Tuesday, November 4, 2008

St. James, Life’s Trials, and God’s Wisdom

One of my all-time favorite verses is familiar to many:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NIV)

“If any of you…” addresses anyone reading this blog with the possible exception of my oldest friends Emma, Bob, Leonard, and Katherine.

“If any of you lacks wisdom” is interesting. Why did James decide to talk about wisdom? Well, in many ways, this whole letter of James is the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament’s wisdom literature found in the middle of our Bibles in books like Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. So, actually, James is tipping his hand. Not only has James packed a lot of practical, everyday, godly wisdom into this book, but James talks a lot about wisdom itself. It’s something all of us should long to have in abundance. We should long for it more than anything that Hollywood, Madison Avenue, or Wall Street has to offer. 

Of course, that begs the question, why does one need wisdom? We urgently, desperately, consistently, without ceasingly need wisdom to face the tests of faith, to preserve through trials, and to become mature in faith. So we should ask for wisdom instead of living by old assumptions or trying to figure things out on our own power. Instead, God wants us to ask, seek, and knock until we get wisdom.

The next question is, where does one go to get wisdom? Half a dozen times in the Old Testament wisdom literature we read that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Simply put, that means that the more we have a correct, accurate, well-rounded, complete understanding of who the Lord is—and respond appropriately to God with reverence, awe and fear—the wiser we will be.

We’ll be wiser first of all because we will take very seriously whatever the Lord says. After all, God speaks to us today by His awesome person, His abiding presence, and His eternal words found in this book. Talk about generous!

God doesn’t judge or condemn us when we ask for wisdom. Instead, He generously has given us 1,000 pages of eternal wisdom. Do we read it? Do we heed it? Do we long to know more? I hope we do. I trust we will. After all, God promises to give us wisdom in abundance. It’s ours for the asking and taking. 

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