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. But when he asks, he 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. (James 1:5-8)
It is often said that life does not become easier once we become followers of Jesus Christ. We continue to experience many of the problems shared by the rest of humanity. These are the products of the wicked imaginations and lifestyles of non-Christians, which we once were before God saved us by the gospel. We also contributed to the sad condition of the world, and insofar as we still think and behave like non-Christians, we continue to contribute to it. Nevertheless, now that Jesus Christ has been revealed to us, and our justification and adoption in him have been made manifest, even though we remain in the world, we are no longer of the world. For this reason, in addition to the problems that are common to humanity, now we also face persecution from those who hate our Master. Our thoughts and ambitions are redirected to promote God’s truth and honor, but this is not the world’s agenda.
Yet life indeed becomes easier when we believe in Jesus Christ. Perhaps for those who were extraordinarily young, stupid, or self-righteous as non-Christians, life seems to become more difficult when they suddenly awake to the truth about their own depravity, the fallen condition of the world, and the countercultural lifestyle of the disciples of Christ. But for those of us who had been granted some measure of spiritual awareness on the way to conversion, and who basked in the misery of life without Christ for a time, there is nothing happier than the Christian life. We were dying on the inside, but Jesus Christ apprehended us and injected his resurrection life into us. We were spiritual losers and criminals, but he has made us winners and conquerors in him. Of course, now the world hates us and treats us as enemies and troublemakers, but the eternal glory of life in Jesus Christ far outweighs the momentary suffering of living as children of God in a world of demons.
The world is hostile toward Christians, but God does not leave us helpless and without spiritual resources to overcome. Even though it appears that many problems can be dealt with by money and power, and even though God is always able to deliver his people by miraculous force, in the course of ordinary providence he would have us face our difficulties with intelligence. God wishes for us to understand his mind, and thus it is proper for us to possess a corresponding desire, so that like Moses, we will say to him, “Teach us your ways.” As we come to know the word of God and to know how to apply it to our situation, more and more we will understand him and agree with him. We will learn to think as he would think, decide as he would decide, and behave as he would behave. We will learn that the way of God is different than the way of men, and that his way is far better and much wiser. In life, many things seem helpful and necessary, but what we need most of all is God’s wisdom.
God will grant us wisdom when we pray for it. There is no need for a complicated explanation. Just ask him, and he will give it to you. Still, the Bible insists that we ask in faith. There is really no other way to ask, but the point carries an important lesson, because faith implies a definite stance toward God that cannot be confused with unworthy attitudes about him. If you must ask in faith, this means that you cannot be bitter and fearful in the face of problems. You cannot resent God and ask him for help at the same time. Prayer that pleases God and that is effective must be the outworking of a sound theology or doctrine, an intellectual grasp of the truth about God. Here the Bible requires that a person understands and believes something about God, namely, that he is generous with his wisdom toward his own people. When you need wisdom from God, you can have it, and you can have lots of it. But you need to come and ask, and when you come, you must believe that God is the generous God that the Bible says he is.
God never commends doubt, but he always condemns it. However, there are Christian authors and teachers who tell us that doubt is natural, and that doubt ultimately helps us grow in faith. This is not the Bible’s perspective. Of course doubt is natural to fallen humanity, but in this sense murder and rape are also natural. If there is no reason to be lenient toward murder and rape, there is still less reason to be lenient toward doubt. And when his disciples doubted him, Jesus did not say, “Look into this doubt. Entertain it. Go further with it. Regard my Father and I as liars for a little longer. It will help you grow!” No, he blasted them for their doubt. He scolded them and made them feel bad about it.
The attempt to beautify doubt is men’s sinful way to justify their shortcoming, to delay correction, and even to refuse repentance. We would never say to a serial murderer, “Go kill a few more people and explore your thinking. Consider what made you this way. Kill more people so you can understand your motivations. Take your time to resolve it and you will become a better person because of it. Murder will help you grow in holiness!” No, we will demand him to stop right now. We will treat him like a criminal and lock him up, and even execute him. But some people want us to think that doubt is healthy. This is a deception. Doubt is a sin that is even more closely related to our estrangement from God – even more than murder or rape. Anyone who beautifies it is an accomplice, a spiritual criminal. You grow in holiness by stopping murder. You grow in faith by killing doubt.
Jesus Christ has commanded us to teach the nations. The world is looking for solutions to its problems. We might say that it is looking in all the wrong places, but their situation is in fact worse than that. They are not even fighting for the right side, or facing the right direction. Their first problem is their rebellion against God, and all their other problems are only byproducts of this fundamental transgression. So we teach the non-Christians, “No matter what issues you face today, you are miserable and you are dying because your sin has separated you from God. Putting a bandage over a rotting cancer is not going to cure you. You must confess your sins, and return to God through Jesus Christ. Then, you can approach him in unwavering faith, and ask him to grant you his wisdom and to teach you his ways. This is the only hope for you, and the only hope for mankind.”