I have found myself being redirected back to the book of James this week. For whatever reason, God wants me planted in this short book of Scripture, and hear me when I say, “I’m not complaining!”
I love the book of James. I spent nearly a year in it, studying it, trying to memorize it, learning countless lessons from it, and after having spent that time within its pages, I find myself rushing back to it repeatedly.
This time, however, has been a bit different of an experience. For some reason, I have felt pulled to James this time around. While other times I was found racing toward it, I sense God has been wooing me back intentionally. I imagine this is just as much for me as it is for you, so I’m digging in, looking for new insights, and hoping to transfer my learnings to these words that you’ll read.
Earlier this week, I tackled what is perhaps one of the passages in Scripture that perplexes most of us—“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” You can read that post here. Together, we looked at how that command is actually possible for us to obey, and I hope we all walked away from our time in the Word that day feeling that much more equipped for the lives we live and filled with hope that we can have and maintain joy no matter our circumstances.
Today, I want us to jump back into James 1, but this time, let’s look at a few verses further down the page.
“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.” James 1:5-8
At very first glance, these verses bring me all the way back to the 7th grade. From 7th-12th grade, I was a part of a small group Bible study with some of my friends from my youth group. It was led by my best friend’s parents, and we met every Sunday night for 6 years. Our co-ed group would start the evening with dinner and some hang out time, then we would split, guys/gals, and go through whatever Bible study we were in at the time. Sometimes, we would regroup for prayer at the end.
I’ll never forget during prayer time, many of us would often share our prayer requests by asking for wisdom from God in order to make whatever decision we were facing. I’ll also never forget our leader’s response to these requests EVERY TIME. He would say, “Well, that request is already answered. James 1:5. Ask for wisdom, and God will give it, every time.”
If I’m being honest, that frequent answer often frustrated me at the time. “Really? It’s that simple?” Then, about a few years ago, I found myself in an in-depth study of the book of James, and my life and faith once again collided with James 1:5. Suddenly, my small group leader’s response no longer sounded so odd to me.
Here’s what I now love about this verse. It’s a no-brainer. Unlike some other issues in life and faith, this one is so black and white. Simply put:
Don’t know what to do? In need of wisdom? Ask God for it, and it’s yours for the taking—in generous amount.
Here’s the hard part. Verse 6. When we ask, we have to believe and not doubt. That’s hard, isn’t it? The questions that often plague my mind at this point sound a bit something like this: “But what if God doesn’t do what I’m asking Him for?” Translation: “What if God’s plans for my life (which are FAR better than my own) are different than my plans? What if His answer is not what I want to hear?”
Ouch. Right? If we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that the reason why we often don’t pray and ask God to show up in our situations, because we’re afraid that when He actually does speak, it’s not going to be what we want to hear? God is not a genie in a bottle. He’s not a wish granter. He’s a purpose fulfiller. You know those plans He has for you, those plans that will prosper and not harm you, those plans that will give you a hope and a future? (Jeremiah 29:11) Yep, those plans. He cares more about fulfilling the plans HE has for you than appeasing you by granting you your own plans.
He’s after hearts, y’all. He’s after lives devoted fully to Him. He’s after faith in us, faith enough to pray and ask for the wisdom we need. Faith enough to believe and trust in whatever His response would be to us. He’s after belief strong enough that chooses to trust that His ways are better than our own.
I don’t think the issue is as much about not knowing what to do as it is not wanting to do what we know we should do. Whenever we find ourselves in situations that don’t immediately rend us the crystal clear answer, do we default to a James 1:5 kind of faith? Do we ask God for wisdom (which, remember, once we ask for it, it’s ours), and then do we act on the wisdom we have received from Him? There is wisdom, truth, and principle to be found in God’s Word, wisdom, truth, and principle that applies to all matters in life. Are we in the Word daily? Are we searching for wisdom that is from above? Or are we settling for our own understanding or the wisdom of man?
When you don’t know what to do, ask God for wisdom. He gives generously to all—and I love this last part—without finding fault. Worrying about it and praying about it are two very different things. Believe in your asking, and do not doubt. And when you doubt, cry out just like the father did in Mark 9:24:
“I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”