************ Sermon on James 1:5-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 20, 2006
"Asking for Wisdom"
Topic: WisdomIn daily life, we are immersed with advice. For example, advice columns and horoscopes in newspapers are popular with many readers. Some of the advice we hear is good, some is bad. We need wisdom to identify what's wholesome and what's trashy.
Subtopic: The Search for
Back in 1997, a truck driver shot himself to death, sitting in the cab of his truck about 180 miles east of Charlotte, NC. He was despondent over the breakup of his marriage.
For three hours, a crisis team had communicated with him over CB radio, trying to talk him out of taking his life. But other motorists, overhearing the dialogue, also contacted him on their radios. While some were supportive, others egged him on, saying he didn't have the guts to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, he took the wrong advice and turned his rifle on himself.
James talks to us this evening about wisdom.
I True Wisdom
A James says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ..." (James 1:5).
What is this wisdom that James is talking about? What is this wisdom that James wants us to find? The Bible has much to say about wisdom, especially in those writings commonly identified as the "wisdom books" of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.
The basic principle of the Bible when it comes to wisdom is that wisdom cannot be found or obtained unless one believes in the Lord. We are told that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov 9:10; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10).
In the Old Testament the "fear of the Lord" is not a feeling of terror before the Lord but a feeling of holy awe and reverence for Him because of His holiness and majesty. If you fear the Lord, you treat the Lord and the things of the Lord with respect and you obey His holy law. No one can do this unless he or she believes in God and in His almighty power. Therefore, what the Old Testament calls the "fear of the Lord," the New Testament calls "faith in Jesus Christ." That is two ways of saying the same thing.
B "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ..." (James 1:5). When you fear the Lord – when you have faith in Jesus – you receive wisdom as a gift from God, if you ask for it. If you ask for it. You need to ask for it. Look at King Solomon. Until the coming of Jesus Christ, Solomon was considered the wisest man who ever lived (cf Mt 12:42). But King Solomon received the gift of wisdom only after he asked for it from God in a night vision (1 Kings 3). And, we too receive wisdom only when we ask for it from God. And, God gives it to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:6-10). Paul does tells us that this wisdom is considered foolishness by the world, but God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom (1 Cor 1:18-31).
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ..." (James 1:5). I hope you realize this means that wisdom comes from God. Wisdom cannot be bought or sold. It cannot be discovered or learned. It is a gift from God and only from God. Proverbs tell us that "the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Prov 2:6).
Topic: PrayerFranklin correctly realized that those who fear God and believe in Jesus Christ go to Him and ask Him for wisdom.
A convention was called in 1787 in America to revise the Articles of Confederation. For weeks delegates reviewed ancient history and analyzed governments of modern Europe in search of insights. But nothing suited the circumstances of this infant nation. Finally, Benjamin Franklin addressed the group. Referring to their meager progress, he said, "In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth and scarcely able to distinguish it when it is presented to us, how has it happened that we have not once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?"
As I indicated earlier, people today look in many different places for wisdom: horoscopes, newspaper columns, science, psychology, Transcendental Meditation, Reiki, drugs, the latest guru, and so on. None of this give us wisdom. No person can give us wisdom. Wisdom does not come from a book or a course. Wisdom comes from God and from God alone.
C What does wisdom do? Wisdom deals with everyday practical concerns. When we look through the "wisdom books" we see advice about such things as family, government, the economy, society, the job scene, alcohol, quarreling, living with your neighbor, and so on.
Wisdom shows us how to live as Christians in any given situation. Wisdom makes us "street smart." Wisdom starts in heaven but works at the street level, where we bump shoulders with others and apply our faith. Don't forget, this is James' main concern in his letter. James writes to mainly Jewish Christians, Christians who have been scattered among the nations because of persecution. He writes to servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants to teach them how to live out their faith, how to practice their Christianity, how to act as real Christians. He wants them to make progress in their walk with God. He wants them to lead the sanctified life. He wants to teach them how to apply the Bible to their lives. None of this is possible apart from wisdom.
I hope you realize by now that wisdom is not primarily knowledge. Anyone can obtain knowledge by reading, studying, doing experiments, taking courses, attending seminars, exploring. Wisdom is the application of knowledge – true knowledge as we find it in the Bible – to all the situations we face in our lives.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ..." (James 1:5). To live out our faith, to show our faith is real, to put our religion into practice, we need to ask God for wisdom. God is the only place to go for wisdom and God is the best place to go for wisdom.
Topic: WisdomIn the same way, God, as our creator, has the wisdom to "fix" us when our lives are broken by sin. He is the only place and the best place to go for wisdom.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: Who Can Fix Us?
In the early days of the automobile a man's Model-T Ford stalled in the middle of the road. He couldn't get it started no matter how hard he cranked nor how much he tried to advance the spark or adjust things under the hood. Just then a chauffeured limousine pulled up behind him, and a wiry, energetic man stepped out from the back seat and offered his assistance. After tinkering for a few moments the stranger said, "Now try it!" Immediately the engine leaped to life. The well-dressed individual then identified himself as Henry Ford. "I designed and built these cars," he said, "so I know what to do when something goes wrong."
II Asking for Wisdom
A James makes a promise in our text, a wonderful promise, so we can live and lead the Christian life as servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says,
(James 1:5) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.Did you catch that? When we ask for wisdom God gives it to us. God is generous in His provisions. We see that wisdom is to be had, just for the asking. And, God is gracious in His provisions. He doesn't hold against us the sins we foolishly commit, sins we would never commit if we were filled with wisdom from above. He doesn't count our past against us. He gives us wisdom in the here and now so we can begin to live as servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope you realize God does not give us everything we ask for. We can pray for physical healing. We can pray for a girlfriend or a boyfriend. We can pray for marriage. We can pray for good grades. We can pray for world peace. We can pray for food. Some of this we may not get until we enjoy the new heavens and the new earth. Some of this we may never get. But wisdom is something God will always give to us if we ask for it. Isn't that amazing and wonderful? Ask for wisdom and it will be given to you.
Do you lack wisdom? Are you unsure of how to apply the Bible to your life when it comes to business, to money, to education, to your relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend, to your home life, to the problems and trials of life? Ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you. That is God's promise to you and to me!
B James is talking about prayer. We need to pray for wisdom as we face different situations in life. We need to pray for wisdom so we can handle things in a Biblical way. We need to pray for wisdom so we live as servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But we need to ask in the right way. Now, what James says does not just apply to praying for wisdom; it applies to all our prayers and requests and petitions.
(James 1:6) But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.Do you hear what James is saying? He is telling us to ask in faith. In other words, we need to believe in Jesus, we need to fear the Lord.
C "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt ..." That's what James says when he instructs us to pray for wisdom. But, is it possible to have a faith that is free from all doubts? Is it possible to pray without once having a question mark? What exactly is James talking about here?
Topic: FaithIs this what James is telling us? Is he telling us to bring our umbrellas when we pray for rain? Is he telling us to throw away our wheelchairs and crutches and canes when we pray for healing? Is he telling us to flush our medicine down the toilet when we pray for health? You know, as well as I do, that this is not what God is saying to us through James.
Title: Under the Umbrella
You probably heard the story of the pastor who called his members to a prayer meeting to pray for rain, yet sent them home saying, "You came to pray for rain, but didn't bring umbrellas."
Consider the story told us by Mark (Mk 9:14-32). A man came to Jesus' disciples with a son who was afflicted with an evil spirit. The disciples were not able to cast out the evil spirit, so when Jesus arrived, the father said to Him, "If you can do anything take pity on us and help us." Remember Jesus' reply? "If you can? ... Everything is possible for him who believes." To this the man responded, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
This father desperately wanted his son to be healed. He struggled with whether Jesus was almighty enough to heal his boy; yet, the very fact that he took his boy to Jesus indicates he thought Jesus could help. Still, the doubt lingered in his mind: Can Jesus really do this? Can Jesus help my boy?
This man expressed some form of doubt but Jesus helped him anyway. Using the language of James, this man asked God and it was given to him. This tells me that the "unbelief" exhibited by this man cannot be the same kind of doubt that James talks about.
James is not admonishing believers for having momentary doubts of faith or questioning minds. We all know, as I already said, that not all our prayers are answered exactly as we may wish.
D So what is James talking about? James is telling us not to be like Israel on Mount Carmel. At that time, if you remember, Israel tried to follow Baal and God. They tried to serve Baal and God. They bowed in worship before Baal and God. So Elijah asked the people,
(1 Ki 18:21) "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing.The people of Israel were trying to stand in both the believing and unbelieving camp at the same time. That is what James is warning us against. James is warning us against looking to God sometimes and to ourselves at other times. God's gift of wisdom does us no good if we depend on God sometimes and on ourselves or some self-help book or worldly wisdom at all other times. Because when we do that, we are showing that we don't really think God is necessary for all of life.
It is these people, people with their feet in two camps, who are like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James is thinking of waves on the Sea of Galilee. One moment the wave is driven North, South, East, West, or points in-between; the next moment it is driven in the exact opposite direction. One moment this person trusts and believes in God; the next moment he or she relies on self. "That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord."
The Lord does not give wisdom to those who are not willing to depend upon Him alone! The Lord does not hear the prayers of those who look to other gods or things for wisdom and strength and help. The Lord does not answer those who do not fear Him and have faith in Jesus Christ.
As servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ we need wisdom. We need wisdom to always act like Christians. We need wisdom in order to live out our faith in all times and all places.
To get this wisdom, all we need to do is ask – and it will be given to us.
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