Meditations in James: 6 : No Room for Doubting
Jas 1:6-8 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
I think if we are honest, there are verses in the Bible that we hurry by because we either don’t understand them, or we have a feeling about them and don’t like what we feel. I’m afraid these verses are like that for me. Yet I wonder how many of us relish what we read here today? It’s those words he must believe and not doubt. I mean, it is easy to believe and not doubt when everything is going well but the context of this is what we’ve already looked at – trials! But it’s more than ‘just’ trials; it’s trials that require perseverance because they go on and on, and they are trials that need wisdom to know how to cope, and it’s all about asking for wisdom that he is talking about here. In such situations it isn’t easy not to doubt. Because of the whole nature of a trial your faith is being tested and your temptation is to doubt, but James is quite uncompromising: he must believe and not doubt!
We live in a day when much counseling is gentle and understanding but for the apostles the truth is something to be taken hold of and used, and so for them they haven’t got time to be gentle. James is so often right in your face. You want to ask for wisdom from God who gives generously without finding fault? Then don’t be half-hearted about it! Don’t let there be any room for doubting. Grab hold of the truth and believe it: God loves you, is for you and wants to give you wisdom to help you through. Believe it! No messing around, believe it! But it gets worse. He explains what a doubter is like. You’re like a wave in the sea that is at the mercy of the wind, so it gets buffeted about all over the place. Imagine a little boat on the waves or a cork bobbing around. They are both being pushed all over the place, changing direction all the time, driven by whichever way the wind is blowing. It’s a powerful picture and, says James, that is what the man who asks without faith is like.
It gets worse. This person is double minded he says. They say they believe but they doubt. They pay lip service to God’s word but when it comes to it they are driven by desires or other people or circumstances. When we come to the Lord, our motivation should be the truth of the word of God which has captured our hearts. We shouldn’t just pray because in trial we want peace, or because other people tell us we ought to pray, or because the circumstances are so annoying us we’re forced to pray. No, prayer should come as a natural expression of our relationship with the Lord, out of a sure conviction that He loves us, if for us, and loves to give generously and without finding fault.
If we don’t have that conviction then it will be those other expressions of ‘wind’ buffeting us that will have motivated us to pray, and they will all be self-centred, and as such our praying will be off-beam and we won’t get what we ask for. James is going to pick up this theme a bit later and develop it some more. Very simply, prayer should not be ‘driven’ by self-concerns but should be an act of faith, responding to the word of God and the prompting of His Spirit. When we pray in this way we will find the things we are asking for are in line with God’s heart, in line with His will, and because they are, He will grant them. How often Christians come to God with a ‘shopping list’ of things they want, instead of enquiring, “Lord, what do you want for me?”
There are times in the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament when the prophet or psalmist receives a word from the Lord about the Lord’s will and the next thing we find them doing is praying for it. The person who lacks understanding will say, “Why is he praying for what he has already declared?” and the answer is because he has heard that this is God’s will and he knows that the things to ask for in prayer are the things that are on God’s heart. The things that simply emanate from our hearts, that are self-centred, are so often wrong and we wonder why they are not answered!!!
Asking God for wisdom is coming to God acknowledging our lack and His ability to provide. This is a good heart position to have, but that is only stage one. Stage two is built on that good start. Yes, it is good to realize our own inadequacy and our own inability and it is good to realize the Lord’s ability, but stage two requires that we believe about Him what the Bible teaches, that God is good, God is love, and that God delights in giving to His children. There are those who wallow in half of stage one, that they are inadequate. That isn’t faith. It is semi-realism.
Faith is the sure belief (because we’ve heard it in His word and by His Spirit) that God knows the answer to every problem, every difficulty, and God wants to give us the answers to the difficulties that face us daily. Faith also says, “He wants me to have His answers, so I can ask Him in assurance that He will give when I come with an open heart.” This person’s faith is anchored by the truth. They are not being blown all over the place; they are not firing up desperate petitions of all shapes and kinds. They know they have a problem and that God has the answer and that He delights in giving generously and without finding fault. They ask with assurance; they ask in faith. Let’s be those sort of people!