James 1:5-8 ESV
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
The Lord Jesus speaks to me sometimes through dreams, but if the dreams are from God they will always align with the passage of Scripture I am reading for that day. So, they serve more like parables to give practical application to the passage of Scripture, much like a pastor might use a story as a sermon illustration to make applicable a particular passage of Scripture to our lives and to our world today.
So, the dreams are rarely ever to be taken literally but more figuratively and symbolically, but I believe this dream today may have both a literal and a figurative interpretation based on this passage of Scripture today. And the gist of the dream is that I (not necessarily me personally, for I am not in the habit of counseling pastors, since I am a woman) am counseling a youth pastor regarding a trip he was supposed to go on, I think with the youth.
A door had closed, and he was to accept that as a closed door, and he was to not try to reopen it. I believe it had to do with the trip he was supposed to go on, that he was not to go on the trip. But there was a chance that things could change and that the door might reopen, or another door might open, and that he might be tempted to then go with the original plans. But he was to resist the temptation to reopen that door and he was to take the closed door as a sign from God that this was not the direction that he should head.
Has anything like that ever happened to you? It has to me before. Plans change and so we accept that as a closed door from God and then things change and it looks like another door might open so that we can go ahead with our original plans, but we had already accepted the closed door as an answer from God, so then it is like we are second-guessing God if we reconsider our decision based on a new opening before us.
And this is what this passage is talking about. We seek God for wisdom, and we ask him if we should do this or that, and so he answers us with a closed door, and we accept that as his answer. But then someone tells us of a possible reopening of the door or of another door opening, and so then we begin to doubt God and we begin to consider going through with our original plans even though we believed God had already said, “No.”
So, the lesson to be learned here is that if we have asked God for wisdom, and he has given us the wisdom we asked for, in this case through a closed door, and if we have accepted that as God’s answer, then if another door opens we should not then second-guess God and reconsider doing what we believed he had already said “No” to. We should accept his answer and stay the course and not be tempted to change our minds on this.
The One Doubting
Literally this should read something like this: “Let him ask however in faith, nothing doubting, for the one doubting is…”
And I am going to explain here why I believe the “ing” on the end of the word “doubt” is significant to the overall understanding of what this is saying here. Generally words ending in “ing” are showing some type of continuous action, like someone who makes a particular behavior his practice. It suggests a behavior pattern which is ongoing and progressive and which is repetitive, so habitual. So, why does that matter?
Well, it is a lot like the subject of sin. As we read in the Scriptures, it is possible that, as believers in Christ, we might sin sometimes (1 Jn 2:1-2), but if we read the context of the book of 1 John, in no way does it suggest that if we habitually sin that Jesus is going to keep speaking to God in our defense. Instead, it says that if sin is what we practice, and if obedience to God is not our practice, that we will not inherit eternal life with God.
So, from that I look at what the Scriptures teach regarding sin. They teach that sin is to no longer have mastery over our lives. We are to no longer, as Christians, live under sin’s control. And we should not walk in sin, and sin should not be our practice, but righteousness and godliness are to be our practice, instead. If righteousness and obedience to our Lord are what we practice, we have eternal life. If sin is what we practice, we have death.
And I believe, when we look at this passage in James and the severity of the consequences (or punishment) for the one doubting in comparison to what the Scriptures teach regarding sin, this is not talking about someone who once doubted God or his word, or even one who has more than once doubted God, but this is talking about someone who habitually seeks God for wisdom and then turns a deaf ear to what God is saying.
This is about someone who makes both seeking God’s wisdom and then doubting God’s wisdom his practice. For there are people who will ask God for wisdom but then they will wait to see what he says before they decide if they like what he said and if they are going to listen and obey or if they are going to still go their own way and disregard God’s wisdom. Or they will make it their practice to second-guess God on his counsel and wisdom.
And this is why it says that this person is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. This is not about a one-time thing in this person’s life. This is who this person is. It is what he does as a matter of life course. He seeks God’s counsel but if he doesn’t like the counsel then he just disregards it, as a matter of habit. He is the one who looks in the mirror and then habitually walks away and deliberately forgets what he looks like.
So, if you are that person who only accepts God’s counsel if it fits in with your plans, and who asks God for wisdom only to reject it over and over again, then you should not expect that you are going to receive anything from the Lord. So, don’t stop at verse 5 and just assume God is always going to give you wisdom just because you ask. Read through to verse 8. If you are one who regularly is doubting God, the Lord regards you as a person who is double-minded and unstable in all your ways.
So, seek the Lord, but seek him in truth. Don’t ask for wisdom if you don’t intend to follow the wisdom you are given, or if you don’t like the messenger who is delivering the wisdom. God may use someone in your life to deliver his messages to you whom you regard as less or inferior, and perhaps to humble you because of your pride. But if the Lord can use a donkey to speak to a false prophet, he can use anyone as his instrument of wisdom.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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