Read: James 4:1-12
Reflect: I was 16 years old and had been a regular in playing the pipe organ at our local church. I distinctly remember the phone call I received from the head of the Elder Board. He dangled before me the carrot of becoming the paid church organist and then he added the catch: I would have to tell my mom she could no longer be in the church choir. It was definitely not a deal generated in heaven. My mom was fairly scary and there was large conflict in the choir, so the predicament they placed me in was born of the fears of adult men in leadership. These were professing believers who thought that by their own wits they could solve their dilemma. They did what came naturally and it definitely was not from the heart of the Holy Spirit.
That’s exactly what James 4 talks about; professing believers resorting to ungodly means to achieve their desires. Schemes and behaviors cooked up by people who are not bringing their problem before the Throne of God. They didn’t realize that natural means aren’t effective weapons in spiritual warfare; they may give a temporary fix, but are not a holy solution.
James uses some sharp words in this passage to describe the behaviors of his reading audience. If you read the Amplified Version, he uses terms such as: “hedonistic desires, jealousy, coveting, lust, murder, envy, unanswered prayer, selfishness, flirting with the world, pride, slander, and judging each other”. It sounds like a bad soap opera where individuals are doing whatever they want in order to get whatever they want. That’s what happens when God followers resort to their own devices.
Maybe you have your own church conflict story? If you do, then what is the solution so that you don’t resort to the identical behavior that sent you into a tailspin? I love the paraphrase from The Message for James 4:7-10 “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him make himself scarce. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”
Apply: How would your world change if the next time you wanted something, you laid it all out before the feet of God and examined it through God’s eyes? What would happen if you prayed, “God, no matter how hard it is, I want to obey You. Please give me the courage and strength to behave in an honorable way before You so that the angels are giving high fives in heaven.” I don’t think you would be pressuring a 16-year-old girl with a scheme to bounce her mom off the church choir. “The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” No bouncing allowed!