Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. – James 1:2-8
Welcome to the book of James. Apparently this book was written by someone very familiar with Jesus, His brother James. It must have been hard and challenging to be the brother of Jesus. Harder still to accept that your sibling was also your savior. I am not sure If I could manage this level of maturity. I am the youngest of five siblings and four brothers. I am not sure my brothers ever really accepted my transition to adulthood, let alone a transcendental transition like James experienced in his sibling.
The passage starts with some encouragement for struggling Christ followers. It sounds like James is trying to shore up followers who have perhaps fallen away or are struggling with holiness or “body awareness“. The antidote or “cure” for the spiritual trials is perseverance and faith – “testing of your faith produces perseverance”.
Perseverance is a powerful word. It conjures in my mind images of struggling athletes shedding blood, sweat, and tears to reach some goal or to win a race. The “race” these early Christ followers were “running” was continuing to faithfully follow the savoir amidst many decievors and distractions. I am reminded of the Olympic athletes who are being “tested” right now as they compete for medals. Many of these athletes have invested a significant portion of their lives to compete at the Olympic level. Do we train as faithfully or as consistently as Christians? What does our “training” look like?
The passage suggests that our “training” largely consists of seeking wisdom from God with humility and tears, anyone who “lacks wisdom, you should ask God”. It is OK not to know everything about our faith, and even our relationship with God, as long as week seek our answers from the One who knows both the answers and us better than we know ourselves.
We are to seek this wisdom with confidence, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Asking questions and having wondering souls is expected and beneficial as long as we maintain confidence in the One with the answers. If we doubt we lose our “form” and become a purposeless wave.
Waves on the ocean and lakes are mesmerizing to me. I can sit and watch them for hours. One of the most interesting aspects of water waves is that the water itself is not really moving. It is the energy imparted through wind, tidal forces, or some other force that moves and results in the breakers at the beach. The “chop” described by many boaters is a chaos of waves moving in different directions. This type of wave action is difficult to navigate.
I think what James is alluding to here is that some of the Christ followers he is addressing are not seeking God’s wisdom and they are creating a chaotic “chop” within the early body of believers we collectively call “the church”. These “double-minded” people make it more difficult for everyone to faithfully follow God. Asking questions of God with perseverance and persistence is good and fruitful. Questioning everything with a “double-mind” is bad and leads to wandering waves without purpose.
Prayer: God help us to seek our answers from You as we navigate the sometimes choppy waters of following Christ.