“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.” (James 1:5-8)
When you were a child, did your parents teach you about the importance of politeness? In my home, we were expected to say, “Please” whenever making a request, no matter how small. If it’s important to show respect to other people, it is even more vital to show respect to God. Just saying, “Please” doesn’t cut it with the Lord. God is generous, as we have seen this week, but, as James says, if we truly want God to give us his wisdom, we must ask in faith.
The context of James 1:1-18 has to do with learning from trials that test our faith. Mature Christians know that God uses our trials and afflictions to strengthen our trust in him. James writes specifically for the encouragement of the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion,” Jewish believers living in Syria and Babylonia, and possibly Egypt (v. 1). He seeks to help them live more consistently by their faith. We also desire this outcome and find his epistle especially helpful in for applying the doctrines of our faith to our own lives.
In verse 5 James gives one caveat for effective supplication, which is asking God without “doubting.” It makes sense that we are to pray to God for wisdom with complete faith in him and with confidence in his willingness to give it to us. We, who have experienced God’s faithfulness, compassion, sovereignty, and immutability in our trials are better able to ask for wisdom based on his character, not ours, which is usually shaky and questionable. There are some prayers that God will always answer in the affirmative; asking for wisdom to glorify him is one. The prerequisite is a firm belief in Christ, the work of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But let’s be honest, we all do doubt God in some way, either consciously or unconsciously, except for rare instances when the Holy Spirit takes over. Those are times of great refreshment to our souls.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-15) This is wisdom!