Friday, April 20, 2007

Conditions for Wisdom

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

Here James is giving us the condition for wisdom. It begins with asking in faith (v.6a).  “Let him ask” is the same as verse 5, but this time it’s used as the condition for the asker. “The present imperative ‘ask’ suggests perseverance in prayer” (Vernon Doerksen, James, 21). The demand that our prayers must be offered in “faith” underlines James’ view that there can be no acceptable prayer without faith. Faith is a prerequisite in pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Paul said that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom.14:23). This is a prayer of faith (not saving faith) but faith in knowing that God can and will give you the wisdom needed  for your trials. D. Edmond Hiebert makes the following comments:

“‘Faith’ here is not merely a body of doctrinal truth to which we adhere, but rather that wholehearted attitude of a full and unquestioning committal to and dependence upon God as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ Jesus. It is the proper human response to the goodness of God. When we approach God with our petitions, we must believe not only in His ability to grant our requests but also in His willingness to answer in harmony with His character and purpose. Believing prayer takes its stand upon the character of God” (James, 83).

Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing you will receive.” The condition of this verse is in verse 21, “If you have faith and do not doubt.” “The answers from God depends on our assurance in God” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 820).

Notice what James says next. He says we are to ask “with no  doubting.” This phrase comes from the Greek word diakrinomenos and suggests “vacillating,” “to waver.” It refers to “someone who is divided within himself as to his thinking.” Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8, “Therefore, I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” “The antithesis to faith is doubt...Doubting speaks not of uncertainty but of internal indecision. It is wavering between two competing desires: self-interests and God’s interests. That doubting suggests a reluctance to commit oneself wholly to God’s care” (Vernon Doerksen, James, 21). “The present tense denotes that this ‘halting between two opinions’ has become habitual, while the middle voice indicates that the conflict is rooted in his competing personal desires” (D. Edmond Hiebert, James, 84). “One may doubt because he is not fully assured that God will respond, or because he is not sure he wants God to answer” (Doerksen).

James gives an illustration concerning the one who doubts. He says he is “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” This doubting petitioner is pictured as the unsettled, unstable waves of the sea. The word “wave” (Gr.kludon) does not mean an individual wave (Gr.kuma), but rather a succession of waves, one long ridge of water after another being swept along by the wind (Hiebert). Vernon Doerksen describes it as a “a violent, wind-driven, turbulent storm out in the ocean.” He says, “That is a vivid contrast to the individual resting securely by faith in the Lord” (James, 22). James uses two participles to suggests continuous agitation—“driven” and “tossed.” Marvin Vincent says, “The emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks” (Word Studies in the NT). James’ conclusion from this illustration is “let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv.7-8). The demonstrative pronoun, “that man” implies that this man should stop entertaining any thought of receiving an answer to his prayer” (Doerksen). He is a “double-minded man” (dipsuchos). This literally means, “two-souled.” It’s “almost as if the man has two personalities in constant conflict with each other” (Doerksen). William Barclay describes this man as a “walking civil war in which trust and distrust in God wage a continual battle against each other.” He is “Mister Facing Both Ways” as John Bunyan puts it in his classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Because of this he is “unstable in all his ways.” The word “unstable” (akatastatos) “is a compound verb occurring only here and in 3:8 in the NT. It is built on the verb histemi, “to place or stand,” with the preposition kata, “down,” while the alpha privitive, like our English un, gives the whole a negative quality; it conveys the thought of being unsettled, unstable–not having been put down to stand solid” (Hiebert). It lacks a foundation, which makes the man “unsteady and wobbling in ‘all his ways’” (Hiebert). Regardless of how he may view himself, the double-minded person is trying to serve two gods, which, as the Lord declares, is impossible. ‘Either [you] will hate the one and love the other, or [you] will be devoted to one and despise the other’ (Mat.6:24).

Which describes you today? Are you one who has a believing heart — a heart that asks in faith with no doubting? Or are you the person who continues to crumble under his trials and therefore vacillates in his asking for wisdom. What’s the proper response that James is calling for in our trials? A joyful attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, and a believing heart.

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