Looking for wisdom

Looking for wisdom – a sermon on James 1:5-8 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

If you start reading through the book of James you realise very quickly that it’s an extremely practical book. It’s a book that gives us as Christians real-world guidance in how to live our everyday lives. It’s very much a book of “doing”. It’s a book of living for Jesus in everything that we do, out of gratitude for what He has done for us.

Our text this morning is verses 5-8, but we’re going to briefly look at the first four verses too because they set the scene for us. In these verses James reminds us to count it as joy when we meet various trials. And although that sounds a bit un-pastoral, there are at least two good reasons for this counting as joy when we’re really up against it, when we face trials. The first reason we can be joyful even in difficult circumstances is that we know that persevering in trust through such difficult times strengthens our faith – like a precious metal being refined to remove impurities, such trusting perseverance makes our faith richer and purer. We can also be joyful despite our difficulties because we know that through them we are being sanctified: we are being drawn closer to God and we are being made spiritually more mature. In other words we can be joyful because we are being made more and more like Christ.

In a sense it appears obvious that that is what should happen in a Christian’s life. That is what salvation in Christ has to mean for the way that we cope with the problems of life. But I think you’ll all agree that it’s not easy putting that into practice! And it’s not just for us that it’s difficult – even the apostle Paul struggled with this! Remember his famous words:

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Or like the great reformer Calvin put it:

Our reason, and all our feelings are averse to the thought that we can be happy in the midst of the evils

Yes friends, even the faithful do not always know how to persevere. Even the faithful do not find it easy to rejoice while enduring trials. And it’s because James knows that we all struggle with this that he continues, in verses 5 to 8, to remind us – in his uniquely practical but beautifully direct way – of our need for wisdom. And that wisdom, true wisdom, can only come from one place. Verse 5 tells us about our need for wisdom and about the God who supplies it. And verses 6-8 tell us about our responsibility to seek wisdom, and to seek it from God.

• The need for wisdom (4 5)
• The responsibility to see wisdom (v 6-8)