James gives us three steps to get wisdom. I'm usually suspect of people promising “three steps” to anything of value, unless that person is a Biblical author. James 1:5-6 is one of the most practically helpful verses to me in the entire Bible.
WHAT IS WISDOM
What is wisdom? Someone has defined it as “godly street smarts.” There are decisions that we come up against in life that the Bible has very clear direction for us. If you meet someone that you want to have sex with, but you aren’t married, the Bible is very clear. Do not do it. Check out the Ten Commandments for examples of very obvious, straight forward teaching that sex outside of marriage is a sin every single time.
But those aren’t the type of decisions we face most often. Most of the decisions we face are what some would call “gray issues.” What most people mean by “gray issues” are issues where the Bible doesn’t speak emphatically or directly. Should I drink any alcohol ever? If so, how much and how often? Should I send my kids to public or private schools? Or should I homeschool them? The list could go on seemingly forever. Important questions face us almost every day that do not have one certain verse giving exact instruction on what to choose. This is where wisdom becomes vital for the Christian life. Wisdom is the ability to choose the godly path in situations where the godly path may not be easily discerned.
Solomon was the greatest Old Testament example of wisdom. One feat of wisdom was how he was able to determine which mom was lying and which was telling the truth about whose child had been smothered at night and whose was still alive. (See 1 Kings 3:16-28.) It was seemingly an impossible situation, but God gave him the wisdom he needed to solve the problem. God can give you similar wisdom.
GOD PROMISES TO GIVE WISDOM
Psalm 32:8 promises that God will instruct us in the way which we should choose. That is very comforting. But how will He do it? James has advice for us on finding wisdom that is life changing.
James gives us a promise that God will give us wisdom when we need it. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to give us all of the knowledge or wisdom that we want. He probably won’t tell you the right numbers to pick to win the lottery. He only promises to give us the wisdom we really need to live a life to please and honor Him.
There are three conditions we must meet to qualify for this promise. The first is that we must be willing to admit that we lack wisdom. We must have the genuine humility to admit that we are in over our heads and need God’s help. We must repent of any arrogance that says “I’ve got this, I'll figure it out.” Humility is key. St. Augustine said, “The first principle of the Christian life is humility, the second is humility, and the third; humility.” Be humble and admit you lack wisdom, especially when you are in trying times.
Second, we must ask God. We must have a humility that will run to God and beg for His aid. It is not enough to admit that we lack wisdom. It matters where we go to find it. We must primarily run to the Lord. We must not first seek wisdom from the world. We shouldn’t first turn to self-help gurus or do it yourself books. (There may be a place for something like this in some areas such as fixing the plumbing at your house, but in issues that have to do with godliness we should run to God in prayer first.)
Third, we must have faith. We must trust that God will provide what He promises. This may seem small, but in reality this is one of the foundational facts of the whole Christian life. Hebrews 11:6 gives two primary foundational principles of what it means to have true faith and what is necessary to please God. First, we must believe He exists. Most of us could have guessed that one. But the second is just as important. You must believe He is good. You must believe that He loves to give good gifts to His children. You must believe He rewards all who truly seek Him in Christ. You must believe Psalm 35:27. He delights in the welfare of His servants.
When these two foundational truths sink deep into our soul, God is real and God is good, then we will become more bold in faith and prayer. When we lack wisdom in some small or large issue, our first instinct will be to run to the One who has all wisdom and loves to give it to His trusting children. Test the promise of this verse and see if God does not prove faithful to you.
WHY I LOVE THIS VERSE
I love it because I feel I meet these three conditions. I often lack wisdom. I am willing to pray and ask. I'm not too proud to beg. Lastly, I really do trust Him to provide. Why?
There are many verses in the Bible that I struggle to fully believe. John 14:13 promises God will do whatever we ask in Christ’s name. I understand it theologically but can wrestle to trust it day to day.
James 1:5 is not like that. By God’s grace I can say I fully trust this promise. Why? Because I have quoted it to God hundreds of times in prayer while asking Him to be faithful to His word. And hundreds of times in scores of different situations, I have seen Him come through and give wisdom. Often times a verse will come to my mind. This is one reason to saturate your mind and life with God’s Word so that it will be readily accessible for the Holy Spirit to bring it to the forefront of your mind when needed. He may do that or He may guide the natural thinking processes of your mind to the right conclusion, but He has always proven faithful to His promise.