“My ‘Go To Thoughts’ When The Unexpected Happens”
Not long back I got one of those phone calls. I was told by the person “This would be a good time to pray” as they explained a potentially significant life altering change. Emphasis on potentially.
Like many people I jumped about four or five thoughts past “potential.” In my mind I started working through “what if” questions. I thought about bills, income, decisions, and… and… and…
But then something happened I didn’t expect. My mind jumped from all those potential worries to verse after verse after verse of Scripture flooding my mind. Some I hadn’t thought of in a while, but they surfaced none the less.
So I decided when I got home from running errands I would put them to paper (As best I could) so I wouldn’t forget. I wanted to write them down in the order they came to me, but I couldn’t. So I put them in Bible book order… except for the first text recorded below. THAT one I know came first… (I will model what I write below for James 1:5 since I’m sure God put it in my heart before the other texts).
Now, rather than explain the texts by going into preacher mode… I’d will describe a process for driving God’s truth into the soul when I am in the midst of potential uncertainty. This is the way the Holy Spirit prepares me for if the IF happens (Make sense?). And if the IF doesn’t happen, I am further steeled for when an IF does happen.
What follows are things I have done, do, and will do when an IF enters my life. These are not necessarily in sequential order, but are part of a whole some might find helpful.
First, I have settled in my heart to believe God… to take Him at His Word. This means His truth trumps my heart. His truth overrules my logic and arguments. I refuse to allow myself to say “But!” to anything I read in God’s Word (“Ok God, but what IF…” “But what will I do when…” “I see what you’re saying, but I’m scared/afraid/not sure/uncertain/weak/ etc”).
If I begin to slip in regard to taking God at His Word I stop myself and re-read the word, phrase, or passage again (And again… and again, if necessary). I will read the passage until my heart embraces God’s truth. Then I will move on. I may have to repeat this several time.
If you approach Scripture study any other way, you will fail. If you think your logic and/or perspectives are above God’s, you will fail. If you allow yourself to doubt God, you will fail. So decide either you will believe God or go to some other source and try to find comfort there.
ASIDE: I have found if I am to be comforted by God (2 Cor 1:3-7), it will take concentration and time. As it is recorded Jesus said in Mk 6:31, “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (NIV).
Second, I place myself in an environment that minimizes distractions. This is commensurate with hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Mt 5:6).
Third, I ask God for help to see and understand HIM through the Scripture. I’m willing to sit, wait, meditate, ruminate, and contemplate for as long as it takes. Perseverance is the key here. I’m not looking for some great doctrinal thought… I want to know GOD. As it is written in Phil 3:8-11…
I count everything as loss because of THE SURPASSING WORTH of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
THIS is the goal of all Scripture study… to know God and Jesus better. To be filled by the Holy Spirit. For God to reveal Himself to those who seek Him (Mt 11:25, 27; 16:17). I’m not looking for His truth that will nourish, revive, and steady my soul.
Next, I read the passage or verse S-L-O-W-L-Y… many times. I hover on a word or phrase, turning the definition and or meaning over in my mind several times. Then I read it again. If the passage is several verses, I do this for each verse. While I am doing this, I ask God to show/reveal to me His truth (2 Tim 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”). I break the verse or passage down into words, phrases, sentences, or thoughts that make it easier to examine.
ASIDE: I make it my practice NOT to read any commentary until I have worked through the passage myself. Why? I don’t want to be infected with someone else’s thoughts before the Holy Spirit has first implanted in me His truth. THEN I compare what I’ve found with what others have written. If we disagree, I go back to the Scripture again and restart the process asking for the Spirit’s help.
Along The Way, I am writing down my thoughts. I’m jotting down verses that come to mind that support or explain what I’m seeing. Over the years I’ve become able to edit these to a degree as they come to me. Some thoughts I throw out, some I keep… as the Spirit leads through prayer.
Last. I settle on the truth I’ve discovered in the text. Many times now… after years of doing this… I am further affirmed in what I already knew or believed. Thus my studies are kind of like putting a plug in a tire where a nail is, or plugging a leak in a radiator before it busts open and is ruined. Yet there are still times I receive a fresh insight I had missed so many times before.
Now I’d like to take a few moments and BRIEFLY apply this process to Ja 1:5…
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
“If…” If?! IF a person lacks wisdom? Has there ever been a time when anyone knew everything about everything? Has anyone EVER known exactly what to do… what was THE right thing in every situation? It could be that James is being a gracious pastor instead of whipping those he was writing to. This is not IF wisdom is lacked, but identification in a pastoral way of saying… “We’ve all needed help understanding God, life, situations, and ourselves… let me help you with that.”
Application: Identify with God’s people. Speak lovingly. Treat the Bride of Christ with respect in all things… especially when they are trying to seek God and understand life.
“Any of you…” The universal nature of God’s gifts. This includes everyone, not just those who “live right,” but also those who have failed and need help. There is no exclusion. No parties left out. Neither age, gender, social position, educational advancement, nor any other person is excluded from the mercies, help, and grace of God.
Application: ME! My family. My friends. God does not exclude any of us… nor anyone we talk to. What a great and awesome thing God sets forth through James! When I fail… I can still access God, talk with Him, and He will answer (Expand).
“Lacks wisdom…” Lacks & wisdom. No one in this life reaches perfection. There will always be short falls and failing to be perfect. The lack (Short coming) in this verse is specifically related to “wisdom.”
Wisdom? Does this mean knowing God or fearing of Him (Pr 9:10)? Could wisdom possibly be knowledge and understanding self/others? Does this wisdom refer to understanding situations? Or could it be all of the above.
In the context of 1:2-4 it seems to be first and foremost understanding trials believers experience. If Ja 1:5 is right (And it is), then we can find out from God WHY a trial is happening… HOW we are to respond… WHAT we are to learn… and WHAT God may be doing in our life and/or the life of others through us. In context there is nothing excluded from what we can ask God for wisdom about. Imagine this deeply with the rest of the verse… imagine the peace & freedom this gives to the believer in heart, mind, and spirit! Oh that we would take God at His Word in the things of life as James asserts.
“Let him ask God…” Here in is the crux of the matter. Ask God. When it comes to who we are to seek counsel from, it is God Himself. Others can help to a degree, but not like God. Books can be of some aid, only in as much as they access God’s truth. In opposition or exclusion to all those sources, the believer is implored… encouraged… pushed to ask GOD. The creator of the universe… the one who holds all things in His hand… the one who works all things for their good… the one who is always loving, good, gracious, and merciful. Why would we go anywhere else OR not to seek Him at all??
“Who gives…” Ponder this. God does not withhold from anyone (!) who seeks or asks of Him. He gives mainly because He is the source of every (!) good and perfect gift (Ja 1:17). God has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings that cannot be contained. Not necessarily of material nature but of righteous peace (Heb 12:11) that comforts the soul.
“Generously…” God is not stingy! Those who drink at His fountain are satisfied with abundance and more than they need. As when Jesus fed thousands with baskets of fish and bread left over, so God will supply to every person who seeks after Him to gain wisdom. The best thought here is what is found in Rom 8:31-32, “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (!) And then there are the “how much more” of Mt 7:11, 12:12, 12:24, 12:28!!
“To all…” All? Children… Elderly… Slave… Free… Rich… Poor… Educated… Uneducated. ALL… without exception? There is only one exception as to who will not be given wisdom… the person that doesn’t seek it from God (Jehovah God). Oh that I… believers… everyone would make God our first option rather than our last request (Copied)! No one can blame God for not giving. If we (I!) don’t receive it is because the request isn’t put to the throne of God! After all, consider the following…
Heb 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Heb 11:6 Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
“Without reproach…” This means willing to listen. Willing to submit. Not to rebel. In other words, we must take God at His Word. Believe Him. Have faith. Accept what He says and proclaims. Why? God doesn’t lie. He is always good… loving… gracious… and merciful. ALWAYS. Yet even in our faith we are faithless. We are like the father of the young boy possessed by demons, when Jesus stated, “All things are possible for those who believe.” The dad responded, “If believe, HELP MY UNBELIEF!” (Mk 9:20-24). It is here that we rely upon the Spirit as found in Ro 8:26-27 to interceded for us because we don’t know how to pray even when we are praying the best we can. Here again is the gift of God for those who seek Him! Oh what a blessing!
“And it will…” IT WILL… Certain. Assured. Guaranteed. Without doubt. There is absolutely no possibility of the one who seeks God’s wisdom for them to be turned away. Regardless of their situation or station in life, God WILL give them His wisdom. Even if they’ve failed (And all have sinned!), God has promised to GIVE the wisdom He is asked for.
Diamonds don’t lie on the ground; you have to dig to find them. Gold doesn’t hang from trees; it has to be mined to be attained. Thus it is with God’s Word. Devotional reading is good for a moment, but it is when the Word is mined that rich nuggets are exposed.
My prayer is that you will take this and use it. You don’t need a seminary education to know or understand God. You have the Holy Spirit (See 1 Jn 2:27). All it takes is a little time, effort, and prayer.
Pr 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Lk 11:11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Lk 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
Lk 12:27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
Ro 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Pet 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.