Pray this week to see your own heart with regard to quarrels and conflicts that arise, and pray that you would be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord.
James begins the 4th chapter with two questions. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) If we look back at the end of chapter 3, he’s already answered the questions. “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)
As we mentioned a few days ago, evil speech destroys Christian unity. D. L. Moody commented that he had never known God to bless a church where the Lord’s people were divided. As James is writing this epistle to scattered Jewish Christians (members of the church), he is admonishing them to stop the quarreling and divisions within the body. “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” (Proverbs 3:31-35)
In Paul’s letter to Galatia, we see similar admonishments. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galations 5:13-21)
When we get into conflicts with others, we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and be slow to anger (James 1:19). We need to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to examine our hearts and point out anything in our hearts that we need to surrender to Him. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Understand this: the devil has been on your street. He knows where you live. He is your adversary, and he would like to take over your life. The Bible tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9). There are many ways Satan can gain access. He can gain a foothold in your life through fear, sin, occult practices, unforgiveness, ignorance, or any area that you have not submitted to God. Once the devil’s foot is in the door, he will begin to wreak havoc in your life. You can give the devil a foothold in your mind by dwelling on negative thoughts. You can give him access into your sexuality by yielding to pornography. You can give the devil your tongue by participating in gossip or lying. James 4:7-8 tells believers: “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” However, if you put out a welcome mat for the devil, he is within his rights to settle in and stay.
The devil is a liar and a deceiver (John 8:44), and he will continue to tempt, lay traps and plot trouble for you. However, Romans 8:37 tells us, “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” After all, “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8). So you see, Satan is already a defeated enemy! His legal authority was neutralized by the finished work of Christ on the cross. Because Jesus made you more than a conqueror, you can enforce the devil’s defeat and keep him in his place.
God places great importance on your mind, and He created you in such a way that you will always move in the direction of your dominant thoughts. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” It’s really quite simple: the way you think is the way you live. Your thoughts literally shape your habits and control your life. God’s intent is that all your thoughts and actions would be influenced by His words. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4). That is what God says should be normal for us.
The Apostle Paul talks about how God has equipped us to deal with thoughts that do not line up with His Word. He said, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We need to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. These thoughts – the ones we should reject but do not – can become strongholds. Strongholds are the result of wrong thinking or beliefs that have taken root in your life. They are contrary to God’s thoughts and are most often inspired by the devil’s lies – lies you believe about yourself, God or others – and they give the devil a strong hold on your actions, behaviors and habits. The more strongly you believe these lies, the stronger the hold. Strongholds don’t just sit in your mind doing nothing. They produce actions, behaviors and habits.
So what is our recourse? The cure for evil desires is humility. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19) We can be released from our self-centered and evil desires by humbling ourselves before God, giving over our will and desire to Him, and ask Him to replace those desires with His desires for us. We need to ask Him to show us any immorality or bitterness that is allowing the enemy to gain a stronghold in us. We need to lay these at Jesus Christ’s feet in humility, and instead ask Him to fill us with wisdom from Heaven. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18)
Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we can see, touch, or imagine. It creates greedy appetites for far more than we need. Its the devil’s domain and we must resist it. We can be released from our self centered desires by humbling ourselves before God, realizing that all we need is His approval! When the Holy Spirit fills us, we see that this world’s seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer. Humility is tough for the Lost and Saved alike. A lost person must show humility as they understand that they must ask for forgiveness of their sins through Jesus. The Saved must represent humility in our faith. Through Christ we must represent to a lost and dying world and fellow Christians love, compassion, boldness and lots of humility. Humility is a key to faithful service in Christ. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
Humbling ourselves opens the doors of spiritual opportunity. God will exalt us in due season. It means we are recognizing that our worth comes from God alone. “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6) Pray for the Lord God to help you make Him and His glory your greatest passion, and to see when something else competes for His place in your heart.
We sometimes feel bold as a lion, wise as a scholar or courageous as a soldier, but as Children of God; we can best see His face from our knees.