5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1)
Do you find it as difficult as I did as you read we are to ask in faith with no doubting? Wait! We aren't allowed to doubt?!
If we tie these verses together, I think the picture we get is that James is standing against those who are double-minded.
For the early Christians, being double-minded meant, “I believe in Jesus, but fear of persecution doesn’t allow me to act out those beliefs." Or, "I believe, but I’m more interested in pursuing wealth.” We could add that one to our list today.
James is calling for authentic faith. The truth is, sometimes that includes doubt. Do you remember the story of the man who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus in Mark 9?
We’ll start in verse 20: And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
I really like Jesus’ response. “‘If you can’!” IF YOU CAN!?!? “All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Can you relate? "I believe! But, help my unbelief." I’m going to say it like this. This kind of unbelief is not what James is talking about. In fact, I would say this kind of unbelief is healthy. If you are honestly working out your faith, if you are being real with yourself, there are going to be moments when you stop and think, "is this real? Is the God thing really legit?"
The question is, is that enough faith for the mercy and grace of God to work on your behalf? Let’s see what Jesus does: And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
Trials are going to come, if they are not already here. Those trials will wear you down. You will wrestle with doubt. To deny that is to turn a blind eye to reality. But, that’s okay. Remember, Jesus said, “If I can?! I can do anything for those who believe.”
God goes to work when the man says, "I believe; help my unbelief."
Let's say you are struggling through some things. Everything isn't going the way you want it to. In the words of Darryl Worley, sounds like life to me. Of course you are struggling. That's why we need Jesus. That's why James uses the word "when" in James 1:2. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. Trials are going to come.
The double-minded man is the one who meets those trials giving lip service to God, pretending to be all put together. Here’s the reality: you’re not.
Let' say I walk up the pulpit Sunday morning with a bloody nose, a ripped shirt and mismatched shoes. You could hear me pulling in the parking lot because my car is falling apart. You rode past my house on the way in, and it was on fire. We’re talking engulfed in flames like when you get your marshmallow too close to the bonfire. You ask me how I’m doing after service, “Is there anything we can do for you?” My response: “Doing great! Life couldn’t be better!” “But Chase, we saw your house on fire this morning!” I say, “Yeah, I’ll get to that when I get home.”
That's absurd, right? But how often do we do the same thing with our spiritual lives? Stop it!
That is what our spiritual communities are built for. We come around each other and say, "I believe. Help my unbelief." You may say, "I'm losing heart. This is difficult." That is when we surround each other and work through our unbelief.
Sources: Some of the points from that sermon and this blog were inspired by a sermon from Matt Chandler: Trials/Temptations