James (4): Double, double, toil and trouble
Ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-8
Double-minded, duplicitous, two-faced – the list could go on. All imply untrustworthiness. And the opposite – single-minded, simple, single-eyed (see Matt.6:22, AV) – imply sincerity, honesty, transparency, virtues that Christians are bound to aspire to.
But can any of us escape from double-mindedness? James is demanding, as a condition for answered prayer, a standard that few can reach. ‘Ask in faith, without wavering,’ he writes, ‘for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.’
What is it that makes us waver in our faith when we pray? James’ image of the wave may throw light on this. The direction of a wave is determined by the tide, constant and predictable. But acting on that wave, the wind inconstant and unpredictable blows it this way and that, heaves it up and crowns it with white horses of foam. Many are the winds that batter our faith – misfortune, suffering, rationalism, the scepticism of other people, and, above all, the experience of seemingly unanswered prayer.
Other people’s stories of answered prayer may be so foreign to our own experience that we are tempted to think sceptically, ‘Who’s to say that that thing wouldn’t have happened anyway, without any prayer?’
Perhaps our God is too small. Perhaps we tend to create him in our own image and limit him by the paucity of our expectations. James gives a beautiful picture in v.5 of a God who gives to all generously, ungrudgingly, without finding fault. A God who is pure grace.
Whether the object of our prayer is personal – a long-drawn out and intractable problem at work, a family member who shows no sign of becoming a Christian – or worldwide in scope – like peace with justice in the Middle East – may we like Peter walking on the water keep our eyes on the Lord, not on the wind and the waves (Matt.14:28). The Lord who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord to whom nothing is impossible.
His grace, his power, is the inexorable tide that ultimately brings the wave to shore.
May we ask in faith for ChristianBlessings to be a witness for Jesus wherever it is read, and bring glory to Jesus always.