In a Nutshell
Knowing joy under a régime of testing is a matter of wisdom. We face up to our lack of wisdom by asking God what we want.
* * * * *
What James assuming here about the people addressed in this letter?
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Who is the person addressed here? And why does James turn to the topic of wisdom? We have suggested that this letter is directed at those who are stewards, commissioned to live as the disciples of the Prince of Princes, the One who by God's grace has overcome death for the ones who inherit eternal life, for the servants who are destined to be the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, the full Image-Bearer of God Himself.
In our effort to identify the author and context of this letter we noted the admonition to be open, to acknowledge what is there in the heart. The call to reckon with the truth is a recurring theme of this letter. The letter was written to prevent readers from fooling themselves. James has begun by encouraging stewards to be joyful under trial. As co-workers with the Lord of creation, they are fully involved, as disciples of Jesus Christ, in bringing His handiwork to fulfilment.
James is aware that his readers might not know how to be joyful. They might lack the right interpretation of their stressful situations. They might be overwhelmed by their own sense of weakness, their own sense of their own inability in the face of considerable trials. What is the antidote? It is joy in trial - it is not a presumption that a happy face reduces stress. Rather, it is the quiet disposition towards God that is called for, no matter how stormy and turbulent the challenges may be. This is the way to recognise who one is, in the context of what one faces, as we make faith-filled requests to the One who has called forth our stewardship. That is what the person who lacks wisdom requires, it is the wisdom of joy under trial. Here there can be no tossing and turning; no double-minded instability. One's standing under heaven is assured, so there is no great crisis about that. Faithfully asking for the wisdom to see oneself and one's task in these stewardly terms is simply the way of faith, the way that trusts that God Almighty knows what He is doing.