James 1:1-18, part 2 (AD 48)
“I don’t know what to do!”
“I’m looking for a sign.”
“I wish God would just tell me which way to go.”
“I’m trying to find God’s will for me in this situation.”
“I’m trying to find the path God wants me to walk on.”
It’s a common wish, reflecting an even more common misunderstanding about how God guides us. There’s the idea that God has a no-options path mapped out for us, and it’s our job to find it. Verses five to eight illustrate how that’s not true. We have far more freedom, and need far more faith, than if God was always whispering to us which way to turn.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Our job is to use our God-given brains, and our God-given access to God, to search for “wisdom”. Not a ‘decision’ but wisdom. When you see passages, especially in the Old Testament, calling for God to lead or guide his people, it’s not because they have a decision to make in life. It’s typically and explicitly because they want to be more like God by understanding his commands, or because they are in physical danger. That is, they needed guidance to avoid moral sin, or death, or both.
“My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—…
…Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
(Proverbs 2:1-2, 9-10)
We need God’s wisdom sometimes, to understand in a complex personal situation, what is right and what is wrong. We need God’s wisdom, far more, to make a wise decision when there is no right or wrong involved. This goes for the small stuff (what to spend money on, who to mix with, what to watch etc.) as well as the big things (who to marry, whether to marry, where to live). I could move to England tomorrow, and that would be within God’s will for me. Or I could stay in Cayman forever. Or go to the States or a bunch of other places. ing. None of those decisions risk forfeiting God’s blessing, none of those decisions would be ‘wrong’.
But I need God’s wisdom to make a good decision among many potential good decisions.
And how do I know when God has given me wisdom? Because I asked for it in faith.
God guarantees a “Yes” to a genuine prayer for forgiveness.
God guarantees a “Yes” to prayers from his people to keep them safe in him until heaven.
God guarantees a “Yes” to prayers from his people for wisdom.
It’s not a long list, so let’s thank God that we have this incredible promise of wisdom if only we ask for it. And let’s pray for the faith to know that he’s given us that wisdom.
These devotionals aren’t really the place for deep exploration of topics, but I’m keenly aware that many people suffer greatly with guilt or despair, based on the idea that they ‘missed’ God’s will for them. That they unwittingly made a ‘wrong’ decision that has left them without God’s blessing. Or worse, receiving his punishment. If you’d like to chat about this via email, you can contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.