"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."
Nearly every message I've heard on James 1:6 goes wrong for me when they begin to say, "the opposite of faith is doubt". That would be fine if it was what James was saying. But the phrase here is "faith untinged by doubt" Doubt here becomes the infection that can ultimately overthrow the soundness of the body. In fact, the greek word used here carries with it the idea of "wavering".
Think of a calm sea. Nothing to fear there. But every boater knows that they'd better head for land as those waves start kicking up! Put a motor on the boat and you can withstand greater waves. But the metaphor James uses isn't even of us as boaters on a sea that is kicking up. Here James tells us we are WAVES OURSELVES. No question of a rudder, a sail, a motor, or anything.
Have you ever tried to capture a wave? It is impossible. The only think that defines a wave at all from the other waves is all the other waves around it pushing and piling. It has no will, no plans, no direction, no definition: it just "is" in some vague way until one day it comes crashing in a heap along with all the other waves upon some island beach.
Here in James 1:6 doubt isn't the absence of belief. Doubt here is the absence of WILL. As long as I don't know where I'm going or what my plans are there is no place that is safe for me. There is no mission to go on. There is no other person I can be in real relationship with. There is nothing but the sea and all the other waves doing just as I am. In John 15:5 Jesus says, "apart from me you can do nothing." And he's right, isn't he? Someone who knows where he is going and what his plans are has great freedom. He becomes suddenly different from the waves. He becomes a boat with a rudder. He becomes one CHOOSING which way he will go. And yet strangely, he is still among the waves. Take the boat out of the water and it goes nowhere. It must continue to interact with the waves... even with a stormy sea... to get where the Tillerman wants the boat to go.
We in our churches are in dry-dock, all in secure little sheds for the stormy season, if we are not out in the world and among the waves. Only then will we ever know the security of The Hand upon the tiller. Only then will we know the thrill of waves crashing upon us as The Master guides us through. The Shore is a long way off. We must not think about that now. For now faith is enough. The Hand is on the tiller. We are a boat guided well through the danger as we cut through the waves.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.