My wife and I enjoy watching the Olympics together. I’m a dreamer, so when I watch the Olympic athletes I often imagine myself being able to do exactly what I see them doing. Then I go out and try, and find out real quickly it’s not nearly as easy as it looks.
I remember the first time I went skiing. I was in high school and thought it would be so easy. About a thousand bumps and bruises later, I realized it wasn’t. What looked so straightforward and effortless while sitting on my couch watching T.V. was incredibly challenging and difficult to put into practice out on the slopes.
Needless to say, I went home pretty frustrated. I wanted to ski the way the Olympians did, I just didn’t know how.
Most of us realize no matter how hard we try we’ll never become Olympic athletes, so we don’t even attempt it. But maybe that’s the way you feel about the Christian life – you want to live the way God tells you to, but you’ve tried and it seems too difficult, so you think God’s Word must only work for the really “spiritual” people.
I can imagine the believers who received this letter might have felt like that after reading verses two through four. They wanted to respond to trials the way James talked about, they just didn’t know how.
It’s not hard to understand what James means in verses two through four, but it is difficult to put what he teaches into practice.
We don’t know how to consider it all joy when our toilet overflows, when our car breaks down, when we lose our job, when our children rebel, when a loved one dies.
In fact, sometimes in the midst of trials we’re tempted to cry out, “How can anyone face trials with the outlook you have just described, James?”
If that’s what you are thinking, James has a message for you. There is hope. You can live these verses out. You can consider it all joy.
In verse 5, James zones in and pinpoints the reason Christians have a hard time obeying the instructions he gives in verses two through four – they lack wisdom.
Too many people think just because they have some knowledge, they have wisdom. They’ve read all kinds of good books, they’ve studied the Bible, they grew up going to Sunday School, they can quote a bunch of Bible verses, but that’s all they can do. They don’t know how to put those truths into practice.
James calls that kind of person a fool. He has knowledge, but what he needs is wisdom.
Wisdom is the ability to take what you know and make it part of your practical experience. You can see biblical wisdom. It shows up in how you live your life. James tells us in 3:17 that wisdom from above is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy.” God doesn’t just want you to know His Word, He wants you to obey it in the nitty-gritty issues of life.
If you are in a trial, you are struggling, you are at your wits end, what you need is more than simply knowledge of the facts of 1:2-4, what you need is the wisdom to take that knowledge and apply it to your particular life situation.
But perhaps now you are thinking, “Great. You say I need wisdom. I knew that. My problem is I don’t know how to get it. I’m not that smart. I can never be a wise Christian.”
If that’s what you are saying to yourself, James has good news for you, it’s not true. He writes, “if any of you lacks wisdom…” You have a problem, you lack wisdom. Don’t be overly discouraged. There is a solution available to you.
He doesn’t say if the pastors lack wisdom, or if the really smart spiritual people lack wisdom, no he says if any of you lack wisdom.
If you are a Christian, you can become wise. You just need to know how.
James tells us in verse 5.
And it’s not all that complicated.
If you lack wisdom, you ask God for it.
Ta – da. That’s where it all starts.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” Every time you need wisdom, you should go to God, and ask Him to give it to you. And you should keep on asking Him until you receive it.
In our English translations this verse reads like a suggestion, “let him ask God,’” but in the Greek, it is a command, “He must ask God.” You find yourself facing a problem, and you feel unable to take God’s truth and apply it to your situation, or to obey in that situation, you need to, you must ask God for wisdom. This should be a habitual part of your prayers.
God will provide what we need to live the Christian life, if we ask…