6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8
I have a word picture for you, but first let me explain something. This scripture I have read countless of times. When we face various trials, James tells us that if we lack wisdom ask, and ask in faith not doubting, for if we doubt we are tossed about like the surf of the sea…being a double minded man unstable in all our ways.
I have always looked at that scripture as when we ask for anything…and nearly all of the commentaries I read address this verse the same way… when we ask God for anything. I put it in the context with all the other scripture about asking in faith. However, as I read it recently I noted that James starts the chapter giving us a specific directions on how to respond to our trials. He instructs us to consider it pure joy when we encounter various trials, for we know the specific trial God allows will be the very thing that will produce endurance, and endurance in turn will produce in us a maturity and completeness, and we will be lacking in nothing.
Then James explains that if we lack wisdom we should ask God to give us wisdom to know how to respond to this trial. In addition, the next verse says that we must ask in faith. Suddenly, I’m looking at this completely different now. The instruction to ask in faith without wavering is directly connected to our asking for wisdom and believe that God will give wisdom if we do not doubt.
James goes on to say that, our doubting causes us to be like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind and unstable. So, here’s my word picture.
Furthermore, as we continue to stand there on the shore with the water…uh trial… washing over our feet back and forth back and forth…and you know what I’m talking about. As we stand there double minded, trying to figure out our next step, fear and doubt rush in upon us and we step back. The longer we halt at the point of decision the more unstable we become and the more confused and anxious we get. How long does it take before we begin to feel the sand underneath our feet begin to shift? It starts moving, ever so gradually at first, but the water or trial erodes the sand under our feet. Now we find that we have nothing solid to hold on to, and now we are forced to step out and make a decision in faith, or stay on the sinking sand.
If we try to ignore the trial, hoping it will go away, and not taking any action, we find ourselves as James identifies us, unstable in all our ways. We are tossed back and forth…wanting what God wants…for us to step out in faith and trust that he gave an answer, but then pulling back and doubting that anything is going to work or make any difference.
I shared this with my co-workers today and one of them suggested that doubting leaves us unable to get anything from God. As we put all this in context with other scriptures about ask in faith without doubting, knock and keep knocking, ask and keep asking, say to the mountain, be cast into the sea and do not doubt, my co-worker commented that perhaps if we don't ask in faith for wisdom, doubting because God says he gives liberally to all who ask, then perhaps we not only don't get wisdom, we don't get anything.
When Elijah was dealing with Ahab, in I Kings 18:21 on Mount Carmel, he asked the people, “How long will you halt between two opinions. If it is God follow him or if Ba’al follow him. James talks about us doing the same thing when we are hesitant to follow the directives God gives.
So, the next trial you encounter, ask God to show you what you need to do, and stand firm, believing he will give you an answer. Then step out in faith taking the action he has impressed upon your heart and let him work his miracle. That’s walking on water!