James

by Douglas Estes

Day 2

Read James 1:5-8

James now jumps from encouraging endurance to asking God for wisdom. Although this seems abrupt, it is characteristic of James' style.

He is not saying that we cannot receive wisdom if we are conflicted between earthly and heavenly things; rather, he is saying that if we cannot make up our minds about wanting wisdom, then we will not receive it

James is not writing to address the specific issues of a church in turmoil, as Paul often does. Instead, he is consolidating a lifetime of serving the Lord into a short book on wisdom. We might say that this wisdom is ″applied wisdom″, in that James' goal is to spur his readers to action. It is likely that he regularly preached these ideas about wise living as part of longer messages during his earlier public ministry.

In fact, the jump is not as great as it may seem. James concludes his encouragement on endurance by noting that it is so that we may be complete, ″not lacking anything″ (James 1:4). Then he says, ″If any of you lacks wisdom . . .″ (v. 5). He is making the point that troubles in life, dealt with in faith, will produce endurance leading to spiritual maturity-a full and meaningful life. But he does not stop there; he adds that even with the fullness of a mature faith, we will still need wisdom to continue to grow in Christ and to face future trials. James is moving from a general principle about growing in Christ to a reminder that this growth never stops. This is how he weaves his themes together.

When we face trials in life, it will increase our endurance and therefore our faith-for when we need wisdom to move forward, we will have to ask God. God will give wisdom ″generously″ to us ″without finding fault″ in our need or request (v. 5). Here, James is being consistent with the rest of the Bible that wisdom comes from God first (e.g., Proverbs 2:6), and only secondarily from age or experience.

However, James has one clear warning about asking God for wisdom. We ″must believe and not doubt″ (James 1:6). Is it possible to be without doubt? When we use this word today, we link it to mixed feelings about our faith. James, however, is using an uncommon word in the original language, which means ″to hesitate out of uncertainty″. He is not saying that we cannot receive wisdom if we are conflicted between earthly and heavenly things; rather, he is saying that if we cannot make up our minds about wanting wisdom, then we will not receive it. We must go to God and ask without hesitation or second thoughts.

If we have second thoughts and are not committed to receiving wisdom from God, then our hesitation will cause us to go back and forth ″like a wave of the sea″ (1:6). We will be ″double-minded″-literally of two minds-and ″unstable″ (1:8), because we will not be able to choose between what God's wisdom tells us and what our own sense of ″wisdom″ tells us.

The bad news is: we will always face trials. The good news is: God is always ready to give us the wisdom to face these trials and grow in our faith. And the great news is: He gives generously!


Think through:

In what life circumstances do we need wisdom from God? How might wisdom help us cope?

When you think of asking God for wisdom, what kinds of hesitation arise in your heart and mind? How can we deal with them?

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About Author

Douglas Estes (PhD, Nottingham) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology at South University. He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education, and is a regular science contributor at Christianity Today. Douglas has written or edited eight books, as well as numerous essays, articles, and reviews for both popular and scholarly publications. He also served in pastoral ministry for sixteen years.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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