Welcome Back to Journaling Through James, Week 4!
This Week’s Text: James 4:1-17
If you’ll recall, last week’s chapter ended with the words, “…a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”.
James begins his next sentence (the start of our text this week) with the exact opposite of peace: “What causes quarrels and fights among you?”
His answer: Your passions are at war within you. Our flesh and spirit seldom agree with one another. When our flesh desires something, it entices us to obtain it by fleshly means (James cites murder, fighting, and quarreling as examples).
He goes on to explain we do not have because we fail to ask, OR because we ask with wrong motives (ie—to satisfy flesh). James likens chasing earthly passions to committing adultery—you can’t have it both ways. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God”. (Another counter-cultural reference!)
This is a hard teaching! The world tells us to “follow your hearts desire” and “chase your dreams”. But if our dreams are to make ourselves great (not God), then we can’t please God. “You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) Jesus is actually talking about money in here, but the sentiment also applies to the James passage. We can just as easily make ourselves/our desires idols that compete for our devotion. We must not ignore God’s will to follow our own (and expect to please him).
Being told we might not have what we want hurts our pride. “Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
James reminds the reader (in case he/she is feeling prickly about the prospect of giving in to God’s will) that we are all double-minded sinners (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23).
We want to receive the gift of grace and eternal life, but we also want to “live our best life” in the here and now (and society deludes us that we are entitled to both). James instructs us to “Cleans your hands. Purify your hearts. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laugher be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Make no mistake about it—letting go of a dream/deep desire will be painful. James gives us full permission to grieve our loss. (This reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler, told in 3 separate gospel accounts. He knelt before Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. After establishing the young man had kept all of the commandments, Jesus told him the one thing he lacked was to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor…the and to follow him. The rich young ruler went away grieving because he owned a great deal of possessions.) We must not fall into the trap of valuing the temporal today over the eternal tomorrow. His way is better, but we have to trust him and choose it.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” Do not speak evil/judge others—it is not our place to judge. Do not get too fixed on your own plans—leave room for the Spirit to “recalculate” your route. Be open, flexible, and willing to divert to his will.
Your life is a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. God has numbered our days. Our life is in His hands. Why then, would we leave him out of the loop when making plans? All of our time belongs to Him!
How did this passage speak to you this week? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or check out our Farm Girl Bible Journaling Facebook group to share pictures of your own Bible Journaling Journey!
Blessings on you this week,