God will provide what we need to live the Christian life, if we ask.
The problem is – most of us are not humble enough to admit we need wisdom.
I remember when my daughter went through the “I want to do it” stage. We’d be putting on her shoes, I’d go to tie them, and almost every time she’d say, “I want to do it, Dad…” Now, she’s two years old. She has no idea how to tie her shoes. But she’ll wrestle with the laces, fumble around, sing a little song that my wife taught her about a rabbit going round a tree, and get so frustrated that she’ll finally say, “Daddy, you do it.” And I would tie her laces and off we’d go.
That’s cute when it’s a two year old trying to tie her shoelaces. But it is not a cute way to live life. Still, many of us live our whole lives in the “I want to do it” stage. We struggle to overcome our problems and to deal with them correctly, because we are just too proud to admit that we don’t know how.
When you are facing a problem, are you humble enough to admit you need wisdom? You won’t get wisdom until you recognize that you don’t have it. If you lack wisdom – stop relying on yourself. Go to God.
“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Others of us are willing to admit we need wisdom, we just don’t think of looking to God for it. We turn to everyone else but to God for wisdom.
We go to our friends, what do they think? We turn on Oprah Winfrey, what’s she think? We go to Barnes and Noble and get the latest book, what’s this or that particular author think?
God does use people to help us gain wisdom, no doubt about it. But do you understand that ultimately the source of wisdom is God?
If I want a house built, I don’t first turn to a hammer and say, ‘Go for it. Do your thing.’ No, I first go and talk to the builder. I understand that he uses the hammers and the tools, but I know those tools would be useless apart from his expert hand.
The same is true when it comes to obtaining wisdom. People are just tools and instruments He uses.
Scripture makes that abundantly clear. Proverbs 2:6, “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Specifically wisdom is found in Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God…” Paul tells us in Colossians 2:3 that in Christ, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” So if you want wisdom you’ve got to seek God through Christ. And He reveals that wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor.2:14) If you want to understand God’s wisdom which is hidden in Christ you need the Holy Spirit to open your eyes. And one of the primary instruments the Holy Spirit uses to give us skill for living is His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16,17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” God gave us this book so that we might have wisdom. The Psalmist understood that. That’s why he cries out, “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts.” (Ps.119:99,100)
Imagine you are in a trial, you don’t understand what’s happening, you don’t know what to do, and you want to give up.
How should you respond? Stop looking to yourself for wisdom. Admit that you don’t know exactly how to obey God in that situation, and go to Him in prayer. Ask Him to show you how to obey His will. Acknowledge He’s the source of true wisdom. Understand wisdom is hidden in Christ, and the only way to access that wisdom in Christ is through the Holy Spirit working in your heart. Realize one of the primary means the Holy Spirit uses is His Word. And whatever you do, don’t say you are going to God for wisdom if you are seeking it apart from Christ and His Word.
You want wisdom? You need to look to God. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given him.” That’s a promise.
Unfortunately, almost immediately our hearts object. We quickly come up with a number of different reasons the promise in this verse is too good to be true, and why we can’t really expect to receive wisdom from God. As a result, we fail to pray.
James anticipates our objections and gives us reasons to go to God in prayer. He writes, “let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.”
God’s not slow to give. Giving is part of God’s nature. Verse 5 literally reads, ‘let him ask the giving God…’
I’m sure you’ve had friends you would never think of asking for anything from because they are so slow to give. I hope you have also had the kind of friends that if you even hint about a need, attempt to meet that need before you can even finish asking.
God’s better than your most giving friend.
Your best friend has sin that taints what they give. Not God. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
A Greek poet once called God the lover of gifts, not because he loved to receive them, but because He loved to give them. He was right. That’s James’ point. You should go to God for wisdom, because He loves to give.
As believers we are God’s children. If your son and daughter came to you and asked for a piece of bread, you wouldn’t give him a rock and then laugh as he broke his teeth. If he asked you for a fish to eat, you are not going to give him a snake and then laugh as it bites him. And “if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him.” (Matt. 7:11) Rejoice. God’s a giving Father. So go to Him.
It gets better though. James goes on, God gives ‘to all men generously.’
There are two ways the Greek word for generously is used in the New Testament. First, it means just this generously, or abundantly. The Bible teaches that God gives more than we can ask or think.
We see that in the gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus Christ is proof of God’s great generosity.
God gives beyond what we could ask or think. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:20 that God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
God gives exceedingly abundantly. He’s done that in the past, by sending His Son. He does that in the present, by giving us the Spirit and many other blessings. He will do that in the future, he raised us up with Christ, “in order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” You should be quick to ask God for wisdom because He doesn’t just give – He gives abundantly.
The second way this Greek word is used in the New Testament, and the way in which it is most likely being used here, is to denote sincerity. The root for this term means single or undivided. This word can literally mean singlemindedness or singleness of aim. Paul uses the word this way in Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves be obedient to your masters…in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.” Jesus uses a variation of this term over in Luke 11:34 where he says, “The light of my body is the eye; therefore when your eye is single, your whole body is full of light.”
Take that definition and plug it into this passage in James.
God has a single, undivided goal to give good gifts to those who ask. He doesn’t give us commands and then kind of just laugh as we struggle because we don’t have the abilities to obey those commands. No, He sincerely wants to provide us with what we need to glorify Him.
As one commentator explains, “God gives with a selfless, total concern for us and with an exclusive preoccupation as if he had nothing else to do but to give and to give again.”
You might wonder, ‘when I go to God to ask for help, am I going to get lost in the shuffle? Is God going to be too busy, and too unconcerned to hear my prayer?’ James says, No! Go to God, He loves to give and He has a “single, undivided intent to give us those gifts we need to please Him.”
What is more, God “gives to all men generously and without reproach.”
When you go to God and ask for wisdom He doesn’t bring up all the other times you’ve come and asked for help. God gives without scolding.
Imagine going to a friend for help with a debt. You’ve asked him many times, so he’s a little reluctant to respond. Eventually he gives you what you need, but not without a lecture. After the verbal tongue-lashing, you think “I’m glad he gave me the money; but I know he sure didn’t like doing it.”
God’s not like that. He doesn’t knock you when you are down. He gives without reproach. He doesn’t answer your prayer and then make fun of you for asking.
The story of the prodigal son illustrates God’s attitude towards the repentant sinner who comes to him in prayer.
How did the father respond when the son returned? Did he say, “Son good to have you back but let me tell you a long list of all the things you did wrong, of all the ways you hurt me?” Did he say, “I forgive your sins, but I can’t forget?”
The prodigal knew his sins, but it seems as if his father forgot them. He received his son with open arms, and he cried out, “This is my son who was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.” His son came humbly and his father received him fully.
That’s the way God treats the repentant sinner who comes to Him trusting in Jesus Christ.
That effectively silences all our excuses. “I’m too big a sinner, there’s no way I can go to God right now, I’ve got to get my life right before I can turn to Him.” No James says, God gives without reproach. “I’ve gone too many times. He’s got to be tired of listening to me.” No James says, God gives sincerely. “I feel too far away from God, I can’t possibly pray when I am in a state like this.” No James says, if any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.
Your prayers aren’t answered because you are so worthy of them being answered. Your prayers are answered because of the character of God.
John Blanchard notes, “The devil cannot prevent God from answering our prayers, but he does all he can to prevent us from asking, and he often does so by twisting the truth that we are not worthy to ask. Now that is true. If we were only able to pray effectively when we were worthy, or when we deserved to be heard, or when we could bring to God a standard of obedience and holiness that gave us the right to be answered, then we would never be able to pray at all…When Christ died He bought for every Christian the right to have instant, constant access to the heart of God.”
Do you want wisdom? Do you really? “Ask God for it…and it will be given to you.”
That’s a promise.
There’s actually only one condition; which we will look at in the days to come.