Devotional: May 7th
"Let him ask." This direction might at first sight strike one as being like the specification of the thing lacking, scarcely what we should have expected. Does James say, If any of you lack "wisdom," let him sit down and think? No! "If any of you lack wisdom," let him take a course of reading? No! " If any of you lack wisdom," let him go to pundits and rabbis, and get it from them? No! " If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask." A strange apparent disconnection between the issue and the means suggested! Very strange, if wisdom lives only up in the head! Not so strange if it has its seat in the depths of the human spirit. If you want to learn theology, you have to study. If you seek to master any science, you have to betake yourself to the appropriate discipline. It is of no use to pray to God to make you a good geologist, or botanist, or lawyer, or doctor, unless you also take the necessary means to become one. But if a man wants the Divine wisdom, let him get down on his knees. That is the best place to secure it. " Let him ask "; because that insight, so clear, so vivid, so constant, and so perfectly adequate for the regulation of the life, is of God. It comes to us from the Spirit of God that dwells in men's hearts. And to receive that spirit of wisdom the one thing necessary is that we should want it. That is all. Nothing more, but nothing less. I doubt very much whether hosts of the average Christian people of this generation do want it, or would know what to do with it if they had it; or whether the gift of a heart purged from delusions, and of eyes made clear always to behold the God who is ever with us, and the real importance of the things around us, is the gift that most of us pray for most. " If any man lack wisdom, let him ask." It is a gift, and it is to be obtained from that Holy Spirit who dwells and works in all believers. The measure of their desire is the measure of their possession. That wisdom can be had for the asking, and is not to be won by proudly self-reliant effort. But let us not think that any kind of "asking" suffices to put that great gift in our hearts. The petition that avails must be sincere, intense, constant, and accompanied by corresponding conduct.
Wisdom is not exactly what we should have expected to be named as the main thing lacking in the average Christian. James uses this venerable word with all the associations of its use in the Old Testament, and in all the solemn depth of meaning which he had learned to attach to it, on the lips of psalmists, prophets, and teachers of the true wisdom. If that were at all doubtful, it is made certain by his own subsequent description of " wisdom." He says that it is " from above," and then goes on to ascribe all manner of moral and spiritual good to its presence and working on a man. It is "pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." You cannot say such glowing things about the wisdom which has its scat in the understanding only, can you? These characteristics must apply to something a great deal more august and more powerful in shaping and refining character.
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