August 30, 2018- Pray for Wisdom and Repentance, and Trust God

 

apostle jamesCount it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:2-8 (ESV)

Sometimes the Book of James gets a bad rap because it challenges us to put the rubber to the road. James is so passionate about the actions that are the result of faith because he’s talking to early Christians who are going through all kinds of trials and persecution.

While at first glance it may seem he is emphasizing the importance of our behavior and our works, James really is telling us that our faith, which is a gift of God, is what gives us the ability to overcome and grow from trials.  We trust that God will get us through, that God will give us the wisdom and the strength to endure.

Godly wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit is available to us for the asking. There is precedent for believers to ask God for wisdom.  Solomon’s prayer before ascending his father David’s throne was a prayer for wisdom- wisdom rather than wealth or long life or earthly power- and God granted it to him.

In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel. 2 Chronicles 1:7-13 (ESV)

The challenge of applying the wisdom God grants us is found in the paradox we all live  under. The brokenness and imperfection of this world is due to the effects of the Fall. In this world we still live under the curse of the garden.  Our suffering and our failures are magnified by the result of sin, both the collective sins of humanity and the individual sins we commit often without even realizing it.

Solomon may have been the wisest man who ever lived save for Jesus, but Solomon didn’t always apply the wisdom he was given.  In Solomon’s later years he fell into the worship of his foreign wives’ idols, which led to the division and disruption of the kingdom of Israel after his death.

Jesus has broken the curse of the garden.  Jesus walks with us through the valleys of shadow. He knows the way through them. We share in His death in this world, but we also will share in His resurrection.  We can trust Him for the wisdom and strength we need in this life, just as His earthly brother, the apostle James, teaches us.

 

 

July 28, 2017 – The Gift of Wisdom, (Ask, Search and Knock) – 1 Kings 3:5-12, Luke 11:9-10

do-you-want-to-ask-anything-631x330

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 1 Kings 3:5-12 (NRSV)

(Jesus said): “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 (NRSV)

King Solomon was considered to be the wisest human being who ever lived. Yet his greatest act of wisdom was in his request to God when he became king of Israel.  He asked for understanding and discernment. He did not ask for the things that human nature normally craves.

If God told us He would give us anything we asked for, most of us would automatically think of a few things. Wealth, the heads of our enemies, prestige, an attractive appearance, power, longevity, etc. come to mind almost as knee jerk reactions. The more altruistic and gentle of us might ask for family harmony or world peace, or even for knowledge, but how many of us would go straight to asking for understanding and discernment?

Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. Knowledge is a component of wisdom, but knowledge without understanding and discernment is simply a set of memorized facts.

God hears and answers our prayers- especially those that underscore His will for us. When we admit our inadequacy and ignorance (as Solomon did) and ask for God to supply us with understanding and discernment, He gives those things to us, generously.

The most difficult petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Thy will be done.”  It is human nature to think that what we believe and know is best, but many times we do not have the wisdom to step back and consider every side of a situation.  It is more difficult, albeit much more wise, to put our pride and illusions of superiority aside and ask, search and knock on God’s door.  He will answer our questions and supply our needs far more abundantly and completely than we can dream of doing on our own.

 

December 30, 2016- Trust – Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV)

Trust vs. mistrust.  In the study of psychology, the conflict between having trust in the world around us and failing to have trust is the first of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  As developing human beings we have to be able to relate to and function in the world of other humans, so trust is important.

The very first issue that human beings are faced with as infants is a question that is central to our physical survival.  Is someone going to be forthcoming with providing meals for the child? Is the child going to have appropriate warmth and clothing and shelter?

Who can we trust?  Is mother going to provide me food and warmth?  Is father going to protect and nurture me?

In most instances, to the best of our ability, human parents affirm and reinforce a child’s trust in them.  Unfortunately a child’s trust is not always best placed in his or her parents’ ability to care for them and keep them safe.

Many adults have issues with trusting others and building good relationships with people because their trust was betrayed early on. Most of us suffer the lasting effects of broken trust if not from our parents, then from others in our lives who have not been kind to us or faithful in their dealings with us.

Sometimes our struggle with mistrust enters into our relationship with God, especially when we don’t understand what He’s up to.

We have all been burnt before. If you can’t trust Mom and Dad, or your spouse, or your best friend, then it’s kind of difficult to trust anyone, including God.

Yet God tells us: trust Me, not in your own understanding.  Have faith that He is in control and has our lives in His hands.