Asking Wisdom in Trial
James 1:5
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.…

I. WHO IS TO ASK? "If any of you lack ' — evidently the lacking man. A man who is full does not feel the need of asking: he has no necessity for seeking. Now, we know as a matter of fact and of experience, that as long as we are living an even, prosperous life, even though we may be Christians, there is great danger lest we should fancy that we lack not. There is great danger lest we should be satisfied with our faith, with our Christian standing, with our conduct in the world, and with our general deportment. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." But presently trial comes, and we know that trial very soon searches us out, and makes us feel that there is that in our faith which is lacking, that in our love which is lacking, that in our obedience which is lacking, that in our separation from the world which is lacking, that in many parts and phases of our Christian character and conduct, which comes far short of that to which it ought to have attained.

II. FOR WHAT? "If any of you lack" — now what are we to ask for? The case supposed is that of a Christian under trial. You will observe that the apostle does not direct us to pray for deliverance from the trial; he does not direct us to ask that the trial may be removed — this is a very common prayer; but it is rarely a wise or a safe prayer; and it is not often a successful prayer. St. Paul, when the thorn in the flesh was sent to him, sought the Lord thrice, that it might be taken from him; but it was not taken from him; his prayer was not answered as he had offered it. Neither, you will see, does the apostle direct us to pray for patience, for a stronger faith, for an entire submission; all that is most important. But what we want when the trial comes is, first and foremost, Divine wisdom, that we may be able first rightly to understand the true meaning of God in the discipline that we may be able to see what His purpose is in thus dealing with us. Then, having that wisdom, we shall receive the trial submissively and with resignation. I believe that one of the causes why men murmur so much against God's discipline is because they do not understand it. And thus we shall use it rightly; we shall make use of it for our sanctification, and the perfecting of the work of God in the soul.

III. OF WHOM IS this wisdom to be sought? Obviously of God; and very emphatically is the giving character of God brought out in this verse, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask" — literally it is," of the giving God"; "of the giver God, who giveth to all men." Our Lord has taught us that it is "more blessed to give than to receive," and it is one of the attributes of the Divine character that He delights in giving — He is God, the Giver. But the Christian under trial, feeling the impenitence and the hardness of his own heart, feeling how he has rebelled against God, feeling how little he deserves any blessing from God, may ask, "Is this for me? Have I any right to look for it?" Observe how large are the terms of the promise — "that giveth to all men" — there is no exception there. God gives, and He gives "simply." There is no complexity in His giving. When man gives, he gives from a variety of motives, and he very often makes the person who receives feel that he is receiving a favour, and to receive that which is given to him with very unpleasant feelings; but there is nothing of this kind in God's gifts. When He gives, He gives simply; as the word is further explained in what follows, "And upbraideth not." There are things for which God does upbraid us. He rebukes us for our sins and our shortcomings, that we do not come and ask simply, as He is willing to give simply; but God never upbraids us for asking for wisdom; He never finds fault with us for seeking this great blessing and gift at His hands.

IV. THE MANNER HOW are we to ask? The apostle does not say, "Let him ask with humility" — that is implied, I think. Every man who really feels his need will come to God in a humble spirit. Neither does he say, "Let him ask with reverence"; that, I think, is implied. Every man who feels his need and lifts up his thoughts to the great God must come before Him with more or less of reverence and abasement of self. That which is placed before us as the essential qualification of the prayer which is to receive air answer, is simply this," Let him ask in faith," with a full and certain persuasion that God can and that God will answer such petition. And it is this spirit of doubting which is condemned by the apostle, as that which absolutely disqualifies the person who prays for the reception of the promised grace. There are, I think, three reasons which are adduced in the verses which follow.

1. In the first place, the doubting man offers no firm heart, and no firm mind, for the reception of the Divine gift, and, therefore, God cannot deposit that gift, so to speak, upon that heart and mind. "He that wavereth, he that doubteth, is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed."

2. But secondly, the doubting man dishonours God. If God makes a distinct promise, God declares that if we come before Him and ask for the fulfilment of that promise, He will grant it, and we come before Him doubting whether He wilt fulfil the promise and carry out His Word or not, do we not dis-honour Him?

3. But then there is another and a third reason given, namely, that the doubting man is unable to retain and to profit by the gift even if it were granted. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." We know that double-mindedness is of the very essence of weakness.

(E. Bayley, B.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him.

Asking Wisdom from God
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