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Godly Values - The Epistle of James

Part 4 - Believe and don't doubt

James 1v6-8

27th April 2018

Many apologies; in my studies on the epistle of James, I left out Chapter 1 verses 6-8. I'll rectify that mistake now, and will re-order the studies next week.

You may remember James's promise that:

James 1:5
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.

James qualifies this promise by saying:

James 1:6-8
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.

I used to misunderstand this. I used to think that if, for example, you prayed for a pay rise, then you must be absolutely certain that you're going to get a pay rise. Or if you ask God for healing you must be completely sure you're going to be healed. But that's not what it means at all! When I pray for my sick friends, I usually don't know if God's going to heal them or not. I pray for them because it's the right, loving thing to do.

James means this: when you pray to God, believe in the One you're talking to. Believe in God. Believe that God is generous. Believe that God's plan is better than yours. Believe that godly values are better than worldly values. Believe that suffering is a price worth paying in order to reach maturity. Believe the word of God.

But most of all, believe that God loves you. The person whose life seems so easy and comfortable and successful who's never sick, and who drives a bigger car than you, is not more loved by God that you are. He's just been given different trials.

Hebrews 12v6-7
...the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

All good fathers discipline their children. God is very good at it. He does quite a lot of it to me. I need it.

So if you're going to ask God for something, believe in the Giver. Believe in God. Believe He's generous, and single-mindedly wants to bless you. And believe that He knows what's good for you, better than you do. Some days, that's really hard to do, because some days we feel like God has let us down, as if He wasn't concentrating, wasn't paying attention, or doesn't care. We know that God is absolutely loving and all-powerful, but sometimes we don't feel like that's true.

And old pastor of mine once said, "If I fall down a manhole, I'll come up with a gold watch". What he meant was, everything that happens to me can be good for me, if I respond to it in the right way, with godly values, not human values.

James says that he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. And he tells us that That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

As I've said, that doesn't mean "if you have any doubt about whether God agrees with you about how wise your prayer is". It means "if you doubt the goodness, love and power of God". James is talking about a double-minded or, literally, a double-souled man, who wants to keep one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot in the world, who wants to live half according to godly values and half according to worldly values. But friendship with worldly values is hatred towards God (see James 4v4).

May God work in your heart and mind so that we at least want to be 100% in the kingdom of God, living 100% according to godly values, not worldly values.

God does know best. The scriptures are pure wisdom. And if you belong to Him, everything that happens to you is for your good. Can you receive that by faith? Believe it because God is good, not because we can work it out using human reasoning, not because we can always see why a trial is good for us - often we can't. Believe it because our heavenly Father wouldn't let bad things happen to us if they weren't good for us.

Some of my friends are in deep distress right now, as a result of physical, relational, financial, emotional or mental trials. I pray for the relief of their suffering, of course, but I also pray that, even in the midst of great distress, they're able to be single-souled, trusting in God and not in their own understanding, always seeking to respond in a godly way, and not a worldly way, to whatever they suffer.

Jesus is Lord, and He will vindicate the righteous, and He will comfort those who mourn.