JANUARY 21 UNSUNG BUT SINGING: THE UNAPPRECIATED CHRISTIAN

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the LORD.

EPHESIANS 5:19

To value the esteem of mankind and for Christ’s sake to renounce it is a form of crucifixion suffered by true Christians since the days of the apostles. It cannot be denied that the way of the cross is unpopular and that it brings a measure of reproach upon those who take it. The learned historians tell of councils and persecutions and religious wars, but in the midst of all the mummery were a few who saw the Eternal City in full view and managed almost to walk on earth as if they had already gone to heaven. These were the joyous ones who got little recognition from the world of institutionalized religion, and might have gone altogether unnoticed except for their singing.

Unsung but singing: this is the short and simple story of many today whose names are not known beyond the small circle of their own company. Their gifts are not many nor great, but their song is sweet and clear!

John Milton lost his sight and mourned that loss in the third book of his Paradise Lost. But in spite of his affliction he refused to be desolate. If he could not see, he could still think and he could still pray. Like the nightingale he could sing in the darkness “…as the wakeful bird Sings darkling, and, in shadiest covert hid, Tunes her nocturnal note.”

We are never sure where a true Christian may be found—and the busy world may actually not even know he is there—except that they hear him singing![1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

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January 21, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Confronting in Love

Do not sharply rebuke … but rather appeal (5:1a)

Two verbs govern this passage. The first, epiplēssō (sharply rebuke), is a strong term. It refers to harsh or violent rebuke. It appears only here in the New Testament, though a related word appears in 3:3, where it describes an elder as one not given to physical violence. Here verbal rather than physical violence is prohibited. A sinning Christian is not to be hammered with harsh words. That is foreign to family love. Parakaleō (appeal) can mean “to encourage, admonish, entreat, or appeal.” It could perhaps best be translated “strengthen,” and has the idea of coming alongside to hold up one who is weak. The related word paraklētos is a title of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16, 26; 15:26;16:7). The Scriptures are also a source of strength (cf. Rom. 15:4). As the Word of God and the Spirit of God strengthen believers, so must we come to their aid when they sin. Galatians 6:1–2 addresses this duty by saying, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”

Confronting sin in the church is not to be done by violently attacking fallen brothers and sisters. Rather, sinning saints must be lovingly confronted, strengthened, and encouraged toward holy living. It is to be a restorative, redemptive, remedial confrontation, one that must be done with an attitude of gentleness (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24–25).

Having set forth in general the principle for dealing with sin in the family, Paul applies it to four groups: older men, younger men, older women, and younger women.

Confronting Older Men

an older man … as a father, (5:1b)

An older man is to be treated with respect by being appealed to as a father.Presbuteros (older man) is not used here to speak of the office of elder (as in 5:17 and 19). The context indicates that Paul has in mind the general category of older men. As a young man, Timothy was to confront sinning older men with the same respect and deference he would show his own father.

The Bible makes it quite clear that older men are to be treated with respect. Leviticus 19:32 commands, “You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged.” Proverbs 16:31 says that “a gray head is a crown of glory” (cf. Prov. 20:29; Job 32:4, 6). Respect for one’s father is also commanded in Scripture. Proverbs 4:1–4 reads,

Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live.”

Proverbs 30:17 warns in graphic terms of the consequences of not showing that respect: “The eye that mocks a father, and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.” Disobedience to one’s father in the Old Testament could even result in death: “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Ex. 21:17). The same respect shown to one’s father must be shown when rebuking any older man.

Although not involving a family situation, Daniel’s rebuke of Nebuchadnezzar is a model of how to approach a sinning older man. In Daniel 4:27, Daniel showed great respect when confronting Nebuchadnezzar’s sin: “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”

Another illustration is found in Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11–14:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

While he confronted Peter for his wrongdoing, Paul nevertheless did so with respect and deference. He didn’t make an accusatory declaration, but gently asked him a question.

Confronting anyone in sin with gentleness is the responsibility of every believer. When that sinning brother is an older man, however, it must be done with special respect.

Confronting Younger Men

to the younger men as brothers, (5:1c)

The key word for confronting younger men is to treat them as brothers. Viewing them as brothers assumes no air of superiority; that term implies the absence of any hierarchy. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were forbidden to hate their brothers. Leviticus 19:17 says, “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.” Such love and humility was exhibited in Joseph’s attitude toward his brothers despite their evil treatment of him (cf. Gen. 45:4ff.; 50:15ff.).

The New Testament also commands believers to love each other as brothers. The apostle John wrote,

The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9–11; cf. 3:11–15)

Peter exhorted believers to “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17), as did Paul: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). The writer of Hebrews also commands believers to love each other: “Let love of the brethren continue” (Heb. 13:1).

Such love does not preclude confrontation for sin. As already noted, our Lord commanded such rebukes in Matthew 18:15: “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him.” In Luke 17:3 He said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” As noted earlier, Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1 concerning Christian brothers caught in a trespass. To the Thessalonians he wrote,

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.… And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thess. 3:6, 14–15)

As the above verses indicate, brotherly confrontations are to be done in humility and love. That is the spirit to be present when confronting a younger man.

Confronting Older Women

the older women as mothers, (5:2a)

Older women are to be treated gently, as mothers. The Bible commands respect for mothers. Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (cf. Deut. 5:16). Proverbs also stresses the importance of honoring mothers: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (1:8); “My son, observe the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (6:20); “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (23:22).

The apostle Paul furnishes us with an example of how to treat older women. In Philippians 4:1–3, he gave advice on how to deal with two women who were causing trouble at Philippi:

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Even though those two women were harming the cause of Christ in Philippi, Paul nevertheless responded to their harm in a gracious, gentle manner. While rebuking them, he included them among the brethren that he loved. He also noted their service to him in the cause of the gospel. Paul lovingly treated them as he would his own mother.

Confronting Younger Women

the younger women as sisters, in all purity. (5:2b)

Scripture is clear that the purity of younger women is to be protected. Incest was strictly forbidden by the Old Testament law (cf. Lev. 18:9–18; 20:17–19; Deut. 27:22). By commanding Timothy to treat the younger women as sisters, Paul stresses that he must be indifferent to them in terms of lust. There are few things as evil as a pastor who sins mentally or physically with a young woman he had been helping spiritually. That is nothing less than incest in the spiritual family. For that reason, Paul adds the phrase in all purity.

Nothing so easily makes or breaks a young pastor as his conduct with women. Thoughtlessness or indiscretion, as well as outright immorality, violate his calling to lead the flock to purity. Younger women must be confronted with their sin and encouraged to godliness. They must, however, never be led into sin, but be treated as beloved spiritual sisters whose purity is the highest consideration.

The book of Proverbs gives some very practical advice on how to maintain purity in relationships with younger women.

First, avoid the look. Proverbs 6:25 says, “Do not … let her catch you with her eyelids.” Our commitment must be that of Job: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1)?

Second, avoid the flattery. Proverbs 5:3 warns, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (cf. 2:16; 6:24; 22:14).

Third, avoid the thoughts. Proverbs 6:25 says, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart.”

Fourth, avoid the rendezvous. Proverbs 7 gives the following account of the naive youth:

I saw among the naive, I discerned among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing through the street near her corner; and he takes the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness. And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart. She is boisterous and rebellious; her feet do not remain at home; she is now in the streets, now in the squares, and lurks by every corner. (vv. 7–12)

Great care must be taken when meeting with younger women.

Fifth, avoid the house. Proverbs 7:25–27 warns “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death” (cf. Prov. 5:8).

Finally, avoid the touch. Proverbs 7:13 records the result of the naive youth’s failure to avoid the rendezvous: “So she seizes him and kisses him.” That was the next step in a process that culminated in immorality.

It is a necessary part of ministry to deal with the sins of older men, younger men, older women, and younger women. In the corrective process, each of those groups must be treated in the proper way. Paul’s instructions to Timothy send a clear message to all believers on how to confront sin in the spiritual family.[1]


1–2 Crossing gender and generational lines in ministry calls for caution and care. Underlying Paul’s general advice to Timothy on how to deal with various groups in the church is the model of the church as “God’s household” (cf. 3:15; see also 6:2). Consequently, Timothy is to treat older men as “fathers,” younger men as “brothers”—implying that Timothy himself belongs to this category (cf. 4:12)—older women as “mothers,” and younger women as “sisters.” (There is no Greek word for “treat”in the original,which has led some to conclude that “exhort” is the ruling term throughout; however, it is likely that the passage’s overall scope is more general in nature.)

In the first and last instance, Paul elaborates, respectively, that Timothy ought not to “rebuke an older man harshly” (NASB, “sharply”; epiplēssō, GK 2159; cf. Josephus, Ant. 1.246; 19.346), which would be disrespectful, but to appeal to him (parakaleō, GK 4151; NIV, “exhort”; cf. 1:3; 2:1; 6:2; 2 Ti 4:2; Tit 1:9; 2:6, 15) as though he were his father, and that he is to treat younger women “with absolute purity” (hagneia, GK 48; elsewhere only in 4:12). This remains sound advice, especially for younger ministers. Humility demands that older men in the church, even those not in leadership positions, be treated with respect in keeping with their age. In vv. 19–20, Paul calls Timothy to “rebuke” sinning elders (presumably “older men”), and the apostle is concerned that this be done in a proper manner.

2 In the case of “younger women” (neōteras; see vv. 11, 14; cf. neas in Tit 2:4), those holding an office of leadership in the church must set the example, not getting entangled in any potentially compromising situations. Overseers have already been charged with marital faithfulness (3:2), and younger women (esp. those improperly dressed, see 2:8–10) may present strong sources of temptation. While temptation itself is not sin—sometimes it will be impossible to avoid being tempted—it is vital to establish certain safeguards, such as proper accountability to others, in order to minimize such potential for stumbling. Particularly for leaders in the church, purity of heart (not limited to sexual purity) is absolutely essential (1:5; 4:12; 5:22).

It is unclear whether Timothy himself was married. (In the light of 3:2, it is possible, but there is no specific mention of his wife or family in the NT.) But in either case, Timothy is to relate to younger women as “sisters.” This does not mean that he is to stay away from young women altogether simply because they may be a source of temptation. He is charged to minister to them as well. He is to love them, not merely avoid them. But he must do so in absolute purity. This is not a matter of external legalistic rules or do’s and don’ts but a matter of the heart. Pure devotion to Christ (and devotion to one’s wife in the case of married ministers) is the best safeguard against improper relationships with the opposite gender.[2]


A realistic look at relationships

(5:1–2)

There is an old saying which states that while you can choose your friends, you cannot do the same with your family! Whether we like it or not, we were all born into the families we belong to and some of our relatives might not be people whom we would prefer to be close to. The same is true of God’s family. He has drawn together people from different backgrounds, cultures and temperaments and they need to learn to live together.

Chapter 5:1–17 and chapter 6:2 deal with matters concerning relationships in the church in Ephesus. But before going into specific areas, Paul sets out guidelines indicating how Timothy should relate to four different types of people.

  • an older man should not be rebuked but encouraged ‘as you would a father’. This does not mean that he cannot be corrected. The ‘rebuke’ Paul speaks of is an expression of strong disapproval. The New International Version expresses well the force of what Paul says by translating it as ‘rebuke … harshly’. If an older man needs correction, Timothy should not be disrespectful or condescending towards him. Instead, he should come alongside him and treat him with the kind of respect he would show to his own father.
  • younger men are to be treated like brothers. He should help, support and encourage them.
  • older women should be treated like mothers, with respect and care.
  • younger women must be treated like sisters, ‘in all purity’. Timothy must not play games with their affections, flirt with them or look at them lustfully. He should treat them with the same kind of innocence that he would show to his sister.

These are timeless principles which will help us to keep good relationships with people in our own church family. Let us make sure that we treat those older than we are with the same respect we should show to our parents, that we come alongside and encourage people who are the same age as we are, and that we treat members of the opposite sex with purity.

For further study

  1. Why must older people be treated with respect? (See Lev. 19:32; Prov. 4:1–4.)
  1. Paul calls for complete purity in the way that Timothy relates to younger women. How would Job’s discipline in this area help him to put this into practice? (See Job 31:1.)

To think about and discuss

  1. What would you do if an older man were clearly behaving in an unacceptable way and he quoted the verse ‘Do not rebuke an older man’ whenever anyone attempted to correct him?
  1. Is it right for Christians to flirt with one another? What kind of behaviour do you think should exist between Christian men and women?[3]

1. An old(er) man do not treat harshly, but admonish him as you would a father.

In the course of his pastoral work Timothy will at times have to correct the faults of certain church-members. These individuals can be distinguished as to age and sex: old(er) man, young(er) men; old(er) women, young(er) women. The comparative idea (older instead of old; younger instead of young) has almost vanished.

None of these must be treated harshly, least of all the senior members of the congregation. See Lev. 19:32; Prov. 20:29; Lam. 5:12b. The verb used in the original literally means to strike at; then to treat harshly. The word which we have rendered “old(er) man” is πρεσβύτερος. Elsewhere in The Pastorals (1 Tim. 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5) it means an elder or presbyter. Here it is used in its primary sense of a man of advanced age (cf. Acts 2:17), as the context clearly shows.

Instead of dealing harshly with those who need correction, Timothy must admonish. The verb used in the original means to call aside. This calling aside may be for the purpose of encouraging, comforting, exhorting, entreating, appealing to, or admonishing. It is obviously the latter thought which is predominant in the present passage.

Now it should be emphasized that also here Paul maintains beautiful balance. On the one hand, he does not want Timothy to spare the older people, permitting them to “get away” with their sins. On the other hand, he desires that they be treated with due respect. Timothy must admonish an old man as if the latter were his own father. How considerately, with what tact, what gentleness and moderation, would he deal with one who stood so close to him! Let him then treat this erring one with the same humility, love and tenderness. For, after all, the Christian community is a family, the most glorious family of all (Matt. 12:49, 50); and it does indeed consist of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters … in the Lord! Hence, old(er) men must be treated as fathers, that is, with respect; young(er) men as brothers, that is, in the spirit of equality, an equality of persons, which does not exclude the exercise of authority on the part of him who administers the admonition.

2. Old(er) women as mothers.

Female members of the congregation must not be excluded from the sphere of private pastoral counseling with respect to sin. Though this task may at times prove to be delicate, it must not be shunned. But when Timothy admonishes the old(er) women, he must deal with them as a good and loving adult son deals with his erring mother! To correct one’s own mother surely requires deep humility, genuine searching of heart, wrestling at the throne of grace, wisdom! It is in that spirit that Timothy must proceed when he feels duty-bound to admonish old(er) women who have erred.

Young(er) women as sisters, in all purity.

Young(er) women, too, are the objects of pastoral care. They should be admonished as sisters; hence, in all purity. When one seeks to help his sister to overcome a certain blemish of character, impurity (at least in the more popular sense of the word) is completely absent. Let Timothy treat the young ladies and the young married ladies who are under his spiritual care in that same fashion, just as if they were his own sisters, for they really are … in the Lord! In agreement with Calvin, we believe that the phrase “in all purity” belongs to the immediately preceding clause: “admonish … young(er) women as sisters.” Now it is certainly true that here as well as in 4:12 the phrase “in all purity” means “in complete conformity in thought and word with God’s moral law,” and is not to be restricted to sexual purity. Nevertheless it would be incorrect to say that the idea of sexual purity is excluded from it. That the command was altogether in place as a word not only for Timothy but for all “ministers” in every age is clear to anyone who will take the trouble to read the sad accounts which describe what happens when it is not heeded.

It is true, of course, that the direction which Paul gives in these two verses is not for Timothy only but also for his assistants in the various churches of Ephesus and vicinity. On the other hand, the very language employed clearly indicates that it is wrong to regard Timothy as a “superintendent” without any pastoral duties of his own. Even his superior, Paul, was a real pastor, deeply concerned about every member (Acts 20:20; and see N.T.C. on 1 Thess. 2:7–11). Then why not Timothy?[4]


Concerning various age-groups (5:1–2

From the above instructions about how Timothy was to conduct his personal life and ministry, Paul turned to advice on how to relate effectively to individuals who make up various groups in the church. Paul’s overall advice about how to treat various age-groups was that Timothy handle different people as he would corresponding members of his own family.

5:1–2. Older man translates presbyteros, the plural of which is rendered “elders” in 4:14. Here, however, Paul was not referring to those who hold the office of overseer. The word denotes “elderly” men, in contrast with younger men (cf. Titus 2:2–3 where the same word is used to contrast “older men” and “older women”). Timothy was to appeal to the older men as he would his own father—not with rough rebukes but with gentle exhortations. Young men may be treated somewhat more directly, yet with fraternity as if they were Timothy’s own brothers. Older women were to receive all the respect Timothy would accord his own mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). Younger women were likewise to be treated respectfully, with the absolute purity (hagneia; cf. 1 Tim. 4:12) Timothy would grant his own sister. This would safeguard the young minister from reproach.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 185–191). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 1 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 539–540). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Robinson, S. J. (2004). Opening up 1 Timothy (pp. 85–87). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 165–167). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Litfin, A. D. (1985). 1 Timothy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 741–742). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

JANUARY 21 CHRIST AS HE REALLY IS

One like unto the Son of man…out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword.

Revelation 1:13, 16

The Christian message has ceased to be a pronouncement and has become instead a proposition. Scarcely anyone catches the imperious note in the words spoken by Jesus Christ.

The invitational element of the Christian message has been pressed far out of proportion in the total scriptural scene. Christ with His lantern, His apologetic stance and His weak pleading face has taken the place of the true Son of Man whom John saw—His eyes as a flame of fire, His feet like burnished brass and His voice as the sound of many waters.

Only the Holy Spirit can reveal our Lord as He really is, and He does not paint in oils. He manifests Christ to the human spirit, not to our physical eyes.

These are strenuous times, and men and women are being recruited to devote themselves to one or another master. But anything short of complete devotion to Christ is inadequate and must end in futility and loss.

Lord, help me to see You as You truly are—mighty, righteous, just, and holy.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

January 21 Satan’s Promises—Corrupt Strings Attached

The devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.—Matt. 4:8

Satan offered the world’s kingdoms to Jesus on his own corrupt terms. God allowed this test to prove that Christ was and is a worthy Son, fit to one day inherit the world and rule from His throne. The devil, on the other hand, wanted to prove the Son’s unworthiness by getting Him to prematurely grab the kingdoms God had already promised Him.

The enemy approaches Christians also with corrupt bargaining chips. Whatever they might want in the realm of business, politics, fame, or anything else, he claims it can be theirs for a “reasonable” price or trade-off. He says we can be or have whatever we want, just so long as we pursue it according to the world’s way—which is also Satan’s way. In effect, it’s like saying to ourselves, “Why wait for a heavenly reward when you can cut corners, shade the truth, run ahead of God’s schedule, and have what you want now?”

But when we grab hold of Satan’s corrupt strings, we put self first and God last. Instead of seeking God’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), we act more like Abraham, who sought God’s promise of an heir through his own impatient, selfish act with Hagar (Gen. 16:1–6). The result of that sin was tragic and heart-breaking, and has been to this day.

ASK YOURSELF

“The world” doesn’t really know what “glory” is. And if we had a keener, more realistic sense of God’s awesome splendor, we’d see the world’s flimsy reflections for what they really are. What seems glorious and glamorous about the world to you? Ask God to help you see it truthfully.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 29). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

January 21 Wholehearted Commitment

God is my witness, whom I serve with my Spirit.

Romans 1:9

Nowadays, we use the word spirit in the same way the apostle Paul used it in today’s verse. We may watch an athlete go all out in his performance and then comment that he exhibited “spirited” play, which means that his whole being was involved in his effort. When I was in college, the “Esprit de Corps” award was given to the football player who gave the most effort on the field. That is the way in which Paul served the Lord.

Paul never served the Lord without a wholehearted commitment. In so doing, he distinguished himself from the hirelings whose labor was external and insincere (John 10:11–13). So be like Paul—give a wholehearted effort in your service to Christ.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 32). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

January 21, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

A believing heart

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. (1:5–8)

A fourth means to perseverance in trials is a believing heart, a comprehensive phrase that summarizes these four verses.

The first requirement for such belief is godly understanding. Especially when they are going through trials, believers need a special measure of understanding to help them through, and that need should drive them to ask of God to supply that understanding and wisdom. Strong, sound faith is not based on feelings but on knowledge and understanding of the promises of God’s truth, which is spiritual wisdom.

When believers face times of testing—whether physical, emotional, moral, or spiritual—they have special need of God’s wisdom. At such times one should remember the words of Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Prov. 3:5–7). He goes on to say of godly wisdom that “her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace” (v. 17). Later in the epistle of James, God’s heavenly wisdom will be described as “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:17).

In Job’s final response to his friends and would-be counselors, who had given him much foolish advice, he comments:

But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It is not in me”; and the sea says, “It is not with me.” Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx, or sapphire. Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; and the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the sky. Abaddon and Death say, “With our ears we have heard a report of it.” (Job 28:12–22)

Then, after discounting all of those false and futile sources of wisdom, Job says simply, “God understands its way, and He knows its place” (v. 23). God, and God alone, is the source of wisdom. It was this truth that caused Paul to pray to God for believers to be granted wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment (Eph. 1:17–18), as well as discernment (Phil. 1:9; cf. Col. 1:9–10). That is also James’s point.

It should go without saying that trials should enhance our prayer life, as we turn to the Lord for guidance, strength, patience, and wisdom. And when we ask of God, our heavenly Father, for His wisdom, James assures us that, far from being miserly in dispensing that gracious gift to His children, He gives to all generously and without reproach. It is the Lord’s loving desire to impart divine understanding abundantly to His faithful saints. That is surely one of the most beautiful and encouraging promises in all of Scripture.

Let him ask translates an imperative verb in the Greek. James is not giving personal advice but a divine command, and therefore our calling on the Lord for wisdom is not an option. It is mandatory. And if a believer who is being tested is not driven to the Lord and does not develop a deeper prayer life, the Lord is likely to keep the test active and even intensify it until His child comes to the throne of grace—until he makes his “ear attentive to wisdom,” and inclines his “heart to understanding” (Prov. 2:2). And “if you cry for discernment,” Solomon continues, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God” (vv. 3–5; cf. Job 28:12–23; Matt. 13:44–46).

Although God has wisdom in abundance (Rom. 11:33) and is infinitely more willing to impart His wisdom than we are to ask for it, He nevertheless expects us to ask Him for it. It is not something that the Lord will impress on an unwilling heart and mind. “ ‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’ ” (Jer. 29:11–13). Jesus calls on us to call on Him, promising that “whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). To reinforce the promise, He says again, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (v. 14).

Generously translates haplōs, which carries the idea of singleness of heart, of doing something unconditionally, without bargaining. The only condition is that we ask. When we simply come in our trials to God asking for His help and wisdom, He immediately and single-mindedly gives it to us generously. That divine liberality is expressed in Jesus’ beautiful promise:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7:7–11)

Reproach translates a participial form of a verb that means “to upbraid, to severely reprimand.” In Matthew 5:11 it is rendered “cast insults,” or “revile” (kjv). The term is used in Matthew 11:20 of the Lord’s reproach of the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida, of whom He said, “It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (v. 22); and of Capernaum, who, He warned, “will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (v. 23).

But the Lord will never cast even the mildest reproach on a child of His who comes seeking wisdom in time of trouble and testing. He will not remind us of how undeserving and unworthy we are, obvious as that might be. Nor will He chide us for not asking sooner, fully understanding that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Without hesitation, reluctance, or reservation, His divine wisdom will be given to us in generous abundance. He will say to us, in effect, what He said to His people Israel through the psalmist, “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10).

James next turns from the willing Father to the waiting child, making clear that the Lord requires the right kind of asking, which must be in faith without any doubting (cf. v. 8). In other words, it must be a request backed by genuine trust in God’s character, purpose, and promises.

Some Christians simply doubt that God will give them what they need, and rationalize their doubt in countless ways. They believe they are undeserving, which is true, but, as already pointed out, irrelevant. Or they may think their needs are not worthy of God’s attention, which also is true but irrelevant, for, in His boundless grace and love, He sovereignly chooses to take great interest in things that, in the grand scheme of things, seem utterly insignificant. Other Christians are inclined to dispute with God, wondering why He allowed a calamity to come upon them in the first place or why He doesn’t provide them a way out.

A request that does not take God at His word, that doubts either His ability or His trustworthiness, is presumptuous and worthless and is an affront. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). As Paul admonishes, we are “to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Tim. 2:8). We are to remember Jesus’ promise: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matt. 21:21–22). Reinforcing those words of Jesus, Paul assures us that “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The believer who doubts, however, is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. His request is not really a request at all, because he foolishly and disdainfully does not believe it will be honored by God. Among other things, such a person is terribly immature, like a child, “tossed here and there by waves.” Tragically, that immaturity leads to the even greater danger of being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). When God is not trusted, the only course is to go from bad to worse to worse still.

Such a person cannot expect that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is like ancient Israel, whom Elijah rebuked, saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). He becomes a Laodicean, a sham Christian who is “neither hot nor cold,” whom the Lord “will spit … out of [His] mouth” (Rev. 3:16).

Simply put, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Although he claims to be a believer, his action reveals he is an unbeliever. When he goes through a severe trial, he turns to human resources rather than singularly trusting the Lord for answers and for help. Or he becomes bitter and resentful and seeks no help at all. He does not renounce God, but he acts as if God doesn’t exist, doesn’t care, or isn’t capable of delivering him from trouble. He knows something of God’s Word and of God’s love, grace, and providence; but he refuses to avail himself of those divine resources. As James points out later in the letter, that person’s problem, of course, is sin. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” he admonishes. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (4:8). There the “double-minded” are called “sinners,” a term used only for unbelievers (see comments on 4:8).

Regardless of how he may view himself, the double-minded person is trying to serve two gods, which, as the Lord declares, is impossible. “Either [you] will hate the one and love the other, or [you] will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). In his classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan calls such a man Mister Facing Both Ways. That feat is just as impossible spiritually as it is physically. “A friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4); and, conversely, a person who is truly a friend of God is an enemy of the world. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5, emphasis added). There is no other way to truly love Him, trust Him, or serve Him.[1]


Wisdom to Learn from Trials (1:5–8)

James says the goal of trials is “that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God” (1:4–5). The goal, says James, is that we “lack nothing” spiritually. But to turn tests into maturity, the one thing you must not lack is wisdom. God intends trials to produce endurance and maturity. But trials do not always lead to spiritual growth. Suffering can create fear, despair, a determination to “look out for number one,” or anger toward God. Abundance (which is also a trial) can lead to selfish indulgence. Therefore, James now says, we need to ask God for wisdom, so we can gain from trials. In James’s words, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (1:5).

James encourages prayer with four successive phrases in verse 5. He says we should ask God (1) who gives (2) generously (3) to all (4) without finding fault. Each element merits our consideration.

First, James 1:5 literally reads, “Let him ask the giving God.” It matches the final statement “and it will be given to him.” James labels the Lord “the giving God.” When God gives, he acts according to his nature or character.

Second, James says God gives to all “generously.” The word literally means “simply.” Simplicity is generous in this sense: the simple gift is a pure gift. It neither returns a favor previously given nor expects a favor in return. The simple gift neither pays back nor expects a payback. That is, God’s gifts do not become debts. He delights in giving; it is his nature to give without calculating the return.

Third, the Lord gives “to all.” That is, he does not play favorites. God is generous to all his children.

Fourth, God gives “without finding fault” (niv) or, better, “without reproach” (esv). It is possible, even easy, to give and to add a reproach. We can say, “Yes, I can loan you more money, but what happened to the money I gave you last month?” We can say, “Yes, I will help you get ready for your trip, but you should have started preparing two weeks ago.” That is giving with reproach. But God gives without adding a rebuke; he simply gives.

Asking in Faith

Still, when we seek God’s gifts, we must ask in faith, wholeheartedly seeking God, fully expecting to receive wisdom from him. James says that anyone who asks “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.” As James does so often, here he harkens to a teaching from Jesus, who says, “If you have faith and do not doubt … you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:21–22; cf. Mark 11:22–24).

God does give some gifts to his enemies (Matt. 5:45), but James promises nothing to the man who doubts even as he asks. The doubter asks God for aid, but before he finishes his prayer, he thinks, “This will never work.” He vacillates, tossing from one idea to the next, with no more stability of direction or purpose than a wind-whipped wave.

James sees doubt as the opposite of faith: “He must believe and not doubt.” The doubter is called double-minded and unstable, and he should expect to receive nothing. Like unbelievers, doubters cannot assume God will give them anything.

Our culture often views doubt as a noble thing. Philosophers such as Descartes use doubt as an organizing principle for their investigations, and popular culture often views doubters as courageous loners. But the Bible never views doubt as an activity or condition that is good in itself. Certainly, the Psalms encourage believers to take their questions to God when he is hidden or when evil seems stronger than good (Pss. 22; 73). And we must admit our doubts in order to seek the truth. Further, Jesus was always tender with doubters: he was patient with John the Baptist, when he asked if Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Matt. 11:1–12); he was forbearing with “doubting Thomas” (John 20:24–29); and he showed mercy to the father who said, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 esv). Still, doubt is never intrinsically good. If doubt leads to a blessing, it is the result of the honesty of the doubter and his or her willingness to accept God’s answers. Doubters must be willing to leave their questions behind and trust God with a whole heart.

But the book of Acts commends Peter for refusing to hesitate or doubt when God gave him a hard command (10:20; 11:12). More to our point, Paul (like James) contrasts faith and doubt (using the same term, diakrinō) in Romans 4:20 (cf. Rom. 14:23). He says Abraham “did not waver [same word] through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith … being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (4:20–21). Clearly, Abraham had some moments of doubt (Gen. 12:2–3; 17:17–18), but over the years, he displayed a consistent faith in God. James is not teaching that only perfectly confident prayers will be answered. But God does want us to trust him consistently. We do not shift ceaselessly, like the swells of waves out in the ocean. We seek God for wisdom every day.

After James exhorts the church to view trials as a blessing and to seek wisdom to make them so, he briefly addresses the trials of riches and poverty. We have already made a few comments on James 1:9–11, but a point or two remains.[2]


5 In v. 4, James has just provided a portrait of fully developed Christian character. The fully mature believer is one who is “lacking in nothing.” Yet alas, most of us are still on the path, not having arrived at that level of maturity. Therefore, James makes a transition to this next passage by pointing to a possible need among his readers: “If any of you lacks wisdom …” It is vital to grasp what James means by “wisdom.” Wisdom here connotes an understanding of the ways of God and a readiness to act according to those ways. This close connection between wisdom and righteousness can be seen in James 3:13–18:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Thus, true wisdom issues forth in living according to the ways of the Lord, and if anyone lacks this understanding of and commitment to the ways of God, God himself—wisdom’s true and only source who gives “to all”—may be approached. In other words, God has shown himself to have issued an open invitation to people to come and find in him the wisdom they need to approach life righteously. This thought echoes Wisdom passages in Proverbs, such as the following (Pr 2:1–7):

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless.

Furthermore, James expresses the manner in which God gives wisdom as “generously” and “without finding fault.” The first suggests that God is not stingy with wisdom but rather eager to provide guidance for how life should be approached. That he gives “without finding fault” means he does not insult or put down those who come to him with their deficiency. Unlike the father who slaps the hand of a child reaching up for a desired item, God eagerly gives wisdom to the person desiring his perspective on life.[3]


Trials demand wisdom (v. 5)

It is legitimate to ask God for wisdom in each and every circumstance of life. How often we find ourselves lacking it! But we never need wisdom more urgently than when we are facing difficulties.

First, a word about wisdom. What is it? We must not confuse it with knowledge. Knowledge is information; wisdom is application. Knowledge is comprehending facts; wisdom is handling life. Knowledge is theoretical; wisdom is practical.

We can think of it in terms of driving a car. We can have very good knowledge of a car and not drive very well at all! Conversely, we can have little knowledge of how a car operates and still expertly handle it.

Life is a lot like driving a car. We are tooling along, and suddenly someone darts out in front of us, or a huge pothole appears. In those situations, we must know how to respond in such a way that we are able to preserve our lives and the lives of others.

The trials and difficulties of life are much like the driver who pulls in front of us or the potholes in the road. We are driving along the roadway of life, and suddenly a trial comes. We need wisdom to respond to that trial. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not encourage a mistaken notion about what Christianity is. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not dishonour God. We need to respond in such a way that we do not discourage our fellow-Christians.

How often Christians drive the car of faith into the ditch when a trial pops up in the road!

Wisdom demands prayer (v. 5)

But how do we find wisdom for the facing of trials? James provides the answer: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God …’

‘If any of you lacks wisdom …’! That includes all of us! No one is sufficient in and of himself to face the trials of life, but the Lord is sufficient for his people.

We are once again face to face with the importance of prayer. How much the Bible makes of it! And how very poor we are at practising it!

Prayer is such a wonderful resource. It connects our poor, feeble little lives with the almighty God. It constructs a pipeline from his sufficiency to our inadequacy.

I do not doubt for a moment that most of us pray when we face trials. The question James puts before us has to do with that for which we are praying.

We pray for the trial to be lifted, and there is nothing wrong with that. But has it occurred to us to pray for wisdom in the trial? Have we asked God to help us handle it in such a way that we bring glory to him and leave a positive impression on those around us?

James attaches a glorious promise to his plea for prayer. He says that God ‘gives to all liberally and without reproach’ (v. 5). To say that God gives ‘liberally’ is to say that God is generous. He is not a miserly God who delights in withholding blessings from his people. John Calvin says the Lord is ready ‘to add new blessings to former ones, without any end or limitation’. Someone has suggested that we should think of God’s liberality in giving in terms of a pitcher always tilted and ready to pour. God’s pitcher of blessing is always tilted to fill the cups of his people.

That phrase ‘without reproach’ means that God gives without finding fault. One of the great things about God is that he knows of what we are made. He knows we are mere dust. He knows how very weak we are. He knows how difficult life is for us. He understands why we struggle so. He does not find fault with us for being what we are.

King David put it wonderfully:

As a father pities his children,

So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

For He knows our frame;

He remembers that we are dust.

(Ps. 103:13–14)

So let us be about the business of praying! We often vex ourselves with the matter of why our prayers are not answered. James would have us understand that the unanswered prayer is not our main problem in praying. It is rather the unasked prayer (4:2)![4]


1:5 / James now turns to his second theme and what appears to be a totally new topic, that of wisdom and prayer. It is indeed a major theme of the letter, but it is not unrelated to what goes before. If person hears a call to be perfect, he or she would certainly cry, “Help! Who can do it?” (like Paul’s “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5–6). Divine help is necessary, and divine help in James comes in the form of wisdom (cf. 3:13 ff.). Christians should indeed lack nothing, but in order to do this they need divine wisdom.

James shares this recognition. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God. He can do this with full confidence that God gives generously to all. Here James draws on the Jesus tradition (the yet unwritten sayings of Jesus that later formed the Gospels), for Jesus promised God would give his children what they ask (Matt. 7:7–11; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9–13; John 15:7). What better gift could they request than the wisdom needed to withstand the trials they face. God gives it, for God is a good giver; God gives generously, which means that he gives without mental reservations, that he gives simply, with a single heart. He is not looking for some hidden return from believers; he does not have mixed motives or grudging feelings. In fact, he gives not just generously but without finding fault. That is, he does not complain about the gift or its cost. He is not a “fool,” who “has many eyes instead of one. He gives little and upbraids much, he opens his mouth like a herald; today he lends and tomorrow he asks back” (Sirach 20:14–15). No, God gives true gifts: no complaining, no criticizing (What? You need help again?), no mixed motives, no reluctance. Free, generous, even spendthrift giving characterizes the Christian’s God.

And what a gift he gives! He gives wisdom, which in this letter is the equivalent of the Holy Spirit, a gift that James’ readers, as former Jews, would recognize (as the people of the Dead Sea Scrolls did) as one of the gifts of the age to come. Wisdom comes to the Christian through Christ (1 Cor. 1:24; 2:4–6). This surely is what is needed to withstand trials and come to perfection.[5]


1:5–8. These verses outline our resources for facing trials and explain how to get them. Christians need wisdom and faith as they encounter trials. We are encouraged to pray for wisdom and to pray with faith.

Jewish Christians should understand wisdom. To James and to Jews, wisdom was much more than knowledge and intelligence. Judaism emphasized that “the fear of the Lord” was the starting point of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Wisdom was a spiritual trait which developed from a wholehearted love for God’s ways. James will later contrast divine wisdom with earthly wisdom (3:13–18). Earthly wisdom is unspiritual and demonic. Divine wisdom is pure; … peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere (Jas. 3:17). With wisdom Christians can understand how their trials merged into God’s plan for their lives. They have the commitment to his will necessary to assure that they follow God and not wander from the path of his plan. But how do Christians get this wisdom?

They must ask God for it. Four facts about God encourage us to ask for this wisdom. First, God is a giving God. Giving to those who ask from him is natural for God. Second, God gives generously to all. He has no favorite recipients of his gifts, but gives to all classes, races, and types of people. Third, God gave without finding fault. God does not give in such a way as to humiliate us. He does not chastise us for our failures or hold our unworthiness against us. He is always ready to add new blessings to old ones without finding fault in us for our many shortcomings. Finally, God promises to answer those who come seeking wisdom. A request according to his will receives his answer (1 John 5:14–15).

Such wisdom helps us understand how our troubles fit in with God’s plan. It assures us that God has not forsaken us. God’s gift of wisdom allows us to understand how God is involved in life’s daily events. Instead of serving as a hindrance, trials present a marvelous opportunity to become wise!

Verses 6–7 deal with the need for faith in prayer. Whoever asks God for wisdom must believe and not doubt. Faith is a complete commitment to God in trusting obedience. Two reasons to encourage faith are presented. First, a doubting person is spiritually unstable like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Our prayers for wisdom must not alternate between faith and unbelief. We must endure in the confidence that God will answer our request according to his will.

Second, doubters should not even imagine that God will answer their prayers. Faith alone opens the door to God’s limitless treasury of wisdom. Unbelief receives God’s rejection slip which reads, “Request denied due to insufficient faith.”

Let us be careful not to make light of our hesitant faith. Doubting God is serious business! Such doubt implies we have a low view of God. To receive answers from God, you must come to him with the conviction that he gives rewards to those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). Diligence is a trait we all need desperately.

Verse 8 provides an additional description of the spiritual makeup of a doubter. The doubter is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. Doubters display no stamina in their commitment to the Lord. One moment they are inclined to obedience; another moment, they follow their own ways. Failure to endure with faith in prayer is an indicator of the doubter’s general character.[6]


5. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James demonstrates the art of writing by linking key words and phrases. In verse 3 he stresses the word perseverance; he puts it last in the sentence to give it emphasis. In verse 4, “perseverance” is the first expression he uses. The last phrase in verse 4 is “not lacking anything”; the first clause of the next phrase repeats this verb, “If any of you lacks wisdom.” The writer knows how to communicate effectively in simple, direct prose.

Note these points:

  • Need

The clause if any of you lacks wisdom is the first part of a factual statement in a conditional sentence. The author is saying to the reader: “I know you will not admit it, but you need wisdom.” James tackles a delicate problem, for no person wants to hear that he is stupid, that he makes mistakes, and that he needs help. By nature man is independent. He wants to solve his own problems and make his own decisions. Eighteenth-century German theologian John Albert Bengel put it rather succinctly: “Patience is more in the power of a good man than wisdom; the former is to be exercised, the latter is to be asked for.” Man has to overcome pride to admit that he needs wisdom. But wisdom is not something he possesses. Wisdom belongs to God, for it is his divine virtue. Anyone who admits the need for wisdom must go to God and ask him. James appeals to the individual reader and hearer. He writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom” (italics added). This approach is tactful, for he could have said, “Everyone lacks wisdom.” But by saying “any of you,” James gives the reader a chance to examine himself, to come to the conclusion that he needs wisdom, and to follow James’s advice to ask God.

  • Request

The believer must ask God for wisdom. James implies that God is the source of wisdom. It belongs to him.

What is wisdom? Both the Old and the New Testaments seek to explain this term. Solomon expresses it in typical Hebraic parallelism. Says he, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). Solomon equates wisdom with knowledge and understanding.

Also, the New Testament states that the Christian receives wisdom and that knowledge comes from God (see, for instance, 1 Cor. 1:30). True, we make a distinction between wisdom and knowledge when we say that knowledge devoid of wisdom is of little value. Observes Donald Guthrie, “If wisdom is the right use of knowledge, perfect wisdom presupposes perfect knowledge.” To become mature and complete, the believer must go to God for wisdom. God is willing to impart wisdom to anyone who asks humbly. God’s storehouse of wisdom is infinite, and he will give this gift “generously to all without finding fault.”

  • Gift

God is not partial. He gives to everyone, no matter who he is, because God wants to give. Giving is a characteristic of God. He keeps on giving. Every time someone comes to him with a request, he opens his treasury and freely distributes wisdom. Just as the sun continues to give light, so God keeps on giving wisdom. We cannot imagine a sun that fails to give light; much less can we think of God failing to give wisdom. God’s gift is free, without interest, and without the request to pay it back. It is gratis.

Moreover, God gives “without finding fault.” When we ask God for wisdom, we need not be afraid that he will express displeasure or will utter reproach. When we come to him in childlike faith, he will never send us away empty. We have the assurance that when we ask for wisdom, it “will be given” to us. God never fails the one who asks in faith.[7]


Ask—a Believing Heart (James 1:5–8)

The people to whom James wrote had problems with their praying (James 4:1–3; 5:13–18). When we are going through God-ordained difficulties, what should we pray about? James gives the answer: ask God for wisdom.

James has a great deal to say about wisdom (James 1:5; 3:13–18). The Jewish people were lovers of wisdom, as the Book of Proverbs gives evidence. Someone has said that knowledge is the ability to take things apart, while wisdom is the ability to put them together. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. All of us know people who are educated fools: they have brilliant academic records, but they cannot make the simplest decisions in life. I once met a gifted professor on a seminary campus, and he was wearing two hats!

Why do we need wisdom when we are going through trials? Why not ask for strength, or grace, or even deliverance? For this reason: we need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature. Wisdom helps us understand how to use these circumstances for our good and God’s glory.

An associate of mine, a gifted secretary, was going through great trials. She had had a stroke, her husband had gone blind, and then he had to be taken to the hospital where (we were sure) he would die. I saw her in church one Sunday and assured her that I was praying for her.

“What are you asking God to do?” she asked, and her question startled me.

“I’m asking God to help you and strengthen you,” I replied.

“I appreciate that,” she said, “but pray about one more thing. Pray that I’ll have the wisdom not to waste all of this!”

She knew the meaning of James 1:5.

James not only explained what to ask for (wisdom), but he also described how to ask. We are to ask in faith. We do not have to be afraid, for God is anxious to answer, and He will never scold us! “He giveth more grace” (James 4:6). He also gives more and more wisdom. The greatest enemy to answered prayer is unbelief.

James compares the doubting believer to the waves of the sea, up one minute and down the next. While vacationing in Hawaii, I learned that you cannot trust the waves. I was sitting on a rock by the ocean, watching the waves and enjoying the sunshine. I heard a sound behind me, turned to see who was approaching, and instantly was drenched by a huge wave! Never turn your back on the waves—they are down, then they are up.

This is the experience of the “double-minded man.” Faith says, “Yes!” but unbelief says, “No!” Then doubt comes along and says “Yes!” one minute and “No!” the next. It was doubt that made Peter sink in the waves as he was walking to Jesus (Matt. 14:22–33). Jesus asked him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” When Peter started his walk of faith, he kept his eyes on Christ. But when he was distracted by the wind and waves, he ceased to walk by faith; and he began to sink. He was double-minded, and he almost drowned.

Many Christians live like corks on the waves: up one minute, down the next; tossed back and forth. This kind of experience is evidence of immaturity. Paul used a similar idea in Ephesians 4:14—“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” If we have believing and united hearts, we can ask in faith and God will give the wisdom we need. Instability and immaturity go together.

James closed this section with a beatitude: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation” (James 1:12). He started (James 1:2) and ended with joy. Outlook determines outcome. This beatitude is a great encouragement because it promises a crown to those who patiently endure trials. Paul often used athletic illustrations in his letters, and James does so here. He is not saying that the sinner is saved by enduring trials. He is saying that the believer is rewarded by enduring trials.

How is he rewarded? First, by growth in Christian character. This is more important than anything else. He is rewarded also by bringing glory to God and by being granted a crown of life when Jesus Christ returns. First the cross, then the crown. First the suffering, then the glory. God does not help us by removing the tests, but by making the tests work for us. Satan wants to use the tests to tear us down, but God uses them to build us up.

In James 1:12, James used a very important word, love. We would expect him to write, “the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that trust Him” or “that obey Him.” Why did James use love? Because love is the spiritual motivation behind every imperative in this section.

Why do we have a joyful attitude as we face trials? Because we love God, and He loves us, and He will not harm us. Why do we have an understanding mind? Because He loves us and has shared His truth with us, and we love Him in return. Why do we have a surrendered will? Because we love Him. Where there is love, there is surrender and obedience. Why do we have a believing heart? Because love and faith go together. When you love someone, you trust him, and you do not hesitate to ask him for help.

Love is the spiritual force behind the imperatives James gives us. If we love God, we will have no problem counting, knowing, letting, and asking. But there is another factor involved: love keeps us faithful to the Lord. The double-minded person (James 1:8) is like an unfaithful husband or wife: he wants to love both God and the world. James admonished, “Purify your hearts, ye double-minded!” (James 4:8) The Greek word translated purify literally means “make chaste.” The picture is that of an unfaithful lover.

Let’s go back to the weaning. The child who loves his mother, and who is sure that his mother loves him, will be able to get through the weaning and start to grow up. The Christian who loves God, and who knows that God loves him, will not fall apart when God permits trials to come. He is secure in God’s love. He is not double-minded, trying to love both God and the world. Lot was double-minded; when trials came, he failed miserably. Abraham was the friend of God; he loved God and trusted Him. When trials came, Abraham triumphed and matured in the faith.

God’s purpose in trials is maturity. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The Charles B. Williams translation says it graphically: “But you must let your endurance come to its perfect product so that you may be fully developed and perfectly equipped.”

If that is what you want, then in love to Christ, count, know, let, and ask.[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 35–39). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 24–27). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 214–215). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Ellsworth, R. (2009). Opening up James (pp. 27–29). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[5] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 28–29). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 258–259). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 37–38). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[8] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 340–341). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

JANUARY 21 WE ARE JUST BEGINNING

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.

—John 15:26

Oh, my friend, we are just beginning. God’s personality is so infinitely rich and manifold that it will take 1,000 years of close search and intimate communion to know even the outer edges His glorious nature. When we talk about communion with God and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we are talking about that which begins now but will grow and increase and mature while life lasts….

The Holy Spirit is a living Person, and we can know Him and fellowship with Him! We can whisper to Him, and out of a favorite verse of the Bible or a loved hymn, we hear His voice whispering back. Walking with the Spirit can become a habit. It is a gracious thing to strive to know the things of God through the Spirit of God in a friendship that passes the place where it has to be kept up by chatter. COU123-124

Lord, bring me into a communion with You that only grows richer and more splendid the longer it lasts. Enable me to hear the Holy Spirit, and through Him to know You more deeply. Amen.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

January 21 Biblical Patience

“Walk … with patience.”

Ephesians 4:1–2

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Patient Christians endure negative circumstances, cope with difficult people, and accept God’s plan for everything.

In our instant, microwave, drive–through, “I want it now” culture, patience is hard to come by. We get upset if we have to wait too long in the supermarket line or get stuck behind the guy driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit.

But today’s Scripture tells us that our lives need to be marked by patience. The Greek word translated “patience” literally means “long–tempered.” A patient person doesn’t have a short fuse or lose his temper.

There are three aspects to biblical patience. First, patience never gives in to negative circumstances, no matter how difficult. God told Abraham He would make him into a great nation and give Canaan to his descendants (Gen. 12:2, 7). When God made this promise, Abraham and Sarah had no children. They had to wait far past their childbearing years before God gave them a son. But Hebrews 6:15 says, “Having patiently waited, [Abraham] obtained the promise.” “He did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20). He trusted God and patiently waited for Him to fulfill His promise.

A second aspect of patience is coping with difficult people. Paul tells us to “be patient with all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). This is applied gentleness—a spirit that refuses to retaliate. Our normal reaction is to be defensive when provoked. But a patient person bears insult, persecution, unfair treatment, slander, and hatred. You can’t start a fight with a patient person. He defends God, not himself, knowing that He will repay all wrongs at the right time.

Third, patience accepts God’s plan for everything. It doesn’t question God. A patient person says, “Lord, if this is what You have planned for me, that’s all right.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Since God is in control, we can be patient, waiting for Him to work out His will.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to help you recognize when you’re apt to be impatient. When those times come, pray for strength to endure them.

For Further Study: James 5:10 says the prophets were examples of suffering and patience. Read what two prophets had to endure in Isaiah 6:9–12 and Jeremiah 1:5–19. ✧ How might they be examples to you as you seek to be faithful in the face of life’s tests?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

January 20 Daily Help

“JESUS answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father.” It was the habit and life of Jesus to talk with God. May we likewise have silent fellowship with the Father, so that often we may answer Him, and though the world wotteth not to whom we speak, may we be responding to that secret voice unheard of any other ear, which our own ear, opened by the Spirit of God, recognizes with joy. What a privilege is intimate communion with the Father of our spirits! It is a secret hidden from the world, a joy with which even the nearest friend intermeddleth not.

This very day may our hearts be in such a state, that when God speaks to us, we, like Jesus, may be prepared at once to answer Him.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 24). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

January 20, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

54:10 mountains … hills … My lovingkindness … My covenant. In the Millennium (48:6, 7; 51:6, 16) topography will change (see Eze 38:20; Mic 1:4; Zec 14:4, 10), but not God’s pledge of well-being for Israel as a result of the New Covenant (55:3; 59:21; 61:8).[1]


54:10 God’s love for his people is not just a little greater than his wrath; it is massively greater and eternally unchanging. my covenant of peace. Cf. this term in Ezek. 34:25–31, describing a renewed covenant with God after the exile. When the language of these prophecies is compared to the accounts of the returnees (in Ezra-Nehemiah), it becomes clear that the physical return was only the first installment.

54:10 The new covenant results in permanent peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and is secure forever (Heb. 9:12).[2]


54:10my faithfulness shall not depart Alludes to the ultimate fulfillment of the salvation accomplished by the Messiah (see 16:5; 55:3). The Hebrew word chesed (“love; kindness”) often describes Yahweh’s attitude of covenant love or loyalty toward Israel. The Hebrew word encompasses the concepts of loyalty, faithfulness, benevolence, and kindness.

my covenant of peace The renewed covenant with Israel is unlike the first covenant; it will be eternal and permanent.

Jeremiah describes God establishing an entirely new covenant (Jer 31:31–33), and Ezekiel uses the same term—a covenant of peace—to describe the future peace of the Messiah’s reign (Ezek 34:25–31). The intertwining of immediate and future salvation oracles led to an expectation among the exiles that idealized the conditions of their restoration. Isaiah addresses their disillusionment in Isa 56–66. The return of the exiles was only one stage in the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan.[3]


54:10 mountains … hills. In our experience the mountains and hills seem permanent and unchanging, but the commitment of God to His people will remain when they are gone (51:6; Ps. 46:2, 3; Matt. 24:35; Heb. 1:10–12).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 54:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1340). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 54:10). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1030). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

January 20: While You Are Waiting

Genesis 32–33; Matthew 24:29–25:13; Ecclesiastes 7:22–29

Jesus’ instructions to His disciples about His return have inspired many to incorrectly predict His second coming. But if we read His parables, we find that they’re not so focused on the future. Jesus prepares His disciples for His absence, and for the end times, because He wants them to be hopeful, expecting His return. He wants them to be ready and watchful. But He wants them to do all of these things by being fully engaged in the present, readying His kingdom.

Jesus’ parable of the Wise and Wicked Servants demonstrates this attitude. While the faithful and wise servant provides for the master’s household during his absence, the wicked servant uses the time flippantly: carousing and beating his fellow servants. When the master returns, the faithful servant is promoted for his service, and the wicked servant is punished. The parable presses the disciples to use their time wisely during Jesus’ absence by doing the work they were called to do.

The same exhortation goes out to us. Will we act like lone Christians—content to live life disconnected from God’s kingdom? Instead, we should be filled with hope, expectation, and overflowing with the good news. We should be willing to build up those around us, and attract those who have no hope.

As easy as it is to forget the eternal in our everyday lives, we can just as easily forget what God’s work right now means for eternity. Being actively engaged in the present means spreading the good news, and being involved in His work—using our gifts to nurture His coming kingdom.

Are you busy and active in God’s kingdom now? If not, what is keeping you from becoming so?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

January 20 Rejoicing in Assurance

“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13–14).

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The Holy Spirit is God’s first installment on your eternal inheritance.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life is multifaceted and profound. Among other things, He brings salvation, conviction, guidance, and strength. He indwells and equips you for spiritual service and gives assurance of your salvation. He is your Helper and Advocate. He is the Spirit of promise who seals you until the day when your redemption will be fully realized (Eph. 4:30).

Sealing speaks of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. Ancient kings, princes, and nobles placed their official seal on documents or other items to guarantee their inviolability. To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the sovereign whom it represented (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62–66).

A seal on a letter authenticated it as being from the hand of the one whose seal it bore. Legal documents such as property deeds and wills were often finalized with an official seal. Those who possessed the sealed decree of a king had the king’s delegated authority to act on that decree.

Each of those aspects of sealing is a picture of the Spirit’s ministry. He is God’s guarantee that your salvation is inviolable and that you are an authentic member of God’s Kingdom and family. You are His possession, having been purchased with His Son’s precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You are His ambassador and so have delegated authority to proclaim His message to a lost world (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Spirit is the “pledge” of your eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). The Greek word translated “pledge” in that verse (arrabōn) was used for a down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Rejoice in the assurance that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given you His Spirit as a guarantee that He will keep His promises.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the security of your eternal inheritance. ✧ Praise the Spirit for His many ministries in your life. Be sensitive to His leading today, so that your ministry to others will be powerful and consistent with His will.

For Further Study: Read Esther 3, 8. What role did the king’s signet ring play in the decree of Haman (chapter 3)? The decree of Ahasuerus and Mordecai (chapter 8)?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.