Many of the Old and New Testament writers focused on the subject of wisdom, and the lack of it. All were in agreement that people should continually seek to be wise, but James gives it a particular spin by stating that being tested in our faith is an occasion for joy, as it produces endurance, which is completed in maturity. If your testing reveals that you lack wisdom, you’re in luck! God gives it freely to anyone who asks:
James 1 (Common English Bible)
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6
When James boldly stated that we should think of various tests as occasions for joy, he was leaning on his own wisdom of what happens when we are tested. His correlation between testing and maturity describes how he understood that wisdom is attained. He understood this as a process, much like Paul understood the correlation between suffering and endurance:
“But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).
For James, the end result was wisdom. For Paul, it was hope.
John Wesley was also a believer in process. He devoted his entire lifetime to seeking wisdom through the Scriptures, and thus was known as an homo unius libri, or a“man of one book,” referring of course to the Bible. Even though he was considered to be one of the most well-read men at Oxford, he attributed his understanding to that One Book. This is why it is important to keep up our daily scripture reading.
Wesley believed in salvation by grace through faith. In his sermon The Scripture Way of Salvation, Wesley lays out a process that begins with prevenient grace and runs through justifying grace, sanctifying grace, and onto Christian perfection. Wesley understood perfection as “having the mind of Christ as he walked” … in other words, “perfection” in the sense of maturity. The end result of perfection is a state of wholeness in which we continue to grow in our knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of God’s amazing grace for us.
We need to be continually seeking God’s wisdom in every circumstance. When the winds of change are swirling around us, and as people’s opinions of what is fact and what is truth change with the whims of those in power, God’s wisdom is our only hope of understanding the real, certain, and unbreakable truth. Seeking wisdom allows us to seek first the kingdom of God and all of its righteousness.
The writer of Proverbs says it well: “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:4b-7 New Revised Standard Version).
In other words, we all need wisdom, so we need to make it a priority to get it before we do anything else. Living with wisdom affects how we think, speak, act, relate to God, and relate to others. Biblical wisdom overrides cultural or situational wisdom every time, and it will last forever. James is right. The testing of our faith produces endurance, and when the work of that testing is complete, we truly will be lacking in nothing. God has wisdom in abundance to pour into everyone … as long as we are willing to ask for it, and willing to receive.