Elder Keith Ellis
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
As we just discussed, it is important that as we approach our study of the Bible we should ensure that we are in the proper spirit and frame of mind, which should be one of humbleness. It is in this same spirit that we should petition God to assist us in our efforts to study His word.
In the spirit of humble prayer we have the opportunity to approach the throne of God's grace. This is our obligation. But we should realize what a wonderful blessing and opportunity this is for us. At this very time, when bowed before the Creator of the heavens and the earth, we can personally ask of Him concerning His word. This King who sits upon this throne of grace is The One who authored the sixty-six books that comprise or make up the complete canon of scripture. How often have you read a novel or some other writing wishing that you had the opportunity to meet with the author and ask him or her questions about their book. Well we have that privilege through the medium of prayer. We can ask God what He means about certain things we may read. Of course this is just one aspect to the prayer life of the Christian, but I fear it is often overlooked or neglected. If we were only to realize the opportunity that we have in this area, it would not take long before we could actually become excited about our Bible study.
The title text for this chapter tells us that if we lack wisdom, then we should ask God. Here we have the promise that God will liberally give us what we stand in need of. Notice I said, what we stand in "need" of, not what we "want." When it comes to prayer, we should always be careful to ask God for our needs. Do be careful when asking for your wants. You may receive them then find out that you really did not need what you asked for. We must, early in our Christian walk, learn the difference between our wants and our needs.
King Solomon was permitted to ask of God whatsoever he desired. He asked God to give him wisdom. And because he asked for wisdom (his and our need) that he might know how to judge God's people rightly, and did not ask for silver and gold (more than likely a "want") God granted him wisdom. And because his prayer was unselfish and not based upon worldly lust God knew that Solomon was able also to wisely control gold and silver and gave him an abundance like no other man on earth to this time. Solomon recognized what the true riches are; the wisdom of God (see 1 Kings 3:5-13), though Solomon in the latter parts of his life rebelled against God and suffered greatly for it.
The Bible is written in such a way that none will understand it unless the author personally guides and leads him or her through it. The Lord accomplishes this in different ways, which we will discuss later. But if you desire to know what it teaches then you must pray and ask God for the wisdom contained in it. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Now there may arise a problem. If you ask God about a certain text or verse and you have a preconceived idea or opinion about it then you need to be careful. First of all if you ask God about something you previously formulated an opinion about, there must now be some doubt that has been raised to even cause you to ask about it. Have you thought of what you would do if the answer you receive is contrary to what you have always believed? Are you prepared to cast off false ideas and notions about the Bible that you may have picked up at some time in your life? If you are not then I know from experience that you are in for a rough time. Most false doctrines take root when a person refuses to hear God on a matter. The person takes the ideas he already has and forces the Bible to fit his views. This is referred to as twisting the scripture. We should not force the Bible to fit our views. We should allow God to mold our views through His word, regardless of how much we may dislike what He tells us.
The truth of God's word runs against the grain of most everything we have been taught by the world. You would be wise to remember this and not let it catch you off guard when something is revealed to you about an idea or previous opinion you may have.
Since I have been in the church, there have been several times that I have had to go back and look again at some of what I believed to see if it was in alignment with the Bible. If it was not I had to make an adjustment. The remainder of my life I am sure that I will have to continue to adjust my views on certain minor points. But as far as the major foundation doctrines, they have been strengthened over the years and I am sure that they will remain unchanged. But many of the lesser points I may change as I hopefully mature and grow in God's wisdom.
So if you ask humbly and sincerely, God will not withhold from you that which you need. But keep in mind that you may not receive it immediately or all of it at the same time. You may read a text one hundred times and it still not be opened to your understanding. Sometimes it has been my experience in these matters to have the understanding revealed to me after many months have gone by since the prayer for understanding. God always times these things beautifully. After having read it one hundred times, and yet no answer, I may one day be talking with someone about that very verse and it is revealed to me right then and there what it means. It is marvelous how God works. These are the times when my cup runs over, so to speak, and tears of joy may begin to develop in my eyes as I consider the glory of God and the greatness of His wisdom. At times like this I understand the liberality spoken of in the title text of James 1:5. So if you read something and pray about it, and still do not receive an answer, do not become discouraged. For in due course of time it will be revealed to you.
At this point we want to briefly mention that God works on His timetable when He deals with us. Most often when we ask God for anything we think that it should be given at that very moment. And if the need is urgent, God will deliver it right then. This I also have experienced. But most of the time we just think that it is urgent and it really is not. Remember that God is doing more in our lives than we will ever realize. Trust
in God's time schedule for He sees things that you and I cannot. And whether our answer comes immediately or seven years later, be careful to give God all the praise and the glory (see Isaiah 28:9-10).
It may serve well to share with you what has been part of my experience relating to asking for understanding of scripture. It seems that many times when I would either study or discuss a particular text with someone that I would see something that would literally upset my opinion or preconceived ideas about the text. But when this would happen it would cause me to search the scripture more seriously than before. I could not rest until I found out more about the text that was troubling me. I now thank God for allowing me to become troubled because along the way in searching for the answer I found many other golden nuggets of truth. So in my mind, becoming disturbed at what I read or heard someone say, I was motivated to study harder and dig deeper than I would have otherwise.
I hope you have the impression that I want you to lean upon God very much in laying the foundation of your Bible knowledge. I also do not want you to think God will just open our brains and pour the truth in. It requires effort on our part. In fact it may require a lot of hard work on our part. Remember that the humble, prayerful request for wisdom God will answer and not hold back.