What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You are facing a situation in your marriage and you just don’t know what to do. Or it may be a parenting challenge, a friend problem, or a workplace dilemma, or a career choice, and you don’t know what to do. Perhaps you are having to make choices about which job to take, what course of study to embark on, a major purchase. Or maybe you need spiritual wisdom about a spiritual predicament. You feel your lack of wisdom, don’t you? It’s limited in width, depth, length, certainty, duration, practicality, etc. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Two passages, Luke 11:5-13 and James 1:5-8 both point to three similar and practical encouragements when we’re in this situation.
God’s Fatherhood brings many desirable blessings into our lives.
- Designer for creatures
- Love for the loveless
- Compassion for the hurting
- Provision for the poor
- Discipline for the disobedient
- Assurance for doubters
- Peace for the anxious
- Grace for Prodigals
- A Giver for Receivers
The context here is of trial, trials that reveal our lack of wisdom, our not knowing what to do next.
What do we do, when we don’t know what to do?
We do what most children do in healthy families, we go to our Father.
1. OUR FATHER GIVES GENEROUSLY
Our Father gives more generously than us
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give… (Luke 11:13).
If an earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will our far richer and more benevolent heavenly father give us? If even the worst earthly father gives his child something sometimes, how much more will the best heavenly father give his children? However much an earthly father has to give, our heavenly father has far more to give. He knows what to give, how to give, when to give, and to whom to give.
…God, who gives generously to all (James 1:5).
God does not just give generously to his children, but to all. As James says later in the chapter, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God gives comprehensively and consistently.
Our Father gives more happily than us
…God, who gives…without reproach (finding fault), and it will be given him (James 1:5).
An earthly father may give to one of his children, but he may give reluctantly, through gritted teeth, and with resentment. His heart is not in it and he makes sure that’s communicated. He takes from us while he gives to us. He makes us small and himself big. But God is not at all like that. When he gives, he gives willingly, heartily, enthusiastically, cheerfully. He does not communicate impatience, annoyance, belittling, or contempt. He doesn’t scold or lose his temper. His giving makes us feel loved and valuable.
CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY
Praise our generous God. We deserve nothing, yet God gives us everything we need. Just as we’d thank anyone who gave us anything and praise them to others, so let us join in thanking and praising our generous God. His gifts are not limited but large in width, depth, length, certainty, duration, practicality, etc.
Commend our generous God. Remind people that all they have is a gift from God. Point them to the one in whom they live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28).
GOD IS NOT A GREEDY MISER
BUT A GREAT MERCIER
So what does God give us?
The best gift of all.
2. OUR FATHER GIVES SPIRITUAL WISDOM
Our Father gives the Holy Spirit
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit… (Luke 11:13).
No earthly father will knowingly give you anything harmful (a snake, a scorpion) or useless (a stone). He will only give what is helpful and useful. Even more so, our Heavenly Father will not give us any bad gifts. He will not only only give us good gifts, but he will also give us the best gift, his Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brings with him regeneration, sanctification, gifts, graces, power, holiness, etc. In this context, the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us to pray, especially the when, the what, and the how of prayer. He is our Counselor (John 16:13), our Comforter (John 14:26), our Companion (John 14:16), our Cleaner (1 Cor. 16:19), and our Cultivator (Gal. 5:22-23). Here’ it’s especially his counseling role that’s stressed. When our spirit has nothing left to give, he gives his Holy Spirit.
Our Father gives wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…and it will be given him (James 1:5)
Given the opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon, aware of his limited wisdom and massive need, prayed, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9). God demonstrated his generosity by replying, “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days” (12-13).
“Wisdom” in the Bible is always practical, it’s always to do with living our daily lives. It’s not about knowing a lot, or teaching a lot, or writing a lot, but living a lot.
CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY
The Holy Spirit is God’s greatest gift to his children. This spiritual gift is better than all other material gifts put together. There is no gift so valuable or useful. The Holy Spirit shows us our sins and our Savior, our folly and Christ’s wisdom, our weakness and Christ’s power.
The Holy Spirit is our source of wisdom. He influences our spirit, nudging, prompting, directing. He often uses Scripture together with providence and the mature counsel of others. He will never direct you to do what contradicts Scripture.
WE BECOME WISE BY
ADMITTING WE’RE FOOLS
How do I get the Holy Spirit?
It’s very simple.
3. OUR FATHER GIVES TO ASKERS
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence [persistence] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (Luke 11:8-10).
This is a desperate man, who has prioritized his greatest need, and won’t stop until he gets what he needs. It’s not complicated: ask for the Holy Spirit until you get the Holy Spirit. God is not promising us everything we ask for, but he’s promising the Holy Spirit when we ask for him persistently. When someone knocks on our door again and again, that person is saying, “There’s nothing more important in my life than you opening the door to me right now and I’m going to knock and knock until you come and open.”
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 1:6-7).
This assumes the asker is asking in faith and out of faith. He’s not a wavering, hesitating doubter like a storm-tossed ship on the sea. Single-minded faith is better than double-minded doubting. Confidence in asking comes from confidence in the one we are asking. Half-hearted, defeated asking does not honor the one we are asking.
CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY
Ask for the Holy Spirit. Jesus uses the word “ask” five times in Luke 11 because he knows how reluctant we are to ask for help. How many times have you prayed for the Holy Spirit? This is one of the few guaranteed prayer requests we are given in the Bible. We have to ask, and we have to ask persistently, but we will receive if we do.
Get spiritual wisdom. Imagine if you lived so in step with the Spirit, so filled with the Spirit of God, that you make decisions that God himself would have made. You will have insight into yourself and into others. You will understand yourself, others, and God. You will foresee consequences before they happen and learn from mistakes better. You will pick the best friends, you will be the best friend, and you will have better relationships. People will recognize your God-given wisdom and ask you for it. You will become more teachable and a better teacher. You will ask advice and take it. You will become a reliable spiritual counselor that people come to for advice and direction about spiritual matters. You will understand the Bible better and teach the Bible better. You will pass the tests that God sends your way.
ASKING IS FAR EASIER AND CHEAPER THAN STUDYING
A NEW CHAPTER
Gospel. Our Father has a giving heart, as evidenced by his generous giving of his Son and Spirit to us to save us, sanctify us, and guide us.
Jesus. No one was more filled with the Holy Spirit than Jesus. No one asked more for the Spirit, no one had more of the Spirit, and no one gave more than Jesus. In so doing he shows us the Father.
Ask. We have not because we ask not. The price tag on the Holy Spirit is “Ask.” It doesn’t say, “Reserved” or “Work” or “Study” or “Graduate.” When you don’t know what to do, “Ask!” No amount of studying can give you spiritual wisdom. Only asking can.
Prayer. All-wise God, we ask you for spiritual wisdom with steady confidence in your generous supply, especially when we are paralyzed and destabilized by trials.
1. What have you done in the past when you didn’t know what to do?
2. Compare and contrast your giving with God’s.
3. What would you have asked for if you were Solomon?
4. Give some examples of how God has given you wisdom in trying situations.
5. How has your experience of fatherhood affected the way you pray?
6. Who do you know that could benefit from these truths?