“How to Receive Wisdom from God in Trials”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.5-8
James 1. Do you ever feel like an ostrich? [SMILE]. The ostrich can weigh over 320 pounds, stand as high as 9 feet tall, and run over 70 kilometers an hour, making them the fastest mammal on two feet.
Now, I know you don’t feel like that! Even though the ostrich is an enormous bird, it only has a walnut -sized brain, but eyes the size of billiard balls. Its brain is smaller in proportion to its size than almost any other animal.
Perhaps that’s fitting, because ostriches are not known for having wisdom. In captivity, they have been known to eat anything that could fit down their throats, including bicycle valves, coins, ball point pens, small bottles, and alarm clocks.
Ostriches are known for sticking their head in the sand when in danger, which actually is not true … it’s a myth, but if it was true, it would be in keeping with their general character.
Even Job says … in
Job 39:13-16 13 “The ostrich … abandons her eggs to the earth and warms them in the dust, 15 And she forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may trample them. 16 …Because God has made her forget wisdom, And has not given her a share of understanding.
Job says God has withheld wisdom from the ostrich. And ostriches are especially unwise when attacked. Do you know what they do when attacked? [SMILE!] They run in place in a circle. I was watching a video of an ostrich race gone horribly wrong. In the race, one of the riders falls off the ostrich and the ostrich merely stops and begins running in place in a circle because she felt threatened.
The ostrich was in a trial and because she didn’t have wisdom, she didn’t respond correctly. And btw ostriches run in place in a circle in the wild, too. And if you’re a roaring lion and you can get an ostrich to start running in circles, you’ve got her.
Ever feel like an ostrich? Have you ever been in a trial and you don’t have wisdom and so it feels like you are just running in circles? What you need is what the ostrich doesn’t have and that’s wisdom.
But, unlike the ostrich, you can get wisdom in your most difficult times of life. [WARM SMILE!] You just need to simply ask!
James 1:2–8 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [various trials]; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. [now our text…] 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally[generously], and upbraideth not [without reproach]; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering[without doubting]. For he that wavereth[doubts] is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Last week we discussed how to find inexpressible joy in inevitable trials. And what we discovered from this passage was that to find joy in trial, verse 2…you must really know, intimately know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. You need to know and you need to care and you need to appreciate the fact that your time of trial is designed to produce in you endurance. And then to find joy in trial, you must also let that endurance have its perfecting work in you by submitting to God. That’s what those verses in verses 2-4 are teaching us.
So the flavor last week was motivation. I don’t know if you caught that or not, but you can do all things, in the will of God, through Christ who strengthens you. There is no enemy of yours that will rejoice over you because Christ is your Lord and he has died for you and he has been raised from the dead; and that same resurrection power is available to you in your trial. God is with you.
But now I know what you’re thinking … you’re thinking “I can’t do this… I don’t know if I have the ability, the skill to do this. This is where our text comes in today … verse five, you say you can’t count it pure joy…ok…James has something for you … “but if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.”
To be able to count all joy when in deep trial … Not only do you have to have a strong appreciation that the testing of your faith produces endurance and not only do you need to let endurance have its perfect work in you as you submit to God, you also need wisdom. You must ask for wisdom on how to count trials as pure joy.
You need wisdom on how to have joy in trial. And you need wisdom in trial to know what to do next.
But here’s what you’re thinking … “What do I need to do to receive wisdom in trials?”
Whether it’s wisdom to count it all joy or whether it’s wisdom to know what to do next, what you need to do is the major point tonight which is this… “To receive wisdom from God, you must trustingly ask God who generously gives.” “To receive wisdom from God, you must trustingly ask God who generously gives.”
There are four major points in verses 5-8 and 3 of them are in verse 5. First in verse 5, the state that you are in, “if any of you lacks wisdom.” Is that you? It is. And then secondly the requirement in verse five, “let him ask of God.” And third, the promise at the end of verse five, that if you ask, “it will be given to you.” But we’ll see this is a conditional promise. Finally, verses 6-8 teach us what we must do … which is to ask in faith, or to trustingly ask without a life of doubting.
The state you are in: ‘but if any of you lacks wisdom’ (v.5a)
EXP: Like we said, this ties in with the previous passage. Lacking wisdom in what? Lacking wisdom in trial. Because that’s what verses 2-4 are discussing. If any of you lacks wisdom in trial, let him ask of God. If you lack wisdom counting it all joy in trial, you need to ask God for that kind of wisdom.
If you lack wisdom knowing what to do next in your trial, you need to ask God for that.
If you lack joy in trial or you lack wisdom to know what to do next, ask God!
But this is specifically wisdom in trial that is at issue. Now, what are we talking about with wisdom? What are you lacking in trial? Wisdom. What’s that? Generally, wisdom is skill.
ILL: You may have skill in operating or fixing machinery or cooking or taking care of children or riding a bike. It takes skill to do any one of those things. That’s wisdom.
Just like you need wisdom on how to write a bike or fix a car, you need wisdom on how to either take the next step in your trial or how to count it all joy in your trial.
So, Christian wisdom generally is discerning and doing God’s will. And in this passage, it’s discerning and doing God’s will in trial… Either counting it all joy or knowing the right next step.
APP: so what issue do you have that you’re trying to figure out? Are you having a hard time finding joy in the midst of your difficulty? Do you feel like that ostrich and you’re just running around in a tight little circle and your predator is coming for you?
You need wisdom!
TRANS: So, what do you do? You simply must ask God!
The requirement: ‘let him ask of God’ [God is described] [v.5 b]
Let Him Ask of God
In verse five now … that to get this wisdom, you must ask God. This is a command of God; you are required to ask God for wisdom. You must pray!
“Let Him ask of God” is not a permission ….as if you have to make sure you’re not holding someone back … “no, go ahead and let him ask of God…” no, that’s not it … it’s a command. “He must ask God,” is the idea. “If any lacks wisdom, you must ask God!”
Unfortunately today, we’re pretty self-sufficient. “I don’t need help; I can do it myself.”
ILL: I try not to use too many illustrations of my precious kids, … who am I kidding, I try hard to find illustrations of the kids … but it’s kind of like when Pazli was learning how to eat. She’s our fourth child and she saw her bigger siblings doing things and she wanted to do them too. So she doesn’t need mommy or daddy’s help… Or at least she doesn’t think she does. And she would not let you feed her. She had to feed herself. She doesn’t think she needs anymore wisdom to feed herself.
[SMILE!!!!] But if you saw some of the photo ops that we have, you’d question her wisdom. She’s got chocolate sauce all over her face … sloppy Joe in her hair, salad dressing on and in her little nose…
Does she need help? Oh no…! Does she need wisdom, if you asked her … not a bit. … Of course she needed wisdom! She needed more skill on how to eat.
And it’s the same with you. Do you think you got this trial all figured out. You don’t, you must ask God for wisdom in it. Do you know that you are in the trial? Do you understand that you’re going through difficult times? Ask God for wisdom.
ILL: It’s like if you’re an employer and you have tradesmen with you whose training on the job, what do you say to him? Don’t be afraid to ….what? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And you really mean that! And if he doesn’t ask for help, the whole business suffers.
It’s the same way in our relationship with God. If you just muster up your own strength and wisdom, you’ll be running around in a circle like an ostrich, or you’ll have the food of life all over your face and you’ll be a mess! Ask God for wisdom!
Don’t be afraid to ask.
TRANS: But whom are we asking for wisdom? Let him ask of God!
You are asking your heavenly Father. And God is described here as one who gives to all liberally … generously.
He gives to all. He doesn’t show favorites …. “You get some, but he doesn’t.” No, God doesn’t show favorites….He’s got open arms toward you as much as the next believer. His heart is open toward you [SMILE!!] and his hands …Those mighty warm and tender and caring hands and arms are open toward you…He cares! He gives to all… There is no one like him who gives to all…
He causes his rain to fall on the righteous and on the unrighteous the believer and the unbeliever. He has been good to his enemies…. He gives to all …
But here it’s talking about God giving wisdom specifically to all believers. …those who have simply trusted Christ and have forsaken all else in order to follow Christ. And God has saved them, regenerated them.
And he gives to all generously. He doesn’t restrict the amount of wisdom given. He gives it in full measure to you so you would be overflowing with it. So he is generous and kind and gives without any second thought. He’s spontaneously generous.
What a kind and loving heavenly Father you have! It’s like when Jesus says …
Matthew 7:9–11 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? [have you ever known an earthly father to do that? No! …] 10 Or if [the son] asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven [and he’s perfect btw … how much more will your Father who is in heaven] give good things to them that ask him?
God gives such good things to you; he is so kind to you.
And not only is God described here as being generous in his giving of wisdom, he also gives wisdom and upbraideth not, that simply means that He gives wisdom without finding fault.
[did you know that’s what upbraideth not meant?]
In other words, God doesn’t scold you for not already having that wisdom. God doesn’t mock you and say, “Psst… He should’ve already had that wisdom. I can’t believe he is asking me for that.” No! That is not the heart of God towards you.
He is more compassionate towards you than a nursing mother is toward her child. [SMILE!!!]
Isaiah 49:15 15 Can a woman forget her [nursing] child [just think of that! REPEAT…], that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet [the LORD says … ] will I not forget thee.
God dearly loves his own children in Christ! And God is eager to answer your prayers. When in dire straights …God says …
Isaiah 65:24 24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
God is so eager to hear your pleas for wisdom in trial … and if you ask in faith saying, “Heavenly Father, I don’t know what to do, I need ….” And before you even finish speaking, he will set in motion His own providence to overflow you with wisdom.
“Oh dear God, please come to help. I’m so discouraged and down trodden, I am “powerless before this great trial and I don’t know what to do,” and He longs to hear from you the next part of 2 Chron. 20:12 … “I don’t know what to do but [my] eyes are on You.”
He is kind and compassionate beyond measure, full of mercies, and tender care toward you and he is the Fountainhead of the wisdom that you need. Would you go to him? Would you go to your kind and loving heavenly father?
ILL: Like a grandfather figure who is quick to give out candy. Imagine one of our children going up a dear man of God and asking, “May I have a piece of candy?”
And this dear brother would say, “Oh yes, certainly … [SMILE!!] here, take 16 hundred 92 pieces of candy!”
This is the heart of God towards you! God is infinite in his care and compassionate in his mercies and he is generous in giving you wisdom and he does this all the while not finding any fault with you for asking, no insults, no thinking ill of you… He has an open-heart, an open hand and he is simply waiting for you to ask in faith so he can give wisdom to you.
“To him who asks, he receives.”
“Be not afraid for I have redeemed you. Be not afraid, I have called you by name.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the floods, they will not sweep o’er you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be consumed.
You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.”
And if you know the Lord, He is precious in your sight, too. He’s died to save you and was raised so that you might be His child forever … as a kind heavenly Father, He gives you the promise that he does here at the end of verse 5 …
The promise: ‘it will be given to him’
James 1:5 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Ask and receive. God promises here to give you wisdom, if you ask him. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you ask God for wisdom on how to weld or how to build a pipeline and you are 5 years old, that God just [SMILE!!] zaps you with that know how. It doesn’t mean that if you ask for wisdom on how to analyze noradrenaline transporter polymorphisms as potential pharmacogenetic [pharmaco-genetic] markers of response that he’ll just … poof! …all of sudden give you that.
Remember, we’re in a specific context of trials. You need wisdom on how to have joy in trials or you need wisdom on what’s the next step in your trial.
If you’re in financial difficulty, you need wisdom on not spending money on things and putting your money elsewhere. If you have family problems, need wisdom on how to handle those biblically. If you have a particular sin issue, you need to know how to conquer that sin problem and find the relief that God wants you to have.
God will give wisdom in these arenas. But where will you find it? First of all, you will find wisdom in His Word. You will find wisdom in his word. But if you think you have wisdom and it goes against the Bible, you are mistaken. You do not have wisdom. You need wisdom the lines up with Scripture.
But where else can you find it? Second, you can find wisdom in your authorities. God himself has placed you under authority … Your parents, your husband, and spiritual leaders in the church.
If you are under the authority of your parents or a husband or spiritual leaders in this church, and then you pray and what you want to do is be disobedient to what your spiritual authorities are saying and it doesn’t match up with Scripture, you didn’t receive God’s wisdom.
So God will answer your prayer for wisdom by pointing you to the Scripture. And secondly he will answer your prayer for wisdom by pointing you to authorities in your life. God has placed those authorities in your life for a reason. And he knows that. And he will use them in your life to direct you.
And third, God will answer your prayer for wisdom by pointing you to other biblically informed Christians who are walking with the Lord. God will give you wisdom through members of Christ’s body.
Now, you’ll need to check everything that you hear by the Scripture. The Bible is the final authority. And so if your parents, or your counselors, or your pastor is saying to you that you should do something that doesn’t line up Scripture’s counsel … you should not follow that advice.
So we need to be careful to help each other. God can use you to answer the prayers of another believer here for wisdom. So that’s why it’s crucial that each of us walk with the Lord. Are you walking with him? Are you in his word? Are you in prayer? Your counsel and wisdom just might be an answer to prayer to another believer here. So we need you. We need your help and support and encouragement and strength, love … we need your wisdom…. We need to be here for one another.
ILL: Solomon asked God, didn’t he? Solomon becomes king and he goes into the tabernacle of the Lord and offers 1000 burnt offerings on it and that night God appears to Solomon and says to him, “ask what I shall give you.”
So Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge. Solomon prays …2 Chronicles 1:10 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?
Solomon expected God to answer didn’t he? He also expressed a sense of dependency on the Lord, “for who can rule this great people of yours?” I can’t do it by myself!
Of course you know the story: God gives Solomon not only wisdom, but riches, wealth, and honor such as the kings who were before Solomon had never possessed nor those who would come after him would ever possess. God honors the request for wisdom in trials with open and generous arms.
TRANS: Now, there is a condition to this. Not just any flippant prayer by a skeptic is answered with a “yes” from God. God gives wisdom to all generously and without finding fault but there is a condition to it. You must ask in faith without wavering/doubting.
The condition: he must ask in faith without doubting [reason given ‘for the one who doubts’] (vv.6-8)
Asking in Faith
EXP: Asking in faith is not complicated. This simply means to trust him. You’re taking God at his word. And you are living that. What has God said here? God has told you if you lack wisdom you must ask God and he will give it to you …now, do you believe Him or not? Has not God promised it?
Numbers 23:19 19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
If God has promised to give wisdom in your trial, he will give it! Take him at his word! Because ….
Hebrews 11:6 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe [… what?] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
And so you’re stuck and you don’t know what to do next … And you are in trial and you know you just have to get through it, but you want to have joy and God wants you have joy through it, what do you do?
You ask God for wisdom. Wisdom to have joy … wisdom to know what to do next. So you ask and you expect to receive. You pursue finding that wisdom. How will God give it to you? Through his word, through authorities in your life, and through godly counsel.
Trust God and expect to receive wisdom on what to do.
TRANS: But no doubting!
With No Doubting
EXP: Verse six, but he must ask in faith without any wavering, doubting. This word wavering here is to really think through about whether or not God is going to do what he has said. This is purposeful doubting; this is not some momentary lapse, but a lifestyle of distrust in God. That’s the focus here … it’s a lifestyle of distrust in God.
Faith prays for wisdom and says, “I’m just waiting for God to answer my request for wisdom. I’ve turned from trusting in riches and my own strength; only God can help me.”
Doubting prays for wisdom while trusting in something other than God and says, “Is God really going to answer me?” The doubting man is someone who, in some way, has one foot in the world and one foot in the church … The doubting believer has a divided allegiance. He’s trusting in money, wealth, himself, his job over and above God.
ILL: James compares the doubter with the surface of the ocean that is so easily blown this way and that way by the wind. Get this … you’ll know someone who’s doubting God in a trial even though they’ve asked for wisdom, because their lives seem so tossed about … they are driven by whatever new wind of issue comes and they get blown over by it… The doubting believer has no direction and no strength to stand up against any of these trials.
The doubting believer is trusting something other than God. He’s either trusting his own heart and following the wisdom of this world or his own spirituality or something.
The doubting believer must fill the void of trust with something other than God. And so he’s double-minded. And when trials come they end up running in circles and you look with wonder and think, “why on earth would they do this?”
And this doubting believer may pray and pray and pray, but this passage says that he is, verse 8 … a double minded man and unstable in all of his ways. He’s double minded. He is not wholehearted, he’s not single focused, he has two allegiances.
This is why we are commanded then to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and all your mind. You are to solely focus on him, you are not to trust in yourself and on your own wisdom.
And this reliance on God and focus on him and single intent manifests itself in your commitment to learning and obeying the word of God. Friend, are you a Bible Christian? Are you solely dependent on what God has said … on his promises? Are you constantly endeavoring to turn away from your own wisdom and the wisdom of this world and seeking to cling to the heavenly wisdom found in this great book?
If you are not and are given way to trusting in yourself trusting in your spirituality or trusting in something other than God and what he has said, in the time of trial you will find yourself tossed about and unstable in all of your ways.
And I know what you’re thinking now … you’re asking “is it I…Am I doubting?” To comfort you, this isn’t some momentary lapse in trusting God. This person has been living like this for a long time and it’s the trial, the storm that has revealed it. The storm reveals that he is unstable in all of his ways. But that could be you, or your loved one!
What the doubting believer can expect
Now, what can the doubting believer expect from the Lord? … Verse 7, that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.
As we said before from Hebrews 11 verse six, without faith it is impossible to please God. The doubting believer who constantly waffles between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world and questions God and clings to the things of this world… It will be revealed through the storm that that man is unstable in all of his ways. And because God requires trusting in him to receive anything, that man must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Friends, you can’t go along in your life with one foot in the world and one foot in the church…this is doubting God and so you can’t expect to receive anything … no thing from God.
ILL: The trusting believer is like a child begging for food that’s already on the table. If the child wholeheartedly trusts in his dad to scoop him some food, then he’ll ask a certain way. “Dad, may I please have some mashed potatoes?”
But the child that is trusting in himself and is wavering, he’ll ask a certain way as well.
“Daddy please … daddy … daddy…. Daddy please PLEASE can I have some food… And then he says to himself, “well I asked pretty hard and I’m pretty spiritual so he should give it to me because I asked really well and I really pleaded with him and so he’s going to do it because my prayer was so great.” That prayer doesn’t glorify the Lord!
Or your life is full of obvious signs that you’ve been trusting in something other than God as you live for this world and all the pleasures of this world … and so now in trial, because your life is catching up with you, you ask God for wisdom … but you must repent … you can’t expect that God would give wisdom when you ask for it.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.5-8
God is sufficient for your every need. The Bible is sufficient to guide you in every part of life. [SMILE!!!] God has His great will for you, his plans, and his desires for you are sufficient … he is infinite in his goodness towards you and his arms are open wide for you to receive from him all that a gracious loving heavenly father has for his children. Know the security that you can have with him. Cling to Him!
If you have trusted Christ, there is an infinite storehouse of wisdom available for you in your time of deepest need.
Let’s pray for one another about this, “I’m going through a deep trial…my family is going through a rough time, my job is on the line, my kids …this or that … my money situation, please pray that believers in trial would have the wisdom to count it all joy and the wisdom on what to do next.”
God is like a tender mother to her children or a loving father for his children … God is all the more waiting and watching to give you what you need in your heart if you would but trust only in Him.
ILL: Don’t be like the Israelites. You remember at times when Israel was in dire straights…their enemies were coming against them…and they had the choice as to whether to trust God or not. Well, they had been offering sacrifices and going to services … but now when times get tough…they run from God and to Egypt to ask for help and they don’t call upon the Lord…but that trial merely revealed what was already there.
To get wisdom from God, you must trustingly ask God who generously gives.” Trust in the Holy One of Israel alone … He alone can help you! [SMILE!!!] You have no idea how full the heart of God is for you… Oh, the fullness of his love, vast unmeasured boundless free …
Romans 8:32 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
He will. [SMILE!] Just ask Him, trusting Him who generously gives.