Count It All Joy: Support for Suffering Saints part 4

THE DANGER OF DOUBT


In the past I spent some time doing mission work in Fiji. As I visited different churches, I noticed a common phenomenon. The pastor would often begin the service by yelling. “God is good.” The people would respond, “all the time.” The pastor then took up their refrain, “All the time.” The people ended, “God is good.”

“God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” These words are a faith statement. Trials put such faith statements to the test. It is easy to say that God is good during the sunny days, but what about when the storm hits. Do you really believe that God is good all the time?



Faith in the unchanging goodness of God is another essential ingredient in the recipe for joy in trials. But instead of focusing on faith, James sounds a warning about faith’s opposite: doubt.

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. (James 1:5-8)

WHAT DOUBT IS


The Greek word translated ‘doubt’ conveys the idea of an inner dispute. Doubt is ‘a basic division within the believer that brings about wavering and inconsistency of attitude toward God.’[1] In this context, the division is over the goodness of God. Doubt says, “God is not good to me. This trial would not be happening to me if God were good.”

James reminds us of two things about God. In so doing, he speaks directly to the inner dispute that some experience in the midst of trials.

  • God gives generously. Some commentators suggest that a better translation would be sincerely. This is in line with the root (‘single’, ‘simple’) from which the Greek word is derived, and contrasts well with the double-minded man in verse 8.[2] The idea is that God always acts toward us with singleness of intent. He is totally and absolutely for us. 

  • God gives without reproach. He doesn't scold His children for seeking from Him what they need. In fact, it is His delight.[3]

WHAT DOUBT DOES


Think for a moment about waves. The stability of the wave depends on the wind. Where there is no wind, the sea is calm. But as soon as the wind begins to blow, stability vanishes. Waves aren’t anchored into a firm foundation, so they can’t help being blown about. They are governed by the dictates of the wind. This is a picture of the life of the doubter, who has no anchor in the goodness of God. The winds of trial come and their life is thrown into chaos and confusion. They have no foundation of hope to provide stability. Is your life characterised by stability or instability during trials?

It is no wonder James raises the problem of doubt in this context. If we are to count it all joy when we face trials, doubt must be destroyed.

WHERE DOUBT ORIGINATES


The division of doubt is rooted in a deeper division within our heart. The doubter is a dipsuchos (literally, ‘two-souled’) person. This is the first known appearance of dipsuchos in Greek literature, so it is believed to be a word coined by James himself. James probably formed the word to convey an important concept that is found throughout the Old Testament and in the teachings of Jesus.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, (Psalm 119:2)
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy (lit. single), your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:22-24)

The double-minded person is the person with split allegiances. They are not whole-heartedly devoted to God. Their love and loyalty is split between God and themselves. They are seeking to serve two opposing masters. Doubt comes from this double-mindedness.

Here is a call to test yourself. Do trials call into question the goodness of God for you? Are you able in the midst of trial to confidently say, “God is for me”? The appearance of doubt bears evidence to the root of double-mindedness.

Be careful how you respond. James doesn’t mention this to condemn you, but to save you. These are words of mercy, not judgment. Be humble. Turn to the Lord in whole-hearted devotion. To do this is to turn from doubt to faith; from instability to hope. It is the first step to counting it all joy in trials.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. 


____________
[1] Moo, D. J., The letter of James, 60


[2] See Moo, D. J., The letter of James, 58f; Davids, P. H., The Epistle of James: A commentary on the Greek text (Grandrapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 72f


[3] Consider Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 12:32


Support for Suffering Saints
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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