How firm a foundation you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled? Praying for Wisdom | James 1:5-8

It has been suggested that a knowledge of one’s own ignorance is the beginning of wisdom and recognizing our lack of wisdom is the first prudent step towards understanding. Proverbs 1:1-7 reminds us of this truth: fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that a knowledge of the holy brings true understanding.

Life is full of pitfalls and snares, and we often make wrong choices, but it is comforting to know that no matter what trials we may be called upon to face, or what foolish choices we have made in the past, what foolish choices we will definitely and decisively make in the future, how righteous is it to know that we can go to the Lord, ask Him for godly insight and spiritual understanding, and He has promised to give us all the wisdom we can handle, is needed for the task.

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

James 1:5-8 The Message

5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Do not think you are going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

A man was given a tour of heaven in a dream. As the tour ended, he noted one particular building was skipped over. The angel sternly warned that he did not want to see the inside of the building. This only heightened the man’s curiosity. The angel finally showed him. It was a building filled with beautifully wrapped presents. When the man asked what these were, the angel answered these were gifts which God had prepared for his children that were never claimed in prayer.

How many mansions does God have set aside for us? How many rooms are in all of those many mansions? How many are full? How many are empty? How many are unoccupied by God’s children but are used only as simple storehouses? If it’s one building, one mansion in heaven, storing and housing unclaimed gifts, how many boxes would contain unclaimed, unwanted gift of wisdom? When facing trials, we pray for provision, healing, strength, protection, intervention, miracles, deliverance, and so very many other things, besides God’s wisdom.

In this short passage, James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, is particularly referencing the wisdom of God we need when compassed about by the various difficulties we encounter in our everyday lives and the tough choices we are all required to make. Until Christ’s resurrection, James was at enmity with God and scornful towards his older sibling. It must have been shocking for this young man to discover that the brother whom he had treated with such contempt, during his life, was his Lord, his Savior, was the source of all the best wisdom.

This bondservant of Christ may have lacked wisdom in his earlier days but was ready to admit his folly and willing to share with us how easy it is to gain godly wisdom and spiritual understanding. James began his lesson on wisdom by pointing out that the suffering of this life produces patient endurance, which will furnish us with spiritual maturity. “However,” he continues, “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.” If we do really, seriously, unreservedly, want to know how we can set our ultra-unwise selves aside, James writes.

  • Don’t ask how we entered into or exactly how can get out of our trials.
  • But PRAY! God, the Father, Son, Spirit, what we can get out of our trials?

There are times when we do not know what to do or which way to turn, and I am sure James was shocked and mortified when the resurrected Christ visited his petulant, younger brother. But James was a young man with a teachable spirit, who was quick to embrace the wisdom of faith he lacked and encourages those of us who are deficient in spiritual insight to ask the Lord for all the necessary wisdom we need – and never to doubt that God will provide for us liberally.

James also knows that trusting the Lord for godly wisdom as we travel through life… is a tool the Lord uses to test and strengthen our faith in Him, and which helps to produce in us the patient endurance that is so needful for our spiritual growth – we are reminded to stand fast in the faith unwaveringly – if we are to honor the Lord Who bought us with His precious blood, to come forth as gold.

How much we all need God’s heavenly wisdom in the tests and trials of life’s disappointments and difficulties, which are so much a part of our everyday lives. How much we need His guidance in the choices we have to make, a willingness to admit our faults, a readiness to learn the lessons God desires to teach us, and an eagerness to put into practice the truth we have learned.

James 1:1-4 The Message

I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus, writing to the twelve tribes scattered to Kingdom Come: Hello!

Faith Under Pressure

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James is saying, Pray for the unclaimed, unwanted, but precious gift of wisdom.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” This verse is a continuation of the previous paragraph. Verses 2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Then here it seems that James abruptly shifts to the subject of prayer. But the two passages are connected. The link is the word “lack.” Verse 4 says that the purpose of trials is to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Verse 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”

It is God’s will for you to become a mature Christian that lacks no good thing. But we need to grow up. But we need our trials to know how to “gird ourselves” to mature in our faith. Our faith is always going to somehow be incomplete. We consistently lack needed virtues for godly living against all situations. We can in no way predict who, what, where when and why of every exact situation. One thing we always lack is wisdom. God uses trials to expose our need for wisdom.

James 1:5-8 teaches that God freely provides wisdom to face life’s trials to those who come to him in believing prayer. Vance Havner said it well: “If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get to God on your knees!”

How do you access the wisdom you need to face life’s trials?

Ask God for Wisdom.

Verse 5 says, “If anyone of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

The Problem. Verse 5 begins: “If any of you lacks wisdom…” This conditional statement does not suggest some do not need wisdom. James states the fact in a way that requires each person to examine himself and be humble enough to confess need for wisdom. No one is perfect in wisdom! (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

What is wisdom? In scripture, wisdom is not academic, philosophical, or intellectual. Wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom requires knowledge. But you can have knowledge and not be wise. You can be an “over-educated fool.” Our world is truly filled with them. We live in truly the most skilled, knowledgeable, and advanced generation ever. We also live in the most profane, violent, and hedonistic generation ever. We have our knowledge. We lack God’s wisdom.

Wisdom begins with a certain kind of knowledge. Psalms 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” This knowledge of God comes through God’s self-revelation of himself in scripture. The wisdom of God is found in the word of God.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the incarnate wisdom of God. (John 1:1-5)

Colossians 2:3 says in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When Adan and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they made fools of us all. But God sent his Son into the world to live a righteous life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise from the dead to give us new life. The gospel is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ. But saving faith does not automatically produce perfect wisdom. Jesus is the answer. That does not mean you will not have to face life’s difficult questions.

Proverbs 4:7 says, “Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”

The Prescription. God is the source of all wisdom. To receive wisdom to face life’s trials, ask God for it. The prescription for wisdom is simple yet dynamic. You do not need time, experience, or education to be wise. The young, naive, and unlearned can ask God for wisdom. There is never a time God is unavailable.

The prescription is personal: “let him ask God.” You need godly people in your life to intercede for you. But there are things you need from God you will not receive from the intercession of others. You must ask God for yourself. If you need wisdom, you do not have only to go to your pastor, visit a counselor, inform your prayer partners, or go to your family and friends. They are 100% important. But true wisdom you need to face life’s trials is only a prayer away.

God gives. After commanding to us ask God for wisdom, James describes the character of God that makes him inclined to grant our request. God is a giving God. It is wrong to view God with clenched fists that must be pried open. God’s arms are outstretched. God’s hands are full, open, and ready to give. God’s pitcher is tilted toward his children to pour out blessings (Matthew 7:11).

God gives generously. The word “generously” means to be simple, single, or sincere. It is that which is pure. James uses the term to say God’s gifts are true gifts. Proverbs 23:1-3 says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is set before you, and put a knife to you throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” Sometimes a person’s generosity is not genuine generosity. That is not the case with God (Romans 11:35). God gives generously, liberally, purely, sincerely, and freely.

God gives generously to all. Divine generosity is nondiscriminatory. God does not play favorites. He is no respecter of persons. In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who kept going to the marketplace to hire workers. He hired workers early in the morning. he hired workers before the end of the workday. But he chose to pay them all the same things. The early birds whined, grumbled against the landowner. The landowner responded, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me?” Indeed, God has the right to do what he wants. In his sovereign grace, he chooses to be generous to all.

God gives generously to all without reproach. You may know people who could help in your time of need. But are they the first people you want to help because of the lecture you will hear when you ask for help? You would never hear the end of it after they help. God will never chastise you for asking him for His wisdom.

  • You do not have to worry God is too busy running the world to help you.
  • You do not have to worry God may mock you for not knowing how to face life’s trials.
  • You do not have to worry God will become irritated because you ask for the same thing.

The Promise. When Solomon became king of Israel, God signed a blank check and gave it to him. In 1 Kings 3:5, God said to Solomon, ask what I shall give you.” What should you ask for if you had a guarantee that God would grant your request? In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asked, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

Solomon asked for wisdom. This request so pleased God that he gave Solomon wisdom and threw in wealth, longevity, and success. The wisdom God gave Solomon was not an exclusive gift. God has signed a check and made it out to any believer in Christ who asks for wisdom. All you have to do is endorse it in prayer. Verse 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

James 1:5 promises those who ask God will receive wisdom, not answers. All too often, answers become idols. We are in many ways like Job, who demanded to interrogate God about his suffering. When God finally took the witness stand, Job was interrogated with questions and never answered one of Job’s questions. Yet Job emerged with greater wisdom. This is precisely how Savior God works.

Wisdom is not a spiritual navigation system with turn-by-turn directions. It is spiritual alertness to see the potholes in the road, or the guy who darts in front of you, and respond in a wiser way that does not ruin your Christian wisdom, dishonor the Lord, or discourage other believers.

Trust God for Wisdom.

There is a natural and critical progression in the text. Trials demand wisdom. Wisdom demands prayer. Prayer demands faith.

Verse 5 commands us to ask God for wisdom. Verses 6-8 explain how to ask God for wisdom. Verse 5 is an open gift every Christian can claim. Verse 6-8 establish an essential condition for receiving the promise. As you ask God for wisdom, trust God for wisdom.

God responds to the one who prays in faith. Verse 6 says, “But let him ask in faith.” God generously gives wisdom without reproach to all who ask him. But God requires that we ask in faith. This requirement applies to anything you ask.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Whatever you ask in prayer must be asked in faith. James specifies that when you pray for wisdom, you must ask in faith. In Mark 11:22-24, Jesus says, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

God rejects the one who prays with doubt. Verse 6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting.” There is a sense in which double is a friend of faith, not its enemy. Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. It keeps faith alive, awake, and alert. Yet James commands us to ask in faith with no doubting. It is a prohibition against spiritual indecisiveness that wavers between trust and double. Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs!

What God thinks about the doubter. Verse 6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that tis driven and tossed by the wind.”

This marine analogy is one of many images from nature in James. Growing up with his half-brother Jesus near the Sea of Galilee, James was familiar with storms at sea. Winds drove the waves in one direction, then another. Winds tossed the waves, lifting them high and then crashing them down. It is the kind of storm the disciples experienced that caused them to wake up Jesus and ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38) The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and fearfully tossed about by the wind.

Psalm 107:23-30 Authorized (King James) Version

23 They that go down to the sea in ships,
that do business in great waters;
24 these see the works of the Lord,
and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,
which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven,
they go down again to the depths:
their soul is melted 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 unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm,
so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet;
so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

What the doubter thinks about God. The doubter lives with a foolish assumption. He supposed he can pray with doubt and receive an answer to his prayers. She supposes God will grant her request even though she does not trust God for what she asks. The doubter is confused about who God is and how God works. James disabused the doubter of this erroneous supposition.

James 1 Verse 7 says, “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the lord.” James 1:2, James addresses his readers as “brothers,” a term of spiritual communion used throughout this letter. James addresses the doubter in verse 6 as “that person,” disassociating himself from the one who prays with doubt.

“For that Person must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord.” “Anything” is not absolute. Matthew 5:45 says, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.” This is called “common grace.” It is the favor of God put out one all humanity.

James does not mean God refuses to do absolutely anything for the one who doubts. “Anything” must be understood in the context of prayer.

God does many things for doubters. But the doubter should never think he or she will receive anything they ask God for in prayer.

James states this as a divine command: “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Doubt receives God’s rejection slip that reads: “Request denied due to insufficient faith.”

Verse 8 gives readers a final, devastating description of the one who believes but doubts: “he is a double-minded man,” unstable in all his ways.” “Double-minded” is unique to this epistle. Scholars believe James coined the term. It means to have two souls. It is to be two different people. Yet the term does not suggest duplicity or deceitfulness. It describes something far worse: Doubt rooted in divided loyalties.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 declares, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

There is one God. This One God alone demands every last ounce of your total devotion. Doublemindedness is exact the opposite of such complete devotion.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The doubled minded has a sinful heart which needs to be purified to draw near to God (Psalm 51).

This is how a 21st Century version of James would describe the one who doubts.

  • He is a double-minded man.
  • He is a fence-straddler.
  • He is “Mr. Facing-Both-Ways.”
  • He is a walking civil war.
  • He trusts, but he doubts.
  • He hopes for the best but expects the worst.
  • He tries to be a “best friend forever” of the world and God at the same time.

In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah the prophet confronts the double-minded children of Israel: “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? IF the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

How Firm a Foundation Author: K. (1787)Author (attributed to): George Keith (1787)Author (attributed to): R. Keen (c. 1787)

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 “Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 “When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

4 “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all sufficient shall be your supply;
the flames will not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

5 “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not, desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord of wisdom, I sometimes finding understanding the Bible to be difficult. I know you want me to apply your word to my life. I thank you for giving me your word so I can grow in my relationship with you. Help me grasp what you want me to know as I read your revealed word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. Be my teacher, so I can live and obey your word. Thank you for your ever greater, wiser advice. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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