Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
-James 1:4-6 (NIV)
I want to talk about asking God for help. We continually have challenges in life that stretch us beyond what we know to do. And we must learn to ask God for help.
When we ask God for help, it is not like asking someone to lend us a hand. Asking God for help is availing ourselves to God’s goodness, grace and love. Asking God requires my listening and following God.
Asking God means that when God answers, I must follow. God makes a way for me, with him. This is very different than my asking God to help me do things my way.
God is always expanding my awareness and experience in him as I walk along in life. And this is what asking for wisdom from God is all about. I am asking God how to do something I can not do.
Life serves up a challenge and I am not doing well with it. I might say, honestly, “I can’t do this”. The next step is to ask God for help, saying, “How can I do this?”
James brings up this issue, because his whole letter is a catalog of wisdom from God, that James wants to share with his audience. The original people who James was ministering to had real problems.
The message from James is: “Now that you are a Christian, you have a lot of problems”. The message, “Come to Jesus and you will no longer have problems”, runs counter to the book of James.
Here, in chapter 1, is the first of four times that James is going to mention wisdom in his letter. About the theme of wisdom, Brian Simmons writes: “His letter could be considered a wisdom sermon, for the style is similar to the Proverbs. Throughout his letter James taps into the long tradition of Jewish wisdom and applies it to various practical topics for wise Christian living. He recognizes wisdom as necessary for trying circumstances; it involves insight into God’s purposes and leads to spiritual maturity; and God is the source of all true wisdom.”(1)
A good way to understand the whole message of James is to read the whole thing in one sitting. If you had just done that and then circled back to chapter one, you would have probably noticed that James contrasts God’s heavenly wisdom with earthly wisdom that can be demonic.
Some Christians are afraid of the idea that there is a demon behind every bush. But the demonic and the dark powers are a reality and they influence how the world functions. And people who are not walking with God come under the influence of the demonic.
The Christian who is not growing in godly wisdom through a living relationship with God is vulnerable to all the demonic traffic of ideas that is going through the air and it is only natural that they may adopt these ideas and pet them and feed them and believe in them. They are not from God but are opposed to God.
Before we ask for wisdom and before we realize we are having trouble and need help, we need to understand that our faith is being stretched and grown through persevering under trials. James says that we are all in a maturing process. Over the years, I have met young and old believers, who resisted the idea of the long process of maturity.
I will never forget a man, who I was in a class with. The instructor was sharing a model on the whiteboard of how people grow and mature. This man shared with the class, with stars in his eyes, how God had taken him through all of these steps in just one night.
This brother was the oldest person in the room and a full time minister, who planned on getting a Doctorate, after finishing his Masters degree in Christian counseling. And he was arguably the rudest, most selfish student in our class, based upon how he treated others. Later in the program, several students openly confronted him, during a group sharing session.
I share that story, because many people want overnight change and do not want a long growth process. But perseverance and learning godly wisdom usually comes from a lifetime lived, walking with God and asking God for help.
God does touch us and heal us. We can have a life changing experience with God. But maturity, mature faith and a godliness that has God’s character usually takes time. We can most definitely be touched by God, but not have very good fruit in our lives, because the cultivation of that fruit occurs in a process over time.
Perseverance means that we have persevered. We have walked through the severe circumstances: Circumstances that tried us and tested our faith. Our faith has been refined.
Part of perseverance is to ask God for help. And asking God for help takes humility. I already mentioned that when we ask God for help, we have to be willing to follow God. If you are asking God to “give you a hand”, it is not going to work.
That person might say, “I have asked God for help over and over and he just seems to ignore me!”
Are you asking God to lend you a hand, or are you humbling yourself and availing yourself to God changing your life, through the help he gives you?
We need wisdom, We need God’s wisdom to be godly people. We have to be in the habit of asking God for help, which involves constantly humbling ourselves, saying, “I don’t know”, and even, “I have no idea”. Then we ask for wisdom, for advice, for God’s perspective.
If you get in fights with people, if you are hurt or offended by people or you are mad that you are not getting your way; be prepared and don’t be shocked when God says, “You are wrong”.
If you are in the maturing process and you are going through your first world problems and you decide to start asking God for help and you discover that asking for help is not asking God for a hand, but coming under God as God and asking God to be God in your life and give you help as God: you are probably going to hear or sense, “You are wrong”.
God who loves you, will tell you that you are wrong, just like how Jesus told his disciples they were wrong. “You are wrong”, does not mean you are bad or unloved, but means you don’t get it.
A person who never acknowledges they are wrong is a small person and may become a psychopath. That is not a person to follow or that you want to be.
Living a life of not asking for help and authentic help requests say, “what am I doing wrong?”, is a life of pride. Asking for help, as in asking what I can do differently or what should I do, takes some humility. God opposes pride and give grace to humility.
The issue of asking for wisdom without doubting is about perseverance. That means that you burn the ships after you reach the island or burn the bridges, so that you can not go back to where God led you out of.
You can’t say, “It did not work, so we are going back”. That is not faith or perseverance.
Abraham is the man of faith, in scripture. He had a promise that took a very long time to be fulfilled.
Sarah did not have the encounters with God that her husband had, as far as the record of scripture tells us.
But they both had to wait. And they made a mistake, to try to ‘help the promise come about’, that was not God’s wisdom. But God still entered into their situation and redeemed it.
Maybe you are like Abraham and you are worried that you either ruined your chances or that somehow God has forgotten you. Maybe like Abe, you have a wife or a husband that did not receive the promise like you did, but they nevertheless must live out your life in God, as a couple in covenant.
I am encouraged that despite Abraham and Sarah’s fumble, that intimately affected two other people, God still kept giving them wisdom, guidance and grace. The point is that despite the flaws that were huge, the scripture says that their faith did not waver (Rom. 4:20-21). Yes, I see them as one, a couple.
This is message on persevering in faith and asking for wisdom unwaveringly. If you think that your faith is not pure enough, strong enough or laser beam straight enough; think again. Decide to believe and keep deciding, keep believing in the one who is faithful.
Keep your confidence in God. Make it a habit to not worry. Do not worry about things God does not worry about. Instead, ask for wisdom.
Generous grace is available every day to those who turn their humble hearts towards God. Generous grace is available every day to those who humble themselves to ask God for wisdom. There is always grace for today, but we have to avail ourselves to God’s open hand by humbling ourselves and asking for it.
Being ambivalent towards God or keeping your options open as you look around will destabilize your faith and your life. There is only faith or unbelief and no neutral. If you are undecided about God, that is called unbelief and you will not get or grow in wisdom or grace.
The place where James takes you is to become, like he was, a servant of God, in the service of others. That is why we need to do all these wise things that James advises in his sermon letter. You will know God, serve God and serve others, finding meaning and purpose.
Our destinies are called out and developed in the seeming darkness of troubles and problems in our lives. Every single person has equal standing to be redeemed by God and employed in God’s service.
Ask God for help and find wisdom. Make that your lifestyle.
1. Brian Simmons, Hebrews and James: Faith Works, The Passion Translation; pp. 67-8