Cheryl and Michael & I were waiting in the drive through at Wendy’s the other day, and it looked like the people in front of us were having a difficult time making up their mind as to what they wanted to order. Cheryl came up with the idea that they should have two lines at the drive-throughs: one for people who know what they want, and one for people who can’t make up their mind. Michael immediately chipped in: “Like Dad!” Hey, sometimes it’s just hard to know what you want!
Well, I would suggest to you that not being able to make up your mind at McDonald’s or Wendy’s is not the worst thing in the world. But when it comes to our commitment to God, we need to be decisive. This what we are going to see in James 1:6-8 today.
Last week we saw that when we are going through trials, we should ask God for the wisdom we need to see things from His perspective, and to act wisely in our trial, and that He will give us what we need. Now, someone may say, “Well, I asked the Lord for wisdom, and He hasn’t shown me anything.” God is faithful to His promise; what you need to do is make up your mind if you are really going to be committed to the Lord. James says in verses 6-8:
“But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Let’s read the first chapter of James together again, and then look at how a total commitment to the Lord is an important part of “What Real Faith Looks Like.”
I. A Faith Commitment
James says if you want God to answer your prayer for wisdom in your trial, you need to ask in faith. “But let him ask in faith, without any doubting”, he says. Again, James may be basically quoting what He had heard Jesus say many times before, in verses like Matthew 21:21, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. So James says we need to ask in faith.
Well, how do you know if you are asking in faith? First of all, the “faith” James is talking about is not just any faith. Especially in this election year, you hear a lot of politicians talk about being “people of faith.” But when they talk about faith, they are not talking about the faith of the Bible. When James talks about “faith” here, he is talking about the kind of faith he was speaking about in :1, where he said that he was “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is a very specific faith, based on a total commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord. So when you are asking in “faith”, you are asking on the basis of that committed relationship you have with Him. From that commitment, then you are asking in faith if you are asking with the kind of fervor and consistency that we talked about last week:
— if you ask persistently — more than just a quick prayer.
— if you seek His answer in His word like you would for silver or gold
— if you seek through godly counsel: asking wise Christians who know God’s word what insight they can give you.
— and very basically, asking in faith means that you really do believe that there IS something in your situation that God is trying to do. James told us earlier to “count it all joy in (our) various trials, KNOWING that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” That word “knowing” refers to the fact that if you really believe in God, then you have faith that He really DOES have some specific purpose for what you are going through. If you really believe that, and search for His purposes the way we talked about, then you are truly “asking in faith.”
But ask yourself, AM I doing that? It is one thing to SAY you want to know God’s wisdom; it is another to really search for it diligently. The Lord got me up early yesterday morning (about 4:45) and I was doing a little “prayer walk” in circles through the house. About the time I was wrapping it up, I saw that there were some cars out in the street, so I went over and looked, and the whole street was lined with cars! Our neighbors, Aaron & Chelsea Shackleford who attend here, were having a garage sale, and people were getting there early. I looked at the clock, and it was 5:30 — on a Saturday morning! I thought, they must REALLY must want those treasures that Aaron & Chelsea have! And then I thought, do the people who say they want GOD’S treasures seek for it in the same way? Do they get up at 5:00 or 5:30 to PRAY; to seek God’ word? Are they searching for His word like as they do for “garage sale treasures”?
THAT is part of what it means to “ask in faith” — to be truly committed to Jesus as your Savior, and to truly KNOW that God has a purpose for what you are going through, and to seek Him for it like you would for treasure.
I don’t want you to be afraid that when he says here, “ask in faith, without any doubting” that it means that if you have any shadow of doubt somewhere in your heart, that it means that God won’t answer your prayer and give you His wisdom. That is NOT what this verse is talking about. James describes later, in the next couple of verses, the kind of “doubt” that he is talking about — and he doesn’t mean someone who has some little nagging doubts. He is not talking about a Christian person who sometimes cries “I believe, help my unbelief.” The best and strongest of us have those moments. He is referring to is a much deeper problem, one which goes to the very heart of a person’s commitment to God. Let’s look at the kind of doubting that James IS talking about — because many of us in the American church are just like the kind of person he describes here:
II. A Lack of Commitment
What James was referring to is the lack of total commitment to Jesus that many professed Christians demonstrate. He uses two illustrations to express that lack of commitment:
A. “Tossed by the wind”
He says in :6 that “the one who doubts” in the way he is talking about “is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” What he describes here is a person with a basic instability in their commitment to the Lord. They have no “anchor” for their soul. they are “driven and tossed” like a wave in the wind.
These words: “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” are some of the very same Greek words that Paul uses in Ephesians 4:14, where he says that when we grow to spiritual maturity, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine …”.
In both of these passages, the picture is of being tossed about in whatever direction by the wind and waves. There is no stability there; there is no “anchor.” They just go up, down, wherever way the wind blows them.
I’m sure you’ve seen a cork bob up & down on a wave? James had lived by the Sea of Galilee! He had seen things bob in the waves too — and that is the picture he uses here. Unfortunately, that is the picture of many of our lives. We are “bobbing up & down” just like a cork, sometimes soaring up to heaven, sometimes sinking in worldliness.
One of the things this kind of inconsistency reveals is a lack of a basic commitment to the Lord. RCH Lenski writes: “Alas, too many speak proper words when they pray amid trials, but they do not mean them in the bottom of their hearts.” He is talking about the person who can’t really decide if they want God’s purpose for themselves or not — or do they want something else? Jesus asked the blind man in Mark 10:51, “What do you want Me to do for you?” — that is NOT always the obvious question we might think it is! What do you really want? Do you really want God’s purpose for yourself, or not?! Do you really want to overcome that temptation, or are you inwardly looking forward to giving in to it again? Do you really want His will, or are you just wanting to consider it? Do you really MEAN the words of your prayer, or are you just “saying the right thing”? This is a soul-searching question! What do you really want? THAT is what James is talking about here when he says you mustn’t doubt when you ask. He’s not saying you can’t have little “nagging doubts.” He’s saying you’ve got to be committed; you can’t be be “up and down” about what you really want from God.
The same word used here for not doubting is used in Romans 4:20, where it says that Abraham, tested in regard to Isaac, “did not waver in unbelief.” Now, the truth is, there were times that Abraham had doubts about whether Sarah was going to give him an heir. You can’t say that Abraham never had “nagging little doubts.” But the basic commitment of his life to God never wavered. That is what James is talking about here, too. He is not saying that unless you don’t ever have any doubts in your mind, God will never answer your prayers. He’s saying that He’s not going to answer someone who is not really committed to Him; who wants God’s wisdom and blessing one moment, and the world’s wisdom and blessing the next! You can’t be “up and down” on what you really want, and expect God to answer you.
This word, “double-minded” is “di/psuchos”, literally, “two-souled.” In the whole New Testament this word is only used here and in James 4:8, where James says, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Many believe that James coined this word, because it is never used anywhere in literature before James was written, but it is quoted in several other Christian documents after James. And you can see WHY they would quote it; it is quite a picturesque word: someone with “two minds.” It describes someone who does not have a total commitment to the Lord.
— II Kings 17:33 says of Israel that: “They worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods.” They were “double-minded”, trying to serve both Yahweh and false gods at the same time.
— In Galatians 2, Paul called Peter out for acting one way when he was with Gentiles, and another way when he was with Jews. Paul called him hypocritical, which is a form of being “double-minded.”
John Bunyan, in his classic book, Pilgrim’s Progress, calls one of his characters, “Mr. Facing Both Ways”. Charles Spurgeon wrote a typically “Spurgeonesque” description of those who act like “Mr. Facing Both Ways”:
New company makes them new men. Like water, they boil or freeze according to the temperature. Some do this because they have no principles; they are of the weathercock persuasion, and turn with the wind… north, south, east, west, north-east, north-west, … or any other in all the world. Like frogs they live on land or water, and are not at all particular which it is …
Others … are so good-natured that they must needs agree with everybody…. Their brains are in other people’s heads. If they were at Rome they would kiss the pope’s toe, but when they are at home they make themselves hoarse with shouting “No Popery.” They admire the vicar of Bray, whose principle was to be the Vicar of Bray whether the Church was Protestant or [Catholic]. … They have no backbones; you may bend them like willow wands, backwards or forwards, whichever way you please. They try to be Jack-o’-both- sides, but deserve to be kicked like a football by both parties.
Being “double-minded” is like having a “split personality” in your spiritual life:
— It means you have one mind in the church, and another mind on the job
— one mind on Sunday morning; another mind on Saturday night
— one mind when you are in Sunday School, another in the High School.
There are many ways of being “double-minded”, but it basically means that you don’t really have a firm commitment one way or another.
In “Christianity Today” magazine some months ago, they had an article entitled, “Hipster Faith.” It talks about how many younger people today are not content to follow a “traditional” kind of Christianity, but want to be “cool” like their friends in the world are: the “hipster” churches meet in bars, and they may sip beers while they discuss theology; they rebel against authority, curse in their sermons for shock effect, and smoke and drink many of the same things their secular friends do. The author of the article doesn’t make a judgement on “Hipster Faith”, but he does ASK how they reconcile being a “hipster” with the Bible’s admonition for us to be different from the world. And he asks if it is not just another example of the church trying to imitate the world, which is a never-ending chase which never brings us closer to Biblical Christianity.
I think that what we see in that “Hipster Faith” is a group of people are paralyzed between the choice of being “cool” and being “Christian.” I think for a whole generation, maybe two now, we have seen in much of Christianity a deisre to be BOTH “cool” and “Christian” at the same time. For many churches, it seems like the most important consideration in the choice of a youth minister is that he is “cool” and can relate to the kids. Doesn’t matter if he knows a lick of theology or not — and many of them don’t! The “unpardonable sin” in much of modern ministry is not being “cool.” The problem is, there comes a time when you can’t be “cool” and Christian at the same time. Yet thousands of Christians (or would-be Christians) basically find themselves paralyzed between wanting to both be “hip” and follow Jesus.
Now, to be fair, many of the “hipsters” are just rebelling against what they have seen in the older generation, who have had their own double-minded compromise with the world. They have seen many of the older generation compromise their faith with materialism and the so-called “American Dream”, where being a “good Christian” is equated with having a nice home, an SUV, a membership at the golf course, and watching “Fox News.” Many middle-class Americans have their own version of being “double-minded” — are they more committed to serving God, or mammon?
Whatever form it takes, this is just what James is talking about when he describes the “double-minded” person. They haven’t really decided what they want the most. They kind of want the Lord, but they really like the world, too.
THAT is the person James says who is not going to get his prayers answered by the Lord. It is not the one who has little “nagging doubts.” It is the person who wants to “ride the fence” spiritually, who is half-hearted in their commitment to God — and then wants to claim all these verses like James 1:5 about what God is going to do for them. Too many people are trying to claim God’s promises without meeting God’s conditions! James says: “Let not that man expect that he will receive ANYTHING from the Lord …”. You aren’t going to get an answer from God until you have a single-minded commitment to Him!
III. The Effects of Commitment
The kind of commitment you have to God will affect everything you do. James said, “The double-minded man (is) unstable in ALL his ways.” This tells us that your faith commitment– whatever it is — will affect every aspect of your life, for better or for worse. If you are not totally committed to the Lord, then you will be unstable in ALL your ways — in every area of your life.
You may have heard of a two-headed snake, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen a rarity. One of the reasons they are so rare is that they usually do not live long, because the two heads compete for control of the body. So when they face a predator, for example, one head wants to go one way, and the other head another, and the body is basically paralyzed — and the snake ends up being killed.
The same thing happens to us when we are “double-minded” like James describes here. It makes us “unstable in ALL (our) ways.” You can’t have a solid direction for your life when you haven’t really nailed down who you are going to serve. It just “paralyzes” you, like that snake. And it affects everything you do. EVERY area of your life is affected by your commitment or LACK of commitment to the Lord.
When you are a genuine believer, every area of your life is affected by your commitment to Christ. Landry Jones, the quarterback for the University of Oklahoma, is an example of someone with a total commitment to the Lord. In an interview with the Baptist Press the other day, he said that he was not a football player who happens to be a Christian; he is a Christian who happens to play football. There is a BIG difference! Too many people try to just “add” Jesus into their lives, as a little part of their life. They want to do whatever they were going to do anyway — only now with a cross around their neck! That is NOT “What Real Faith Looks Like.” Genuine faith affects everything you do.
An example of how Jones’ faith affects every area of his life was in his decision to come back to OU for his senior year. He was projected to be a first-round draft pick for the NFL last spring, and would have made millions of dollars. But he chose to come back to OU for one more year. People speculated on the reason he made his decision, but the truth recently came out. Many were shocked that it had almost nothing to do with either money or football. Jones had just married another strong Christian from OU, basketball player Whitney Hand. They decided that it would not be good for him to be away at the NFL for the first year of their marriage. So they decided for him to come back to OU. It wasn’t money or his “career” which was most important, it was his commitment to his marriage because he is a follower of Christ that determined his decision. That’s what it means that Jones is not “a football player who happens to be a Christian.” His commitment to Jesus Christ determines what He will do in every area of his life. That is what total commitment means. That “is what real faith looks like”!
Now, you contrast that with a lot of football players and other celebrities who “profess” to be Christians, but who live the “party scene”, and have children outside of marriage, and who act in every way just like their lost friends do, the only difference is that they claim to know Jesus. But they do not have a genuine commitment to Christ, and it shows, because the double-minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. Your faith affects EVERYTHING you do. The way you live reveals your commitment to the Lord.
This scripture is calling some of you today to determine who you are really going to be. Are you going to be a totally committed follower of Jesus Christ, or not? Are you going to be a “cool person” no matter what, or are you going to be a follower of Christ no matter what? The subtitle of the article on “Hipster Faith” is “What happens when cool meets Christ?” That is an important question: what happens? What happens any time two priorities collide is that you are faced with a choice as to who or what you are really going to be committed to.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” He said the Great Commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart”. Not SOME of it — ALL of it! Jesus made it clear that you cannot remain “double-minded” and belong to Him. You have to make a choice — a real commitment which will affect every area of your life.
Joshua told the Israelites in Joshua 24:15, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”. Then he made his choice: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Elijah said to the Israelites on Mount Carmel: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (I Kings 18:21)
You have the same choice this morning. God is calling you to choose Him, as the One, True Lord & God of your life. Hebrews 6:19 says that will be like “an anchor for your soul.” When you have that solid commitment to Jesus, you will not be driven here and there by the wind like James talks about, but you will be anchored by your commitment to Jesus Christ. And you can be confident that God will answer your prayers, and give you the wisdom you need in your trials. But if you really DO have that commitment, it won’t be hard to spot, because it will affect every decision you make, and everything you do. THAT is “What Real Faith Looks Like”!