God to give the worshiper of a false religion a response to their petition.

Thirdly, even when someone believes in the true God, he still needs to have faith that his words to Him will be heard and responded to. God is pleased with the prayers of His people. In the case of asking for wisdom as noted in James, His word states that He will give it when it is asked of Him. However, the Bible elsewhere says –

“But 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 diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Therefore, in order for the request for wisdom to be effectual, it must be united with faith that God hears and that He will respond positively. This is in accord with the word of the Lord from the gospels. In Matthew 21:21, 22 we read –

“‘“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, 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 also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”’”

This is not speaking specifically of wisdom, but the principle holds true to what He said to these disciples. A petition to the Lord must be accompanied by faith in order for it to be realized.

James then goes further and says that it should be a request in faith “with no doubting.” This is not speaking of a lack of faith, but rather the word signifies a “back and forth judgment.” In other words, there is to be no vacillating or doubting in the mind. In this, it reflects a firm conviction of “God has said this will be the case, and I accept that at face value. It will come to pass.” To not have this attitude would necessarily lead to a lack of accepting the wisdom which was afterward provided, and thus a mishandling of it.

To understand this, we can suppose that someone needs wisdom for a particular trial. He has faith that God will provide it, but he vacillates in whether it will meet the need or maybe come up short, or maybe it will be wrong for the circumstances of the situation (and etc.). If God were to give the wisdom needed to handle the trial while the same vacillating attitude existed, the person would still likely say, “I’m not sure that this is what God intended for me to consider in this matter.”

The vacillating in the request has naturally led to a doubting in the reception of the response. Thus, it would be pointless for God to provide His wisdom to the person in such a circumstance. And this is because, as James says, “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

The Greek words translated as “driven and tossed by the wind” are unique in Scripture. The first gives the sense of simply being blown by the wind, even the gentle winds. It reflects the person who is easily swayed and has no firm foundation. When the winds blow, he is moved. The second word means “to fan” or “to make a breeze.” It is a person who gets pushed around by the breezes. One blows north, and he goes north. Another pushes west, and he is pushed west. Thus, he is tossed about without direction. He is all over the place.

The imagery is found several times in Scripture. In the 107th Psalm, the idea is beautifully expressed –

“For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26 They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.” Psalm 107:25-29

In Ephesians 4:14, Paul uses the imagery of someone who is unstable in his doctrine –

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

The effects of bad doctrine are the same as the effects of praying for wisdom while doubting. One is blown and tossed about without direction. It is unproductive, and it is a wasteful use of that which God has provided.

Life application: James has told us to ask God for wisdom and it will be given. The context of the verse indicated that this wisdom is to help us understand, handle, and endure trials. With this in mind, James says that we need to ask in faith and not doubt. If you ask for wisdom in a trial and God provides it by showing you how to handle it, then it is up to you to take the step of following the wise path. As an example, but this applies to any situation, think on it from this perspective –

You have a disobedient child and don’t know how to handle him or her. You ask God for wisdom in how to handle the situation. You are told there are verses in Proverbs that will help out and you find this one –

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15.

You also notice there are several other Proverbs which deal with this subject. Now, you have a couple choices. You can agree with the Bible and discipline your child in a godly manner; you can reject the Bible (which has been a standard of morality in society for thousands of years) and take the advice of someone who disagrees with spanking; or you can try to figure out your own method of restraining your child – which hasn’t worked so far!

God has given you the instruction which you asked for – take it. Don’t be like a wave which is tossed around by the wind, but stand firm on the Lord’s advice. God, who created you and your child, knows what is right and best for you. When you doubt, you demonstrate a lack of faith in His counsel. Take His advice and don’t be like a wave tossed by the wind.

Thank You Lord that the general issues of life addressed in the Bible can be applied to the specific issues of our lives. You have provided the wisdom; help us to accept it for what it is – divine guidance meant for our good and for Your glory. Help us not to waiver in our convictions when we receive Your wonderful counsel. Amen.

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