Reading Time: 7 Minutes
James 1.5-8 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 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. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
What is wisdom all about?
Wisdom is the over-arching theme of the Book of James. People who read this book and apply it to their lives will be led by the “wisdom from above,” which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3.17).
James doesn’t define wisdom. Instead, he counsels us to live by the “wisdom from above,” instead of wisdom that is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic” (James 3.15).
The Book of Proverbs deals with the wisdom of our Jewish heritage. We can discover various qualities of wisdom by reading this rich book in the Bible. Chapter 2 of Proverbs does not exhaust the characteristics of wisdom. However, when you combine the list from Proverbs with that of James 3.17, you have a good idea of how a truly wise person will act.
— Verse 1 – Wisdom treasures God’s commandments.
— Verse 2 – Wisdom inclines the inner self to understanding.
— Verse 5 – Wisdom understands what it means to fear the Lord.
— Verse 9 – Wisdom embraces righteousness, justice, equity, and every good path.
— Verse 12 – Wisdom delivers people from the way of evil and from perverted speech.
— Verses 13-15 – Wisdom will keep a person from following evil.
After looking at the above list and the one in James 3.17, would you like to work for someone with these character traits? Would you like your car salesman to be wise like this? More importantly, do you want to be someone with a James 3.17 or Proverbs kind of wisdom?
An Example of Wisdom
I have been inspired by several great Christian leaders from the last century. I discovered that two them were also highly regarded by the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous. If you have read some of the AA early literature, you may have run across the names of E. Stanley Jones and Glenn Clark.
Who was Glenn Clark. He was a . . .
— Track and Football coach
— A college professor
— A writer of all sorts of books
— A book publisher
— A summer camp organizer
— A counselor and confident to many
— A man who believed in God’s creative power from which flowed the fruits of the Spirit.
— A man who practiced prayer as the most creative means of communicating with God.
Although he was a gifted student, graduating with an advanced degree from Harvard, he left his faith at age 30 and declared himself an atheist. For nearly ten years, Clark existed on the wisdom that James describes as “earthly” (James 3.15).
While traveling to from Minnesota to Illinois, Clark met an old, quite unusual man on the train. They struck up a conversation that led Clark back to a vibrant faith in Jesus. As a side note, Clark didn’t know anything about the man until one day he was checking the furnace in his basement. His furnace was a popular model that provide heat to thousands of homes in the country. The man on the train was the owner of the furnace company and also the Sunday School teacher of the largest men’s class in the country.
Clark lived two miles from the college where he was a professor. He walked to and from school each day and used the time to be receptive to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was able to transform his wisdom from “earthly” to “wisdom that comes down from above” (James 3.15). Here is a small sample of wisdom from this incredible man.
(1) Clark was watching a small child dig a well in the sand by the sea shore. He reflected that just as the seven seas are stirred to fill the little well that the child has dug in the sand, so all heaven is stirred from its heights to its depths to fill the heart that truly hungers after God.
In the time it took Clark to walk two miles to school and return home, he opened his inner life, so God could fill his open heart with his Spirit. The question for us is what can we do, so God can fill us with his Spirit? Is there a prayer walk we need to take, or some other activity?
(2) “Let us not look at the negatives that lead us into temptation, but let us look at the positives that lead us away from evil. We should give ourselves so utterly to the task of filling ourselves with the Living Christ that there will be no room henceforth for that which is unlike Christ ever to enter again.”
Temptation and sin obviously fills our mind with “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” thoughts. From these thoughts comes “jealousy and selfish ambition,” “disorder and every vile practice” (James 3.15-16).
Clark’s method is to not focus on the temptation, but on being so full of the Living Christ, that there is no room for “unlike Christ things” to enter. This is great wisdom for us, provided we act on it.
(3) “God is your silent partner. Sometimes you will find yourself in danger of thinking you are the entire firm. Never forget it. He organized it. He capitalized it. He is capable of directing it. The articles of incorporation are set forth in the Bible.”
This is the way Glenn Clark described the surrender of his life. “I dreamed 18 years ago of taking Jesus completely at His word and placing all the desires of my heart in His hand and letting Him bring them to pass in His own way and in His own time.”
(From: “Soul’s Sincere Desire” by Glenn Clark)
Our Generous God
In tomorrow’s article, we will examine wisdom, prayer and faith, as James teaches it in verses 5-8. Today, I want to touch on the subject of God’s generosity. After all, it is God’s abundant generosity that encourages us to pray and to trust our lives to him.
James encourages us to “ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (verse 5). Let’s think about God’s generosity.
(1) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, but not for himself. Everything was created and given for humankind. I think it was Bernard of Clairvaux who said, “God first created me, so I could live. Then, he gave the life of his own Son, so I could live forever.” That’s generosity to the fullest.
(2) Paul praised God for his generosity and said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1.3).
Note, God is so generous that he has given people like you and me EVERY spiritual blessing that there is to give. Amazing!
(3) God has been thanked for his generosity by people for centuries, using the words of Psalm 103.1-5. Try turning the words of this Psalm into a prayer today.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Our generous heavenly Father wants to lavish on us the wisdom of his plans and purposes (Ephesians 1.8). According to James, it is up to us to ask for it. Look again at Glenn Clark’s words about how he lived his life. Let them inspire you to come today to our gracious Father in heaven to ask for the wisdom you need.