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James 1:5-8: Let Us Pray To God For Wisdom

Today we are going to be looking at James 1:5-8 but let’s read James 1:1-8 so we can keep in view the context. It says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

We considered two things last week. First, we considered how James started this letter with the simple word, ‘Greetings’ (v.1). This word always carries with it a sense of happiness, joy, and cheer. The recipients of this letter were suffering through various trials and they may have not felt very happy, joyful, or cheerful.

Nevertheless, James sets the tone of this letter with this word at the beginning of this letter. We need someone like James to come and bring a new biblical perspective into our lives. Illustration: When Mindy and I bought our first house we had to do a lot of work to it. One of the projects we did was to install new kitchen cabinets around a lot of old pipes that were sticking out of the wall. When everything was all put together I installed the sink and discovered the old pipes were leaking. For days I tried to fix it but I could not do it. At one point I was out of time, money and patience but I finally called a plumber. I did not realize how much this had been weighing upon me until the plumber looked at the pipes and said, “Mr. Cooper, everything is going to be OK. This won’t be a problem at all.” That is really all I needed to hear! I was so relieved.

Similarly, James knew that the recipients of this letter were experiencing difficult trials and because of this they probably were not happy, joyful, or cheerful. However, James comes and says, “Greetings. Everything is going to be OK! God works out all these trials you are experiencing for your good.

James begins this letter by reminding these Christians of doctrines, theologies, and biblical truths that they already knew. James gives them a command that they are to ‘count it all joy when they face various trials for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and when this is done it matures us and our faith’.

Secondly, the command that James gives us made us ask, “How can James make such a universal statement about being joyful in all of our various trials?

To answer this question we considered how James is a Christian who is speaking to other Christians. Therefore, James is not going to write things that will reflect worldly wisdom which is earthly, unspiritual and demonic (3:15). No, James will write to them about godly and biblical wisdom.

We considered how after the Fall all people became consumed with the things of this world. However, when someone is born-again they become aware of the invisible Kingdom of God and as servants of this kingdom they live and think counter-culturally as sojourners, pilgrims and as exiles in this world.

James also knows that before a person becomes a believer they are primarily responsive to their feelings, affections, worldly passions, and to their five senses. However, after a person is born-again they live according to God’s wisdom, His Truth, and His Word.

As a Christian grows in godly wisdom they begin to submit their wills to it. Christians are now ‘servants of God and the LORD Jesus Christ’ and they are no longer slaves to their own passions and pleasures (Titus 2:12). A Christian is not their own because they have been bought with a price and they glorify God with their bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because God has changed a believers nature James speaks to us according to that new nature in James 1:2-4. Because of what God has done, and continues to do in the believer, we can be joyful in various trials!

I hope that now you can see how important godly wisdom is for the believer. This is why James says in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask (present tense) God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Godly wisdom is so important in the Christian life that a believer is to continuously ask God for it. This wisdom now directs our thoughts, feelings, responses, and actions.

Then James says in James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I would like to begin by looking at James 1:6-8 and end by considering James 1:5. The former (6-8) speaks of the faith that is required when one asks for wisdom. The later (5) gives us several truths upon which our request can be made in faith.

Let’s begin by considering James 1:6-8. Pastor Robert Hiller wrote a 40 day devotional on the Book of James called, ‘Finding Christ In The Straw’. In this book he discusses our text in just three short paragraphs but I found his brief comments very helpful. He illustrates the principles found within our text by looking at the story found in Matthew 14:25-33.

This is the story of Jesus walking on the water when His disciples are in a boat during a storm. As Jesus walks on the water His disciples see him and they are terrified! Jesus speaks to them words of comfort and encouragement to them (remind you of James greetings in James 1:1). Jesus says to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

Pastor Hiller makes this observation about this moment in the story, saying, “This calms them all down. But not Peter. Peter is not convinced. He wants proof and demands as much from Jesus.” Pastor Hiller is referring to the fact that Peter responds to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (14:28)

Pastor Hiller continues, “Jesus tells Peter to get out of the boat and walk to Him on the water. Peter looks to Jesus and starts walking! But when he takes his eyes off of Jesus and focuses on the storm and the waves, he starts sinking. In His doubt, Peter finds himself being ‘blown and tossed by the wind.’ He is drowning in his own doubt.” This is what a faithless man is like in our text.

Pastor Hiller then exhorts the readers of his devotional with these words, “During our trials, the danger is not so much the trial itself but where we fix our eyes. We are either listening to the wind and the waves or we are listening to the words of Jesus: ‘Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid’” (14:27)

Like Peter, the psalmist In Psalm 71 had to decide where to put his faith during a severe trial. He says, “For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.’” (10-11) In response to this the psalmist looks away from his enemies and turns to God in faith and says, “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” (14)

James is writing to believers who are facing their own trials and they have a decision to make, “Will they focus on the trials and listen to worldly wisdom or will they focus on Jesus and listen to the word of God and His wisdom?

  • If they listen to the former they will be faithless doubters, driven and tossed by the trial, double-minded and unstable in all things, and they will not receive anything from God.

  • If, however, they listen to the latter they will have faith, receive God’s wisdom to be joyful and steadfast in their trials, and be made perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

Christians want to be like the latter who seek wisdom with faith. Therefore, let us now consider James 1:5 where we are given several really strong encouragements intended to strengthen our faith as we look to the LORD for wisdom during our trials.

James begins by saying, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom…’ (5). When we read these words and it may sound like there are those who have wisdom and those who do not. There is no room for pride or shame here because that is not what James is saying. In the Greek language are many ways to use ‘if clauses’ such as the one that is used here. James uses a specific ‘if clause’ here to convey exactly what he intends to say.

James uses a first class conditional statement which means that James is making a statement that is true. James is stating that every christian lacks the wisdom that they so desperately need; therefore, everyone should pray in faith and ask the LORD for wisdom.

James says that there is only one person who can give us this wisdom- God. I was reminded this week about how important it is to go directly to God for this wisdom when Ray Haas handed me a piece of paper from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. Their most recent research shows that among those who profess to be Christians only 4% of these people have a biblical worldview! The researchers wrote, “The overwhelming majority of American adults embrace a worldview known as Syncretism- a fusion of disparate ideologies, beliefs, behaviors, and principles culled from a variety of competing worldviews into a customized blend.” According to this study we could say that 96% of professing Christians in America are faithless, double-minded, and unstable in all their ways. Instead of going to God for wisdom they have consulted many different things picking and choosing from sources that are worldly, unspiritual and demonic! No wonder when the world hears most Christians speak today they are not astounded and left saying that these people have been with Jesus.

In every generation there are so few people who possess the wisdom that James is speaking about. We read in Job 28:12-14- “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me’.

Job goes on to say, “It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels and fine gold.” (15-17)

Thankfully Job goes on to say, “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place…And He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (23, 28)

James encourages us that if we want to be wise we need to God to God in prayer. Then James gives us several truths about God to encourage and strengthen our faith so that we will pray in faith ready to receive and respond to God as He answers our request. James says…

  • God gives wisdom to all,

  • God gives generously,

  • God gives without reproach.

First, God gives wisdom to all. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who all”.

Illustration: I worked with one of the best trim carpenters around when I was in construction. This man could do things with wood that most cannot do. You could admire this man’s work but he would never share his knowledge and wisdom with me and I was his apprentice. In fact, he would go out of his way to guard these things and keep the wisdom and knowledge he had to himself.

This is not how God is. God is not tightfisted with His Wisdom. No, God gives His wisdom graciously, liberally, and freely as a gift. God shows us the good, the true and the beautiful so that we can partake in His knowledge, His righteousness and His holiness.

God will give His wisdom to anyone who will come to Him and humbly ask for it with faith. He will give His wisdom to a small child, to women and to men, to a Jew or to a Gentile. He will give His wisdom to those who are educated like the apostle Paul and to common and uneducated people like His apostles (Acts 4:13). James will show us next week that God gives wisdom to the poor and the rich because He is no respecter of persons (James 1:9-11 ).

When we pray to Him for wisdom we should pray expecting to receive.

Secondly, God gives wisdom generously.

That which God gives generously is not trinkets and trifles. No, He gives generously to us that which is rare, costly, and extremely valuable.

  • Proverbs 3:13-15 says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

  • Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Illustration: I remember reading my first Charles Spurgeon sermon. As he preached the wisdom from the verses of the text he had chosen Spurgeon took my breath away. Half way through that sermon I kept thinking that there was nothing more that he could possibly say about those verses. Then I would turn the page and He would reveal some new and beautiful truth from some seemingly insignificant word from the text.

As I read that sermon I literally found myself making noises as if I was eating my favorite meal. I soon found my soul satisfied and my spiritual appetite was content but Spurgeon continued to feed me and to reveal God’s truth and His wisdom to me. I had never experienced something like that before. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, was generous with the spiritual meal he provided. Spurgeon is just a small expression of the generosity of God as He gives His people the wisdom that they need.

We all have our favorite ministers who as they speak we enjoy every word that they speak. These teachers are called by God and gifted by Him to do this but even when they proclaim their greatest sermon they are just a small expression of the grace and wisdom that God gives to His people when they ask Him in faith.

John reflected upon Jesus and His words as he said, “For from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)

In Acts 4:13 we read these words, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized they had been with Jesus.” These men had been with Jesus who always was so generous in giving His disciples wisdom and truth. These men had been with Jesus who always patiently and persistently answered their questions and gave them understanding. Because these men had been with Jesus these unbelieving scoffers and wicked men are astounded.

Oh, to have the church of Christ filled with men, women and children who the world can so clearly see have been with Jesus! Let us long for the day, may it be very soon, when the world can see Christ in us by what they see and hear in His people in every circumstance.

Thirdly, James also says that God gives this wisdom without reproach. In other words, God is not disappointed with our request for wisdom because He knows we need it. God is well pleased and finds great joy when His humble child comes to Him and asks Him for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1; 1 Kings 3). Solomon asked for wisdom instead of earthly rewards and God blessed him with with more than he requested. Solomon sought first the things of God and everything else was given to him. Similarly, God will generously bless the person who will ask Him for wisdom. When this request is made by one of God’s children He will not find fault with them, rebuke them, blame them, criticize them, or complain about their request.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace in our time of need. Let us pray to God in faith for the wisdom that we so desperately need and expect that we will receive what we have asked for.

Finally, before we end I would like you to consider the pronouns in our text today. When James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” he writes these as plural pronouns. But by the end of verse 5 all the way through verse 8 the pronouns that James chooses to use are singular. For example, at the end of verse 5 James says, “...and it (wisdom) will be given him (singular).

By writing this way at the beginning of v.5 James is teaching us that everyone needs wisdom and this is a corporate and congregational responsibility that we cannot ignore or be negligent in. This responsibility is one of the reasons why we saw the author of Hebrews say to the entire congregation, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” (5:11-12)

If you claim to be a Christian you cannot say to God concerning this matter, “Am I my brothers keeper?” Such a response is not the wisdom that is from above but it is worldly, unspiritual and demonic (3:15). Gaining wisdom is to be a top priority for all of us who profess to be a Christian.

We read in the Baptist Faith And Message 2000 Statement of Faith of the responsibility and priority that every Christian congregation has to see that the wisdom of God is nurtured in every believer. If we are successful in this we will see the unbelieving world around us be astound by what they see and hear in Christ’s disciples. The statement says, “Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.

My friends, if we believe what James is saying in James 1:5 we will pray in faith for wisdom and we will sacrificially invest in every one of Christ’s disciples the things necessary to encourage Christian enlightenment, intelligence, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, biblical learning and education. We will take seriously, by making it a high priority above other things (Mt. 28:19-20), our mandate to make disciples and to instill in every generation of Christians the Christian culture and worldview.

As we determine to engage in this great commission we should pray to God for wisdom in faith and expect that we will receive what we have asked for.

By writing the way that James does in James 1:5b-8 with singular pronouns James shows us that a person can attend a church where it is a priority to pray for wisdom and disciple others in the Word of God but that will not guarantee that everyone will receive wisdom from the LORD. There are some who do not pray for wisdom with faith. Another reason is because there are some who do not pray at all. James speaks of this in James 4:2 when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions.” This type of person continues to live with their passions as their primary motivation in life. They ignored the words of James 1:1-8.


We are not like that person. We have now studied James 1:1-8 and we will seek to immediately apply these truths to our lives. We are servants of God and we know our great need for His wisdom. Therefore, we will pray in faith to the God who alone can give us what we need. Perhaps our first prayer can be like Jesus’ disciples in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray…”. Jesus immediately responded, “When you pray, say:…” Yes, our God is generous in giving us the wisdom and grace that we need.


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