James 1:2-8 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 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. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Sunset over the wind tossed waters of Stonelick Lake on a blustery late December evening. Stonelick State Park, Pleasant Plain, Ohio.
I have mentioned in the past that I enjoy photographing sunrises and sunsets, though, on this particular evening’s trip to Stonelick State Park the ground was very muddy due to recent heavy rains, the spectacularly colored sky never quite materialized, and the wind was so blustery that the reflections off the lake, I desire, were just not there. Despite things not turning out as I wanted, it was still a good opportunity to get out, do some photography with a friend, and learn a little about capturing a decent shot in less than ideal conditions.
In today’s passage James begins by telling us we should take joy when we encounter trials and have our faith tested. This, he says, produces steadfastness, which, when allowed to take full effect, makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Much as the process of forging steel shapes and perfects the metal into a finished product, so too do the difficulties we face in life and in our walk with Christ help to shape and perfect us into the person God wants us to be.
Often times we gain far more wisdom from our failures than from our successes, and by asking God for wisdom we need to realize that his method for teaching us may not be as straightforward as just picking up our Bibles, opening to some particular page and finding the answer we seek. I am by no means proposing that we set our Bibles aside, however God does frequently teach us through life’s experiences, as James is suggesting here. If our faith is based on pure academic knowledge I would offer that it is incomplete.
James tells us to “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.” This does not mean we should expect God to answer all our prayers with the specific outcome we desire, but rather, that we need to hold firm in our faith especially when things do not turn out as planned. We need to understand that the problems and struggles we face serve God’s purpose, and that they will likely give us exactly the wisdom we asked him for, in the first place.
Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.