Last week we learned some of the basic premises about wisdom and know God greatly desires for us to have and operate in wisdom.
SO WHAT’S THE CATCH?
Note the verses leading up to this proclamation are about trials and the perfecting work of patience in our lives. A trial (or testing) does not necessarily involve suffering. It could, but it is not a given. A clearer understanding of these trials would be the “testing of our faith” as referenced in verse three. Faith untested is not faith, it is only a surmising, or a held belief. I often watched my husband call to one of our children standing on the edge of the pool to jump to him; they so wanted to leap into his arms. I could see their eyes of faith as they jumped with complete abandon. Likewise, our Heavenly Father calls to us and wants us to put our faith and trust in Him. He won’t let us fall. We need that child-like faith that lets us cast all our care upon Him as we jump into His loving arms.
God tells us we all need this tender heart of faith (Matt. 18:3). As a young child, I loved God and wanted to go to heaven. I chose to cast my all upon God with a tender heart of child-like faith, believing His promise to wipe away my sin. Through the years my tender heart’s belief in and desire for God has become strong; through the trials He has proven Himself faithful. My tender childlike heart’s faith has turned into a mature and strong faith in Him. As Wikipedia describes faith, I now have a “complete trust and confidence” in Him.
Flying terrifies me. But my work required I travel across the country. I could know the principles of aerodynamics, visit the airport to watch planes take off and land, and even talk with the pilot before the flight took off. But faith in the pilot and plane itself required me to actually get on the plane and take my seat. Putting my life in someone’s hands and trusting that pile of tin and equipment took an act of faith that shook me to the core. But I wanted to succeed at my job; so faith became a mandate. Over the years and thousands of miles in a plane, I’ve learned to relax and actually enjoy the flight. Would you believe I can fall asleep in the air? My faith has increased so I experience peace. Do you want to enjoy rest and peace? Is it hard to let go and trust God? I don’t know about you, but I hate not being in control. But in the trials, when I cannot be in control, I’m learning to trust Him to take the wheel; I have learned to hold His hand knowing He’s got this.
Faith requires moving forward when we cannot see the outcome; we must hold fast to the hand of the One who leads us, when we cannot see where we are going. He declares it is through the testing we gain patience; and the perfect work of patience will make us whole, lacking nothing. In the midst of these tests, James encourages us to ask for wisdom holding fast to the promise it will be given. The context is: He does hear; He will answer. The acknowledgement that we are going to gain patience, however, seems to indicate we may not see an immediate answer.
Verse six admonishes we should ask without wavering lest we be like a ship tossed about on the seas. And verse seven says, “such people” (the wavering) “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” And verse eight takes the wavering man a step further; “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Now, the man in verse eight hardly sounds like the man God was promising wisdom in verse five. What happened to him in only three verses? UNBELIEF.
Basically, He says when we are in a trial, and find we need His wisdom and help, we should ask knowing wisdom will be given. But, first comes the testing of our faith. Testing builds faith, which is the critical ingredient He is looking for, and indeed building, in our lives. We must believe and trust Him and not waver in the midst of the test, lest He see our unbelief (the opposite of faith) and give us nothing. “Faith is not knowing God can, it’s knowing He will” (Ben Stein). Does this describe your confidence in God in a trial?
The road to wisdom may involve some times of uncertainty and turmoil. Whether you are of the theological persuasion God directs our paths through these trials or that trials are just part of life’s journey in a fallen world, hopefully we can all agree God meets us in the midst of our trials when we call upon Him. He uses these trials to strengthen and build our faith as He did the disciples in the midst of the storm. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
The reason for the test is to prove, indeed strengthen, our faith in Him. When the disciples were in the middle of the raging sea, and the winds were blowing, Christ was on board. He heard their cry, met them in their distress, calmed the storm, and provided them safe passage. And they were in awe. I’ve faced many life storms and cannot imagine how I’m going to come through. Then I call on the Master. The next thing I know, I’m on solid ground and look back with awe, because I know I survived only because of Him and His power in my life. Experience walking with the Master brings peace. Life’s storms no longer frighten me as they once did. I know He’s got this one, too. He’s on board. I can be at peace.
Remember the Israelites? They found themselves in bondage and cried out for God’s salvation. He went to elaborate lengths to free them and desired to give them the Promised Land (more than they ever asked or even dreamed possible). Think of the happenstances God orchestrated simply because they asked. As they continued their labors through many subsequent years of slavery, not seeing God at work, He was busy answering their prayers. Was it an accident Moses was safely hidden in the bulrushes, and that the Pharaoh’s daughter found him and protected him? I think not. God knew Moses was going to need access to the Pharaoh and the strength and courage to stand before the courts of Pharaoh one day (even if he wasn’t an articulate man). And while His time fleeing into the wilderness may look like wasted years to you and me, God knew he was also going to need to know how to exist in a wilderness if he was going to lead about a million Israelites through one. But all this took time, and there was certainly reason for the enslaved Israelites to doubt if God had even heard their pleas. Oh, but He had not forgotten His promise to them. And He has not forgotten your pleas, and will be faithful to His promises to you.
Do you remember what happened on the Israelites’ trip to the Promised Land when they began to waver and think they wanted to return to Egypt, or when they murmured about the manna, God’s provision? Do you remember His anger when they turned to other gods? Do you also remember they wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died there, never seeing the Promised Land in their generation? If you begin to think about wavering in the midst of your life’s journey just because the winds begin to blow, you might want to remember the children of Israel who left Egypt bound for the Promised Land. Because of their unbelief, they ended up dying in the wilderness with NOTHING, when God had everything just a few miles down the road for them.
God indicates when we ask Him for wisdom, He tests our faith (our own personal wilderness). Through testing, patience has her perfecting work in our lives. As we exercise our spiritual muscles, we learn how to make good and wise choices; we learn to recognize and hear the Master’s voice. We learn to rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help us develop endurance (translated as patience in the KJV). Problems, tests, and trials are hard; they can be frustrating, unsettling, and can even hurt. Oh, but they bring the sweet fruit of patience and endurance, which means we will lack nothing. This lacking nothing promise doesn’t mean you will have a big house and a new boat. The translation is you will be mature. I like to think of it as being fully prepared and ready to fulfill my purpose: the job He created me to do.
It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand once burned by a fire you are not likely to get near a flame again. Indeed, even the smell of smoke would cause you to flee. In the trial we learn; we become able to discern wisdom and ultimately make good choices. This sounds like testing and trials are our wisdom (skillful living) university. Our faith in Him, our source of power, is refined by trials. We are made pure as gold: a fully matured child of God. It is the mature Christian, the one lacking nothing, who is able to walk through trials as a man or woman of faith. You can see this is a process. Think of it as exercising your spiritual wisdom muscles, much like we do our physical bodies, to gain strength for life’s journey.
For example: when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to go into the fire the first time, no doubt they placed their faith in God (albeit their knees may have been knocking), and He rewarded their faith. Imagine there had come a time when they had to go into the fire again. Do you think it would have been as difficult the second time to put their faith in God? I’m thinking those knees wouldn’t have knocked nearly as much, for they would have known beyond any shadow of a doubt their God would meet them in the furnace and bring them out on the other side without even the smell of smoke. The trial builds confidence in God: Faith.
God does not take us through trials so He can rescue us and then sit back, bask in His glory, and draw attention to Himself as the deliverer. He allows us to go through trials to increase our faith. WHY? Faith gives us confidence in Him and allows us to rest and to be at PEACE. He doesn’t want us to be tossed about by the wind and waves as we journey through this broken world. He wants our anchor to be firmly placed in Him that we might understand and experience true security free of fear: PEACE. If we are going to experience walking in His power, we are going to have to get comfortable flying high. We are going to need our security to be placed in Him and His power, the author and finisher of our faith. He’s going to take you places and use you to do things that would petrify you in your flesh. But in Him, you can do all things because He is going to strengthen you and use you to do things you haven’t ever even thought of at this point in your journey (Phil. 4:13). I love D. L. Moody’s statement: “If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!” Remember that question on the top of your notes? Think about it in light of the fact that God has BIG plans for you.
Trust me on this one, the last thing I’d ever have thought He would ask me to do is author a book—about the wisdom of God. Let’s just say this venture is a curve ball outside my comfort zone. Why didn’t He ask someone like Rick Warren, Max Lucado, or Beth Moore to write this book on His powers? “Seriously, God, they are great authors, willing servants, and have platforms, and people who follow them. ME? Are you sure? Do you realize I don’t know how to do this, and have never written the first article about anything? Maybe you should talk with my high school English teacher. She would explain my abilities, or lack thereof, in a way that would make you give up on this notion of my writing a book—about your wisdom and power. God, you do realize I don’t even have a website or Facebook page, right? We are talking no platform: zero followers. I’m a nobody. Who wants to know what I know about your power?” Well, let’s just say He wouldn’t take no for an answer. You see, if He had given all we are going to learn to those three great servants of God, you may have read this book but you would have mentally assumed God shows up in power for great men and women of faith. But this book is proof God shows up and reveals Himself to an ordinary girl who asks. And He will do the same for you. I have no confidence in me, and if I listen to all the professionals who tell me what I need to be successful or useful to the Kingdom, I’d have given up long ago. But I have all confidence in Him. So I’m stepping out in obedience. And it doesn’t matter if I only sell ten books to devoted family members or never figure out how to activate a website. My role, and yours, is obedience. Just do what the Master tells you to do, and trust Him to do as He pleases with your five loaves and two fishes.
Take my word on this. It isn’t going to be anything you might come up with on your own: that doable feat, the safe road. It’s going to require you launch out into the deep and do things in a different way than conventional wisdom dictates. You will have to do what He tells you to do, no matter what anyone else says. The crowds mocked Noah, Isaac questioned Abraham’s sacrifice, Gideon’s army dwindled, the fisherman doubted Jesus’ instructions, the brothers thought they had gotten rid of Joseph, the three Israelite children chose to eat vegetables, and the Jewish leaders thought they had killed and buried Jesus. Oh, but then we see wisdom, the plan and power of God: His way, not ours. His track record is pretty good in the book I’ve been studying, so let’s keep moving forward.
I have experienced many trials: the loss of a child, financial stress, loss of a job, and cancer. The first time the trials came, I tentatively placed my hand in His and fixed my eyes on Him with a young but trusting heart. Now, when the winds blow, I can be still, even rest, knowing He is faithful. Only through the fire was my faith increased and refined so I can experience peace while I wait for the storms of life to pass. I can now sleep while He flies the plane. I can now get out of the boat in deep waters and come when He calls, even if it looks like foolishness to man. I trust Him. God is calling you to a place where you trust Him completely, no matter where He leads. Don’t be afraid. Don’t turn back. I can assure you He’s faithful.
Clearly in our daily life trials, we must ask God for wisdom, patiently expecting His clear direction. We must not begin to waiver or question God. We should not fear when the trials come, doubting His presence and deliverance, lest we become double-minded. Questioning God’s will obviously leaves man in a state of confusion and wanting. And we know our God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Instead, we should embrace each trial, pursue each road we are asked to travel, look for His teachings, seek His ways, and ask for His wisdom while we patiently wait for His answers. I Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes us, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” James takes it to the next level and tells us to rejoice in the trials. That’s right, each trial, each test, is allowed in your life by your Heavenly Father to teach you all things so you will be lacking nothing. He has His eyes firmly fixed on His desired end for you: conformity to the image of His Son. He has plans for you and wants to use you for His glory. So rejoice and get excited when the winds blow. God is working in you and on your behalf. Could it be we move His heart when we actually thank Him for the trial?
Likewise, when we ask for His wisdom and help, we need to ask in faith, knowing He has promised to give us wisdom from His abundant storehouse. We need to remember He is as anxious to answer our pleas as He was to hear and free the Israelites or to join Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He is putting together an amazing plan to lead us to the place where He wants us to dwell, even if right now you seem to be in a pit. Joseph couldn’t see the plan from the pit, but God had it all worked out. Indeed, just like the journey the Israelites had to take, we learn from Jesus’ brother’s own words that while the path to wisdom may include a few obstacles, we can still experience the abundant life: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). It’s hard to rejoice in the fire or a pit. But your faith is in the power of God: THE POWER OF GOD. God’s wisdom says, trust Him, not your circumstances. So call a prayer meeting and start praising like the apostles in prison. Remember not to fear when the walls begin to quake. He can use you right where you are. He can, and WILL, deliver you for usefulness in the Kingdom.
Certainly God wants us to hang our hats on His promise in James 1:5. Doubting He will give us wisdom when experiencing the testing of our faith, we fall into unbelief and Hebrews 11:6 states, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Make no mistake, He assures us we will not be given anything if we lose faith. The reason for the testing is to try, indeed strengthen, our faith. Surely if Abraham trusted God with his own son’s life, we can trust Him in our trials to provide the wisdom we need. He will not leave you in the trial. He will go through the trial with you. He is going to bring you out on the other side. He is always true to His Word, and He has promised you wisdom, abundant wisdom, if you ask, nothing wavering.
WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE THE JOURNEY THROUGH TRIALS TO THE PRIZE—WISDOM?
When I read about the trials or testing we may encounter on life’s journey toward wisdom, it makes me pause and question whether or not it is worth it. I’m reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:14 (KJV) where God says, “. . .strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” One of our pastors explained it this way: the gates to eternal life in heaven or to eternal life in hell are the same size, but the way to eternal life with Him is filled with obstacles, those perfecting trials and testings. These obstacles block the view of His light and the glory He has prepared for us. They make the path sometimes dark, difficult to navigate, and block our view of the destination.
When we look at the way of the world, there seems to be nothing but good things on the path: certainly no obstacles, an obvious choice. He explained, those on the broad path leading to destruction are not aware they are on the path to destruction. They just journey on toward the things of this world until they find themselves at the end of their lives with nothing; they have exchanged their souls for the pleasures of this world that lasted but for a season.
He who knows the end from the beginning says to Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I can assure you He has thoughts of peace toward us as His children, not thoughts of evil, and He desires to give us an expected end: hope and a future. That future is an eternal reign with Him. The end of the broad and easy road leads to everlasting destruction and damnation. Choose wisdom, choose His trials or testing, and choose the narrow road because you have an expected end and a future. Though the road may have a few obstacles to overcome, you will grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, and fellowship in His sufferings, along the way. You’ll find peace and not evil on your journey, and glory and victory at life’s end. It will be an abundant life filled with the good gifts reserved for you by your Heavenly Father, not the temporal, elusive, unsatisfying gifts the world has to offer.
Both Proverbs 16:25 and Proverbs 14:12 clearly point to the fact there are two paths, and the road we travel is our choice. Are you ready to take the journey to wisdom even if it means you must travel down a narrow road and encounter a few tests on the way? Remember this obstacle-filled journey will have a perfecting work in you. If so, all you have to do is ASK. But, don’t ask wavering. Ask believing, knowing though you may walk through the trial, He will be with you, and will bring you through. Regardless of His plan for deliverance, when you find yourself in a test, just remember to look for Him, thank Him for it, ask for His wisdom, and then trust He will bring you safely through. One thing you can be very sure of is that He will be with you, for He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 23:4).
“Oh, God, may my faith in the face of testing bring me peace and faith in your great promise of wisdom. And may my faith bring you great joy and glory.”
 Wikepedia.org/wiki/faith, July 2014