Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Without doubt - James 1:5-8

There are many famous passages in scripture which are frequently quoted as promises for us to appropriate without a consideration of the context of the verses. This is a dangerous practice - dangerous because our faith can be tested by the promise apparently not being kept, when the reality is that we have failed to understand the other verses that go with the promise. For a recent sermon I wanted to cite some promises of God, and so found a list from a book. I decided to check up each passage before using them, and discovered that I had to weed out two thirds of the quoted promises because they had been quoted out of context.

James 1v5 is an commonly quoted passage "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him." What a wonderful promise! How we, like Solomon, need to acknowledge that only God has the answer to the situations we find ourselves in, and so we need to throw ourselves in dependence on Him and His wisdom every day. However, we read on and find v6-8: "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." Now, that's a bit different from the extract in v5! In fact, it paints a whole new picture.

The context of v5 is that of perseverance in trials and persecution. James reminds us that perseverance in such circumstances is important because these are sent that we might be honed and might learn more of Him, that we might be tested and shown to be disciples who love Him above all, that we might be disciplined so that we follow Him more closely. In the most difficult times, when all within us cries 'Why, Lord?', and the pressure is on to turn away from our saviour, we need wisdom to see beyond our circumstances to our sovereign and loving God. When we are faced with temptation, and the pressure to deny our love for Him, we need His wisdom to say 'no' to evil so that we are not conformed to the pattern of this world. In these trials we need His wisdom so that we are not 'blown and tossed by the wind'.

Now, understanding the correct context, we can see that the promise of His wisdom being given is a deeper blessing than merely the bald promise of v5. When we are struggling to walk with Him when under trials and difficulties, when we need to know we are following Him aright in the times when the way ahead seems so difficult to chose, when we need His reassurance that the decision to "not walk in the way of the ungodly" is the right decision, His wisdom is available to us. It is all about casting ourselves upon Him and His wisdom - believing and not doubting - in the time of trial.

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