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About this series
The ART of Survival
In this series, Chip explains there’s an ART to Survival - skills, honed by practice, that lead to joyful endurance, no matter what. A - is the ATTITUDE that helps us navigate adversity. R - is the RESOURCE God offers in adversity. And T - is the THEOLOGY that guides our perspective in adversity. When challenging times and difficult circumstances threaten to bring us down, God provides the hope and the tools we need to rise above. Life isn’t easy, He never said it would be. In fact, Jesus told us to expect trouble. How we handle the trouble and guard our attitude is an opportunity to demonstrate our trust in the sufficiency and sovereignty of Christ. There’s an ART to survival. Chip shows us, from James, Chapter 1, how it’s done.More from this series
I have been a pastor for over thirty-five years, and I have seen people stuck in health issues, relational issues, financial issues, legal issues, criminal issues. And it has always amazed me that there are times when a Christian will get stuck and they will do almost anything in the world to figure out what they ought to do except go to God in genuine humility and ask Him what to do.
And for years, that used to puzzle me, but it doesn’t puzzle me anymore. See, I think many people have a very warped view of God. I think many people feel like God is arms crossed and when we want and really need His help, we tend to think, “But I lied and I have stolen,” or, “I have not been the kind of Christian I know I should be,” or, “I have some areas of immorality in my life,” or, “I haven’t obeyed what I know and how could I go to God now when I have messed up, when I know I’m not the person that I should be?”
And did you notice what it says? “Ask of God who gives to all men,” the word means generously. In fact, literally this phrase is: come to the gift-giving God.
You know, God loves you. And like a Father who understands when His kids mess up, His desire isn’t for you to get everything cleaned up before you come to Him. His desire is just: come. You just come as you are. It thrills your Father’s heart when you say, I can’t do this. I need Your help. I don’t understand. Yes, we all have some issues where we have done some things that we know are wrong.
But He says He gives generously. And then I love this word, “without reproach.” It means that His arms aren’t crossed. He is not pointing with a finger and saying, “Well, you want help, but what about this or what about that?”
No, this is when Jesus says, “Come unto Me all of you that are heavy laden, that are burdened, that are overwhelmed. Come, I will give you rest.” You serve a God who is kind and good and loving and understanding.
It’s why Jesus, when He taught the disciples to pray, He introduced a foreign concept. In the Old Testament, there’s not a lot of references to God as our Father. And Jesus would say, “When you pray, pray, ‘Abba.’”
It’s a term of endearment, of a small child connected to his papa or his father. And I just want to remind you, when we go through difficult times, some of us blame other people, can blame the government, can blame circumstances. But down deep, many of us blame ourselves.
And God would want you to know that, “I want you to come and I want to help you.” But did you notice there’s a condition here? He says, “I want you to ask, but let him ask in faith without any doubting.”
There are two conditions. It assumes that you lack wisdom, because of the construction in the grammar here. But then he says, “We only receive God’s wisdom if we, one, ask in faith. And, two, without any doubting.”
So, what’s that mean? Let’s figure out what it means to ask in faith. What it means to ask in faith is trusting and believing and having confidence in God’s character and His Word that you’ll do whatever He shows you, right?
Ask in faith. In other words, it’s not, Oh Lord, I would kind of like to know Your opinion on what I ought to do in this devastating situation. This is, Lord, I am believing You’re the all-knowing, all-powerful God. You’re the sovereign God of the universe. I can trust Your Word; I can trust Your character. I am asking in faith. And then notice, “Without any doubting.”
Some people get tripped up on this. This word for “doubting” means without judgment or wavering. This is not that feeling that we all have at times like, God, are You really there? Or, Do I doubt that You might show up? Or, Are You really going to take care of me? God knows we are human. He knows that we will have struggles at times and have some intellectual doubts. This passage is not saying that.
This passage is talking about the kind of doubt that has disloyalty. Because notice what he says. He explains it later. He says, “Come to Him without any doubt, for the one who comes with doubt like that is unstable in all his ways. In fact, is double-minded, two-souled.” We get our word schizophrenia. It’s a picture of someone who says, God, I really want to know what You want me to do, but I’m not really committed to doing it. I just want to know what Your will is so I can evaluate whether I will obey or not obey.
And then notice he says, “Let not that person expect that he’ll get anything from the Lord.”
So, here’s what I want you to get. I know some of you are going through really, really difficult times. And I know that God wants to work in us before He works through us. And so, come to God and ask. And then here’s what you need to do. You need to come to God, think of it as a contract or a blank check.
And what God wants you to do is sign the bottom of the contract and say, Lord, will You show me what to do in this pandemic? What should I do about where I should live? What should I do about this problem relationship? What should I do about the business that is lost? What should I do about the ministry that churches are closed? What should I do because I can’t travel? What should I do to make it through today?
And God says, “If you will come to Me and ask in faith and then say, Lord, whatever You show me, before I know what it is, I’ll do it,” He says, “one hundred percent of the time, I’ll show you what to do.”
Let me picture this for you, because these are great concepts. Let me personalize. Early in our marriage, I married my wife and we shortly went away to prepare for ministry. And my father was an alcoholic and her father was an alcoholic. We came from very dysfunctional families, but we loved Jesus and we loved each other, and we thought everything will be great.
Within six months of being married, while I’m preparing in seminary to be a pastor, our marriage is not working at all. We can’t resolve conflict, we have anger, the person I love makes me crazy, I am making her crazy. You all understand what that’s like.
And I’m feeling this guilt because I’m preparing for ministry and my marriage is not working at all. And I am trying hard, trying to be good. No matter what I do, it doesn’t work. And I came to this passage. And I said, Lord, will You show me what to do?
I can’t fix this. I bowed my head, lifted my hands, and I heard the Spirit say, “Chip, go to a good Christian counselor.”
And I thought, Oh no. No, no, that’s for people with real needs and if I walk into one of those counselor’s offices, it’d be embarrassing and people will know we have a problem. And I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “So, what is the problem? Is it your pride?” And I realized it was.
See, sometimes when you say, Lord, show me Your wisdom, we unconsciously have a box that says, “As long as it fits inside of this.”
In another time, I needed God’s wisdom and He said, “I want you to relocate from this side of the United States to that side of the United States.” And then it was, Oh, Lord, no. My wife doesn’t want to go, this won’t work, it’s going to cost a lot of money… I had all these reasons.
But when you want God’s wisdom, He says, “Come,” and you sign up and say, I will do, Lord, whatever You want me to do. And here’s what He promises. He will do it one hundred percent of the time. I can’t tell you how many times, whether it was a big decision, a financial decision, there was a time we literally – and some of you are there – we had no food.
I had worked, our money was taken away, we had no food. And we sat in the middle of the living room and we prayed and we asked God, We need food. We ate fruits and vegetables that we got for just five U.S. dollars and we combined with some other couples and we could eat fruits and vegetables for a week.
And I’ll never forget asking God for wisdom. I told Him I would do whatever He wanted me to do. And I was working unloading trucks and doing odd jobs and wondered how we were ever going to make enough money.
And I’ll never forget the day, my wife had dropped our children off to school and she came back and there were five bags of groceries on our front porch filled with meat and cheese and a type of flour to make bread. We never told one person, not one person that we had any needs. We had ten dollars, ten U.S. dollars. That’s how much money we had.
And as she opened those bags, it was the kind of flour she used to make bread for our family every day. We had not eaten meat in about fifteen or twenty days and it was filled with meat and cheese and things that we longed for. And my only explanation is when we are really desperate, God shows up in supernatural ways.
I have not met a lot of angels personally but the only explanation, because we told no one and no one in the world knew how she baked what we had, I mean, we whispered to no one. And God provided.
On another occasion, like many of you, we were completely out of money. And, Lord, we can’t pay our rent.
I went to the mailbox and there was a check, a check from a man I met six or seven years earlier who later played sports in college, later on a professional team, and God woke him up in the middle of the night with my name on it. I taught him when he was in high school one time for one hour. And he sent me a check, he was a quarterback in the NFL, for a thousand dollars.
I could tell you story after story after story after story after story of God’s miraculous provision. And it’s not for special people. It’s for needy, desperate people. I am telling you, come to God. If He says, “Relocate,” relocate. If He says, “Forgive your enemy,” forgive your enemy. If He says, “Apologize to your wife,” apologize to your wife. If He says, “This is your job, but your new job needs to be this,” you come to God with no expectation other than, Lord, whatever You show me, I will do.
He may show you through a book, through His Spirit, through His Word, through counsel, through a friend, through a prompting of the Holy Spirit. But here’s what you need to know: if you’re one hundred percent willing to get God’s wisdom, He will show you what to do.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Will you be comfortable? Probably not. God directs our steps, directs our paths, and reveals His power when we are at the very end of our rope, when we have nothing. We are at the bottom. We’re in absolute desperation.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in Spirit,” Psalm 34. God is for you. He loves you. If you’re stuck and you don’t know what to do, here’s His invitation: “I will give you supernatural wisdom. I will show you exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it, with whom if you will come to Me with open handedness and commit to do whatever I show you.”
These are the times where God’s people see great power, where there is great testimony. I look back now with my older children and they remember sitting around in the circle, a circle at a time when we didn’t have a car that would fit our family and we prayed. And God delivered.
A time when we didn’t have food and we prayed. A time when we didn’t know what to do and we were asked to relocate. Most of the things that were difficult to do, what I can now look back on and realize it was the good hand and the kindness of God. Some of you will never change. Some of you will never get on the path that has your highest and your best and God’s greatest favor apart from a crisis like this that caused you to reexamine your life, your role, your relationships. And that God redirects us through times like this.
The early Church was doing very, very well. I mean, just read Acts chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – thousands of people. There’s favor. There are miracles happening. I mean, they are exploding. Acts chapter 8, “And then a great persecution came upon the Church.”
Well, Jesus told the Church to go into all the world and make disciples, right? Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the world. Well, for about the first fifteen years, they didn’t go anywhere. And God allowed a persecution.
And now, James is writing to them and as they are going all across the world, God uses this crisis to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. God, in His wisdom, who knows what is happening, who didn’t cause but has allowed this pandemic to occur, is going to show you and show me and every single person exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in the midst of all the special details.
It will be different for you than for me. That’s why this is the ART of survival. It creates a dependency like never before. It creates a desire and a thirst for His Word like never before. It means we have to depend on each other, forgive one another, look through new eyes at our circumstance and say, Lord, show me what to do. I need Your wisdom.
And He says, “I would love to give it to you. Just ask. And no double-mindedness. Ask without any doubting. Let Me fill in the top of the check. Let Me fill in the top of the contract. Let Me say, ‘This is what to do. This is where to go. This is how.’ You just sign your name on the bottom that says, ‘I am willing.’”
You know, it reminds me of our Savior. And the greatest moment that occurred in His life and ours. Yes, Jesus was fully God, but He was fully human. And there was a moment where He said, “Lord, if there is any other way, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours.”
And He endured excruciating suffering and pain and He actually took on your sin and my sin and in that cataclysmic moment, the Father would turn away, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And your sin and my sin were placed on Jesus for our forgiveness because He said to the Father, “Not My will, not My way.”
And that’s how you get God’s wisdom. It’s in these moments of absolute surrender. It’s at a level like never before, because of what is happening in the world where we say, Lord, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You. This is my spiritual service. I will do whatever You want. I will go wherever You want. The money in my bank account, little or much, is Yours. My future is Yours. My family is Yours. Show me what to do and I want You to know, Holy Father, I will do it.
That’s how you survive a crisis. That’s the greatest, most important resource in all the world. It’s the wisdom of God.
Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters because it is a journey to come to the point where we can fully, completely surrender and be willing to do whatever You want us to do. But, Lord, You have told us very clearly the condition to get this kind of supernatural wisdom is our absolute and complete willingness to do whatever You show us.
And so, I pray for a movement in people’s hearts. I pray that they could believe how good, how kind, how all-knowing, that You want to give us the best, even when some of the first steps are very, very difficult. That’s our prayer, Lord. Now, lead us. Give us Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.