Welcome to welling, for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. Here we are well into the 21st century. And we are trying to live without reference to God. But God keeps sneaking in many, many ways– in the conscience, in the imagination, even in entertainment on the movies. Recently, there was a movie which showed God as distant, and callous, and selfish. And maybe that’s how you feel about him.
And anyway, I sympathize with the reaction God is getting these days. It could also be the reverse side of the projection, not only a wish projection but a denial of a you too fallacy in logic. We feel we are distanced from God. And we accuse him of being distant from us. We are selfish. We accuse him of selfishness. We are callous. And we accused him of callousness.
Like prayer in that movie– we know that if prayer is to be prayer, it has to be prayer to a God who is not selfish, who’s not callous, who’s not distant. If you’re in that situation, even though you sense failed attempts to relate to him in any good way, the author of the book of James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, would like to correct some concepts of God and invite you to come to him.
That the inner rebel must be rebelled against, that we can trust this God, who in his character, and his abilities, and his purposes will always be present, will do the right thing, will be powerful, and in his infinitude, allows trials so that we can call upon him more. For all James knew, this Jesus who was God coming down to the human situation, bridging the moral distance between God and man.
And if God is God at all, he has to be just, and all good, and powerful, separated from all of us, who are unjust and bad. The distant God came close. The callous God apparently said, I love you enough to do something for you. And I will not be selfish. People have noted that whatever comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us, said A.W. Tozer.
See James’ audience had some wrong concepts of God. He was living in an environment where the theology was poor. They believed that God could be manipulated in some way to get God to perform for them. They thought it needed more than faith. They felt that God could tempt them with evil, or that God changes, that God is unrighteous.
Instead, the God that James presents has a totally different nature. He’s the God who hears when we ask, the God who gives because we need, the God who loves. Whenever it comes to prayer, there is an ongoing question. Why do we need to pray if God already knows what we’re going to ask for? In fact, the Lord Jesus said God knows. And yet, he says pray. Because the spiritual life is not a transactional life. It is a dynamic relationship.
If you have the wrong kind of God– is only transactional– who you’ve got to somehow manipulate, to manipulate, and manipulate in order to get some stuff out of him, then that’s not the right God. Jesus represented the God of grace, the God of gifts, the God of love, was talking about a big-hearted God and an open-handed God, a God who does not have to be prevailed upon, but yet, a God who needs to be asked to maintain the dynamic of the relationship, the expression of dependence and understanding of surrender, saying, God, please help.
That’s the kind of God we pray to. Important is what kind of God you pray to. The great fear of humanity is the question of whether God is approachable, like that movie. But the great promise of the Christian faith– is not only God approachable, he has approached us with a big-hearted love and an open-handed gift.
We can approach God, only on the basis of faith, who doesn’t tempt us with evil, who doesn’t change, does not lead us into sin, therefore, extremely reliable and dependable. He’s not unrighteous. We approach that God. If we lack wisdom– James 1:5– let him ask of God who gives to all people generously and without reproach. And it will be given him, generously and graciously.
He’s a giving God. He’s a loving God– and all your circumstantial testing, and all you need of a spiritual completion, all your need for spiritual health. Your relationship to God is maintained and sustained in prayer, particular prayer, precision prayer, decision prayer. We’ll talk about that in the next episode. But a particular prayer here for all of life and, especially, in trials, for wisdom.
To the God who hears, ask, ask for something in faith, without wavering and doubting. For the doubters is like a man tossed here and there on the ocean. But you ask in faith. You say Lord, I require wisdom. I don’t know how to grow in suffering. I don’t know how to persevere in suffering. I don’t have the joy to find the will to joyify suffering.
I don’t have a perspective which is long-term. It’s so short-term. I’m only concentrating on the present. This God says, I’m approachable, ask me sincerely, without a corrupt, doubting feature of your life, in prayer, ask. By the way, this is an active present, active imperative. Let him keep asking God. Every day we can ask God.
I kind of use an acronym called TASKS. In our prayer to thank him, the T, ask him, for A, seek him is S, knock at his door for K, and serve him for the S– thanking, asking, seeking, knocking, serving. Thanking with joy. Asking in faith. Seeking for wisdom. Knocking for opportunities. Serving others in love.
So there is a dynamic continually communicating, asking, and receiving, giving back and forth by the God who’s to the core gracious and generous. As one commentator says, he gives without anything attached to a simple gift, no strings, no conditions. He doesn’t reserve, hold things back. You don’t have to doubt that he goes back and double guesses. Oh, I shouldn’t have given it to him, like your neighbors do when they give you something.
No. He just gives it. He’s not like us, double-minded in his giving. He is single-minded in his giving. He doesn’t doubt. We doubt. He gives with no motive that’s hidden, no ulterior motive which hesitates. He knows we’re unworthy. He knows we’re fallen. And yet, he’s not reluctant, says the commentator. He’s gracious.
He doesn’t shame you. He doesn’t rebuke you. He doesn’t hold back, just generous and gracious without reserve. That’s where I get the concept of big-hearted giving and open-hearted loving. The God who hears you ask. The God who not only hears, he gives. Not long ago, I tweeted, I said, you want to hold God’s character as good, always good.
You want to hold God’s ability as full, always full. And you want to hold God’s purposes as right, always right. So when you pray, you pray to God whose character is good, whose ability is full, and whose purposes are right. You lack wisdom? Ask God. He gives to all people generously and graciously. It will be given to you.