James begins his Epistle by telling us that trials are a necessary part of life. He also taught us of our need to respond to such trials with all joy knowing that these trials have the purpose of making us more mature and complete in our faith.
To respond with such an attitude requires wisdom. This is the topic that James deals with next in his very practical and powerful book of the New Testament. In verse five of chapter one, James first tells us of the purpose of wisdom. What exactly is the nature of wisdom? Many see wisdom as the acquiring of much knowledge and intellectual facts. We must fully understand that wisdom is more than the knowledge of the facts. Many people are brilliant when it comes to knowing facts but pitiful when it comes to using those facts in their lives, especially in the midst of adverse circumstances. Wisdom is moral discernment that, according to Proverbs 9:10, begins with a knowledge of God or with seeing things with a Divine perspective.
In verse five, James teaches us the provider of wisdom is none other than God who gives His wisdom to us in two ways. First, He gives wisdom to us generously. The word speaks of singleness of heart or without reluctance. It is doing something unconditionally and without bargaining. When we need wisdom and come to God requesting it, He doesn’t reluctantly bargain with us. He simply gives it. He also gives it without reproach. This is a word that speaks of severely reprimanding. It is used in Matthew 5:11 to speak of casting insults. When we ask for wisdom, God doesn’t reprimand us. He doesn’t insult us because we are in need. Again, He simply gives it.
So how do we attain such heavenly wisdom? First, we must ask. This is an imperative verb. In other words it is a divine command, not a piece of personal advice. But how are we to ask? We are to ask “in faith.” According to verse six, this means that we are to ask “without any doubting.” This is the idea of vacillating. In other words we are to make our request for wisdom backed by a genuine trust in God. According to James, the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea. Perhaps James had in mind, the frightful storms and strong winds that would come across the Sea of Galilee. The constant churning of the water was symbolic of the agitation in the heart of the one who doubts. One who doubts is like a cork riding up and down the waves with no control over its outcome. Paul used a similar illustration to describe those who shifted back and forth due to wrong doctrine (Eph 4:14). Isaiah used the same analogy to describe the wicked (Isaiah 57:20)
What is the result of one who prays with such a lack of faith? Verse seven tells us that the one who simply goes through the motions of prayer but has no real confidence in God should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Why is this so? Verse eight teaches us that a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. He hesitates between two ways of thinking …having a divided allegiance. According to James 4:8, this divided allegiance isn’t just true of his prayer life but about all of his ways. Trials in our life can make us bitter or can make us better. The difference between the two is wisdom.