My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)
All of us are probably going through a trial of some type right now. If you are not, count on one coming your way tomorrow. It is the reality of living in a fallen world. However, James teaches us that God is not absent in our trials. In fact, God is doing something through them. We can see what God is doing through our trials in verses three and four. God is producing patience, endurance in us in order that we may be perfect and complete, that is mature in Christ. Maturing in Christ is the reason why we can count it all joy when we face trials. It’s not because the trial is fun or pleasant. It is because through the trial God is transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ. The word for count in the text is an imperative, which simply means that it is a command. Therefore, joy in trials is dependent upon our response. We have the option to obey or disobey the command to count it all joy when you fall into various trials. We disobey the command when our joy is found in our circumstances. We obey the command when our joy is found in God and his purposes for our lives, which is transforming us more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Do we really believe that the greatest joy of our lives is to be more like Christ? To be more patient, kind, loving, gentle, self-controlled, to bridle our tongues, to be slow to speak, quick to listen, to count others more significant than ourselves, to live with our wives in an understanding way, to mature? James is teaching us that we can become victors full of joy in our trials instead of victims full of bitterness, doubt, and discouragement. Trials refine our faith by showing us where we are truly seeking joy, by showing us who/what we are trusting in.
With this understanding of trials in our life, let’s look at another imperative in the text, that is another command. In verse five let him ask is a command. What does this teach us? It shows that if we are to live triumphantly in our trials, we need to ask God for something specific, that is wisdom. Once again, this is a command that has the potential to be disobeyed. Perhaps our disobedience to this command may be the reason why we lack joy in our trials. Disobedience to this command may be the reason why we mature in age but not in Christ. What do we ask God for during our trials? We must be careful here. It is not wrong to ask God for strength, help, and deliverance from trials, just read the Psalms. However, if that is all we are praying for in trials then I think James teaches us that we are missing something very important. James only speaks, in this context, about asking God for wisdom.
Biblical wisdom is not the same thing as what we often think of when we speak of wisdom. We often think of wisdom as knowledge, insight, or perception. We say things like that was a “wise decision” and that statement is typically the same as saying that was a “smart decision.” Often, we link wisdom to intellectual knowledge or insight alone. Biblical wisdom however is focused on the application of a certain type of knowledge to all of life, knowledge of God. Not just intellectual knowledge of God but a personal, relational knowledge of God. This is communicated by the phrase “fear of God”, as it is specifically linked to wisdom in the book of Proverbs. To fear God is to be rightly related to God, to have an inner since of awe toward God and to live obediently to God. In short, it is to take God seriously. Proverbs teaches us that this “fear of God” is the beginning of wisdom. A good definition of biblical wisdom is how to live in God’s world according to God’s Word. This is what James says God desires to give us in response to our prayers during our trials. God wants to show us how we can take our personal knowledge of him and apply it to the situations of our lives. We should think about this as coming to God in our trials saying, “God, I do not want to miss what you want to teach me in this trial.” This prayer is a request, an invitation, for God to get extremely personal with us. It is a request for God to invade the particular details of our lives with conviction and transformative grace in order to mature us into Christ. This is where true joy is found. This is the how we can become victors living triumphantly in the midst of trials.
Trials are like a classroom. God is the teacher. We are the students. The lesson is whatever trial we are facing. The goal of the lesson is maturity into the likeness of Christ. And the way we approach the teacher, is through humble, trusting prayer asking for wisdom. When the bell rings and we walk out of the classroom, we are full of Joy because the teacher delights in showing us how to live in his world according to his Word by answering our prayers for wisdom.
Would you join one another in asking God for wisdom in your trials? “God show me what you want to teach me in this trial.” “God increase my joy by increasing my skill in living a Godly life.”
Finally, James tells us we must believe that God will do this. God will invade our lives with clear answers. When we seek wisdom, we are not mainly seeking knowledge. We are seeking for God to personally show us how to faithfully live in his world according to his Word. God promises to do this “liberally.”