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Seeking Wisdom

James 1:5-8

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.


The initial focus of this chapter (v2-4) was on a mindset we should have, the attribute required, and the result of the two. Continuing our study into verses 5-8, James is continuing the process of explaining how we should respond, recommending that we pray, specifically for wisdom from God, and remain faithful without doubt.

In the Matthew Henry Commentary, there are two summarizing quotes of this passage that I think are really good.

  • “We should not pray so much for the removal of an affliction as for wisdom to make a right use of it.”

  • “To be wise in trying times is a special gift of God, and to him we must seek for it.”

Seeking Wisdom

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…

Do you think of yourself as lacking in wisdom? If we are honest with ourselves, we all are lacking in wisdom. It is something only God can provide, and something that will increase our faith and ability to endure and take advantage of the situations we find ourselves in for the glory of God.

The quote above from the Matthew Henry Commentary summarizes this well. While an immature believer might pray for God to remove the trial, a wise and mature believer who understands the results and chooses to consider the trials a joy will pray differently. Praying for wisdom is one of the best prayers we can muster.

You cannot ask God for something like wisdom, knowledge, strength, or patience without first realizing (at least some minute amount) how inferior you are to Him. Humbling ourselves before the Lord, realizing that we are nothing and He is everything is the absolute best position we can be in.

These words also teach another important lesson: the need for self-reflection and self-inspection (compared to the Word). How do we know we lack wisdom? Read the Word, see how we are supposed to be handling situations, and compare the truth found in Scripture to the reality we are living.

Do you find yourself lacking? Do you look back and see times where you’ve not stood steadfast in trials? Do you pray for God to remove trials, rather than to provide you a way through them? You are not alone! Every believer has struggled with these same things, and I believe it will always take a conscious effort and focus on God to not do these things.

On top of this, good news is coming! God does not judge our past actions to determine if He will give wisdom.

[5] …who gives generously to all without finding fault…

While God is the Righteous Judge, the Ruler of all, He desires for us to grow and draws us nearer to Him. He has adopted us as His children, as co-heirs with Christ, and allows us to call Him Father.

Father! A direct, deeply personal relation to the Almighty God. One before Whom we should prostrate fall. Adopted! Though we were created in the image of God, we were not children of God. We were children of the world, Satan himself (John 8:44). But God loved us so much that He adopted us as His own (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:17)! And our God is a good, good father.

In 1 John 3:1 we see God’s love in calling us children. Jesus explains to us in Matthew 6:30 that “if God so clothes the grass of the field…will he not much more clothe you…?” Jesus continues a similar topic in Matthew 7:11 where he comforts us by confirming that if we know how to give generously to our children, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

[5] …who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

He gives generously! He is unlike any earthly father, incapable of mistakes or sinful actions. He is a pure and righteous father Who desires to give us good gifts when we ask. And just as a remotely decent earthly father would not withhold essential provision (be it physical or instructional) because of the wrongdoing of his child, so it is with God!

Our past is not considered when God is giving us wisdom, and oh how glorious of a thing this is! Taking it a step further, we not only are assured that he gives generously without judgement, but we see a promise: “…it will be given to you.” 

It is a promise that all we have to do is ask in faith, and God will bestow upon us more of His wisdom.

[6] 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.

James is telling us that wisdom is given freely, and will not be withheld due to our faults. There is only one condition: We must believe. We must believe that God is able to, wants to, and will make the simple wise.

There can be no doubt about this: God is making a promise to give us wisdom, and in order to truly receive it from Him we must believe that he is willing, able, and faithful to fulfill His promise to us.

All throughout the ministry of Christ, we see examples of actions reciprocating faith.

In Matthew 9:28, Jesus asks the blind men a simple question, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Their simple response was the perfect one: “Yes, Lord” leading to their healing. Jesus goes on to explain in verse 29 that “According to your faith be it done to you.” They were healed as a direct result of faith in His ability to heal them.

In Matthew 17:19-20 we see what can happen when even the disciples of Christ Himself are lacking in faith. They returned to Jesus after being unable to cast out a demon. “Why could we not cast it out?” They asked. “Because of your little faith.” Jesus replied. They lacked the faith that Jesus could work mightily in them, and failed their duty as a result.

James warns us about having a steady faith, without doubt, and gives an example of the waves of the sea. While it is unlikely to be a direct reference, I cannot help but think of one final example to give on the topic: Peter walking on water.

We find the details in Matthew 14:22-33. Jesus sent the disciples ahead of Him in a boat, and joined them later, walking on the water! While they had seen many wonders in their time with Jesus, they still did not recognize Him and were afraid. Peter, being the type of man he was, challenged Jesus saying “If it is you, command me to come to you.” Jesus replied with a single word “Come.” And Peter stepped out in faith, walking on the water!

Peter was joining Jesus in this impossible situation, this miraculous stroll on the sea. His eyes were fully on Christ, but only for a moment. Quickly, he remembered where he was. He saw the wind and the waves and was afraid and began to sink. Oh how the lack of faith and focus ruins the effects of Christ in our life!

But Peter knew where he needed help from “Lord, save me” he cried out, and Jesus immediately pulled him from the waves saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

There is no better example in scripture than of Peter sinking into the waves, as we so often sink into the despair, anxiety, and fear that plagues the trials in our life. Our faith dwindles suddenly when encountering opposition, and James is warning us against this. If Peter would have kept his eyes on Christ, then his faith would have continued to allow for him to walk on water. It is the same when we ask God to provide us with wisdom. True wisdom comes from God, and only our absolute faith and focus in God can provide us with the ability to gain and hold it.

[7-8] That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James finishes out the thought we explored above, stating that if we cannot be resolute, steadfast, and reliant on unwavering faith in God then we should not expect to receive such gifts from God.

A saying I’ve taken a liking to is that one cannot teach someone who does not desire to learn. When we cannot decide and commit to the Lord, how are we to learn His ways?

A person tossing to and fro is called “double-minded and unstable.” Oh what a dreadful thing to be! A state in which I abhor finding myself, but yet I do.

James is referring to the life of highs and lows, where one is at times near to God, and at times drawing away from Him toward the world. Jesus warns about this in Matthew 6:24 saying “No one can serve two masters…” We must choose.

Unfortunately for us, it is not a one time choice that when you are saved, you no longer must struggle with the desires of the flesh. We must fight the battle daily. This is why Jesus said “take up your cross daily and follow Me.” It is a daily death to self, and life in Christ. It is the reason for multiple verses in Scripture encouraging us to “be continually in prayer” for this is how we commune with the Lord.

We must plant our feet on a firm foundation, having a faith in God strong enough to turn to Him in our times of need without doubt.

Everything Points to Christ

Before Jesus’ ministry began, He underwent a great test of His faith in God. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast for forty days and forty nights, and was hungry (Matt. 4:2). Satan came to Him, tempting Him with the greatest appeals in the world, yet Jesus never wavered in His faith. He sought the wisdom of the Scriptures and used them as His responses to the temptations.

Fast forward to the end of His ministry, and Jesus still sought out the Father’s will and guidance for everything. In one of His last prayers on earth, Jesus was dreading what was to come. He was called to the greatest act of love possible: sacrificing His holiness to become sin so that we might be saved.

We are told in Luke 22:44 that He was in such agony, and praying so earnestly, that his sweat became like blood. He was asking for the Father to remove the call from Him, if God was willing, but that ultimately “not my will, but yours, be done.”

Even on the precipice of a great punishment and sacrifice, something Jesus was in agony over the thought of, He still remained faithful and submitted to the Father, trusting Him fully.

Jesus is our great High Priest. He is the Word who was in the beginning with God. He was fully God, but He was also fully man and felt the same temptations and faced the same trials (and beyond) that we do. Jesus regularly turned to the Father for wisdom, guidance, and strength, and relied on Him for everything.

How much more should we, born into sin, turn to and rely on God to provide what we need?

I will end with Proverbs 2:6, an encouragement to seek God ever more for the wisdom more precious than gold (Prov. 16:16).

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.