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Not sure what to do? Ask God.

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 (James 1:5-8).

That first sentence is pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Consider what it tells us about God:

  • God wants us to come to Him in prayer.
  • God will generously give us wisdom.
  • God will never disapprove, or be disappointed, when we ask Him for wisdom.

No searching for some wise prophet on top of a mountain. No spending hours in meditation to reach nirvana. No digging through the mysterious sayings of gurus in a language that can’t be understood.

Don’t know what to do? Ask God.

And then consider what the rest of the paragraph says about the one who is asking:

 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 (vs 6-8).

Ask for wisdom from the God who promises to give it to you generously, and in faith that He is going to give you that wisdom.

Don’t take those verses out of the context of the previous verse and think that you can ask for anything in faith and get it. James is writing about asking for wisdom – applied knowledge, putting the truths of Scripture to work in a particular situation.

Not a new car. Not a spouse. Not a different job. Not children. Not an early retirement.

Wisdom. That’s what God promises to give you lavishly.

And He may make you read your Bible to find the answer – that’s how God speaks to us.

So what does God’s Word say about possessions? About marriage? About a career? About a family? About retirement?

Ask God to help you understand His Word, the Bible, and how to apply it to the questions that you have.

He promises to give you an answer, so asking in faith is taking that promise at face value.

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Trials lead to trust

These verses in James are probably among the most familiar ones. Greeting cards. Memes. Posters. T-Shirts. Artwork. Songs. Holy Hardware.

It seems to be one that Christians will use to encourage other Christians when they are going through a trial.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

Unfortunately, the comforter seems to think it is sufficient to only quote the very beginning: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials.”

They seem to think a Pollyanna approach is sufficient to the crises of death, divorce, wayward children, unemployment, homelessness, disease, etc.

Look for the silver lining. God’s got something great in store. Things will get better eventually.

Malarkey.

In the midst of the trial, you don’t want to hear those kinds of vain attempts to ease the pain. And since they aren’t biblical, you don’t need to hear them – or say them to your friends, either.

Look at the whole paragraph:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

You don’t rejoice for the trials.

You can rejoice in what God is going to do. “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

When you get hit with the news, where do you turn? Where’s your strength? What’s your worldview? Where’s your faith?

Do you keep trusting God – not because He’s going to make it better, because that may not happen until heaven – but because He is God?

All-powerful. All-knowing. All-wise. Holy. Just. Righteous. Loving. Forgiving. Merciful. Sovereign. Gracious. Patient.

You see, if we trust that God will make things better, then our trust in God is dependent on our circumstances. God will fix this the way I want it to be fixed. God is going to give me what I want.

But, if we trust God for who He is, then it doesn’t matter if the crisis goes away, or the relationships are restored, or the disease is resolved.

God will still be God. And that’s where our faith grows. We learn to trust Him, not because He does our bidding – which makes Him a pretty weak deity – but because He remains who He says He is.

And that’s where we become perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Not because all our problems are taken away, but because we have learned that we have everything that we need in God.

Prayer of Contentment

How much of our prayer life is asking for things?

Safety. Health. Money. Job.

And when we look at those closer, how much of it is related to finances?

Maybe we aren’t praying about finances, but we spend a lot of time and energy in that arena.

Worrying about having enough for this month, or for retirement.

Planning the next get rich scheme.

Obsessing about ways to save a few bucks while shopping.

Making excuses because of our financial situation.

Balancing the check book.

Paying off debt.

Working over time, or a second job.

Those things may not necessarily be bad, but have we thought to pray, and live like this Proverb:

 

…give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Are our money concerns based on having more, or having more than the neighbors? Are we working our tails off to get a bigger, better, faster, smarter, smoother…anything?

And in the midst of it, we’re not content.

The proverb says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Give me enough so that I don’t steal, but not so much that I forget that God is taking care of me.”

What does your money attitude look like? Are you content with what God has given you? Do you have a roof over your head and food on your table?

 

Avoid danger

When we are in the store and see a sign “Slippery when wet,” we check the floor to see if it is really wet. We walk carefully, or we go around the area.

If we see a “hazardous materials” sign, we don’t open the door unless we really know what’s on the other side and how to handle it.

A “stop” sign and we stop. A “yield” sign, we yield. Flashing red lights cause us to slow down. “Road Closed” and we turn around.

Warning signs are all around us and we generally pay attention to them and avoid calamity – or even just burned fingers.

The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it (Proverbs 27:12).

I think this proverb is speaking to more than just traffic warnings.

When placed in the context of the book of Proverbs, and the entire Bible, dangers much greater than a slippery road are everywhere.

Some will look at the commands and principles of the Bible as ruining all the fun in life. “Don’t do this.” “Stay away from this.” “Stop doing that.” “Focus your thoughts on this.” “Don’t be angry.” “Don’t be greedy.” “Keep your eyes to yourself.” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But when we consider that those instructions are given to us by the creator of the universe, the one who knows how things work, knows how we think, knows what’s going to happen next – and loves us – then we know that those warning signs are for our good.

The simple, the fool, ignores the warnings and marches into his own destruction.

The prudent, the wise, pays attention and goes around and away from the danger, saving himself headache and heartache.

 

No fuel. No fire.

Sometimes – many times, maybe – it’s better just to keep your mouth shut.

Lunch with co-workers. Church parking lot. Facebook. Twitter. We have so many sources of information on other people. But do we always need to repeat what we’ve heard?

Sometimes it’s really juicy news that we just have to share. Sometimes it provides an opportunity for us to look better than we are, because we know something that others don’t. Sometimes we repeat it to make ourselves appear better than the other person.

And any of those reasons are probably good reasons just to keep our mouths shut.

For lack of wood the fire goes out,
    and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases (Proverbs 26:20).

Just like a fire will die out if there is no fuel, rumors will cease if they aren’t repeated.

Proverbs seems to talk about this a lot. Perhaps because it’s such a vicious and common problem

As you go through your day tomorrow, consider if you’re adding fuel to a fire that should just die.

Maybe it would be better to keep it to yourself. A fire is hard to put out once it gets started. But it’s a lot easier if you don’t keep throwing on another log.

The importance of self-control

Commitments. Eating. Exercise.

Money. Manners. Relationships.

Words. Thoughts. Actions.

How many excuses do we find when we fail in these areas?

If she hadn’t said…

My boss expects me to…

It was just there…

If my accountablity partner had only called at that moment…

The devil made me do it.

God didn’t take away the temptation.

But in the on-going battle against sin, we dare not forget what Proverbs 25:28 says:

A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28).

While we certainly have an arsenal at our disposal through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and fellow believers, self-control is a necessary component.

Consider the picture in this proverb. The walls of a city were its first line of defense. Others may respond to a cry for help and start attacking the enemy. But if the walls have collapsed, destruction is definite.

Say no to friends who will lead you into sinful activities. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow in godliness.

Stay away from places that present a temptation to you. Change your route to and from work. Set up barriers on your internet access.

Develop a plan to get yourself out of bed and out of the house. Get plenty of sleep. Set the alarm. Get things ready the night before.

Develop a plan to get yourself out of the office and back home. Set an alarm. Let your boss and staff know that you’re off the clock. Make plans with your family and friends and stick to them.

Fill your mind with good things, rather than the trash around you. Listen to music, rather than watching TV. Read your Bible or a good book instead of facebook and magazines.

Sometimes we think that those things seem so unspiritual. But we forget that God’s plan for us is sanctification, growing in godly character. We have to make choices in order to reach that goal.

Make godly choices and stick to them – that’s self-discipline.

Casinos. Lotteries.

Facebook memes “Type Amen and God will shower you with money!”

Big houses. New cars.

Expensive vacations. Elaborate weddings.

High-paying jobs. Athletes and entertainers as millionaires.

Health and wealth preachers. Name it and claim it charlatans.

It doesn’t take much observation to see that we are obsessed with becoming rich.

We want to have a heap of money, and we want to do as little work as possible to get it. Why is that? Why do we have such a drive to accumulate wealth?

We’ll work long hours. Move up the career ladder. Attempt new ventures. Move our investments. All that to get more money.

Trying to impress someone? Trying to avoid having nothing? Tryiing to be happy? Trying to fill a void? – maybe all of those and more?

Look what Proverbs 23 says:

Do not toil to acquire wealth;
    be discerning enough to desist.
When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
    for suddenly it sprouts wings,
    flying like an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Wealth is fleeting. For most people, it’s not just given to us. And it’s hard to keep a hold of it. Proverbs says, “Suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.” No chance of catching an eagle – or getting your wealth back.

If your goal of working is to get rich, you’ll be disappointed. Remember who wrote Proverbs? Solomon. The richest and wisest man alive. He had all the wealth, all the resources, and all the time to enjoy it, and he says, “Don’t bother.” (Read Ecclesiastes to see a much broader explanation of his experiences with wealth and power, and the emptiness they bring).

The Bible says a lot about working – a lot in Proverbs. And it teaches about what to do with our resources, so this passage is not teaching subsitence living, or living the life of a beggar to be more spiritual.

But if you’re working just for the money, that will be your reward. And that reward will fly off to heaven like an eagle.

What a waste.