James 4:1-10

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:1-10

It was many years ago. Long enough ago that I only had an AM/FM radio in the car – not even a cassette deck. I was driving in Houston, listening to the late John Osteen preaching a sermon on a Christian radio station, when he said something along the lines of “Of course the Holy Spirit will help you pick stocks! God wants only what is best for you, including your finances. When you pray before you invest your money you are coming alongside God who will guide your decisions and bless your investments.”

My thought at the time was some version of “I can’t believe what I’m hearing! I would NEVER say that!” And now the church that John started in a feed store is one of the largest congregations in the United States. His son is a multi-millionaire. And I still have never said in a sermon to my people that the Holy Spirit will guide their investment decisions if only they will ask for help. Have I missed something here?

Yesterday a reader responded with a story about praying fervently for the physical recovery of her sister from an infection. She began to improve, was released from the hospital, and she died a week later. Now the reader reports her difficulty with prayer. How many times have we heard that? How many times have we experienced it?

It comes so naturally to us to take James’ words out of context and apply them literally and personally. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly… We do that and it is crushing to us. It keeps us in a place of comparing our lives to others, our prayers to others, our experiences to others, and we always follow that up with simple math: God answered their prayers = They are spiritually better than us. That kills.

What James is saying here is less about what God does and more about our own mindsets. He points out how quickly we are to take things into our own hands and live by greed rather than grace. We want what we want when we want it and how we want it and then we go to war to make it happen. We pull out all the artillery we have to get our way. And no matter what it is we want, there is always another want just around the corner.

James offers another stance for life: Letting go and letting God. Resistance by surrender. Humility over hubris. Thy will be done. Prayer, not to get our way, but prayer to experience the presence of God in all things, to know we are never alone.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, come to us as we come to you. We can’t figure everything out. We can’t seem to get past our endless lists of what we want in life. We want and we want and we want. You invite us to let go, to give up, to trust. This morning, by your grace, fill us with a new sense of trust. In all things, for all things, your will be done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “James 4:1-10”

  1. Marlys Says:

    Thank you for this message. Assurance for today and trust in His Will,
    We so need to live above the world today!

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