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The Giving God

I think it holds true with a lot of people that the primary reason they don’t pray as they know they should is lingering doubt about the character of God. Continue reading . . .

I think it holds true with a lot of people that the primary reason they don’t pray as they know they should is lingering doubt about the character of God. What’s he like? Does he really want me to ask him for help? What is he thinking of me when he hears me cry out for answers?

There is an interesting passage in the Epistle of James that goes a long way to answering those concerns. James has just told his readers to “count it all joy” when they encounter “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). But let’s be honest: sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done. On occasion, trials are so random and sudden and seemingly undeserved that counting them an opportunity for joy is beyond our ability. We need wisdom and insight to see things from God’s point of view. And that is precisely why James proceeds to say:

“If any of you lacks wisdom [that is to say, the sort of ‘wisdom’ that will enable you to benefit spiritually from these many and varied trials you face], let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

The wisdom we need comes only from God. This isn’t the wisdom that one gains from pursuing a Ph.D. or reading a book on management and leadership skills. As Proverbs 2:6 indicates, it is “the Lord [who] gives wisdom.” Of course, God may choose to utilize any number of means to impart wisdom to us, but we must never lose sight of the fact that wisdom is a gift of God.

So, notice three things about God in this verse. First, he gives “generously.” However, perhaps “generosity” isn’t the best rendering of this word. It may mean something more like “single-minded” or “sincere” or “undivided” or “wholehearted”. In other words, God isn’t conflicted about whether or not to give. He gives with singular intentionality.

The assurance spoken of here, that God will most assuredly give us what we ask, echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7 – “ask and it will be given to you.” Jesus grounds that promise in the character of God: if we being evil happily give good gifts to our children, how much more will God, who is incomparably good, give good things when his children ask (Matt. 7:11). So too James grounds his assurance to us in the generosity and goodness of God.

Second, he gives indiscriminately, which is the point of the word “all” in v. 5. He doesn’t just give to tall people or red-headed little girls or people with good-paying jobs or people whose suffering is far worse than most others. Whatever the nature of your affliction, regardless of your station in life, God gives.

Third, and perhaps most important of all, God does this “without reproach” (v. 5c). What an interesting choice of words? What does it mean? I think several things are in mind.

It means that God will not mock us for asking. He won’t scold us or make fun of us or throw it back in our faces that we had the audacity to ask him for wisdom. God will never respond to our request for wisdom by saying: “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you figure this out on your own? You dummy! You idiot! How much longer do I have to put up with you? Oh, all right, since you’ve asked, I’ll answer and provide you with the wisdom you need. But you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not having made sense of life on your own.”

Neither does God say or think to himself, when you come to him in prayer: “Good grief. Not you again! Haven’t I already done enough in your life?” In other words, wrapped up in this word “without reproach” is the idea that God will not berate us by constantly reminding us in the days ahead of what he did in times past. So don’t come to God in prayer fearful that if he answers you he will constantly remind you of it for the rest of your life and make you feel guilty for having the audacity to have asked in the first place.

So, come to the throne of grace often and with confidence and cry out to your Heavenly Father for all you need, whether wisdom to navigate the choppy waters of trial and hardship, or patience to endure that annoying boss, or strength to resist that recurring temptation, or simply the capacity to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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