Hope you are all well on this May 4th. If you worked in a restaurant, you’d be saying, “May the forks be with you.” If you were a lumberjack, “May the forest be with you.” If you were a jockey, “May the horse be with you.” If you were a Viking, “May the Norse be with you.” If you were a shepherd, “May the force be with ewe.” So, May the Fourth be with you, and if tomorrow you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, may you feel the Revenge of the 5th!
Here is my video devotion on the 10th Plague:
Additionally, here are a few other thoughts I had that I thought may be of help:
James 1:2, 5 reads, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance….But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I don’t know that I ever connected those two verses together. However, it is clear that they are meant to complement each other because verse 5 begins with “But.” Perhaps you can see the logic. James says we are to have a positive outlook on our trials and difficulties so that we praise God for them, and thus we’ll find our joy increased. Although that is a wonderful exhortation, we are very much tempted to think, as we feel the pain and disappointments of our trials, that this is an impossible task to perform. And indeed, it is rather impossible to consider hardship a joy. Enter verse 5 now: “But if you lack this wisdom, ask God for it.”
Wisdom is a word generously dispersed throughout the Scriptures. We tend to think of wisdom more like the Greeks did, however. The Greeks were always on a quest for the meaning of life, debating various theories in efforts to attain enlightenment, as Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 1:22. Wisdom is connected to understanding the mysteries of life. For them, wisdom answered the question, “Why?” On the other hand, the Bible connects wisdom not so much with understanding but to skill (that is, the ability to correctly use things) and with proper relationships. True wisdom is in bowing your heart to the covenantal Lord. Listen to Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” So, biblical wisdom is not concerned so much with “why,” but concentrates on “how” and “who.”
A person can have a lot of scientific knowledge and acquire a lot of data, but that doesn’t enable him to count it a joy when he or she enters into various trials and temptations. James calls us to see life from a new perspective, from a spiritual understanding borne out of a right relationship with God (as do all the Wisdom books of the Old Testament). If a person lives only for this world and for getting the most out of what it offers, or if he or she lives only to gain pleasure and comfort, then when everything falls apart in trials, of course they are going to be unhappy and unable to rejoice. But if that person understands that they are related to God through Jesus Christ, they don’t have to know why they are going through it. To have a heart of wisdom, I must realize that God knows why. He has His purpose, and since I am in proper covenantal relation to Him, He is working for my good. So then, I submit myself to Him, trust in His goodness and power, and hope in His ultimate purposes to conform me into Jesus’ image – Jesus the perfect man. And I do this through the power of the Holy Spirit who unites us to that very Christ. As I lovingly trust God and praise Him for who He is, then I gain the skill that enables me to look beyond the trial to the end goal. That skill empowers me to rejoice in my present circumstance. Without the spiritual vision of eschatological glory, we simply will lack the ability to rejoice in hardship. James says, “Ask for that vision of glory.”
I realize that sometimes we face crossroads and it is difficult to know what to do, how to act, how to react, which way to take. Of course, we need a spiritual enlightenment to know how best to do a thing or which way to go. But James says that when your eyes are set on heaven’s realm, and when you are living for God’s glory, those difficulties are smoothed out and made apparent to us. Moreover, the wisdom to do the best thing is in the grasp of every Christian: “If ANY of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” This skill isn’t just for some spiritual elite class. The history of the church demonstrates how the promise of James 1:5, that God will give wisdom to all those who ask, is a serious offer from God. Many plain and simple Christians found themselves rejoicing in harder times than these, and praised God even in chains and prison cells. Many ordinary people came to know God in such a way that they saw how everything that happened to them simply served to draw them closer to God. How did they gain that skill? How did they grow into that understanding? They asked God for it!
Of course, there is a condition to the promise. “He must ask in faith without any doubting.” Too many people want the best of both worlds. They live with one foot in heaven and the other on earth. James said they are double-minded and are driven and tossed by the wind, and thus they will not receive anything from the Lord. When a crisis comes into their lives, they have no right to ask God for anything because their hearts are, in fact, divided between His interests and their own. So again, wisdom is found in being in a covenantal relationship with God that wholeheartedly seeks His glory. Everything else must go so that I might be right with Him. The old gospel preachers used to ask, “Are you on God’s side?” Are you? Being on God’s side means you are willing to yield yourself completely to Christ. If you are on His side, surrendered to His Lordship, you can ask God for His divine wisdom and you will certainly have it. You will be given a spiritual skill that enables you to maneuver through stormy seas while using all things as tools that bring you into the joy found in Jesus Christ.