“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James’ question is a dart to the heart. Today we continue our look at the wisdom in James. James is probably addressing specific issues to the people in his day, but the words are timeless and apply directly to us. What causes fights and quarrels in my world? The words apply to marriages, families, parents/children, neighbors, communities, churches, countries, cultures, racial tensions, class tension ~ what level do you want to discuss? How to not fight is the question of the hour? Or to say it positively, How to be a person of peace!
James has a different answer. You know the old saying, “when you point a finger at somebody else, there are ____________ [3 fingers pointing back at you].” READ James 4:1b.
Are you in conflict? When James talks about fights, we think wars, shouting insults as I listen to a 100 people a month, I think a deeply rooted sort of “fighting” is silent. The “enemy” may not even know they are in a fight. People silently withdraw…hold back…they are at war with others and nobody knows… You may work alongside them. Maybe you are married to your enemy// when you silently blame him/her for your discontentment.
How do you overcome quarrels/silent fights? If you don’t, the result is a compromised life. James is about discovering the freedom of following Christ, radical discipleship that throws off the chains holding us back!
How do we stop fighting? James gives insight in our text of Scripture today.
# 1 ~ Identify the cause. when I go to a doctor, if possible, I do not want a medicine to only control the symptoms. I want something to cure the disease. Identify the root of the fighting. “Where do wars and fights come from among you?” James quickly answers, “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” Three fingers are pointing back as James says to look at our own desires. Many people see the idea of “lust” in this word.
Not all desires for pleasure are wrong. There is nothing wrong with a desire to enjoy the pleasure of food when you are hungry. I am enjoying the sun this week-end and the flowers that are blooming. James is talking about a self-centered desire for pleasure that takes top priority. Paul says in 2 Tim. 3:4 that in the last days, men will be “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
There’s another type of lustful desire: Lust for Power. In other parts of James we see that there was evidently conflict among James’ readers over who should be teachers in the church (READ James 3:1). Craving recognition/ authority can cause conflict. This is nothing new: King Saul engaged in a war against David and his men, because he feared David would take his throne. On several occasions there was conflict among Jesus’ disciples when they argued over who was the greatest in the kingdom (READ Luke 9:46-48). Today, lust for power is a major cause of political conflicts we see in government.
Another type of lustful desire: Possessions - James 4:2, READ. Watch what happens on Christmas morning when one child gets something and the other child wants what they have. Maybe wanting things is only a problem of children? How’s the bumper sticker go? The only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys. We have political conflict today over whether the government should take more of what the rich have, and redistribute that wealth to those who have less. Wars are fought as one nation attacks another in their lust to take land, possessions and resources. The first step of stopping war is to look within.
#2: The next step to find peace: REPENT of self-centered desires. Instead of pointing the finger at others, examine your own motives, and Repent. The way to stop fighting is to stop fighting ~ don’t worry so much about the action of the “enemy” and instead take control of the person you can control which is you. If somebody wants to fight with me, my strategy is to bore people by taking myself out of the equation.
The idea of repenting can be heard in James 4:2-3. READ. REPENT is more than feeling sorry for your sins and bad behavior, Full Repentance means adopting new patterns. If you want to change your diet it is not enough to feel sorry for all the junk food you eat, you haven’t repented until you replace the junk food with healthy food. “You do not ask God” implies the way to not fight is to repent by asking God. Looking ahead a few verses you can hear a more explicit call to repentance. James 4:8-9 READ. The people were pursuing worldly pleasures, positions, and possessions. We need to recognize selfish desires, and repent of such desires, and replace with God honoring patterns.
How do you not fight, including not fighting silently: Recognize the root cause ~ putting your own pleasure, power, possessions as a priority. Repent of your quest for self centered living, and finally:
Step #3 Look to the Lord for fulfillment. To live for Christ is gain.
Jack recently become a Christian. A friend greeted him: “Well, Jack, old fellow, I hear you have given up all your pleasures.” “No! No!” said Jack, “the fact lies all the other way. I have just found all my pleasures and have given up only all my follies.” Instead of looking to the pleasures of this world for fulfillment, we should look to the Lord. How do we do that?
Ask in Prayer for What You Need (READ James 4:2). We try to get what we want on our own. Years ago a friend was commenting on people that leave a church: “Whenever somebody leaves it is because something went wrong, the youth group wasn’t everything they wanted, somebody said something offensive, they weren’t be fed, so they leave. Hardly anyone ever says, ‘I left because I prayed about it and God is leading me in this new direction.’” How do you not fight? One way is to get upset and leave. But there is a better way: Ask God. Look to God. True satisfaction comes in seeking God as a priority. Jesus said in John 4:13-14, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst….”
Prayer is God’s design for us to get the things we need. God wants us to depend on Him every day. When we need something, we should go to God in prayer first. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt. 7:7). God wants to give you everything you need. He didn’t say He would give you all your greed, but all your need. Jesus taught us, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).
As you ask God, James warns us a second time: Watch Out for Selfish Motives. READ James 4:3. Even prayers can be for the wrong motives. SPEND on your pleasures the text says. “spend” means to waste/squander. This is the word was used of the prodigal son when the Bible says he spent all. He wasted.
When we pray God knows our motivation. When you ask for good health, money, rest, all good things, what is the motivation? May the purpose be for God to be glorified. How tempting to call upon God as if He were a genie to grant our every wish! One person said it this way: “the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.”
James even suggests that sometimes the answer to our prayer is no: “When you ask you do not receive…” Many times God knows what we want is not what we need. We are much better off that God does not give us everything we ask? Many years ago, I believe, God taught me a lesson when he answered a self-centered prayer:
We went to sleep in the old Kulshan Cabin on the climbing route up Mt. Baker. At 2 in the morning, when we were scheduled to get up to start the climb in order to miss the heat of the day, I did not want to get out of bed. I told my father to go without me. Before I went back to sleep I prayed that God would stop them from making it to the top. What was my motive? For God to be glorified? [NO!] I wanted to justify my laziness.
Hours later I got up. I leisurely walked to a place where I could see the top of the mountain. I saw the climbing party against the skyline as they neared the summit. “Oh well,” I thought, “they made it.” I had hours to kill before they would get back to the cabin. I grew bored.
The weather turned and threatened to rain. Not wanting to get wet, I packed my stuff and hiked back three miles to the parking lot. The rain soon started and I was dry, and bored. At last, hours later, the climbers made it to the parking lot, wet, hungry, exhausted. And then my father told me the news. As the party neared the top, the wind was severe, they got within perhaps a hundred yards, and they were forced to turn around. Instantly I remembered my selfish prayer in the night that the climbing party would not make it. Boom. I was convicted. Thank goodness much of the time God simply says no to our self centered prayers.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” I asked with wrong motives, and God did answer, and I wished he hadn’t.
Why do we fight? Fighting and quarrels keep us from growing in our faith. The silent wars we fight are as big of a killer keeping us from serving God with a whole heart. How do we find rest/peace? When you point a finger at others, looking to blame them for the fighting, there are three fingers pointing back at you. Look within. It doesn’t mean the other guy is without sin, it only means I want God to deal with me. Recognize the role of selfish desires for power, pleasure and things as the root cause of our competitive nature with others. Repent, replacing sinful desires with God honoring goals. Look to God through prayer to find fulfillment, actually ASKING and take special care to ask with right motives. Any quarrel for any reason will seem small, when the high calling of your life is to exalt the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.