The Nature of Doubt in James 1:6-8

June 29, 2009

As a preacher, few things bring me greater joy than when people come to chat and probe the truth of the passage preached on!  After yesterday’s message, several people were interested talking more about the kind of doubt James is referring to in chapter 1:6-8. I thought I’d provide some written words to supplement yesterday’s message explaining how I understand the passage.  Blessings!

~ Jeff

“6But 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. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

Notice how differently God responds to two kinds of people.
The faithful man: v.5 – “he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault”
The doubting man: v.7 – “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;”

There is a strong form of doubt being spoken of here. It’s rooted in the Greek word “diakrino,” meaning to judge. It’s like your deciding between options, but wavering in your decision. This looks beyond the moment of asking to the general condition of this person’s character.

The language of worldliness is also used: “double-minded & unstable.” That helps us understand the nature of the doubt spoken of here. People are not certain if they truly want to walk with Jesus or walk with the world.

An illustration: Do you remember how the prophet Elijah confronted the idolatrous people of Israel on Mt Carmel? Most people remember how he mocked the prophets of Baal. But first he confronted the people of Israel. He said, “How long will you waver between two opinions! If the Lord is God, follow him. If Baal is God, follow him!” They were not sure if they wanted to walk with God or go after Baal. They wavered. They had doubt.

That’s the type of person that James is speaking too. That language of double-minded is worldliness. It’s wavering and unstable. They might feel compelled to go to God when it’s tough, but they are not sure they want to walk with God when the storm clears.  The doubting person is not certain whether they’d prefer to walk with God and grow as a Christian or walk with the world and indulge its pleasures.  But they need help in the hardship so they ask God. If they go to God just to get “bailed out,” they should not expect God to respond.  The passage says God will not answer the prayer.

God responds to those seeking wisdom in the trial to cope with it correctly. God responds to those seeking wisdom in the trial for growth in Christian character. To such people, he responds generously without finding fault. But to those worldly minded people who doubt they really want to grow as Christians, there will be no wisdom coming from God.

A person of faith calls out to God and says, “I trust you Lord! My hope is in you Lord! Yes there is pain in my heart. Yes I question why I have to go through this. Yes I’m hurting. But I am trusting you and you alone to see me through this! You are my strength. You alone! I am trusting you to lead me to any resources that can help me.  Please give me wisdom.  Help me discern how You’re working in my life.  Help me handle this in a way that brings you glory and good to those around me.”  God responds with lavish generosity to such people.

Seek God in your trials. Ask for wisdom. But ask with the desire to discern how he is helping you become more like Chirst. And he will come close to you generously providing wisdom, as promised!

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