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“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2-8)
The Principle Thing
We begin first by a passage from Prov. 4:3-7. Solomon here describes an exhortation pressed on him by his father David when Solomon was a young man. “Wisdom is the principle thing. In all your getting, get wisdom.”When Solomon says “in all your getting” he knew what he was speaking of. He was a man who got everything (Ecc. 2). The point is as easy to trivialize as it is profound. You are here to get wisdom. That is the chief thing, the principle thing.
And according to the James passage that we began with, wisdom is always right there for the taking (Jas. 1:5). Wisdom is near. Solomon emphasizes the nearness of wisdom as well (Prov. 1:20). Wisdom is on the lowest branch. But the reason that Wisdom is so near is that Wisdom is not just a concept. Wisdom is a person, a divine and omnipresent person. Wisdom is Christ (Prov. 8). It makes sense that Wisdom is the principle thing, because it is Christ. The chief thing, in every situation is that we get more and more of Jesus. And we get more of Jesus when we grow to be like him, when we grow more and more Christ-like.
Wisdom in Adversity
Now James brings up wisdom in this passage because he is talking about people who need wisdom, people who are in the midst of a great trial. But notice something subtle here. We are prone to cry out for wisdom in our trials because we need wisdom to get through our trials. But Solomon says that wisdom is the principle thing.
Wisdom is the point. And if that is the case, then we don’t need wisdom to get through trials. We need trials to get us to wisdom.
And this upends everything. Because when we are in a trial, the temptation in the flesh is to set all our hopes, all our prayers, all our expectations on the other side of the trial. We think that deliverance in the trial will always come in the form of getting to the other side. We put all of our hopes in the future and we completely miss the principle thing – getting wisdom, becoming Christ-like.
James contrasts earthly wisdom with a wisdom that comes from above. There is a Heavenly Wisdom, which delivers us from lust and confusion. This means that the trial that you are currently going through is the point. The suffering that you are currently undergoing is the point. There is a way in which you are currently not Christ-like. And this current situation that you are in, this situation is custom-made for you to address this current weakness present in you. Wisdom is near you. It is here in the present tense, pointing out all the ways that you can turn from your sin and be more Christ-like. Count it all joy, James says, because this current trial is turning you into something better, something perfect.