Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 July 17, 2016
“Wisdom and Faith amid Trials”
Text: James 1:5-8
I don’t know if my experience last week was the same as yours, but since last Sunday—when the Spirit of God exhorted us to count it all joy amid trial, I’ve had an honors exam or two on applying the text. In my own case, it involved our sick, broken car. The car required two trips to the shop, which necessitated two trips to the dealership for a rental car, which further pressed at least three folks into providing rides for us, and so forth. Granted, this trial rises merely to the level of aggravation; I do know that there are trials more painful by far than ours last week, but ours was plenty at the time. I hope that you’ve not been tested and tried as our family was this week, but if so, then at least know you were not alone.
As I reflected upon my week, it seemed goodly to proceed a little farther in this first chapter of James. It helped me, to be sure, and I hope it will help you. Without further ado, then, let’s hear from God in this portion of His holy Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, exhorts any of us who lack wisdom, especially amid trial, to ask God for it. Several benefits will flow from this. First, we shall recall the text we learned last week, to wit, James 1:2-4. In that text we learned that God is working in our trials for our good—particularly maturity and completeness in Christ, through perseverance—and, therefore, we can count it all joy when we fall into trials of various kinds. Second, we shall recall other Scripture texts that list the benefits that come from trials, such as Romans 5:3-5 (patience, experience, and hope [KJV]) and 1 Peter 1:6-7 (refinement of precious faith). Third, we can recall some of the other uses of trial that we learned last week: such as experiencing God more deeply, being weaned off self-sufficiency onto God-sufficiency, enlarging ministerial capacity, and weakening of this world’s tether-hold on us. Fourth, in trial we learn or recall that God is the sole source of this heavenly wisdom—not to mention the ultimate source of anything good.
When we ask God for wisdom amid our trials (or at any other time in any other circumstances), we may rest assured that He will give it to us. The Lord Himself tells us in James’s letter that God gives wisdom generally—yea, even lavishly. He does not mete out a bare subsistence level of this heavenly wisdom. He pours it into and over our lives. More than this, God does not find fault with the one asking for wisdom. The sense accompanying the Greek word translated here as finding fault indicates that God neither insults us nor reprimands us for asking for this wisdom. This is a fine example of our perfect heavenly Father giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). He delights to give His blessings to us—even more than we desire to ask for them, though our desire be quite strong sometimes.
Concerning this wisdom amid trial, God commands us to ask for it in faith, not doubting. God would not have us doubt Him, and He leads James to describe the doubter with a vivid image. The one who doubts God in this matter is like a wave of the sea—driven by the wind and tossed about. The authors of the Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown commentary enlarge upon this, noting that the one doubting that God will grant wisdom amid trials is driven about by external circumstances and tossed about by internal disquiet. This is not a pretty picture, and, alas, some of us perhaps have resembled it far too exactly.
The doubter, obviously, is double-minded. He constantly vacillates between the two options contained in this question, “Will God provide wisdom in my trial, or won’t he?” Less obvious, but equally true, is the fact that the doubter is not controlled (Louw-Nida Greek-English lexicon) or unstable (ESV, NIV). The doubter is not controlled fully by the Spirit of God, and he has not set his mind and heart, the Lord helping, on God Himself in the trial at hand. Hence, he must be less than fully stable, if not in fact quite unstable, as the trial shakes his internal house. Even worse, the Lord tells us in His Word that the doubter shall not receive anything from the Lord, for he questions both the Lord’s power to give wisdom and the Lord’s kindness to give wisdom.
Happily, the matter need not conclude in such a dark state. If you (or if I) lack wisdom, especially amid trial, then—in the timeless words of C. H. Spurgeon—cry out to God for it. Do this even if your sense of lack of wisdom is not especially acute; cry out to God for this promised gift. Let’s press things a bit further. If you find yourself lacking the faith that God will supply you wisdom amid your trial, then—once again—cry out to God for the faith to believe Him for His gift. If this day you are trying to endure your trial without personal faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation, then cry out to Him for that salvation—and you shall both receive it and shall never be sorry about receiving it.
If your case be that your trial is so acutely painful or chronically achy that you struggle to believe God for wisdom and faith amid trial, then cry out to Him for these. Trial, if it be taxing enough, can make us forget the goodness and promises of God for a season. Therefore, cry out to God for faith, that you may have the power to trust in His promises, especially as they apply to you. Also, cry out to God for faith, that you may have the power to trust in His goodness, especially His goodness extended to you. God is giving us great benefits as the result of trial. Let us also embrace these precious gifts, wisdom and faith, that help us in the very midst of enduring trial. Our God gives them lavishly from His great loving heart toward us. Receive these gifts this day, and receive Him either initially or continually, and rest content in Him, O beloved tried one.