WHICH DO YOU FIND PERSONALLY HARDER TO HANDLE – AN UPFRONT NOISY FIGHT, OR SUBTLE CRITICISM?
READ James 4:1-12
WHAT DOES JAMES SAY IS AT THE ROOT OF FIGHTS AND QUARRELS?
The cravings that are at war within us – internal stuff. It is a fight between the Holy Spirit and the world. These are long term conflicts, not sudden explosions. We are not talking about good things – like listening to music, enjoying an afternoon nap, or a long bath. These “cravings” are literally pleasures that spring from the wrong source and can enslave a person like an addiction.
DO YOU SEE THIS TRUE IN YOUR LIFE?
WHAT ARE THE TWO REASONS WE DO NOT HAVE WHAT WE WANT?
We do not ask and we ask with wrong motives. This can be referred to as desire frustration. The frustration builds up and can lead to disastrous responses – murder, coveting, fighting and war. The motives James refers to are motives that are not in line with God’s plan for our lives. It is not the trusting child asking for a meal but a greedy child asking for the best piece.
IS THERE AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING YOU ASKED FOR WITH WRONG MOTIVES? Lawn mower for me.
Sometimes we pray “wrongly” as James says, “to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). We want what we want, not what God wants. Some time ago I ran across a wedding prayer that illustrates how subtly this can be done. This is a girl praying on her wedding day:
“Dear God. I can hardly believe that this is my wedding day. I know I haven’t been able to spend much time with You lately, with all the rush of getting ready for today, and I’m sorry. I guess, too, that I feel a little guilty when I try to pray about all this, since Larry still isn’t a Christian. But oh, Father, I love him so much, what else can I do? I just couldn’t give him up. Oh, You must save him, some way, somehow.
You know how much I’ve prayed for him, and the way we’ve discussed the gospel together. I’ve tried not to appear too religious, I know, but that’s because I didn’t want to scare him off. Yet he isn’t antagonistic and I can’t understand why he hasn’t responded. Oh, if he only were a Christian.
Dear Father, please bless our marriage. I don’t want to disobey You, but I do love him and I want to be his wife, so please be with us and please don’t spoil my wedding day.”
That sounds like a sincere, earnest prayer, does it not? But if it is stripped of its fine, pious language, it is really saying something like this:
“Dear Father, I don’t want to disobey You, but I must have my own way at all costs. For I love what You do not love, and I want what You do not want. So please be a good God and deny Yourself, and move off Your throne, and let me take over. If You don’t like this, then all I ask is that You bite Your tongue and say or do nothing that will spoil my plans, but let me enjoy myself.”
There are some things we can always expect God to answer. What are they?
Wisdom – James 1:5 “if anyone of you lacks wisdom he should ask God…”
Salvation – Romans 10:13 “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
The key to understanding this is to pray in submission to the will of God.
READ Matthew 26:39
WHAT IS “FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD”? It is hostility toward God. To pray with wrong motives in order to fulfill our personal pleasure is a sign of friendship with the world. James said that Christians who have a friendship with the world have an adulterous relationship with God. This friendship can seen when we adopt the values and desires of secular culture.
HOW ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO FALL INTO LOYALTY TO THIS “FRIEND”?
Examples – clothing, craving for “new”, etc.
Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. And he doesn’t have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.
This is a picture of many Christians. The devil with his crafty devices tried to ensnare them. He appeals to the appetites of the flesh which can lead to their spiritual downfall. As long as they hold on to worldly bait, they cannot escape from Satan’s trap. But he keeps on urging, “Don’t let go! Enjoy the pleasure of your sin just a little bit longer!” So, listening to the tempter’s alluring voice, they continue in their evil way.
HOW DOES ONE SUBMIT TO GOD? Being humble is the first step. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” To receive grace, one must ask for it. To be able to ask, one must see the need to do so. The proud person can’t and doesn’t see such a need – only the humble do.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Ethics, makes an interesting observation: “The tree of knowledge of Good and Evil produced the ability to choose our own good or our own evil.” Both choices may take us equally distant from God. We have a third alternative, God’s will.” Notice that it takes a choice.
READ Joshua 24:15
WHAT SPECIFIC ACTIONS WOULD YOU TAKE IN ORDER TO SUBMIT YOUR LIFE TO GOD?
Submit – resist – come near – wash – purify – grieve – mourn – wail – change – humble
HOW CAN YOU RESIST THE DEVIL? Refuse to give in to the devil’s enticements – an inner resistance to evil desires. When we overcome these temptations, Satan has no choice but to leave.
Come near – that’s the relationship part!
Wash – get rid of the external signs of sin
Purify – get rid of the internal evidences of sin – inner purity
Grieve – evidence of true repentance
Mourn and wail – evidences of the effects of a sin-shackled life
Change – turning away AND walking away from sin
Humility – completes the cycle (Submit is humility)
It is said that a certain guide lived in the deserts of Arabia who never lost his way. He carried with him a homing pigeon with a very fine cord attached to one of its legs. When in doubt as to which path to take, he threw the bird into the air. The pigeon quickly strained at the cord to fly in the direction of home, and thus led the guide accurately to his goal. Because of this unique practice he was known as “the dove man.” So, too, the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Dove, is willing and able to direct us in the narrow way that leads to the more abundant life if in humble self-denial we submit to His unerring supervision.
The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”
— C. S. Lewis
WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT IF WE HUMBLE OURSELVES AND SUBMIT TO GOD? He will exalt us. We will restore the right relationship with Him we need.
James gives us a process we can understand. Now he needs to hit us with a specific concern. We all have been criticized and judged by others (whether we knew it or not). To criticize someone is to speak evil about them in their presence, or more likely, in their absence when they cannot defend themselves. Criticizing someone else from wrong motives means we are criticizing God.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE A CRITICAL SPIRIT TOWARD OTHER PEOPLE?
It’s easy to avoid criticism: all you have to do is say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. — Aristotle
I praise loudly; I blame softly. — Catherine II
It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own. — Cicero
If you feel constrained to look for faults, use a mirror, not a telescope.
Those who can, do. Those who can’t, become critics.
Don’t criticize your wife’s judgment; look who she married.
READ Ephesians 4:29
It’s the way we view others and our relationship to God that gives us heavenly glasses.