How to Deal with a Shortage of Wisdom
by Kelly Randolph
In 1999, State Farm Insurance rated the most dangerous intersections for accidents in the United States. The winner (or better, loser) was the corner of Belt Line Road and Midway Road in Addison, Texas. There were 263 reported crashes at that intersection in the Dallas suburb. That averages out to about five wrecks per week, not counting the unreported fender benders.
Sometimes as we drive down the road of life, we come to dangerous intersections. Sometimes we refer to them as “forks in the road.” They are those moments where a choice we make or don’t make sets us on a course that could influence the rest of our journey. Do we stop or go. Turn right or left. Go ahead or turn back. Perhaps you feel like you are at a dangerous intersection right now in your life.
The Bible speaks about a divine resource we can utilize when we come to those intersections. It is called wisdom. There are many times when we will approach one of those intersections and we will realize we have a shortage of wisdom. This is the very situation James addresses in 1:5-8.
James has just finished speaking about the various trials we encounter in life. These are the difficulties and afflictions that come our way. Often times, these trials bring us to one of those intersections where we feel lost and don’t know which way to go. We don’t understand the cause of the trial or its purpose. We begin to feel acutely our shortage of wisdom. In this text, James tells us what to do.
I would summarize the theme of this text like this: Life creates a demand for wisdom which God supplies when the conditions are met.
What is wisdom?
There are various definitions of wisdom. Webster defines it as “the ability to make right use of knowledge.” One prominent theological dictionary defines wisdom as “prudent, considered, experienced, and competent action to master the various problems of life…” So, we see that there is an aspect of knowledge in wisdom. But it goes beyond that. Wisdom involves the practical use of that knowledge to deal with life’s issues.
My definition of wisdom is this: Wisdom is the convergence of knowledge and skill which enables a person to make right choices that honor God.
True wisdom, according to Scripture, begins with God. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” From a biblical perspective, if a person does not know God who created all things, revealed truth, and established absolute values, then one cannot be wise. How could a person make right choices without knowing God and His truth? So, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. That is, the reverent relationship of knowing God.
We gain a clear perspective on wisdom by looking at its opposite – foolishness (folly). In Proverbs 1:7, we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs tells us that fools hate knowledge. The fool is the person whose choices contradict God’s truth. The fool ignores God’s value system. The fool makes poor choices.
Now that we have an idea what wisdom is all about, let’s look more closely at what James says regarding wisdom.
I. Life creates a demand for wisdom.
A. If any of you lack wisdom…
1. There are going to be times when we do not know exactly what choice to make or how to think about a given situation.
2. We are in a state of lacking wisdom.
B. This shortage of wisdom could be highlighted by many different problems.
• Financial problems
• Family problems
• Relationship problems
• Work problems
• We don’t always have a clear handle on every intersection we come to in life.
Now, this is very important to understand. If you do not face up to your lack of wisdom, you will never ask for it. It is the arrogant person who thinks they never need counsel. It is the foolish person who refuses to admit his/her need for wisdom.
Has life created a demand for wisdom in your heart today? Do you face a situation you cannot figure out? Don’t know which way to turn or what to do or think? Great! Now you are ready for step two.
II. God supplies wisdom to those who ask.
A. If you lack wisdom ask God.
1. Why? God is the source of wisdom. Remember our discussion of Proverbs? Wisdom is a divine gift. You don’t get it by living a long life or experiencing many different things. You get it from God.
2. Rather than frantically trying to figure everything out by ourselves or getting our answers from Dr. Phil or Oprah, we need to go directly to the source – GOD.
B. God will give you wisdom.
1. He will give it generously. God is not stingy with this gift. He knows how badly you and I need it. The word James uses here means “without reserve.”
2. He will give it without finding fault. The word means without reproach or insult. God will not insult you and make you feel an inch tall for coming and asking Him for wisdom.
Have you ever been in a situation where you dreaded asking someone for something because of all the grief you had to go through to get it? You just knew that they were going to say something like, “OK, I’ll give this to you but if you weren’t such a loser I wouldn’t have to.”
God is not like that when we ask for wisdom. Remember God’s attitude toward gift giving. Jesus explained it in Matt. 7:9-11. He pointed out that a good parent never insults the child who comes asking for bread by giving him a stone. He doesn’t give him a snake if he asks for fish. So, if you, who are evil, can give good gifts to your kids when they ask, how much more will God give us good gifts when we ask Him?
Do you need some wisdom today? Ask. Ask. Ask. God will not make fun of you. He will not insult you. He is not looking around at the angels as he dispenses wisdom saying, “would you look at this guy?” He delights to give you wisdom. He wants you to come to Him and ask for it. Ask as many times as you need it (which for me is every day).
So, we see that life creates a demand for wisdom. God supplies wisdom when we ask. Now there is one more thing we need to see.
III. Wisdom is supplied to those who ask in faith.
A. We must ask in faith, not doubt.
1. We must ask in an attitude of trust.
B. We must not doubt.
1. The word means “to dispute with oneself.” It is
a kind of “he loves me, he loves me not” that goes on in the heart.
2. The doubter is like a wave of the sea being tossed around by the wind. Very unstable and insecure.
3. The doubter should not expect to receive anything from God.
4. The doubter is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does.
The doubt James refers to here is not intellectual doubt. It is not doubting the existence of God or His ability to answer a prayer. It is the doubt of divided loyalties. It is the vacillating Christian who cannot decide from one trial to the next whether he or she will really trust the Lord and follow His wisdom.
The on again-off again Christian should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. This is not the type of person who really wants God’s wisdom.
I love the words of Abraham Lincoln who said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
Can you identify with those words today? Do you face a problem which has exhausted your best efforts to solve? Are you looking for answers which seem to evade you? Has your wisdom and the wisdom of those around you fallen short?
There is hope. The One who is Himself All-wise delights to give His wisdom to those who ask with a trusting heart. Have you asked God for wisdom?
We need to ask for wisdom for our marriages. We need to ask for wisdom to parent our children. We need to ask for wisdom to help us on the job. We need to ask for wisdom to deal with difficult relationships. We need to ask for wisdom to minister to others.
Does anyone lack wisdom here today? Let him ask God.