5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him."
James is writing a pastoral letter to encourage those who are facing trials.
He is really speaking to all of us because we are all facing various trials
in this broken, sinful world. James wants them to see that all their trials,
large and small, are testing their trust in the Triune God.
As we go through trials we are faced with the choice to live as if God is
good, active, and present or to act as if He isn't hearing us, caring about
us, and able to bring good out of this struggle. James reminds his readers
in the first paragraph of his letter that we can trust that our trials will
add up to joy because as we count on God through them our confidence in Him
is strengthened and God will bring us to completion through them. He will make
us truly perfect, able perfectly to receive His life and love for us. We will
be filled with His fullness, lacking in nothing.
When we are in the midst of some difficulty, it can be hard to see beyond
the immediate circumstances. James encourages his readers to go through their
trials looking at the endpoint, where all of one's life is going. God is taking
us to the point of being "perfect and complete". Nothing less. This
is what these present struggles will add up to as we count on Him to be at
work in our lives.
In the end we will lack nothing. But now, in the midst of struggles we may
be lacking something, namely, wisdom. Wisdom for what? Well, if we look at
what precedes this verse, it would seem that James is talking about wisdom
to get through the trials. I am sure you have at times, like I have, struggled
to know how to pray or what to do in the midst of trying circumstances. It
is not usually immediately apparent to me what decisions to make when I am "under
fire". Behind the struggle to know what to do is a lack of wisdom about
God. In trials, as I talked about last time, we can easily forget who God is.
We wonder if He is good, or interested in us.
James assumes that we are likely to lack wisdom to get through our trials.
So he encourages his readers to ask God and assures them that wisdom will be
given them. God desires that we are wise, for wisdom enables us to walk through
life in confidence that we are participating in His good work in our lives
and in the lives of others. But where do we begin to find wisdom? James does
not say to seek wisdom first about our particular trials. He wants us to start
James includes in this verse a short description of the God he is telling
them to ask. He tells them about this God of whom he is a servant. God "gives
to all men generously and without reproaching." Now why does James include
this here? Why doesn't he just tell them to ask God and He will give it to
them? He is reminding them of the character of God because this is the very
thing about which they are lacking wisdom and they might be tempted not to
bother asking God. If I am unsure that God cares for me in my circumstances,
then I am less likely to ask help of the only one who can really provide it.
James knows they are struggling with their faith and so he lovingly builds
it up by reminding them of the truth of who God is.
First of all, God is a God who gives. God is a giving God. That is who He
is, not something He occasionally does. Who is He? He is the One who gives.
In the midst of trials, we are tempted to forget this. Maybe we worry that
He is a God who mostly takes. We wonder, will God give anything to us now?
Secondly, God gives generously. We may believe He will give, but wonder how
much. Is God a stingy God? Is it His nature to give begrudgingly? No, James
says. He not only gives, but is generous. God delights in abundance. This section
reminds me of the story of the shepherds in Luke. Really one angel would have
been sufficient for the shepherds to get the good news of Jesus' birth. But
God sends a whole company to sing and praise, for a group of forgotten shepherds
on a hillside. I am so glad James reminds me of this generous God, because
it isn't easy to see this about Him when I look at some of my trials. I need
to be reminded again and again of His true character, seen most clearly in
the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Thirdly, God gives generously to all. When we are struggling, are we often tempted
to believe, yes, sure God gives and is even generous--just not to me. I often
notice what I think is evidence that God is giving more to someone around me
than He is to me. Does He really see me, here, in this time of trial? Does He
Lastly, God gives without reproach. This is wonderful to remember. I need
not fear God's reproach. Will me make He "pay" for His generosity?
Will He upbraid me first for my lack of faith, or my puny obedience before
He is gracious? Will he make me feel like I wished I had never asked or that
this will be the last time I ask? I have to admit, I find this amazing because
I see in my own heart that I often desire to reproach first before I will be
giving. I want to make sure that my children really are sorry, that my husband
knows how much he has hurt or disappointed me. God gives without reproach?
Unbelievable! You have to be kidding!
This section reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. When
the Father sees his wayward son, still a long way off, he runs to him and embraces
him. He cuts his son off as he is in the middle of his little speech and orders
the servants to honor his son. What amazes me is not just what the Father says,
but what he doesn't say. If I were the Father, I would have wanted to hear
just how sorry my son was before I welcomed him back. I would be tempted to
make him earn, so to speak, my mercy, by his groveling. James knows his readers
might be tempted not to turn to God for wisdom in the midst of their trials
because they fear His reproach. So he takes the time to remind them of the
true heart of their heavenly Father.
God desires to help us to grow in our ability to count on Him as we walk through
the difficulties that are inevitable in such a broken and lost world. We need
His help even to have the faith to count it all joy. We do not have wisdom
on our own. I am thankful for this letter that we are reminded that God is
a giving, loving Father, ready to provide us with the wisdom we need to grow
in our ability to receive from Him the life He has for us. I admit that asking
for wisdom is not always the first thing I do in a trial. I may focus so much
on the trial and wanting it removed from my life that I do not ask God to help
me see how He is present and working. I am thankful though, that He is drawing
me to ask for His help and ready without reproaching me to give it.
I hope this reminder of God's character gives you hope again and a desire
to ask for His wisdom as you go through the daily trials you face.
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