Friday, November 7, 2008

The Folly of Being Double-Minded -- Part 1

Yesterday I talked about specific individuals I know I can trust through thick and thin. Why? Because when it comes to interacting with me, they’re not double-minded. It’s not, “Hey, David, great to see you!” one week and “Oh, no, not David again” the next week. And the same is true of my heart’s responses to them.

But is it possible that you and I sometimes act double-minded toward the Lord? Listen to what James says in chapter 1, verses 6 through 8:

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

So, what does it mean to be double-minded? It means to be torn in one’s allegiance between God’s wisdom from heaven above and Satan’s so-called “worldly wisdom” from hell below.

Who were the most double-minded people in biblical history — “respected” men who grew more double-minded until the day they died? Personally, I would say the three worst were Balaam the double-crossing greedy and treacherous false prophet, Solomon the two-timer who pretended to still worship the Lord while becoming deeply engrossed in idolatry, and Judas the betrayer who sold Jesus to His enemies for the price of a slave. In the end, their evil hypocrisy was obvious for all to see.

But the reality is, being double-minded isn’t always obvious. Often, it’s quite subtle, actually. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back over the past three years and lamented the times I thought, talked, and acted in a double-minded manner.

James says that a double-minded man is like a storm-tossed wave. Because ancient Jewish men feared drowning above all else, James is using a powerful word picture. Two biblical stories can help us see the differences between subtle and outright double-mindedness. But first, let me share a personal story.

This past year my son Jonathan and I decided to go sea kayaking along a stretch of the California coastline about 15 minutes south of San Luis Obispo. The trick with sea kayaking, of course, is to get past all the waves so you’re in the open ocean and can turn and follow the coastline without getting hit by a wall of water. At least, that’s the theory. Jon was in the back of our two-man open sea kayak and I was in the front, taking wave after wave in the face as we pushed further and further out into the ocean.

Unbeknownst to us, a storm we couldn’t see further out in the ocean was churning up more and bigger waves with every passing minute. Jon and I grew increasingly frustrated. When are we ever going to break past the waves? we both wondered out loud.

At one point one of us started arguing that the waves would never end so we might as well turn left and head down the coast. The other person argued that we still needed to push further out to sea. Otherwise the waves, which were only getting higher, would toss us like so much driftwood. We couldn’t agree on a course of action. We were double-minded.

So Jon and I kept paddling harder and harder. Any idea I had about staying dry was long gone. Taking the brunt of each wave, I was soaking wet and chilled to the bone. On and on we paddled.

Finally, we started debating again about whether to turn left and head down the coastline or keep going further out to sea. One of us argued, “We can ride out the waves. Look, I’d lean the opposite way you do. We can do it.” The other one of us insisted that we’d never make it more than three or four waves before a big one would catch us and fling us in the air. But in the end one of us quickly swung the kayak from due west to due south. Like it or not, the argument was over and we both started paddling for all we were worth.

No sooner were we deep within the swell of the second big wave when Jon yelled “Oh no” and a huge wave scooped us up — and then tossed us like pencils in the air.

That’s a picture of what James is talking about when he warns us against being double-minded. Of course, flying through the air right before slamming into the freezing cold Pacific ocean, I was quite willing to agree with James. He’s right: Double-mindedness doesn’t work.

To say the least, I can imagine just a bit of what the apostle Peter felt….

Continued tomorrow.

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