Trials: Doubt that Defeats Us (James 1:6-8)

by Scott Brooks


James 1:6-8

INTRO: Just so you know last week if you were here – you know what I mean – we froze our rear ends off. Our system is set at 71 but it wouldn’t shut off and it was 64 degrees in here. I was shivering up here. Now….What you don’t know is that it’s all part of this sermon series on trials. Folks, have patience and endurance! Consider it pure joy when you go through the trial of hypothermia! People didn’t just give their money last week. We saw fingers that fell off from frostbite. I was like, Man these people are giving sacrificially! Last week we talked about asking God for wisdom in the middle of the trial. Today we are going to jump right back into James’ train of thought in v 6-8. Let’s read it.

DOUBT: Ask in faith with no doubting. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James gives us a great word picture of doubting: a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. So if we follow the logic – study the wave of a sea, we’ll understand doubt. Yesterday I just received some stunning pictures of waves from lake Erie yesterday. They were taken during a strong storm in the late fall. Just take a look at them. The photographer was Dave Sanford.

That is doubt. Waves driven by the wind. Back and forth. Up and down. First here; then there. James says if you ask God for wisdom don’t come asking like this. A person who doubts is driven by external forces. Tossed around by elements stronger than her. This is a real head-scratcher. In the previous verse, God just promised to give wisdom without finding fault BUT now He says but don’t expect your prayer for wisdom to be answered if you have doubt. What happened to “without fault”? I liked without fault. Not only that but who has not struggled with doubt or had perfect faith?

DOUBLE-MINDED: James goes on even further to explain what kind of doubt he has in mind when he wrote this. This word “double-minded” is not the exact translation. In the Greek it is “double-souled”. A split soul. This word double-souled is used for the first time here. But it wasn’t a new concept to those who were Jews. Psalm 12:1-2 says this, “Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” Hosea 10:2 talks about a “false heart”. Psalm 119 talks about pursuing God with a “whole heart”. In fact, the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 and repeated by Jesus in Matthew 22 speaks to this idea of worshipping God will ALL our heart, all our soul, and with all our mind. 100%.

HONEST DOUBT: The reality is that every Christian has struggled with doubt, including some of the most famous people of faith. Has anyone read the Psalms? 35:17 “How long O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!”…v22-24, “You have seen, O lord; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!”

We’ll read Psalm 13. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

These are songs expressing the doubts that trials evoke in all of us. Is God is just simply looking on? God won’t say a word. God seems asleep. Seems like God has forgotten me. It’s like God hides his face from me? Abraham didn’t have perfect faith. Moses didn’t have perfect faith. David didn’t have perfect faith. Were they double-minded? Were they doubting like this? God put them in the hall of faith. I wonder if sometimes we sanitize these comments and give them a free pass. Oh, they didn’t really feel that. Oh, they didn’t struggle with anger at God or depression at His silence and the subsequent doubts those struggles brought. They had an honest doubt which I think is different than this double-minded doubt.

I have struggled with doubt. Many of you have wrestled through doubt. Some of you in the middle of trials are in the throes of wrestling with doubt. This is all too real for you. Let me read the rest of Psalm 13 and you’ll see why I say “Honest doubt”. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13:5–6 ESV) Psalms 35 responds after his cries, “I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.” (Psalms 35:18 ESV).

These two passages are just a few examples to us of an honest or authentic doubt. By this I mean, we’ve gone too far with God to leave Him or reject Him. We’re ruined for Him in every good sense of the word. By authentic or honest I mean, just like these two psalms, us expressing the doubts arising that trials create is not what James has in mind. Honest doubt drives us to God. When the pain is so deep and the sorrow so long and we start to write songs like this psalmist, God meets us there. And we find ourselves not tossed about but held fast by God. I think what would be worse is to create a church environment where people are not allowed to express these kinds of doubts. Fake it. Pretend you’re perfect and not a wreck. Put the mask on.

The doubt and double-mindedness that James goes after is a duplicitous doubt. I want you to look at a brief clip of waves at sea. This clip is another picture of doubt and being double-minded. You see how unstable everything was. Where is the wave going or coming from? That’s the double-mindedness that doubt brings. It’s a doubt and double-mindedness where someone is never fully loyal. It’s a soul that has multiple allegiances and will change allegiances depending on the circumstances. John Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping talks about this idea of being “double-souled”. “When someone is double- souled they are never sure what temptations are worth resisting or what sacrifices are worth making.” (Soul Keeping John Ortberg pg. 100).. The instability is a description of what is happening internally. The waves are a picture of what is going on in here (the soul) and it bleeds out into every area of their life.

It’s the Christian that never follows through or commits to God. So in trials, the person tries to play both sides. Over time it’s a faith that doesn’t really work, doesn’t really go there. And so over time they never receive anything from God not because God won’t give it, because verse 5 says He will, but because they won’t receive it because it would mean letting go of other options and possible ways out.

Is that you this morning? Not really sold out for Christ. Not really fully committed? Just trying to play both sides or live the Christian life on your terms? If so it would explain why you don’t receive from God. It’s not His choice it’s yours.

THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING: There are a couple of nuances in this verse though that we need to touch on. One is the practice of concluding every unanswered prayer must be because of a person’s lack of faith. Joni Erickson Tada who is a quadriplegic has had Christians tell her she isn’t healed because she doesn’t have faith. Joni. This is a woman of deep faith and that is incredibly offensive. The Baptist side of Evangelicalism brings a great understanding of the theology of suffering. The reality is James clearly teaches trials and suffering, including being paralyzed, could be a trial God allows and other passages with Jesus speak about the same thing. People’s lack of faith – their doubt – can be a reason someone isn’t healed but James is incredibly comfortable with a theology of suffering and trials. Sometimes God wants the trials to complete and perfect us and so we don’t have healing on this earth.

THEOLOGY OF FAITH: But this whole faith and doubt thing has another nuance as well. Verse 6 starts with Faith. Ask in Faith. Pray in Faith. If we have faith God will give us wisdom generously. The Christian & Missionary Alliance and the Assembly of God denominations used to be one denomination back in the early 1900’s. There was a split, and this is an extreme generalization, but what the Assembly of God – on the opposite of end of Evangelicalism that Baptists when it comes to this whole faith thing – took was faith. The power of faith. The role of faith in prayer and the life of the believer. We had it earlier on but by the 50’s and 60’s the C&MA was more like a Baptist church. I’m not saying Baptist Churches don’t have faith, but do they have faith like The Assemblies of God and the Pentecostals? No. There. They created a word for it: Dispensationalism: God did that back then but can’t do that now. Their theology explains away why they don’t see God move rather than say they don’t have faith. Folks, how much do we leave on the table of what God would want to do for us but we never ask? It’s not that we are double-minded, but this is what we were taught and modeled. And the whole argument I hear every time, “But the Pentecostals go too far.” O for crying out loud, I’m not talking about barking in a service or gold dust falling everyone. I’m talking about reading this and finding a deeper and greater confidence in God and beginning to speak with the power and authority of Christ in faith and call down His kingdom.

ASKING GOD = PRAYER: Look at this verse. It’s about faith in prayer. As we look at v 6-8, it’s a continuation of this whole theme of trials and asking God for wisdom in the middle of the trials. In verse 6, James goes on to make a very clear distinction about asking God for something. This idea of asking God for something falls under the concept of prayer. While James doesn’t say prayer, it is prayer. Prayer by definition is how we communicate with God and how He communicates to us. The asking of wisdom in verse 5 is an act of prayer. Calling out to God – prayer – in trials is the life of a believer. Prayers of desperation, prayers of help, prayers of deliverance, and as James mentioned prayers for wisdom when we are at a loss for what to do.

PRAYERS OF FAITH: But God says that our prayers in trials must be rooted and guided in faith and not in doubt. Faith is more than belief. Skip forward to chapter 2 and James says, “Even the demons believe.” So apparently demons can believe but not have faith. Faith is confidence. It is unwavering trust. Demons don’t trust in God. They do not have confidence in God but confidence in themselves and their Lord. Faith is not confidence in our belief or confidence in our faith. Faith is confidence in Him. He is who He says He is. He IS that great. He Is that Wise. He IS that powerful.

Christians, we should be known for our faith in our trials. We should be known for having this faith that brings down the power of God – His peace, His presence, his love – in the worst trial. As we pray in faith it comes from our conviction and whole-soul commitment to Him. We’re ruined for Him – Praise the Lord. We should be the ones who are single-minded. Stable! Or we’re the ones in faith asking God to bring Heaven down for those who are going through a trial. Grow in prayer so that by faith we see God move?