Every day we navigate through a sea of warnings. One after another, they are there for our own good, and we know this, yet often we ignore them. We make a choice, in that one moment, that can change the entire course of our lives. Was it worth it?
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." | James 4:1-6
The book of James is one of my favorite books of the New Testament. I have taken a group of men through this book at least 3 times and it never stops giving new insight to the Christian walk. Each chapter is packed with practical advice for the believer. Though my key emphasis will be on Ch 4:1-6, I believe a brief synopsis is in order.
- Chapter 1 covers "genuine religion
- Chapter 2-3:12 covers "genuine faith"
- Chapter 3:13-5:20 covers "genuine wisdom"
In Chapter 4 James begins with a couple of rhetorical questions.
- Where do wars and fights come from among you?
- Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
James is referring to our spiritual life of course. He is speaking of that war within when our conscious engages our free will. That voice in our head, or, as we have come to know Him, the Holy Spirit. For the believer, whom is indwelled from the moment we believed, He is our guide. Our helper, our friend, and our comforter.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. | Romans 8:15-17
Before we gave our lives to Christ, we were driven by our own desires. Each day we would awake and set out on a mission to feed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Never satisfied, we want more and more. Work, consume, work, consume, work consume. This cycle is played out every day, then we die, and it will all burn. Jesus warned us of this in the parable of the prosperous farmer.
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." | Luke 12:16-21
Farming is hard work. No doubt this farmer worked very long and difficult hours amassing his wealth. What sacrifices he must have made. There is no mention of a family, and I believe that is no accident. He could have been so concerned with gaining great wealth, that he neglected to have a family. Notice he had a desire to retire and enjoy his wealth by "eating, drinking, and being merry".
But God had different plans for him.
"Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided.
Notice that God did not say "your soul is required in heaven". God judged him, not for being wealthy, but rather for being lifted up in pride. He had a conversation with himself, not with God;
- What shall I do?
- i will do this
- I will pull down
- I will build
- I will store
In contrast, James instructs us earlier in Chapter 4 that we should;
If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that
The rich farmer was "friends with the world". He lived a life void of God and His spirit. His whole life was driven uncontrollably by the flesh. We as believers have to be cautious and heed the warnings set before us each and every day. Prosperity itself is not sinful, but our motivations are what God is concerned with. Why do we want to be prosperous? What is prosperity for the believer? What will we do with our prosperity? These are all thing we must consider when we pray for God to prosper us. God looks at our heart when we pray, and if we pray with a selfish desire, our prayers will fall on deaf ears.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. | James 4:3
In conclusion, our decisions can have long lasting effects. They can limit our access to God, and even make us "enmity with God". We are still His children, if we are in fact a Christian, but our relationship is strained. We can be "loud, proud, in a crowd" or we can be "humble, and try to not stumble, covered in Grace".