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Teaching All Nations

Praying for Wisdom and Other Things

James has been called the “proverbs” of the New Testament. And just like proverbs, James deals with a variety of subjects. It does not deal mainly with any one particular subject but gives a lot of wisdom on different subjects.

 In the first part of James chapter 1, James talks about different trials that come, and if a Christian will endure, the endurance will work patience, and then once you become patient, you learn to be in want of nothing.

 Then he comes to vs 5 and he says

  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 James 1:2 he says, count it all joy when you fall into different trials. To be honest, we might say, I don’t know if I have the wisdom to react like that. I don’t know if that is where I am right now. It may be that some of us might say, I don’t understand how that these trials and tribulations work patience.

 James says, if you want to know where that kind of wisdom comes from, it comes from God.  The word wisdom carries with it the ability to judge soundly. To be able to discern, facts about life, and judge accordingly. And yes, there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge.

 Knowledge is just knowing certain facts. Wisdom is knowing how to properly assess those facts, and judge matters accordingly.

Wisdom comes from a few different places, one place that wisdom comes from is study.

Spiritual wisdom begins with the study of God’s word.  If you want to know what the Bible says, you read it, to find out. According to this passage, wisdom comes from God. And we have been told to pray for wisdom.

 Now how does God give wisdom? This passage here doesn’t come right out and say it, but notice what the Proverbs writer says concerning wisdom:

 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. (Prov. 3:5-7)

 Wisdom begins with putting our trust in God and doing what God tells us in His word. Wisdom begins by learning to put aside what I ‘think’ and living by what God has said.

 Again notice how Solomon pictures wisdom.

For wisdom [is] better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.  I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.  The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.  Counsel [is] mine, and sound wisdom: I [am] understanding; I have strength.  By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.  By me princes rule, and nobles, [even] all the judges of the earth.  I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (Prov. 8:11-17)

 Wisdom is personified here, and it states that when a person is truly seeking wisdom he can find it. James says one part of finding wisdom is to seek it from God or simply to ask it of God. But then the question is, does wisdom just drop on us from above? Not exactly.

 Recall that in Matthew chapter 6 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. One of the things he taught them to ask God for was bread!  

Give us this day our daily bread. (Mat 6:11) 

 Where then does our daily bread come from? It comes from God. It is a gift given by God, we are instructed to pray for bread, and it would be given by God.  In the same way, we are told to pray for wisdom, and that wisdom would come to us from God.

 So we must then ask, can I just sit in my house all day, not lift one finger to try to get that daily bread. And expect that God is just going to throw a loaf of bread down from heaven into my mouth? Of course not. Then how does it come? It comes from working and praying. (Mat. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:10)

 My mother used to say, “we should pray from the working end of the shovel.” That is, we work as though everything depended upon us, yet we pray as though everything depended upon God. And by doing so, we are showing our faith in God’s providence, by doing what we can and trusting God to do what He will.

 

 How To Attain Wisdom

 What does a person do to find wisdom? First, he must pray for it, it is absolutely essential that we pray for wisdom. But that is not all we do.

 Along with prayer, we find that it is necessary for us to gather all the information about a certain thing that we can. If you do not have enough information about a certain problem, then you might reach wrong conclusions. So, find out what you can concerning the problem before making a final decision.

 Also, a person can ask godly friends who are wise. There are people who have gone through certain similar situations, and we would do well to ask their opinions about certain matters. When godly people see someone going through difficulties that they had experienced in the past, they are glad to reach out and give wise advice that they learned.

 These are just a few ways that wisdom may be attained. One thing is sure. It does a person no good, to sit in his recliner and say, “God I pray you give me wisdom about how to feed my family.” And yet never move out of the easy chair, to search the job sites, to pick up a phone, or to ask those who are wise in matters of finding work by which he can feed his family.

 

 The Liberally Giving God

 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 Literally, this may be translated as: “let him ask of the Liberally giving God.” This is a brief description of the kind of God we serve. He gives liberally to us.  

 Liberally

The word “Liberally” here holds two different ideas.  The first is an ‘overflowing’  that is, he gives over-flowingly. He keeps giving and giving and giving. The second idea of the word liberally here is the idea that God gives without expecting something in return.

 Giving

We do not pay God for our blessings. Some might say, “well, of course, you serve God, he has given you everything you desire.”  In fact, that was the very problem Satan had with God when they battled over Job.  Satan thought God was bribing or paying Job to keep faithful to Him. But, this verse says, that is not the kind of God we serve. He doesn’t pay us to serve him.

 Also, we don’t bargain with God. He is not a bargaining God. Many believe that we can make bargains with God, they think “hey God, if you do this for me, then I will do that for you.”

 God doesn’t need anything from us for Himself. He can use us to help one another out. But I don’t give God some benefit by serving him. I am not making God a more ‘complete’ God by offering things to Him. Yet, over and over within the church people leave God because they try to bargain with him, they say things like:  “Well God, if you keep my mom alive, I will serve you,” and sure enough, their mother dies, and now they conclude that since God didn’t bargain with them, that they will just leave God, and that’ll show Him.

 But, that is not the God we serve.

 

God Wants to Hear from His Children

Notice the next phrase in verse 5.  “and upbraideth not;”

Upbraid is a similar word meaning to ‘revile,’ or to ‘cast a reproach.’ What then is James saying? He says, when we as God’s children go to God and ask Him for something, he is not going to throw it up in our face, He doesn’t revile or cast any reproach on our seeking His help.

 Sometimes, when my brothers and I were younger and in high school, we would go to my dad, and say, dad, can I have some money for this weekend? Dad would say, well, I just gave you 20 dollars on Wednesday, what happened to that? If you hadn’t blown that money, you wouldn’t have to come and ask me for more.

 It is not an exact parallel, but God doesn’t rebuke us for seeking further spiritual blessings. And, isn’t that a wonderful thought? That when you go to God in prayer, you don’t have to worry about what he will say. You don’t have to say, “well, God, I hate to bother you again, I know I just asked for something yesterday, but I would really like to ask you this again.” That isn’t the God we serve.

 He doesn’t get on to us, for requesting additional blessings. Notice the words of our Lord.

 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matt. 7:7-11)

 God wants us to pray, and ask for things that we need. Again, notice James’ words.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him

Have you prayed for wisdom lately? Have you prayed for wisdom to help know how to handle the difficulties in your life?

 Sometimes we pray, help this situation to end. When it may be better for us to pray, help me to have the wisdom to make it through this situation. Sometimes going through the storm actually develops the faith and trust in God that will ready you for the future.

 

 “I’ll Pray for it, but… I don’t know…”

 How many of us petition God in prayer, not convinced that God will help?  We say “well I will pray for it, but I don’t really know if it will help or not.” James says,  then there is no sense in your asking.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (Jam 1:6-7) 

If you don’t think God will help you out, if you don’t think he will give you the wisdom, to help you through the situation, then you don’t even need to ask.

 Asking in Faith here is the absolute knowledge and trust that He will do what he says, coupled with the idea that I am going to do what he says because that is what he says to do. Understanding that when I do what He says, I can also trust that He will do what he has said.

 So first you make it up in your mind, that you are going to obey Him fully. I might say,  “I know I am having a hard time right now, but whatever God says (through his Word) then I am going to do. Once I have that mindset, James says, then go to him, and ask him.

 

NOTHING WAVERING

 Wavering carries the idea of doubt.  Literally, the Greek root of the word means to separate. That is, really one is separated against himself.  Because, on one hand, he thinks, “well, God says to ask, and so I am going to,” -- but on the other hand he figures, “I guess, I won’t be surprised if my request is not really answered.”

 Contextually there another point that we can see here as well. And that is that sometimes we pray, “God help us to do what is right, but then we are divided inwardly because His Word tells us what to do, but we don’t really want to do what His Word says.

 And so we ask, not in faith. We just ask for show, or because we think that is what God wants to hear. But inside we are divided because we know what we need to do, but we don’t really want to do it. And when we live this way, James says that we are wavering. And when we live a wavering life, James tells us that we don’t need to expect anything from God. (vs 7) Many Christians think that they can fool God about their faith?  The fact is, they might fool me. I might meet this good brother each week, and I might say, “well, he is sure a faithful person,” but, he might not be, I don’t see everything going on in his life. So a person can fool me—but they can’t fool God.

 He knows you. And so, if you are divided, if you think you can pledge allegiance to God and the WORLD, you can’t, and as long as you are divided against yourself, -- don’t think you will receive the Lord’s blessings.

 

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