James Chapter 4

Something Worth Asking For

I loved Christmas as a kid. It was my favorite time of year. It still is as an adult. People just seemed to be friendlier, happier and all seemed right in the world. It was a small glimpse of what the world will one day look like when we are always focused on God’s wonder gift of life in His Son. And for a moment, there was peace on earth.

Christmas had some down sides for me though. As a kid all I wanted for Christmas was toys. I wanted to play. I wanted to have fun. I wanted nothing more than the stuff I thought would make me the happiest and satisfy me the most. Now, I’m sure I’m the only kid who felt this way about his Christmas presents. None-the-less my Christmas list centered around me and my pleasure.

The funny thing is I usually got what I asked for… lots of toys. At first I was exhilarated! I could not wait to tear into my new toys and play, play, play. However, they never failed to disappoint. I quickly became bored because the thrill that was promised in the commercial was never like what happened in real life. My Christmas high was always short lived. It never lasted. Yet I had received exactly what I asked for! I just held out hope that next years toys would deliver the promised satisfaction I saw on the TV commercials. And so the circle continued.

I got other things for Christmas though. Things I needed the most and appreciated the least. Things like pants and shirts, hats and gloves, socks and underwear. I got no pleasure out of these things. I would do my best to put on a fake smile, say ‘thank you’ and pretend to be grateful but deep inside I had NO appreciation for what I was given. Funny isn’t it? The things I wanted the most I needed the least and the things I appreciated the least I needed the most.

James addresses this issue in chapter 4. If ever there was a chapter in scripture that so vividly describes our culture it is this one. His language is strong but man it sure does hit home. Like my Christmas presents, James tells us that all that ‘stuff’ we want and desire leaves us empty. This causes quarrels and fights because, like me with my presents, we want them to satisfy but they don’t. They NEVER will! But we keep pursuing them hoping that the next time they will give us everything we long for. Einstein’s definition of insanity comes to mind here.

James tells us that we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask. Yet, when we do ask we do so with no greater motive than to spend what we get on our ‘own pleasures’. The motive to ask for such things with such selfish reasoning is our own desires battling within us; flamed by the Devil himself. Is it any wonder God rarely answers such prayers? James calls such desires ‘adultery’ and ‘hatred toward God’ and they make us ‘enemies of God’ for desiring them above God and the things He wants to give us.

James offers a solution to this whole mess.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (V. 7 & 10).

We submit to God by confessing our wrongful motives and desires that demand for things that are ‘friendship with the world’. We resist the Devil by acknowledging the source of such desires is not from God but rather flamed by our enemy. All this is made possible through the might of humility, which has the strength to bend our knee and loose our tongue with words of confession and repentance.

This is a difficult thing to do but if we are going to have God’s perspective on what to petition Him for it must be done. Otherwise, we are the ones who are glorified. May it never be!

May God teach us all to long for what we need and what He wants to give, in order that we may truly have something worth asking for.

Questions:

List your top five desires. Jot them down as soon as they come to mind.

Look at the list, are those five things from God? Have you given those desires to God? How might your attraction to them change if you did?

Suggested prayer:

Father help me to desire more of you above all else. Even though I may not always understand what that may look like. Give me the courage to honestly evaluate my desires in light of your will working through me.

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