Pastor Corie Manglos spoke on James 1:2-8. She talked about how wisdom is a divine gift that is given graciously by God.
Trials and Temptations
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
We apologize that we only have a portion of the sermon recorded. Please see the written text of Pastor Corie’s sermon below.
Pastor Corie’s sermon text
We are heading into another new year. This is a perfect time for a restart, to dedicate yourself to a new goal, or to put in place the knowledge you already have.
When I was a kid, our church had a “watchnight” service. This was basically a mini New Year’s Eve party. We had lots of food, we usually watched a movie, we played games, we sang. We ended the old year, writing resolutions and then praying. Every year, I would write a resolution. At some point, as an adult, I decided to no longer write resolutions. As a perfectionist, I struggled with committing to something and not following through, or allowing myself to fail. Failure for me is usually not an option, so I didn’t like setting myself up with a resolution.
However, there is something wise about taking time to evaluate our life and where we have been – making a plan to move forward.
This morning, we are going to be in James 1:5-8 – a great passage that speaks exactly about wisdom. Let’s read it together. I am reading in the NIV and the words are posted on the screen. You can use your phone, your paper Bible, or the screen behind me.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given tto you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
The verses leading into this passage are interesting. One of the things stressed is that when we face trials and difficulties in life, we produce perseverance (or patience). Let’s look at verses 2-4 just to put it into perspective.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Pure joy – Christmas is usually one of the most joyful times of the year, but the reality is that it isn’t joy filled for everyone. Struggles don’t go away. Family relationships don’t miraculously get better. And unlike a Hallmark movie, issues don’t resolve themselves by Christmas Eve. And yet, believers, our lives are supposed to be different. Everyone goes through difficulties and trails, but we can see here that these difficulties mature our faith.
I am sure as you have gone through the Christmas season you have been given many opportunities to produce patience. I don’t know about you but sometimes I have had all the lessons in patience I can handle.
The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a trial for me. A few weeks ago, I drove my aunt to Illinois to be with her daughter as she awaited a liver transplant. She wasn’t strong or healthy enough for surgery and had an infection they were trying to get under control – two things helped, songs and knowing Trudy had opportunity to get right with God.
The day after Christmas, I was supposed to meet my aunt and her other daughter (my cousin) for lunch here in Madison, since that is the halfway between where my aunt lives and where my two cousins live. They got on the road at 7:30 a.m., but at 9:45, they received a call from the hospital telling them to come back, that Trudy might not make it through the day. By the time they arrived at the hospital, Trudy did not know them or recognize them. Her dad, whom hasn’t spoken to her in over 20 years, was there.
They airlifted her to St Louis late Wednesday night hoping an infection specialist there could help her. She didn’t wake up. She passed away at 4:30 in the morning Thursday. I will be heading to Illinois today for her funeral.
When things like this happen, too often, it is easy to demand an answer from God – “why?” “Why is this happening?” “Why now?” There are really no answers that will satisfy us as to the why.
God wants to walk with us through times of pain and grief. I know many times in my life, I have learned more about who He is and even who I am through times of difficulty. This doesn’t mean I am not hurting. It doesn’t mean you won’t grieve some time. What it does mean is that His love for us doesn’t change. It means He will comfort us. It means He will protect and provide for us. His nature doesn’t change based on our circumstances.
Some of our trials aren’t as gut wrenching as the one my family is currently walking through, but they can still produce perseverance. One particular week my patience was pushed to the limit. We were still living in Iowa where I owned a coffee shop. Brendon had moved temporarily to Wisconsin for a temp job, the kids and I were still in Iowa…
Illus: Flood @ PerkCup & mouse trap
I was lacking help! My patience was being tried. But I see that if I let perseverance (or patience) complete its work, I will gain maturity. Look again at verse 4-5 – “You may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Five starts, “If any of you lacks wisdom.” God is saying something very profound here. If we let Him work through these trials, He will produce something amazing in us. And if we lack what we need, He will give that as well!
State Farm Insurance rates the most dangerous intersections for accidents in the United States. The winner was the corner of Belt Line Road and Midway Road in Addison, Texas. There were 263 reported crashes at that intersection in the Dallas suburb. That averages out to about five wrecks per week, not counting the unreported fender benders.
Sometimes as we drive down the road of life, we come to dangerous intersections. Sometimes we refer to them as “forks in the road.” They are those moments where a choice we make or don’t make sets us on a course that could influence the rest of our journey. Do we stop or go. Turn right or left. Go ahead or turn back. Perhaps you feel like you are at a dangerous intersection right now in your life.
The Bible speaks about a divine resource we can utilize when we come to those intersections. It is called wisdom.
Illus: GPS – I am a terrible navigator. I say all the time that I am directionally challenged. I live by google maps – I pretty much turn it on anywhere I am going. Two years in a row, I got us lost on the way to womens retreat – the first year I did this, we were driving from Iowa to Illinois, but somehow, I navigated us into Missouri. You know you have gone the wrong way when you land in another state and you think you are driving straight east. When given the option of two roads, without my gps, I will choose the wrong road 90% of the time.
So it is a good thing the Bible is our gps in our spiritual life!
James (in verses 1-4) has just finished speaking about the various trials we encounter in life, these difficulties and afflictions that come our way. Often times, these trials bring us to one of those intersections where we feel lost and don’t know which way to go. We don’t understand the cause of the trial or its purpose. We begin to feel acutely our shortage of wisdom. In this text, James tells us what to do.
What is wisdom?
There are various definitions of wisdom. Webster defines it as “the ability to make right use of knowledge.” Wisdom involves the practical use of that knowledge to deal with life’s issues. What a beautiful point for us today.
1) God gives wisdom
True wisdom, according to Scripture, begins with God – Prov 1:7 states “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” NLT states, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
As a kid, I totally misunderstood what “fear of the Lord” meant and I couldn’t understand why people who loved God would be afraid of God. I was an adult before I really understood that in the Bible when it speaks of fearing the Lord, it means being in awe of God, or the reverent relationship of knowing God.
Really, life demands wisdom. As we face various difficulties, forks in the road, decisions that need to be made, we need wisdom and applied knowledge. There are many times we don’t know what the best decision is, especially when both options seem good. Ultimately if we are following God’s path, if we are reading His word, the knowledge we receive will inform our decisions which will lead us in the right way. However, there are other times where we need to have a firm and clear decision making process, where we can’t wait for things to just happen.
We shared this morning with our community question about a new years resolution. How many of you make it a habit to set a resolution? When we set a resolution, we also need to form a plan to make those changes happen. Having the resolution and thinking about it would be knowledge. Setting steps towards completing that resolution would be wisdom.
2) Recognize your need for wisdom
In this text in James, notice a word in verse 5, “lacks.” Sometimes we can see what we are lacking, but there are times where we just go along in life and don’t notice that we are lacking.
It’s like the gas gauge in the car. I can’t tell you how often I get in the car and head someplace just assuming there is gas in the car. I don’t think to check it, it should just be there, right?
This means, that often, as I am driving along I hear a beeping and a little yellow light shows on my display letting me know I have about 50 miles left in the car. I would be lost without an accurate gas gauge.
We had to replace Elena’s gas gauge in her car last summer because the gauge itself didn’t work, so when she filled her tank with gas, it would still show “empty.” She had to reset the trip odometer and when it reached 320 miles she knew it was time to put more gas in. The gas light didn’t work in her car either. So after a number of times of getting a call to rescue her, we started making her carry a full gas can in her trunk. Finally, we replaced the gauge so it didn’t keep happening.
What we see here is if you do not face up to your lack of wisdom, you will never ask for it. It is the arrogant person who thinks they never need counsel. It is the foolish person who refuses to admit his/her need for wisdom. It would have be foolish for us to keep ignoring the little warning lights in our lives – this is true in our faith life as well. We need to pay attention to these warnings.
When my brother was a freshman in college, he was home at Christmas and went to see the dentist. There was a weird bump in the roof of his mouth. His dentist took xrays, but didn’t see anything to be concerned about. Jeff returned to college in mid-January. He came home in May for a week before his internship. When he stepped off the plane, I noticed something was wrong with his mouth. His face seemed slightly swollen, and when he smiled, one of his front teeth was lower than the other. I insisted he see a different dentist. My brother had a tumor. It had grown from when he was home in December and he ended up having emergency dental surgery. The tumor had come within ¼” of his brain and at the rate it was growing, the surgeon told him he could have died before the end of summer.
The dentist asked my brother if he had noticed any changes since December. My brother answered, “I have had almost constant pain in my mouth and face, and yeah, I noticed my tooth was weird.” Why didn’t my brother get help? There were clear warning signs? His body was giving him the knowledge that something wasn’t right, but he didn’t have the wisdom to address the situation.
Wisdom requires us to act upon the knowledge we are given. Wisdom causes us to address the situation.
So the first step to gaining wisdom is to admit our need for it. We need to come to God and ask for wisdom and direction for our life. (verse 5)
3) Ask for wisdom
The next word to notice in verse 5 is ask — If you lack wisdom ask God. Wisdom is a divine gift. You don’t get it by living a long life or experiencing many different things. You get it from God.
Rather than frantically trying to figure everything out by ourselves or getting our answers from Dr. Phil or Oprah, we need to go directly to the source – GOD. God will give you wisdom.
The next word to notice in this same power-packed verse is “generously.” God gives generously. God is not stingy with this gift. He is not stingy with any gifts. He knows how badly you and I need it. Notice that God gives wisdom generously, abundantly. He doesn’t hold back to see if we have earned the right to have it. He gives it to us because we ask.
God gives us wisdom “without finding fault.” The word is best translated as “reproach or insult.” God will give you wisdom without insulting your own intelligence. God will give wisdom to us without finding fault. Have you ever been in a class or meeting and wanted information but were afraid to ask because you weren’t sure how the teacher or presenter would respond? You don’t want to look dumb, so you don’t ask. The reality is many times there are others in the class with the same question.
God is not a harsh teacher. He won’t embarrass you. He won’t call you out for not knowing. He desires to give us wisdom. God will not insult you and make you feel an inch tall for asking for wisdom.
The first time I had to drive and rescue Elena who was stranded on the road with her brother on the way to school, I brought a gas can from home, and got her going. The second time, I took her with me to the gas station, bought her her own can, and had her put the gas in her car – but I didn’t yell at her, I didn’t insult her. I didn’t find fault.
God is a great parent – He doesn’t insult us for asking for what we need.
Have you ever been in a situation where you dreaded asking someone for something because of all the grief you had to go through to get it? You just knew that they were going to say something like, “OK, I’ll give this to you but if you weren’t such a loser I wouldn’t have to.”
God is not like that when we ask for wisdom. God’s attitude toward gift giving are an example to us. Jesus explained in Matthew 7 that a good parent never insults the child who comes asking for bread by giving him a stone. He doesn’t give him a snake if he asks for fish. “So, if you, who are evil, can give good gifts to your kids when they ask, how much more will God give us good gifts when we ask Him?”
Easy, right? If you need wisdom, ask God and He will give it to you generously and without insult. Oh, but wait…there’s more. You didn’t think it was that easy did you?
Verse 6-7 — Here is the kicker. “But when you ask you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
We must ask with faith, without doubting His ability to give, nor His desire to do so. Other places in Scripture it says, “Ask and you shall receive”? And “you do not have because you do not ask.” Oops, we need to ask IN FAITH, believing He will answer.
The word doubt here means to dispute with oneself.” It isa kind of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ that goes on in the heart. Did you ever pull the petals off a flower and say, “he loves me, he loves me not?” This is the attitude of the doubter towards God. “I think He loves me, but I am not really sure.” This is the same God who came in human form, as a baby, born in a stable, placed in a disgusting feeding trough – like Thomas spoke about at our Christmas Eve service. Why did He do that? Because He loved us so much, and yet, here we are doubting His love.
The doubter is like a wave of the sea being tossed around by the wind. Very unstable and insecure. How many of you have been to the ocean? When you stand in the ocean, you are never really sure which waves will grow large and knock you down as they approach the shore or which will fizzle out.
I have never surfed, but I love snorkeling. It is like my number one favorite thing to do. I have been snorkeling a couple of times in very dangerous waves.
Illus. Cabo San Lucas
Another time, in Aruba, Brendon and I were snorkeling in some fairly shallow waters and taking pictures of these amazing coral formations. The waves were pretty bad, so Brendon was standing because he isn’t a strong swimmer, but I was determined to enjoy the day and keep taking these amazing pictures. A huge wave grabbed me and threw me into the coral behind me and I was hurting. I surfaced and I thought I had a coral scrape. Brendon took a look at my arm and was fairly sure I had been stung by something. Turns out, I had smashed into a large sea urchin and had a terrible sting – infection, Benadryl…
The waves of the sea are unstable. When we ask God, but then doubt His ability or His desire to give generously, we are acting like waves in the sea! The question is will we trust God this time, with this trial. Scripture tells over and over again that God is faithful. How can we doubt the one who created us and desires what is best for us?
The one who doubts God’s goodness and faithfulness should not expect to receive anything from God.
The doubter is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does, like the ocean waves. The doubt James refers to here is not intellectual doubt. It is not doubting the existence of God or His ability to answer a prayer. It is knowing who God is but not believing that He will do something good for you.
How many times do you ask God for something and then find yourself shocked when He answers? I know I do. All the time! This is doubting God’s goodness. It is doubting that He is who He says He is and that He does what He promises to do. It is the doubt of divided loyalties. We cannot be a vacillating Christian who cannot decide from one trial to the next whether we will really trust the Lord and follow His wisdom.
We need to ask for wisdom and believe that He will give us what we are asking for, generously, without insult.
Conclusion: We are going to close this morning with a quote from Abraham Lincoln who said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
Can you identify with those words today? Do you face a problem which has exhausted your best efforts to solve? Are you looking for answers which seem to evade you? Has your wisdom and the wisdom of those around you fallen short?
There is hope. The One who is Himself All-wise delights to give His wisdom to those who ask with a trusting heart. Have you asked God for wisdom?
We need to ask for wisdom for our marriages. We need to ask for wisdom to parent our children. We need to ask for wisdom to help us on the job. We need to ask for wisdom to deal with difficult relationships. We need to ask for wisdom to minister to others.
Does anyone lack wisdom here today? Let him ask God.
I want to close with a question for you. As we face a new year, with new tasks, new challenges, new trials — what area of your life do you need wisdom?