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Sermon #03 — James Series
Title: “If any of you lack Wisdom…”
Text: James 1:5-11
Date: Tuesday Evening — January 20, 2015
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Merle Hart
In the first chapter of James God the Holy Ghost teaches us that one of the many tools by which God matures and strengthens his elect, by which he graciously causes his children to “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is the trying of our faith. In the kingdom of God no one ever grows without trials, without enduring temptations, sorrows, and afflictions.
· Abasement is the path to exaltation.
· Sorrow is the path to service.
· And weakness is the path to strength.
That was the case with the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 5:8-10; 1 Peter 1:11).
Hebrews 5:8-10 (8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (10) Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
The Apostle Paul exemplifies this fact for us in his own experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Whatever our trials, struggles, sorrows, limitations, and losses in this world, they are according to the wise and good purpose of our heavenly Father. — Suffering is God’s method of maturing his children (Hebrews 12:5-10; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:10).
Hebrews 12:5-10 (5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
And must it, Lord, be so?
And must Thy children bear
Such various kinds of woe,
Such soul-perplexing fear?
Are these the blessings we expect?
Is this the lot of God’s elect?
[Boast not, ye sons of earth,
Nor look with scornful eyes;
Above your highest mirth,
Our saddest hours we prize;
For though our cup seems filled with gall,
There’s something secret sweetens all.]
How harsh soe’er the way,
Dear Savior, still lead on,
Nor leave us till we say
“Father, Thy will be done.”
At most, we do but taste the cup
For Thou alone hast drunk it up.
Shall guilty man complain?
Shall sinful dust repine?
And what is all our pain?
How light compared with Thine!
Finish, dear Lord, what is begun;
Choose Thou the way, but still lead on.
— Joseph Hart
That is the doctrine of James 1:1-4. Let’s begin reading at verse 2.
James 1:2-4 (2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Have patience, my brother, in the midst of trial. Have patience, my sister, when storms of darkness arise in your soul. When this trying day is over and we have entered into rest, we shall “perfect and entire, wanting nothing!”
If we are to profit by our trials, if patience is to have her perfect work in us, we must have wisdom, wisdom that only God can give. That is my subject tonight. — Wisdom. Our text will be James 1:5-11. — “If any of you lack Wisdom…” — That is the title of my message. — “If any of you lack Wisdom…”
James 1:5-11 (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Any of You
First, I am struck by the fact that James was directed by God the Holy Spirit to address his readers in the widest, broadest sense possible. — Here is counsel for “any of you.” I cannot help presuming that that includes me. Surely, those words include you. — “If any of you…”
Much-tempted and severely-tried saints are frequently at their wits end. Persuaded that in the end good will come out of all our afflictions, in the midst of trial we are often so distracted that we do not know what to do and are at our “wits’ end” (Psalm 107:27). How fitly spoken and how seasonable this word of the Apostle is! — “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” The Lord God will give his afflicted children wisdom, that the trying of our faith may work patience in us, and cause us to count it all joy that we have fallen in divers temptations.
But the promise is not to be limited to any one particular application, for the words, “If any of you,” are so wide, so extensive, that whatever may be our necessity, whatever the dilemma which perplexes us, James consoles us with divine counsel, — “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” This is counsel for any who lack wisdom; and that is one area in which we are all very lacking.
Job 23:3-5 (3) Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! (4) I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. (5) I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Wisdom in Life
Second, if we would have wisdom in life, wisdom by which to live in this world, particularly wisdom with which to endure the trying of our faith patiently, we must get it from the God of all grace.
How can we rejoice in the midst of trials? We are to endure trials without complaining, fretting, or questioning God’s providence. We are to endure trials without seeking a quick deliverance, patiently waiting for our God to do his work in us and with us. How can have such patience? Where do we get it? How can we pierce the darkness of divine dealings? How can mere human beings submit to the will of God and become disentangled from lusts of our own flesh?
James tells us to ask God, the God of all grace, to give us wisdom! Wisdom is more than knowledge, information, and learning. We can have vast stores of knowledge, and still be fools! Knowledge is the horse; wisdom is the rider who guides the horse in the right path.
· Wisdom is the proper combination of truth and Spirit, of faith and conduct, of mind and heart, of knowing the will of God and yielding to it.
· Wisdom is discernment of heart and discipline of mouth.
· Wisdom is seeing the mind and providence of God and yielding to it in the face of opposition from within and without, regardless of frowns and flatteries which Satan uses to turn us aside.
“Let him ask of God.” — James does not say, “Let him search the writings of men,” or “Let him find a shrink,” or “Let him ask others.” James says, “Let him ask of God.” And he encourages us to ask of God by declaring that none who seek the Lord are sent away empty. He who is the God of all grace “giveth to all me liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him!” What a great word from God! What a promise! What do you need from God? What does your soul crave?
Matthew 7:7-11 (7) Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (9) Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? (10) Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (11) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Oh, I love this sweet assurance — “and upbraideth not!” The God of all grace “upbraideth not!” He does not point to the past and say, “Look what a mess you have made! Look at how you have failed! You don’t deserve what you ask! You don’t appreciate what you have!” We never weary our Lord by asking too much or too often! He is plenteous in mercy!
Christ Our Wisdom
Having said all that, let me say, thirdly, that Christ is the Wisdom we need, the Wisdom we must have, the Wisdom all men by nature lack.
Above all else, the Wisdom James urges us to seek is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Wisdom of God and is “made of God unto us Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30).
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
When we read the book of Proverbs, God’s Book of Wisdom, and we find Wisdom speaking, instructing, and personified, that Wisdom is our Lord Jesus Christ.
James is telling us here the same thing Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 10, lest we be found murmuring against God.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (1) Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; (2) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; (3) And did all eat the same spiritual meat; (4) And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (5) But with many of them God was not well pleased (They didn’t believe God!): for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (6) Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. (7) Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (8) Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. (9) Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. (10) Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. (11) Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (12) Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
When trials come, when temptations assail, when Satan roars, seek Christ!
Isaiah 32:1-2 (1) Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. (2) And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
Though we are foolish creatures by nature, by virtue of our union with him, Christ is made of God unto us Wisdom. He is the one who gives us wisdom and understanding in all things spiritual. He is the shining light that dispels darkness in our souls. Christ is our Wisdom objectively, too. I mean by that that our highest wisdom is knowing him. Under the personification of Wisdom, our Savior says, — “He that findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain the favour of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35).
Proverbs 8:12 “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.”
Proverbs 8:14-21 “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. (15) By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. (16) By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. (17) I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (18) Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. (19) My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. (20) I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: (21) That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.”
Proverbs 8:22-31 “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. (23) I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. (24) When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. (25) Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: (26) While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. (27) When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: (28) When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: (29) When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: (30) Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; (31) Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
Proverbs 8:35 “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.”
Christ is the Head of his body the church; and as all the wisdom of the body is in its head, so all our wisdom is in him. The Lord Jesus acts for us as our Wisdom representatively, speaking for us in the everlasting covenant of grace and peace; and he is our Advocate with the Father, still pleading our cause and interceding for us in heaven.
It is by Christ Jesus that the triune God is made known and revealed to man. He is the embodiment of God, the embodiment of Wisdom, the Word, the Revealer of God. As all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him, so all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are his. By him alone they are made known to men. — “No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Luke 10:22).
Our union with Christ makes the heaven-born soul truly wise, because when Christ is formed within, we are given the mind of Christ and know all things (1 Corinthians 2:16).
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16) “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
All true spiritual knowledge is derived from Christ, and it is only those who are taught of him who are made wise unto salvation. Christ is our Wisdom within to direct our paths, guide us in his way, and order our steps day by day.
Now, watch what God the Holy Spirit tells us in our text by the Apostle James.
· God gives Christ to any who know their need of him. — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth!”
· God gives Christ to all who ask after him — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men!”
· God gives Christ liberally, in all his fulness. — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally!”
Colossians 2:9-10 (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.
God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises engage him to perform this work of grace. We are commanded, to count it all joy, when we fall into divers temptations. Therefore, a plain, and positive assurance is given that all our trials must and shall be blessed of God to our souls.
We rejoice in our trials when we see the mercy, grace, and love of God in them. James tells us to rejoice in the trying of our faith because…
· The love of God brings us into the trial.
· The grace of God will see us through it.
· And the mercy of God will be heaped upon us by it.
Christ, the Wisdom of God, is sure to be with us, in every part of every trial, teaching us, guiding us, taking us by the hand and leading us, and delivering us! Thus…
· God is glorified!
· Christ is honored!
· Satan is vanquished!
· And the blood-bought child of God is conformed, more and more, to Christ and made more than conqueror through him, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness!
Conscious of our daily need of Christ, let us seek from our heavenly Father our Daily Bread, and having Christ as our Wisdom and Strength, we will be able in the midst of the trying of our faith, to sing “Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ!”
Move on to verse 6, and we see, fourth, that we must, if we would have Christ, seek him in sincere faith.
James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
If we would have Christ, the Wisdom of God, as our own, we must ask him of God in faith. Faith in Christ is the gift and operation of God the Holy Ghost in the heaven-born soul. But James tells us we must ask for him “in faith, nothing wavering!”
James 1:6-8 (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
That sure seems to destroy everything. — Doesn’t it? If you’ve got to have perfect faith to have Christ, “Who then can be saved?” That’s what our Lord’s disciples cried; and that’s what we would be forced to cry, if a sinner (altogether imperfect!) must have perfect faith to be saved, “Who then can be saved?” Quick comes the Master’s reply. — “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible!”
Read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, and you will read a whole list of men and women, who appear in our eyes to have had, at best, wavering faith. But God the Holy Ghost tells us that every one of them, like Abraham, “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but were strong in faith, giving God the glory!”
· Sarah — Sarah laughed. Then she laughed!
· Moses — Left Egypt in Fear! — Left Egypt in Faith!
Unwavering faith is the God-given, God-wrought faith of that “new man created in righteousness and true holiness.” Unwavering faith is sincere, guileless faith, faith that comes honestly and boldly (confidently) to the Throne of Grace, doubting nothing. — What does that mean?
· I have no doubt about my sin, and confess it freely.
· I have no doubt about Christ’s finished work.
· I have no doubt about Christ’s ability to save sinners by the merit and efficacy of his righteousness and blood.
· I have no doubt about God’s willingness to save sinners for Christ’s sake.
· So I come to God with confidence, seeking Christ.
Come humble sinner, in whose breast
A thousand thoughts revolve;
Come with your guilt and fear oppressed,
And make this last resolve.
I’ll go to Jesus, though my sins
Like mountains round me close;
I know His courts, I’ll enter in,
Whatever may oppose.
Prostrate I’ll lie before His throne,
And there my guilt confess;
I’ll tell Him I’m a wretch undone
Without His sovereign grace.”
I’ll to the gracious King approach,
Whose scepter pardon gives;
Perhaps He may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives!
Perhaps He will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know,
I must forever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (Delightful thought!) —
As sinner never died!”
James is telling us that grace is sure to all who seek it! Salvation is sure to all who seek Christ, “who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption; that according as it is written, He that glorieth, Let him glory in the Lord!”
Rich or Poor
Fifth, James admonishes both the rich and the poor. We must not forget the context. James is still talking about the trying of our faith in verses 9-11. His subject has not changed.
James 1:9-11 (9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Whether we think of these things in a temporal sense or a spiritual sense, the Lord’s appointments to his people, in providence and in grace, are all blessed of him. Happy are they who are enabled by grace to discern these things spiritually. — “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low.” The circumstances of the poor, heaven-born soul, in the ordinary needs of life, are all sweetened, when the Lord’s hand is seen in their appointment. Our God is too wise to err, too strong to fail, and too good to do wrong.
· We could not know him, as we know him, in many aspects of his magnificent being, were it not for the trials he sends.
· We could not know his promises, were we not forced to discover them (Job 5:19; Psalm 107:19; Isaiah 33:16; Romans 8:28).
If there were no dark and cloudy days, but only perpetual sunshine in our lives, all those rich clusters of promises, in which the Lord has promised to be with his us in darkness, would be meaningless.
Psalm 88:6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
Psalm 104:20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
Isaiah 50:10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
Psalm 18:28 Thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
Here is Wisdom. — Everything by which we think ourselves rich and increased with goods, must wither and perish before the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
· In Grace
· In Judgment
Everything by which we are impoverished in our souls, laid low before the Throne of Grace, and made to seek Christ enriches us and shall lift us up to Glory!
· “Happy is the man that getteth Wisdom” — Christ! (Proverbs 3:19).
· Christ —“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get Wisdom” — Christ (Proverbs 4:7).
· “He that getteth Wisdom (Christ) loveth his own soul” (Proverbs 19:8).
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.