Words of Wisdom for a New Year
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
If there is one thing the church needs today it is wisdom. Because one thing is guaranteed in 2018, we will all face trials. James tells us that they will come in different shapes and sizes; they will be “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). But James identifies the purpose of the trials as “steadfastness” - faithful endurance (James 1:3). When we know that God sovereignly ordains trials for a holy purpose we can have joy in the midst of the suffering and hardship. Indeed we can even “count it all joy” (James 1:2).
The wisdom to live with joyful patience in the midst of trials is one of the chief arts of godliness; it’s completely counter intuitive and counter cultural. And so we need to look for our supply of wisdom from heaven not earth. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). A reverence for and trust in God is the start point. You are not on the first rung of the ladder of biblical wisdom unless you first fear him.
We all need wisdom.
Yet the Christian who fears the Lord still needs to grow in wisdom. James begins verse five of chapter one, “If any of you lack wisdom”. The “if” does not mean that some don’t need wisdom, it infers that everybody needs it. In the same way, John writes, “But if anyone does sin” (1 John 2:1). He means, “When you sin”. We all need wisdom every day because every day has it's temptations and trials in which we need to make decisions. Also, we all lack wisdom to some degree; whether we are mature in the faith or not. To recognise your lack of wisdom is to realise your need for God’s continued supply. The first beatitude expresses this lack. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Our sense of lack is a humble posture of need before God. Trials bring this forth more readily and this drives us to prayer. If the prodigal son had not been made aware of his lack when amongst the pigs he would not have come to his senses and returned to his father. You could say that the way to wisdom involves a realization you lack it and God has it.
We must ask God for wisdom.
But it is not enough to realise you don’t have wisdom you must actively seek it. “The poor in spirit” are also those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). So James tells in the rest of verse 5, that the one who lacks wisdom must ask God to fill his need, “Let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him”. Prayer is the way to living
wisely in trials and growing in joyful patience. So many of us groan under our discouragements because we don’t look further than ourselves.
Yet the Bible promises that if we ask, then God gives wisdom. Young King Solomon, fresh to the throne of Israel, prayed for wisdom for an immensely difficult task of governing God’s people. And God gave him “a wise and discerning mind” (1 Kin 3:12).
Therefore, we need to remember what kind of God we ask. He is one “who gives generously to all” He is liberal and free. In fact he loves to give more than we ask. God not only gave Solomon wisdom, he gave him wisdom like no other plus riches and honour – things that he didn’t ask for. Our God is not stingy he is lavish. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us
all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 33).
He also gives wisdom “without reproach”. He loves us to pray for wisdom. He won’t turn us away. He doesn’t think, “I gave him wisdom yesterday so I won't give it today”. Although the Proverbs tell us we can outstay our welcome at a friend’s house (Proverbs 25:17), we can never outstay our welcome with God. His throne of grace is always open to us. As we pray for wisdom we should be greedy for grace, as it were.
But we should always ask according to Gods revealed will and in submission to his secret will. And we must ask wisdom for ourselves that we might live with joyful steadfastness, in order to benefit others and be a good witness. Solomon asked for wisdom so he could lead God’s people for their good.
In conclusion, we need wisdom to stand firm on sound doctrine in the face of an increasingly anti-Christian culture. We need wisdom for the trials of fighting sin and temptation. We need wisdom for physical or relational difficulties. And note this: we need wisdom to make decisions, but God is primarily concerned about forming character. Instead of only praying, “Lord get me out of this trial”. Why not add, “But Lord give me wisdom to live well in the midst of this trial so
that you will do a work in me. Give me a joyful steadfastness as I display self-control, patience and mercy and a desire to do your will, so that you may be honoured and your people may be helped.”