This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 29, 2012. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – James 1B.
James 1:5-8 If any of you is yet lacking wisdom, let him be asking the one who gives to all generously, without reproaching, and it will be given to him. However, let him be requesting in belief, not doubting for the one judging has become like the surging sea, being blown around and tossed. Let not that man suppose he will be getting anything from the Master. He is a double-souled man, turbulent in all his ways.
As we saw last week, James, the head of the church in Jerusalem, is writing to Jewish Christians who had fled Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Steven and the outbreak of persecution. These believers were under pressure as they tried to settle into new communities where they were unwelcome both as Jews and as followers of an illegal sect.
Last week we talked about the fear and anger and sorrow of facing trials – the sense of God’s abandonment that we feel, and James’ call to the church to live intentionally under suffering. This week, we want to see God’s offer to give us wisdom in the face of suffering and pressure – and how to understand and respond when God does not seem to be answering.
ASK GOD FOR WISDOM.
God is Generous with Wisdom: “If any of you is yet lacking wisdom, let him be asking the one who gives to all generously, without reproaching, and it will be given to him”.
This seems like pretty clear cut advice – if a believer is in a difficult situation and doesn’t know what to do – he should ask God. This is something that believers do all the time. Often it happens that God will give clear direction about what it is we are supposed to do in a given situation. God is generous with us in regard to wisdom. God does not reject us or reproach us for not knowing what to do. Rather, God is kind and gracious with us – leading us into wisdom with great patience (on his part). God is not one who, like the ancient Greek oracles, gives us misleading guidance. Nor is God one who refuses to bless us or hear us. God is for us and willing to reveal his will to us.
So Why Doesn’t God Seem to Answer Sometimes? However, it does happen, from time to time, that we find ourselves asking God for wisdom and do not seem to be hearing anything from the Lord. Why does that happen? What are we supposed to do when God does not seem to answer our requests for wisdom?
Because We Expect God to Maintain Life the Way We Want It: Sometimes we expect an answer to a situation which will allow us to continue to make our lives work the way we want them to. Sometimes we are avoiding change that is inevitable and even necessary. Change is the consistent reality we live in. Life is always in flux – this is even true of our physical bodies. But we are often like children who only like what we know and refuse to try new things. For this reason, there are times when we are not willing to hear wisdom or direction that would otherwise be clear.
Because God Promises Wisdom, but We Expect Only Specific, Easy Direction: Wisdom does not necessarily = a specific solution – which is usually what we want. We need to ask ourselves, when we don’t seem to be hearing from God, what we are expecting. Wisdom does not always = resolution, but gives us a way to act/speak when we are under pressure. Wisdom asks, “What does it look like to honor God and do good to your fellow man in this situation?” Rather than demanding a way out from under pressure, wisdom asks things like, in the case of these Jewish believers, how do I make peace and show God’s love to people who do not want me here as a Jewish Christian? How do I respond to hostility?
These are some of the issues of wisdom – the larger questions that need asking when we are under pressure. These are the questions by which we should evaluate specific answers and clear direction – to see if they are wisdom from God. At times, God does not give us the specific answer so that we can grow in wisdom by asking these questions.
BE WILLING TO BELIEVE IN WISDOM!
We Choose Between Believing Scripture and Trusting Our Own Experience/ Judgment: “However, let him be requesting in belief, not doubting…” The best way to illustrate this is with the example of conflict. Suppose I have a falling out with…
~ a brother or sister ~ a friend ~ another believer ~ an evil man. I find that I have offended an evil man or fallen into an angry argument with a brother or another believer. I don’t know what to do, so I ask God for wisdom and he directs my mind to the following Scriptures…
1 Peter 5:6-8 – “God is against the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Be humble under God’s powerful hand so he will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to God, because he cares for you. Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone (a proud man) to devour.”
Romans 12:14-ff– “Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them… If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him… Do your best to live in peace with everyone…”
Matthew 5::22-ff – “If you are angry with a brother of sister, you will be judged… So when you offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. Go and make peace…” (NCV)
Now I have a choice. God has given me wisdom – not a specific answer or solution – and I recognize that I am being called to humble myself. I think over the conflict and see ways in which I have offended this evil man – or this brother – or this believer – and I see that God is calling me to apologize or make some restoration.
God has given me wisdom but my experience tells me that I am likely to be taken advantage of – that humbling myself will not necessarily bring about a resolution. My own judgment tells me that an evil man is likely to laugh at me and take advantage – to mock my faith rather than being moved by it.
We have a choice to listen to the conviction of wisdom or to listen to our own judgment, fear and experience. God’s wisdom is not necessarily a quick and easy fix – but it is what God loves – and it will bring blessing into our lives and protect us from evil. Listening to and receiving wisdom from God is a matter of trusting what God shows us.
Warning: The Result of Refusing the Wisdom of our Master is Darkness: “… for the one judging has become like the surging sea, being blown around and tossed. Let not that man suppose he will be getting anything from the Master. He is a double-souled man, turbulent in all his ways”. The image of the surging sea is not only an image of instability (being tossed back and forth), but of evil. The sea is a place of unknown darkness and evil powers.
When I push away God’s wisdom in favor of my own judgments, I become susceptible to deception and to evil. My own sin and willfulness leads me into situations where I can be devoured. I become like a man who falls into and under the sway of the sea. What starts as a choice to choose my way over what the Scriptures clearly teach – takes on a life of its own and leads me down a destructive course. So, rather than seeking peace with my brother, I make sure that I get the members of my family on my side – to sympathize with me. However the ensuing battle creates havoc and bitterness and harm that I never intended.
And I find that my fear and bad experiences increase – yet – I become more divided and more committed to my way. I become a “double-souled” man, unstable and susceptible to foolishness and darkness.
LEARN TO ASK THE LARGER QUESTIONS OF SCRIPTURE.
WIthin the larger questions that Scripture asks is wisdom to the more immediate questions of our lives…
- How am I being called to trust God to provide for me vs. what are my own responsibilities?
- Who is my responsibility? What are my priorities of responsibility?
- How do I protect my family?
- Where is God calling me to confront evil and sin – to turn from sin, first, in my own life – and then to confront sinful situations and actions in my community?
- What is going to allow me, and those around me, to thrive spiritually?
This morning, Christ does not condemn us, but calls us to ask and listen to, and learn wisdom under the grace and favor of God.