On Trials part five

God does not always answer our prayers for wisdom. But it’s important to understand that if our prayers for wisdom go unanswered, the problem is not with God. The problem is with us. We are asking God for wisdom in the wrong way.

“But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Many of us ask God for His wisdom for our trials, but we don’t really want it. What we really want is for Him to tell us what we want to hear. I remember once back when I was in college I needed to make a difficult decision, so I went to my dad for some counsel. I asked him his opinion and then proceeded to argue with him for about half an hour on why his opinion was wrong. Finally, he stopped me and just said, “Josh you don’t really want my advice, do you? You just want me to agree with you.”

That’s the way many of us go to God. We go claiming to be asking for wisdom, but we don’t really want it. And we won’t receive it until we really do.

To receive an answer to our prayers we must ask in faith.

He is describing a whole-hearted dependence on God. To ask in faith means to commit to believing God when we turn to Him in prayer. If you want wisdom, you need to choose to trust who God is and what God says.

There may be times when you don’t feel like trusting God. You are in a difficult situation, and everything within you is saying run, stay away from God, don’t trust him. Don’t give in. Don’t be a prisoner to your feelings. You don’t have to feel like trusting God to truly trust Him.

Jerry Bridges explains, “I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him (which I almost never did in times of adversity.) Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will, and is not dependent on my feelings. I choose to trust God and eventually my feelings will follow…To trust God in times of adversity is admittedly a hard thing to do. I don’t mean to suggest in my emphasis on choosing to trust God that the choice is as easy as choosing whether or not I will go to the store…Trusting God is a matter of faith and faith is the fruit of the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can make His Word come alive in our hearts and create faith, but we can choose to look to Him to do that, or we can choose to be ruled by our feelings of anxiety or resentment or grief.”

To receive an answer to our prayers we must ‘ask in faith without doubting…’

At first, I’ve got to admit that verse was a bit discouraging to me. I thought, “There’s no way I can ever pray perfectly without ever having any questions, especially in the midst of my difficulties. It’s great that God loves to give, but how’s that help me if just one doubt will taint my prayer and make it worthless?”

Fortunately that’s not exactly the point James is making.

When James says that we must ask without doubting, he is not saying, “If you are confused, if you have fleeting doubts that run through your mind, if you have weak faith, or some honest doubts, God won’t answer your prayers.” We know that because there were times in the Psalms where the writer was wrestling with doubts, and yet God heard him. And in the gospels, we read of a man crying out, “I believe, help my unbelief…” and Jesus hears him.

This term ‘doubting’ is much more than just having some questions. It literally means to be divided against oneself. It’s continually, habitually disputing with yourself. “I want God’s way, no I don’t want God’s way.”

The doubter can’t agree with himself. He’s constantly vascillating back and forth between going forward and trustfully obeying God’s Word and going back to his old lifestyle pattern of sin. He never commits. There’s a battle continually raging within the doubter’s soul between following God and following the world. With following the world usually winning.

He goes to church on Sunday, but lives for himself all week. He asks God for wisdom, but refuses to accept the things he disagrees with. He talks a good talk, but he walks a terrible walk. He plays the game of pick and choose with the Bible, picking and choosing what he wants to hear and obey, and ignoring the rest. He’s a man with divided loyalties.

He’s like “the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…” Picture waves going up and down, always changing, completely dominated by outside forces. The doubter has no anchor for his soul. He’s up one day and down the next. He wants to follow God, he doesn’t want to follow God. It all depends on what friends he is with, or what is influencing him. He’s got no inner strength.

He’s a ‘double-minded man.’ He’s like a man with two souls. He has a ‘spiritual multiple personality disorder.’ “He acts as though two distinct souls or personalities were in his body, in perpetual conflict with one another. The one is turned God-ward, while the other is turned toward the world; the one believes God, but the other disbelieves. He is a walking civil war in which trust and distrust of God wage a continual battle against each other.”

God is sincere. He sincerely wants to give you wisdom. The question is: are you sincere? Do you really want His wisdom?

God will not answer the prayers of a double-minded man. In fact if you are living your life with a divided heart, James commands you to stop thinking that God hears your prayers. “For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

James finds it contemptible that a man whose living his life trying to serve two masters could actually dare to expect his prayers to be answered. “Let not that man…” A.T. Robertson a Greek scholar calls this the contemptuous use of the pronoun. If you are living your life wavering back and forth between God’s will and your own, and you think that God is going to answer your prayer, you are simply deluding yourself. You are living in a fantasy land. You need to wake up to reality.

Don’t blame God that you are not getting the wisdom you need. It’s not His fault. He’d love to give you wisdom, if you would just commit to fully trusting in Him and following His will.

This means:

You need to make a choice. Whom are you going to serve?

I can’t overemphasize the importance of that question. It’s absolutely fundamental. Maybe that’s one reason we find it repeated so often throughout Scriptures.

Joshua commanded the Israelites in Joshua 24:15, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods which your forefathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Make a choice!

Elijah asked the people of God in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal follow Him.” Make a choice!

Jesus rebukes the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:16, “…because you are neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth…” Make a choice!

You can’t serve two masters. It’s impossible.

And I guarantee you if you try to the results will be devastating.

If you are double-minded it will affect your relationship with God. God’s not going to hear your prayers. But that’s not all. James explains in verse 8, it’s also will have an effect on you. “…you are going to be unstable in all your ways.”

If you are double-minded it’s going to affect everything about you.

The word unstable means unsettled. It was used in Classical Greek to describe someone who was politically unstable, swayed by every new or different idea that came his way. It describes a person who has no constancy of soul, who is inconsistent, and restless, who doesn’t have a solid place to stand.

If that’s true of you – there’s a reason – you are a double minded man. If you are going to stop living a life that is so unsettled, you’ve got to deal with your basic lack of commitment to Christ.

If you are trying to live your life half and half, partly for this world and partly for the next, trying to seek first the kingdom of heaven and seek first the kingdom of self, trying to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven while you are just as diligently trying to store up treasures here on earth, there is no way you are going to be able to consider it all joy when you face trials of many kinds. And as a result you are going to be completely immature, and completely unstable in all you do.

When it comes to responding to life’s difficulties, James has great news for you. You can respond with joy to absolutely every circumstance that comes into your life. You can respond in a way that benefits you and those around you. You can be an over-comer.

But it all comes down to this: To consider trials an occasion for joy, you need wisdom. You need to learn how to put the truth you know into action.

Every Christian can be wise. If you are not, you need to ask yourself a couple questions:

1.) Do I lack wisdom because I’m not going to God for it?

2.) Do I lack wisdom because I’m looking in the wrong places for it?

3.) Or do I lack wisdom because I don’t really want it?

If you want to respond with joy to the trials of life, you must decide whom you are going to serve!

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