Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
James 1:2-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 My brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
9 Let the believer[b] who is lowly boast in being raised up, 10 and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.
12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord[c] has promised to those who love him.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The New Testament Letter of James is very much focused on how we live out our faith. The relatively short letter is filled with instruction about putting faith into action and not just into words. A sentence that stands out in these verses from the first chapter of James is verse 5: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”
Think back, if you can, to the conversations you’ve had about being granted three wishes from a genie newly released from a lamp you just found and polished. Remember? I can remember having that conversation with my cousins when we were kids. What would you wish for? I remember the first time it occurred to me that wishing for more wishes was the best option. We then got into competition about that. “I would ask for a thousand more wishes.” “I would ask for a million!” “I would ask for a million million!” And then, the mathematical concept was invoked that was always invoked by the first one to think of it and the one who consequently was the last one to speak: “I would ask for infinity wishes!”
Three wishes were never enough after that! So, we’d have to make a rule. “Okay, if you could ONLY have three wishes, what would they be?” Well, I can remember that the answers changed some through the years when we would talk about that: a million dollars, to be a famous movie star or rock star, a cool car, a girlfriend, or a mansion. When we were feeling more philanthropic or altruistic, we would give up one of our wishes for world peace or an end to world hunger.
There are not many Bible stories I remember hearing for the first time. But, the story of King Solomon as a newly-anointed young king is one I remember.
Solomon was a young king. He had struggled to ascend to the throne that was righfully his, even though he was not the eldest son of his father, the great king David. Now he was king and he went to worship at the high place at Gibeon because at this time there was still no Temple in Jerusalem. As he worshipped there, he fell asleep and had a powerful dream—one of those vivid dreams that help you clarify who you are and what you are about. The ones that you remember the rest of your life. God came to him in this dream and said—much like Alladin’s genie—Solomon, you may have anything you wish.
What would you have answered? Riches? Honor? Long life? Those are the usual answers, aren’t they? God is used to the prayer made famous in a song thirty years ago, “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porshes, I must make amends.” God is used to the bargaining prayers, “Lord, if you’ll let me win the lottery, I’ll give half to the church!” God, I’m sure, has heard them all.
But, Solomon’s prayer was different. His prayer has been a model prayer used by many leaders since. Harry Truman prayed Solomon’s prayer when he was sworn in as president.
You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?
It is a great moment for Solomon. God is pleased with his prayer and says that he will give him wisdom, as he asked for it, and also all those things he did not ask that are usually at the top of the list: honor and riches.
I don’t remember where I was or who told me this story for the first time. What I do remember is my complete surprise and my utter puzzlement that Solomon did not ask for a million dollars or a cool car or fame or any of the other things always on my list! I remember thinking that wisdom was not that big a deal and how I would have failed God’s test. Wisdom was not at the top of my list. It didn’t even make my list!
Times change. Today, it is most certainly on my prayer list! I pray for wisdom, like James 1:5 suggests.
What do you pray for? Do you pray for wisdom for our leaders? Do you pray for wisdom for yourself?
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul.
Holy Spirit, Truth divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine;
Word of God and inward light
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.
Holy Spirit, Love divine,
Glow within this heart of mine;
Kindle every high desire;
Perish self in Thy pure fire.
Holy Spirit, Pow’r divine,
Fill and nerve this will of mine;
Grant that I may strongly live,
Bravely bear, and nobly strive.
Holy Spirit, Right divine,
King within my conscience reign;
Be my Lord, and I shall be
Firmly bound, forever free.
Holy Spirit, Peace divine,
Still this restless heart of mine;
Speak to calm this tossing sea,
Stayed in Thy tranquility.
Holy Spirit, Joy divine,
Gladden Thou this heart of mine;
In the desert ways I sing,
“Spring, O Well, forever spring.”
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster