Big Idea: Wisdom comes from God.
James was written by the half-brother of Jesus (the son of Mary and Joseph, rather than Mary and God). It is short but extremely rich. In many ways, it is a kind of loose commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, taking and applying many of the things that Jesus taught during His earthly ministry. Going back much further, it reflects some of the content of Proverbs in the Old Testament. James is where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life. It is the handbook of wisdom, the skill of living well.
It is easy to live well when things are going smoothly, but life is full of bumps that threaten to throw us off course. James 1 warns us that when these trials come, we have to patiently endure. If we do, the challenges of life mature us and make us stronger. But handling these difficulties requires wisdom. Where do we get that wisdom? Do we need to go to a special school? Does it require a certain amount of failure in life to learn the lessons to succeed? The answer that James gives is surprising in its simplicity: just ask. Ask, and like when Solomon asked, God will give generously without finding fault (1 Kings 3:1-14). We must not ask in a double-minded way, where we look for God’s guidance but still intend to keep our own counsel. Instead, we must ask with the kind of humility that recognizes that rich and poor, young and old, and everything in between are all just as dependent on God. Like the wildflowers wither and fade, any delusions of strength we may have are fleeting.
The only thing that grows naturally in the soil of our hearts is sin. But every good gift, including the wisdom to use those gifts well, comes from God and God alone. When we stop turning inward and turn upward, we find that we have all that we need. The secret to living life well is to simply ask God, in faith, to show us what to do, and humbly do it. If we trust and obey, we can live the life God intends for us.
Discussion Idea: Why might we be reluctant to ask God for the wisdom to deal with a situation? How might our own desires keep us from asking in faith?
Prayer Focus: What is the most challenging decision facing you right now? Pray for God to give you the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.