“Faith’s Confidence” – James 1:5-8

May 12th, 2013  (Mother’s Day)

James 1:5-8 (Psa 37; 73)

“Faith’s Confidence”

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Bible Memory Verse for the WeekIf any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5  

                                               

The question to be answered is . . . How in the world do I ever come to the point that I can even begin to find my trials, troubles and tribulations as a source of pure joy?

 

Answer: You must ask God for wisdom and trust, tremble, fear and obey His Word when He gives it.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . wisdom

 

“Wisdom is the endowment of heart and mind which is needed for right conduct in life.”  — Alistair Begg (sermon “A Biblical Perspective on Wisdom and Wealth” )

 

For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue.  For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.  (C. S. Lewis; The Abolition of Man)

 

Spiritual wisdom is the practical application in the daily life of the teaching of Jesus Christ.  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  James, 7)

 

The main thing you need to know is wisdom.  Not a pill, not a method, not a tool or a technique, not even 7 steps to health and improvement.  We want to change our heart to match reality which is  wisdom. —paraphrase of Tim Keller (sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

What does James tell us to do to test, develop and build our faith or confidence in God?:

 

When you are in trouble, the main thing you need, the first thing you need to check in your heart is do you have wisdom.  —Tim Keller (sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

I.  We lack wisdom if we fail to realize our trial is there for a reason: So our faith may become mature, complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-5; see also: Prv 19:11; Rom 5:1-5)

 

Suffering and pain is not the issue, but whether you can bear it or not.  And that is determined by the wisdom which you receive from the suffering or pain.

 

The wisdom mentioned here is directly related to trials; it’s not just wisdom in general.  James is referring to the ability to view a test from God’s perspective.  Without this kind of wisdom, the ability to endure becomes elusive, and the goal of maturity may never be reached.  (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 20)

 

James has linked v 5 back to v 4 by a word common to each: …lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks…  This does seem to be the connecting idea, and we can open out the thought like this: Look forward, then, to the day when you will stand complete, lacking in nothing.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 36)

 

The wise person will be able to see life as James has pictured it in vv 2-4; able to make personal decision and to shape life’s pathway, so as to enjoy the progress towards maturity which he has promised.  Such wisdom is a gift from God.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 38)

 

I saw her in church one Sunday and assured her that I was praying for her.

“What are you asking God to do?” she asked, and her question startled me.

“I’m asking God to help you and strengthen you,” I replied.

“I appreciate that,” she said, “but pray about one more thing.  Pray that I’ll have the wisdom not to waste all of this!”  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 29)

 

The theme is faith and its reaching a fullness or perfection through a variety of “testings” presented by an alternative understanding of the world.  The rest of the composition will elaborate a series of such “testings” that challenge faith’s perception of reality: testings that arise not only from human cravings and passions but from a measurement of reality that is actively hostile toward that offered by faith.  The composition will unfold as well the way faith is “perfected” by proper modes of speech and behavior, especially in the obedience and hospitality of faith shown by the “works” of Abraham and Rahab (2:20-25); in the “endurance of faith” demonstrated by Job (5:10-11); in the “prayer of faith” offered by Elijah (5:17-18).  (Luke Johnson, The Anchor Yale Bible: James182-83)

 

II.  Ask for wisdom:  Realize God desires to give you wisdom and everything else you need to become all He created you to be.  (Jas 1:5; see also: Prv 2:6; 8:11-12; 9:12; 10:13; 16:16; 19:8; 24:14; Mt 7:7-11; 21:21-22; Mk 11:24; Jn 14:13-14; 1 Jn 5:14)

 

We need to see our wisdom is limited and ask God for wisdom.

 

If you are discouraged, depressed, anxious, or confused it means that your theory of life is inadequate. You need wisdom from above.

 

In context, the meaning is that God does not give according to our worthiness or gratitude, nor does he withhold from blessing us because we ask too much or too often.  His giving is governed by his nature, not ours.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 29-30)

 

When Jesus died on the cross, we are told that “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom) (Mt 27:51).  This was a dramatic visual aid to show that the Old Covenant was at an end and the barrier between God and man removed.  The door shut by man’s sin was opened by Christ’s sacrifice.  By his death he bought the right for every Christian to have instant, constant access to the heart of God and to his throne of grace.  If only all Christians could grasp this truth!  The devil cannot prevent God answering our prayers, so he does all he can to prevent us asking and he often does so by twisting the truth that we are not worthy to ask.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 31)

 

It is of no use to pray to God to make you a good geologist, or botanist, or lawyer, or doctor, unless you also take the necessary means to become one.  But if a man wants the divine wisdom, let him get down on his knees.  That is the best place to secure it.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 364)

 

If we only believed that He gives simply because He loves us and that we need never fear our unworthiness will limit or restrain His bestowments, what mountains of misconception of the divine character would be rolled away from many hearts!  What thick obscuration of clouds would be swept clean from between us and the sun!  We do not half enough realize that He is the “giving God.”  Therefore, our prayers are poor, and our askings troubled and faint, and our gifts to Him are grudging and few, and our wisdom woefully lacking.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 368)

 

The first distortion occurs within what is popularly known as the “name it and claim it” philosophy, when Christians are taught that they should name whatever they need in faith and so claim it as given to them.  The dangers are the misplacing of faith and the raising of unbiblical expectations.  Christians are sometimes led, in effect, to place their faith in the force of their own believing, and then to expect freedom from hardship or deprivation.  What James is prescribing is something quite different: faith in the grace of God, which enables faith to be exercised even within hardship and deprivation.

A further distortion of the biblical teaching occurs when Christians treat James’ warning against doubt (and the similar teaching by Jesus in Mt 21:21) superficially, taking it to require a willful suppression of mental doubts.  This can become an unrecognized attempt to manipulate God by one’s own power of positive thinking.  The error has left many in bondage to fear, afraid of their own thoughts and afraid of the God who might hold their doubts against them and therefore not grant the wisdom needed.  The result is a crippling of people’s faith and a perversion of the very truth James is teaching: that God gives freely, without finding fault.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 42)

 

God gives his wisdom to men not only just for the asking but also without chiding a man for his previous sins, many of which the man may not even know he has committed.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 56)

 

Here and in the Synoptic Gospels it means primarily the simple act of coming to Jesus with some need in complete confidence that He can and will deal with it.  It was this attitude of faith that seemed to release powers in Jesus that made all things possible.  Often when Jesus had healed an ailing man or woman, his explanation of the healing was: “Thy faith hath saved thee.”  We would venture to add that these links of faith reveal most clearly the relation of God and men as partners in human life.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 57)

 

As we study the Word of God, it is obvious that God delights in giving.  He is generous; His very character is to give.  Love is His motive for giving.  In fact, He loved enough to give His very best.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” (Jn 3:16).  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 28)

 

God wants us to pray to him because he wants to be our God.  As God himself is unchangeable in all he says and does (Mt 3:6; Heb 6:17-18), so he expects his people to be the same.  He detests instability, double-mindedness, and doubt.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 40)

 

God is the loving Father of His children, who desires to help and to provide them with everything they lack.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 43)

 

Wisdom is a prominent idea in the OT and an intertestamental Judaism.  It is a practical idea: the ability to understand God’s ways and to live in light of his purposes and values.  James knows that genuine Christian maturity will be possible only if believers possess this wisdom from God.  (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Vol 4, 92)

 

III.  Ask for wisdom: Realize that if you are double-minded or you ask with doubts or an attempt to integrate godly wisdom with worldly wisdom, then you should never expect to receive anything from the Lord.  (Jas 1:6-8; see also: Josh 24:15; 1 Kgs 18:21; Mk 9:14-29; 1 Cor 3:18-23; Eph 4:14)

 

Who would think himself unhappy for having only one mouth.  Who would think himself unhappy not to be a king except for one who had been deposed?   If we’ve never known anything but corruption you would have no idea of truth and bliss.  — paraphrase of Blaise Pascal

 

James says vividly that such a man is dipsuchos, which literally means a man with two souls, or two minds, inside him.  One believes, the other disbelieves; and the man is a walking civil war in which trust and distrust of God wage a continual battle against each other.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 46)

 

James uses the same word in 2:4 to describe the “distinctions” or “divisions” which an undue attention to rich people can create in a church.  The word suggests, then, not so much intellectual doubt as a basic conflict in loyalties–as for instance between God and “mammon” (Mt 6:24) or God and “the world” (Jas 4:4).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 64)

 

The image is not so much that of the wave rushing shoreward as of the constant, restless surging of a body of water.  Like the surface of the sea, never having the same appearance from moment to moment, shifting and moving, according to the direction and strength of the wind, the divided person has no fixed beliefs and direction.  Having no “anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19), he is a prey to every shifting wind of doctrine and contrary storm of opposition and persecution, and his loyalty to God is constantly threatened.  He does not possess that unwavering confidence in God, uninfluenced by adversity and diverse opinions, that receives from the Lord what is asked.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 64-65)

 

The word double-minded (dipsychos) means literally “double-souled”, a suggestive indication of the depths of the division within this person.  The word is used here for the first time in Greek literature, and some think James himself may have coined it.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 65)

 

To have a fundamental cleavage in one’s basic attitude towards God; to be believing now one way, now another–this is the direct opposite of the faith James urges us to exhibit in prayer (v 6a).  Certainly God does not answer prayers uttered in such unbelief.  We should note that this “double-mindedness” is the antithesis both of that “wholeness” or “perfection” (teleios) which is the goal of Christian living (v 4) and of God’s “single,” “whole-hearted” character (v 5).  This desire for singleness and purity of intention is a leading theme in vv 2-8, and occurs throughout the letter (see especially 4:4-10).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 66)

 

We can never remove the last shred of doubt.  The father who came to Jesus’ disciples, asking them to heal his boy (Mk 9:14-29), then said to Jesus, “if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us” (NRSV).  Although this man felt the inadequacy of his faith, he was asking for help.  God promises to give wisdom to those who ask for it.  Instead of trying to rid yourself of all doubt, focus instead on wholehearted commitment to God (Dt 6:5; Ps 119:2; Mt 22:37).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 14)

 

A double-minded person is trying to be allied to both sides in a war.  That person is a walking contradiction.  Augustine confessed to this kind of thinking when he remembered one of his earliest prayers, “O Lord, grant me purity, but not yet!”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 14)

 

Doubters lack the inner stability to withstand external forces; therefore they are in constant turmoil and indecision.   (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 22)

 

The Greek negative implies that that man should stop “entertaining any thought of receiving an answer to his prayer.”  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 22)

 

Are we whole-heartedly committed to his way of seeing things and his ambitions for our future?  Or are we keeping a door open for the world?  Are we trying to have a foot in each camp?  (John Stott, The Message of James, 40)

 

Literally, it means “two-souled,” “with divided soul.”  We must put on one side our English usage “two-faced,” for James’ meaning is not that of duplicity.  It is rather, as with his other word, to be in two minds: not two-faced, but facing both ways.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 40)

 

When the Bible speaks of praying in faith, it does not mean having faith in prayer.  Nor does it mean having faith in a proposition.  It means having faith in a person.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 33)

 

The actual point of his warning about doubt is to expose a basic soul-condition of unbelief.  That basic soul-condition is described with the term double-minded in 1:8.  It means a double-souled person, a person whose heart’s loyalties are divided, a person who has not decided to give his or her love to God.  The doubt then is a vacillation between self-reliance and God-reliance.  This person is not looking to God from a stance of faith, and for this person there is no promise that God will give wisdom.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 43)

 

The picture of the sea painted by James is one of instability and restlessness.  So James portrays the man who doubts.  That man is like the heaving waves of the sea, unsettled and unstable.  He lacks the wisdom that he desperately needs to give direction to his life.  But because the man doubts, God withholds wisdom from him.  God expects his people to come to him in faith; then he rewards them for seeking him.  If man doubts, however, he will not receive the Lord’s blessing.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 39)

 

Thus, in the middle (as a reflective) it has the meaning “to be at odds with oneself, doubt, waver.”  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 41)

 

The contrast here is with “doubt,” and since doubt is a waffling back and forth, the result of doubt is inaction.  The one who doubts wavers and is tossed to and fro as on a tempestuous sea.  Honest intellectual doubts are not in view here.  After all, to doubt is human, as the Psalms attest.  David, for example, gives voice to his doubts about the character and trustworthiness of God (cf. Ps 96:1).  In Psalm 6 he wonders aloud if God has rejected him, and he even attempts to force God into action by an obvious bribe.  Yet in the midst of this honest doubt, David is reminded of all that God has done for him in the past, and he gains the hope necessary to continue.  Faith here in James understands and has experienced the character of God, who gives freely and generously; because of this experience, such a person has confidence.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 53)

 

James touches upon an important biblical theme here: God is the one who means what he says, who always accomplishes his purpose: “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).  His word is like a hammer that splinters rock (Jer 23:29).  The words of human beings, by contrast, often are only wind (Job 16:3); they cannot stand up (Isa 8:10); and they fall to the ground (1 Sm 3:19).  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 53)

 

For James perfection is tied to honesty, to honest appraisal of oneself before God and others.  It is a singleness of heart and a patient resolve to know God and the character of integrity.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 69)

 

“That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.”  “That man” is a believer.  He has received eternal life.  He is indwelt by the Spirit.  But his doubting, unstable, vacillating life means he will get no wisdom to help handle his troubles.  He will not ride his trials onward and upward to spiritual maturity.  What a tragic waste!  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 30)

 

Is the Lord demanding perfect faith?  Is he insisting that we never waver?  I do not think so.  If our faith had to be perfect, few would ever receive anything, for we are all doubters.  Abraham and Moses were great men of God, but they were not perfect in their faith.  Jesus honored the stumbling faith of the distraught father in the midst of testing–“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).  Moreover, faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8).  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 30-31)

 

The point of comparison in James here is strictly not “the ordinary instability of the heaving sea,” as Ropes thought, but the unsettled behavior of the waves (as to their direction, to and fro, like the doubter’s mind) under the perpetually varying winds that keep driving them now in one direction and perhaps next day in another, like the man hesitating before a choice to be made–and perhaps never made after all.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 59)

 

Is not despair simply double-mindedness?  For what is despairing other than to have two wills?  For whether the weakling despairs over not being able to wrench himself away from the bad, or whether the brazen one despairs over not being able to tear himself completely away from the good: they are both double-minded, they both have two wills.  (S. Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing, 61)

 

The believer who doubts, however, is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  His request is not really a request at all, because he foolishly and disdainfully does not believe it will be honored by God.  Among other things, such a person is terribly immature, like a child, “tossed here and there by waves.”  Tragically, that immaturity leads to the even greater danger of being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).  When God is not trusted, the only course is to go from bad to worse to worse still.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 38)

 

But one may wonder how this man is different from the anguished father who cried, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).  Such an exclamation seems to suggest that the father was “a double-minded man.”  But there is a difference.  The father was not oscillating between belief and unbelief.  He desired to believe–and even asserted his belief–but because he felt keenly the inadequacy of his faith, he asked for help in believing.  He was not facing in both directions at the same time like the “double-minded man” of Jas 1:8.  In spite of his conscious weakness, the father had set his heart to believe.  And Christ responded to his faith and healed his son (Mk 9:25-27).  In response to this kind of faith, God will give wisdom to those who ask for it, and will enable them to persevere in times of trial.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 169)

 

Is it sinful to doubt?  With no doubting is not an injunction against raising questions about facts, alleged or otherwise, nor an exhortation to blind belief.  There would be no progress in knowledge and understanding in any field, including religion, if questioning were taboo.  (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, 24)

 

“Doubt” here refers to a conflict of loyalties that disturbs the purity of faith.  James often refers to the teaching of Jesus in his letter, and he may be doing so here.  For Jesus taught the disciples to expect answers to their prayers if they would only “have faith” and “not doubt” (Mt 21:21).  (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Vol 4, 92-93)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What role does wisdom play in helping us to become mature, complete, not lacking in anything?: (I am deeply indebted to Tim Keller for the following insights gleaned from the message entitled “Power for Facing Trouble”.)

 

Our problem is not the trouble, but the eyes with which we see the event.

 

A-  Wisdom from above helps us see that God is the Lord and not us.  (Bk of Job; Ps 110:10; Prv 1:7; ch 2; 9:10; 15:33; 21:30; 30:3)

 

We live in a technological age.  If we have trouble or go through some trial or issue, we sue.  Because if we suffer, it means someone didn’t do their job.  So we look to science and technology and laws to solve our problems.  But they all promise much more than they can deliver.  We think that mankind runs the universe.  Therefore, if something goes wrong, if someone suffers, if someone doesn’t have the life we think we all deserve; then someone screwed up.  And science and technology or laws will fix it.  If we have any problem, all we have to do is employ the right manpower and technology and we can fix it.  God says, “Good luck!”.

 

We are not in charge.   We are not even close to being in charge.  Self-made men are to be pitied.  Why would anyone make themselves like they are?

 

We used to pray for those going through medical issues.  Now we pay for those going through medical issues.  And what is the result?  The death rate is still the same now that it has ALWAYS been!

 

God, and God alone, is the source of wisdom.  It was this truth that caused Paul to pray to God for believers to be granted wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment (Eph 1:17-18), as well as discernment (Phil 1:9; cf. Col 1:9-10).  That is also James’ point.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 36)

 

God’s control of things is not contrary to the responsibility of man.  It is the very foundation of it.   If God were not in control He could not hold man responsible.  Man is accountable to God because God is sovereign; he should obey God because God is in control of things.  Moreover, man has significance because God has sovereignly ordained significance for man.  Whatever responsibility we have is founded on God’s sovereignty, not in spite of it.  Without God’s sovereignty man would have no responsibility. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 120)

 

Where there even one datum of knowledge, however small, unknown to God, His rule would break down at that point.  To be Lord over all creation, He must possess all knowledge.  And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign. (A. W. Tozer;  The Knowledge of the Holy, 108)

 

One church-growth marketer claims that the difference between “growth” and “evangelism” and “marketing” is only semantics.  He is absolutely wrong.  As historian David Potter pointed out in his penetrating analysis of advertising: once marketing becomes dominant, the concern is not with “finding an audience to hear their message but rather with finding a message to hold their audience.”  After all, when the audience and not the message is sovereign, the good news of Jesus Christ is no longer the ends, but just the means.

As a result, when megachurch pastors seek to mold a message to their “market” of constituent needs their preaching omits key components.  Gone are the hard sayings of Jesus.  Gone is the teaching on sin, self-denial, sacrifice, suffering, judgment, hell.  With all its need-meeting emphases, there is little in the church-growth movement that stand crosswise to the world.  Messianic marketing is bringing contemporary evangelicalism perilously close to the liberalism criticized earlier by Richard Niebuhr as “a God without wrath [bringing] men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”   (Os Guinness; Dining with the Devil,  78)

 

When Descartes began by asking, “How do we know?” and answered by declaring his point of origin to be ‘cogito ergo sum.’  I think, therefore I am, he had already presupposed what he knew.  The orthodox Christian, who begins with the doctrine of the Triune God as taken from the infallible Scriptures, is assumed to be prejudiced and ignorant, in that he has already assumed all that supposedly needs proof.  But the modern man who begins with his own autonomous nature and establishes his reason as the unprejudiced and valid interpreter of God and the world has in fact assumed far more.  If God did indeed create heaven and earth and all things therein, then nothing can have any meaning or interpretation apart from God.  Inasmuch as all things came into being by virtue of His sovereign decree, all things have meaning only in terms of His eternal counsel.  The only true interpretation of any fact, including man, is in terms therefore of God the Creator and providential Controller.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 9)

 

The essential issue is between the authority of autonomous man and of the Sovereign God.  To allow God into the universe, provided that we open the door, is to say that the universe is our universe, and that our categories are decisive in human thinking.  We can accept the Scriptures as inerrant and infallible on our terms, as satisfactory to our reason, but we have only established ourselves as god and judge thereby and have given more assent to ourselves than to God.  But, if God be God, then the universe and man are His creation, understandable only in terms of Himself, and no meaning can be established except in terms of God’s given meaning.  To accept miracles or Scripture on any other ground is in effect to deny their essential meaning and to give them a pagan import.

Thus, the consistent Christian position must be this: no God, no knowledge.  Since the universe is a created universe, no true knowledge of it is possible except in terms of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 17)

 

Is it the chief purpose of God to glorify man and to enjoy him forever?  Or is it the chief purpose of man to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?  The yardstick, Job,” declares the Lord, “is not your purpose. You have no right to rule things out of court as purposeless or as unjust in terms of their relationship to you, because you are not the yardstick.  You cannot say, because things affect me thus and so, therefore the whole frame of things is out of joint.”  Not Job but the Lord is the yardstick.  And the only yardstick by which things in heaven and earth can be judged is the Lord and His purpose, the ontological trinity, the Sovereign God in Himself.  Thus what God required of Job was that he recognize His sovereignty in every respect, recognize that the only standard for judging his own personal life and his own problems was not in terms of himself but in terms of the sovereignty of God, in terms of the Triune God in Himself.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 198)

 

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust. — C.H. Spurgeon.

 

The real trouble with man in sin is that he always wants to understand.  The ultimate sin of man is pride of intellect.  That is why it is always true to say that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many might, not many noble are called.”  The wise man after the flesh wants to understand.  He pits his brain against God’s wisdom, and he says, “I don’t see.”  Of course he doesn’t.  And Christ says to him, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).  If you think that with your mind, which is so small when you compare it with the mind of God, and which is not only small but also sinful, and perverted, and polluted, and twisted–if you think that with the mind you have you can comprehend the working of God’s eternal mind and wisdom, obviously you do not know God, you are outside the life of God, and you are lost.  The first thing that must happen to you before you can ever become a Christian is that you must surrender that little mind of yours, and begin to say, “Of course I cannot understand it; my whole nature is against it.  I can see that there is only one thing to do; I submit myself to the revelation that God has been pleased to give.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 251)

 

James says that not believing in the sovereign rights of God to manage the details of your future is arrogance.  The way to battle this arrogance is to yield to the sovereignty of God in all the details of life, and rest in his infallible promises to show himself mighty on our behalf (2 Chr 16:9), to pursue us with goodness and mercy every day (Ps 23:6), to work for those who wait for him (Isa 64:4), and to supply us with all we need to live for his glory (Heb 13:21).  In other words, the remedy for pride is unwavering faith is future grace.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 93)

 

B-  Wisdom from above helps us see that we are depraved, corrupt and undeserving sinners.  (Prv ch 1; 11:2; 13:10; 28:26; 29:15; Mt 6:24; Jas 3:13-18; 4:4-7)

 

Fools think they know how things should be.  They know everything about everything and how you should run your life.  But, in reality no one would trade their lives for the life of the fool.

 

90% of Americans believe that they show the kind of love in life that if everybody showed it, it would make society all right.— Tim Keller (sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

Book Why  Bad Things Happen to Good People makes the assumption that we all deserve a better life than we presently enjoy.  Where does that come from?

 

Everything difficult indicates something more than our theory of life yet embraces, checks some tendency to abandon the straight path, leaving open only the way ahead.  But there is a reality of being in which all things are easy and plain-oneness, that is, with the Lord of Life; to pray for this is the first thing; and to the point of this prayer every difficulty hedges and directs us.  (George MacDonald ; An Anthology)

 

To mortify our indwelling sin is constantly to weaken it.  We can do this in three ways: starve it out, cut it out or crowd it out.  The world today offers plenty to feed a person’s sinful nature, such as periodicals, books, movies, television programs and even conversations.  We have to remember that indwelling sin is nourished in the mind with its thoughts and imagination.  It is there that our jealousies, resentments, lust and selfishness are fostered.  We can begin mortifying sin in us by depriving the mind—starving it out—of the foods that feed its cancer.  If there are pleasures, relationships or environments which add to our temptations, we shall wherever possible avoid them.”   (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 158-59).

 

But what if the self is not to be trusted?  What if the self is the problem?  What if (what the Bible calls my sinful nature) is the very thing that is keeping me from hearing what is really going on and what is truly going to happen?

Then there is no help.  We refuse to listen to God and our ego (our self) is not about to face up to our sin (if we are willing to even call disobedience of God sin). — Pastor Keith

 

Throw away the excuses and face reality!  The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  It means your old sinful nature is in control.  Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind.  It means that you are not abiding in Christ.  Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse.  It means you have a weak connection to Jesus.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)

 

James calls Christians to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21).  Implicit in James’ instruction is a distinction between an ungodly life of filthiness and wickedness and the Christlike life of humility or meekness.  Christians should receive the Word of God with meekness.  That is, in the preaching of God’s Word and in the Scripture, acknowledging it as the source of salvation and instruction in godly living.  As we come to the Scripture, we are to do so as people knowing our sinful nature, our spiritual poverty before God, and our need for the molding influence of God, which comes normally by his Word.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 77)

 

The human heart was deemed to be in need of instruction in moral uprightness.  There needed to be a renewing of the mind.

Today, however, such sentiment has been angrily and mockingly denounced in academia; laden down by our technology, we crawl to our halls of fame like Alexander, desperately wanting the world to believe that we, too, are immortal.  How revealing it is that in the bloodiest century of history we deny human depravity.  The relativism of ancient Greece has worked its way into modern America, though the Greek philosophers themselves, even in their day, warned that relativism would be suicidal.  To her credit, early America knew that this was not merely a philosophical problem, as real as that was.  This was a problem of the soul, and the heart of humanity was in need of redemption.  (Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, 40)

 

Depravity is man’s own way.  (Chuck Swindoll, James Series “How Fights Are Started and Stopped”)

 

To make room for wisdom, get rid of pride.

 

C-  Wisdom from above helps us see that God is gracious, loving, forgiving, Omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent and desires for us to live with Him forever in the next world(Bk of Prv; Sng of Sol; Jas 3:17)

“From the perspective of heaven, the most difficult life on earth is nothing more than one night in a bad motel.”.  —Saint Teresa  (Tim Keller sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

James is not giving personal advice but a divine command, and therefore our calling on the Lord for wisdom is not an option.  It is mandatory.  And if a believer who is being tested is not driven to the Lord and does not develop a deeper prayer life, the Lord is likely to keep the test active and even intensify it until His child comes to the throne of grace–until he makes his “ear” attentive to wisdom,” and inclines his “heart to understanding” (Prv 2:2).  And “if you cry for discernment,” Solomon continues, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God” (vv 3-5; cf. Job 28:12-23; Mt 13:44-46).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 36)

 

We live in a secular world.  That means if you believe the secular message, you need to get all of your life, happiness, and fulfillment here and now because there is nothing else.   That is why those who do not believe in God, heaven, and eternal life fight so hard to get what they have here and now.  (paraphrase of Tim Keller, sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.  —C.S. Lewis  (John Piper; Desiring God, 88)

 

How do we get wisdom from above?:

1-  Recognize your desperate need for wisdom from above that is sought and received by faith(Prv 3:5-7; 4:4-7; 5:1; Eph 2:8-9; Heb 11:6)

 

Why are you outraged at trials, trouble, suffering, and tribulations?  

 

Madeline Murry Ohara “I don’t believe in truth because look at Hitler.  He believed he had the truth and he killed the Jews.  Look at the Inquisition: the church thought it had the truth and it did that.  Therefore, I refuse to believe in truth or a God of truth.

But wait Madeline,  If there is no truth what are you upset about?

If you don’t believe in God because of suffering, you’ve created a much huger problem than Christians have.  Because now you can’t even define suffering.   You can’t even be disgusted about it.   You can only be disgusted about it (suffering) if you know that deep in your heart this isn’t right.  And that can only happen if there is a place where this (suffering) doesn’t exist. (Tim Keller sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

All wisdom comes from the Lord God we find in the Book of Ecclesiastics, and with him it remains forever, and is before all time. . . and he has poured her fourth upon all his works.  How manifold are your works, O Lord! exclaims the Psalmist, In wisdom thou hast wrought them all.  It could not be otherwise, for God, being infinite wisdom and acting by Himself, cannot act except in an infinitely wise manner.

For this reason many of the Doctors of the Church hold that, having regard to the circumstances, His works are so perfect that they could not be more so, and so good that they could not be better.  ‘We ought then’ says St. Basil, ‘to ponder well on this thought, that we are the work of a good Workman, and that He dispenses and distributes to us all things great and small with the wisest providence, so that there is nothing bad, nothing that could even be conceived better.’  The works of the Lord are great the Psalmist again says, exquisite in all their delights.  His wisdom is especially shown in the right proportion between the means He employs and the end He has in view.  She reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.  She (Wisdom) governs men with admirable order, she leads them to their happiness mightily but without violence or constraint, with sweetness and not only with sweetness, but still more with circumspection.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 27-28)

 

The wisdom of the Spirit does not offer a supplement to the human mind, but challenges its autonomy at the roots.  Knowledge that knows not God is folly, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  We are not computers, nor is wisdom only data-storage and problem-solving.  Fellowship with the living God, and with the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, frees us to seek and possess knowledge.  Such spiritual wisdom combines theory and practice, word and life.  (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church–Contours of Christian Theology, 143)

If anyone is to have genuine spiritual insight he must become what he world calls ‘a fool’.  True wisdom is found in renouncing ‘the wisdom of this world’ (cf. 2:14–15).  (Leon Morris; 1 Corinthians, 68)

 

What makes it hard to recognize our need for wisdom from above?:

–      We live in a technological world

–      We live in a sin forgetful age

–      We live in a secular world

 

2-  See Jesus as the door to wisdom from above. (Mt 12:42; 13:54; Mk 6:2; Lk 1:17; 2:40, 52; 7:35; 11:31; Jn 10:7-10; 1 Cor 1:24-2:16; 3:18-23; Col 2:2-3; 3:16)

 

Jesus’ suffering and death solves the problem of suffering in general.  If Jesus suffered more than you, do you think you are better than Jesus?  (Tim Keller sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

The world idolizes strength.  Jesus said God demonstrates his strength through people’s weakness.  The world values large numbers.  Jesus chose a small group to be his disciples and often ignored the crowds to focus on individuals.  The world seeks happiness.  Jesus said blessed are they that mourn.  The world is attracted to large, spectacular performances.  Jesus said his kingdom would be like a mustard seed.  The world does good deeds in order to win people’s praise.  Jesus said, do your good deeds in secret, because the Father will see them and give a reward.  The world uses slick marketing campaigns to attract people.  Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them.  Over and over again Jesus rejected human reasoning in favor of God’s wisdom.  What is the difference between human reasoning and God’s wisdom?  Eph 3:20 says: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (NIV).  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 66-67)

 

Thomas Aquinas was asked on one occasion why there seem to be non-Christians who are searching for God, when the Bible says no one seeks after God in an unconverted state.  Aquinas replied that we see people all around us who are feverishly seeking for purpose in their lives, pursuing happiness, and looking for relief from guilt to silence the pangs of conscience.  We see people searching for the things that we know can be found only in Christ, but we make the gratuitous assumption that because they are seeking the benefits of God, they must therefore be seeking God.  That is the very dilemma of fallen creatures: we want the things that only God can give us, but we do not want him.  We want peace but not the Prince of Peace.  We want purpose but not the sovereign purposes decreed by God.  We want meaning found in ourselves but not in his rule over us.  We see desperate people, and we assume they are seeking for God, but they are not seeking for God.  I know that because God says so.  No one seeks after God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 90)

 

3-  Trust in Jesus (faith’s confidence) and look to Him to be the author and perfecter of your faith. (Heb 12:2)

 

(Heb 12:2)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Worship point:  Worship will come very easily and naturally when you begin to realize life from the viewpoint of wisdom from above in contrast to the world’s wisdom from below.

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Seek God.  Seek wisdom.  Realize that wisdom is screaming at you from everywhere.  Realize just how dull and anesthetized sin and our sin nature has made us to the wisdom of God.  Seek Jesus, the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24-30).

 

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

 

Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass. — Japanese proverb

 

Disobedience of God’s Word puts my own wisdom in the place of wisdom. What does it say about your doctor if he writes the prescription for three pills a day and you decide to take the one a day? It says that you put yourself above your doctor. You distrust his skill and competence and good will. It is a great insult, and he could not take pleasure it that – and you won’t get well. (John Piper; The Pleasures of God, 247)

 

 

Christ:

Wisdom from Above

 

 

 

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