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James 1:6-8

" 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7,8 For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord."

This section really needs to be understood with the preceding verse, the one we studied last week. In that verse James says, "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." As we have seen, James is talking to his scattered flock and helping them to know how, as believing people, they are to go through trials. James reminds them of what God is doing in us in the midst of the various difficulties with which we find ourselves dealing.

He knows that they may feel that they lack wisdom about God and about how to proceed through their trials with God, so he encourages them to ask God and reminds them of His character. He builds their faith and hope in God by helping them to see again that God is a giving God, One who gives generously to all and does not reproach. He knows how difficult it is for them to count on God when they are unsure about His character. By seeing Him clearly, our trust toward Him is drawn out of us.

Now James includes a warning to reinforce from the other side what he has just said. "But," he says, "let him ask in faith, with no doubting..."

What does James mean here? Is he saying that we must somehow make ourselves have no shadow of doubt in our minds when we petition God? That God will only listen and respond to us if we have "perfect" faith?

No. This is definitely not what James is saying. He has already told them to ask God if they lack wisdom. He assumes they are struggling with how to go through trials, not that they "have it all together." He says that these trials test their faith. It is in the midst of difficulty that we can become unsure, we lose sight of who God is and are tempted not to count on Him and live as if He is present and active. Telling them just to “have perfect faith” would not be helpful.

Let's look more closely at this passage and see how James defines what he means by doubting. In v. 6, he describes the one who doubts as being "like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." So one who is doubting is like someone without any anchor, rather than one who has an anchor but is struggling to trust it still works. This person has no discernment and is influenced by everything around her/him. As James goes on to say at the end of the passage he is "unstable in all his ways..."

In vv. 7 & 8, James describes this kind of person as someone who is "double-minded". Another way to say this is literally being "in two minds." Such a person who asks God could be double minded about their request—they may say they really want God’s best, but have their hearts set on something far less. Perhaps they go back and forth in their requests. Or the double-minded person may also be double minded about whether or not they trust God in the midst of their trial. They may be equally counting on something else besides God to get them through this trial. So, he says, one should not suppose that "a double-minded man ... will receive anything from the Lord."

This is not so much because God won't give. As James has just been telling his readers, God is a generous giver. The problem is with the one petitioning God. James is saying that when we ask God for wisdom and help but really are looking for help to come from elsewhere, then we cannot receive from God. We do not end up seeing what God is doing and do not receive wisdom from Him for the trial we are living through because we cannot. We are not really counting on Him when we are also counting on ourselves, therefore we have put ourselves in a position where we are unable to receive the generous gifts He desires to give. The problem is our receptivity at that point, not God’s generosity.

James is saying that when we are in a time of trial, whether large or small, to ask in faith is to hand everything over to God, even our doubts or misgivings. We turn wholly to Him, and even ask Him to help us turn wholly to Him because we know we need His Spirit to work in us. We say with the man in Mark 9:24 "I believe; help my unbelief!" I know a woman right now who is in a very deep trial and is struggling to trust God. Although she wants to trust Him, up to this point she really has wanted God to do what feels the most comfortable for her right now as she is. She has really mainly wanted her circumstances and others to change so that externally she’d have fewer problems in her life. But she now realizes that to move ahead with her own plan isn't really to trust God at all and that if she refuses God’s work in her she will shut herself off at this point from seeing what God really could do in her life whether others cooperate or not!

James is speaking to people in trial. They may be looking around and saying that they do not see God working anywhere. They may be wondering if He is really caring and active at all. James reminds them that God can work through their trials for an ultimate good that is way beyond the present trials they face. He reminds them that God is the One they can turn to for wisdom and he goes over with them concerning the heart of this God they need to ask. Now he tells them that to ask God is to ask Him wholly, to turn over to Him all of their hopes, fears, and anxieties, and then to be able to better receive the wisdom this great God of theirs is ready to give them in the middle of their trials.

To do this we need to turn again to God and see who He is. That is why James first reminds them of who God truly is. He doesn't just insist that they "not doubt". He helps them gaze on the trustworthiness of God so that they are better able to see the uselessness of counting on anything else to take them through their trials.

I am glad to see again myself that God is the One I turn my questions over to--He can handle what I am struggling with so I do not need to begin hoping in myself to find a better solution!

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