I praise God that He is One who gives generously to all who ask, but…
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt…
James has begun his letter by encouraging Christians to allow their faith to be tested and refined by trials. Through perseverance their faith grows and strengthens over time. If anyone is lacking wisdom, James encourages them to ask, for God is One who gives generously…but when asking you must believe.
When I read that, I ask the question, why would you even ask if you doubted? I’ve tried to find illustrations and pictures of how this could be clarified, but why would you even bother asking if you didn’t think you were going to get anything? Even, in the case, when you think – it might work out – you generally don’t go ahead and ask…you shy away and don’t utter a word. If there isn’t any sense of belief at all, you won’t ask.
When you go shopping and you are looking for a particular item you don’t just ask anyone, do you? You don’t expect another customer to know where it is, so do you don’t ask them. You ask one of the employees/staff because you believe they know where the item is or can help you find it.
So, why would you ask God for help if you had any doubts that He could help? Why would you ask God for anything if you had any doubts? It really makes no sense, does it?
James goes on to describe a person who doubts:
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
The person who doubts is, as James describes, someone who cannot make up their own mind; someone who is easily convinced, (daresay) coerced, accepting what the next person says. Paul writing to Timothy says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Christians, rise up! Stand tall! Stand strong! Stand firm!
This is not an issue of gender and who makes decisions, this is an issue of being the people of God. James and Paul call each and everyone of us to be people who have a faith that is grounded and tested, a faith that allows us to stand firm in what we believe in and not be bumped around in the pinball machine of life.
In the midst of trials, often, we only have our faith to hold onto. Everything in life has fallen through and there is no other hope aside from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that allows us to get through. The security net of life is our faith – without it, it is almost a lost cause.
Currently, life is hard, things are tough, I have deadlines, I have responsibilities, I haven’t been sleeping well…I’m really at the end of my line. I’ve, honestly, got nothing left to go on with. My pastor sent me this:
…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me. (Psalm 50:15)
I opened my Bible to read it and I encourage you to read the entire psalm, it is a call of assembly for the faithful. The interesting this about this verse is that it begins in verse 14: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.” The psalm doesn’t say you can call on me because I will deliver you, it says, firstly, that the faithful will give thanksgiving to God, secondly that the faithful will fulfil their vows – serve their God; only then, when those things are a part of the lives of the faithful will God come and deliver them and even then, they will continue to honour Him!
Let me continue with what follows:
But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?” (Psalm 50:16)
What does James say?
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord…
The connection is clear as day. “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” If you doubt, if you do not have faith that God is who He claims to be, then how can you expect to receive when you ask? God says who do you think you are to even ask, when you don’t believe? This is serious.
Have you ever brought a product where they ask you if you want added insurance/warranty? Well, if you decline and your product breaks, can you seriously expect to take the product back and expect them to fix it? Really, can you? You have no rights or claim to having your product fixed because you didn’t have insurance/warranty. On the other hand, if you have insurance/warranty then you can completely expect them to fix the product.
It is exactly the same with God. If you claim to deny God, reject Him and all the rest, how can you even think about asking Him for a thing? However, thank God that He doesn’t operate like a warranty claim. God is a gracious God and may, if He so chooses, to listen to your prayers. Mind you, I wouldn’t bet on it, don’t hope for a moment on God’s grace and expect something, after all, you don’t believe in God and His grace.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
This sort of person that would not believe in God and yet still ask for His provision is the sort of person we call, as James does, double-minded. He has his feet in two camps. He wants the best of both worlds. He wants the pleasures of this world while at the same time, getting the benefits of God’s blessing without submitting to Him. Nobody likes that sort of person, it is the sort of person that is self-seeking and has no commitment to anything. They see one thing that will benefit them and they jump at it.