Wisdom, Faith, and Doubt

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:5-8).

Wisdom is skill in the use of knowledge. Godly wisdom marks Christ’s Spirit at work in the believer’s life. The church in Jerusalem sought seven men who were “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” to oversee their food ministry (Acts 6:3). Wisdom from the Holy Spirit is essential “so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12).

James encouraged his readers to ask God for wisdom in light of the many trials they faced. We do not all possess the same measure of wisdom. Some Christians have a unique insight into difficult matters, while others struggle to understand the most elemental truths. What’s more, trials can compound our confusion. So, James urged those who lacked wisdom to ask God. He assured them – and us – that “it will be given to him.” God delights to reveal Himself and His ways to His children. He doesn’t despise us when we don’t understand Him. He nurtures us and teaches us the truth.

Doubt is another matter. Instead of simply not knowing, doubt questions and criticizes. The word here means to oppose, dispute, or contend. It conveys hostility toward God. The doubter isn’t innocent, but resistant. At the root, he lacks real love for God. Therefore, he’s unteachable. He willfully opposes the truth revealed in God’s Word. He thinks he has a better way than everyone else, and doesn’t work to edify Christ’s church.

Diotrephes typified the issue of doubt. The apostle John said: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church” (3 Jn. 9-10). He questioned the wisdom of others and discriminated against them.

In contrast, the faithful trust Christ – even when they don’t understand – because they love Him. Job’s resolve, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15), was a declaration of faith and love. He trusted God because he loved Him; despite his confusion and consternation over the ills God had granted to befall him.

If we lack wisdom, we need not fear approaching God or voicing our need since wisdom is the very thing God desires to grant: “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.” Thus, we may “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

The doubter, though, has much to fear since he’s under judgment. Again, the doubter here is not merely insecure in himself, but is resolved to argue, question, and quarrel with God. The believer who lacks humility before God can expect discipline from his heavenly Father. The unbeliever can expect condemnation unless he becomes broken over his sin and repentant toward God.

Jesus offered wise counsel that’s fitting for both the unwise and the doubter: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).

By grace,


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