In our last study, we talked about the different kinds of wisdom. There was the wisdom that was of the world, of our flesh, that which is demonically inspired. Then there was godly wisdom, wisdom from above. The fruit of godly wisdom is peace.
Now, as we pick up chapter four in the epistle of James, he sternly points out to the Christians he is writing to that they have not been applying godly wisdom. He knows this because they are not experiencing peace. On the contrary, they are fighting between themselves about many things. There were conflicts between the rich and the poor (2:1-9). There were teachers who desired position in the church, thinking of themselves as better than the others who were teaching (3:1). There were people who blessed God on Sundays but cursed one another the rest of the week (3:9-10), and there were those who were jealous of each other (3:14).
So James addresses this in no uncertain terms, beginning in verse one.
What was the root cause of all their conflicts? It was the same source as all conflicts, because every conflict has the same source: pleasures waging war in members. In other words, someone is putting his or her own wants, lusts, and desires above someone else.
The word "lusts" in Greek is "hay-don-AY," which means "desire for pleasure." It is where we get our word "hedonism," the thought that pleasure is the most important thing in life.
Hedonism is common among the human population. After all, let's admit it - pleasure is pleasurable. Why not pursue it? As they said in the 60's, "If it feels good, do it." The problem is that what is pleasurable is not always what is right. What our flesh desires is often not what the Spirit of God desires for us.
Gal. 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another...
That is why Jesus exhorted,
Matt. 26:41 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Conflicts arise between people because there is conflict inside of people. Their inner turmoil between what they want and what is right springs outward and causes conflict.
But then James makes a strange statement:
James 4:2 ...You do not have because you do not ask.
What does he mean? Just this: if you have desires for this life, if there is a pleasure that you're pursuing, have you prayed about it? Have you asked God? Or have you just assumed that it is not what God wants for you, so you're not going to pray about it. You're going to make it happen whether or not God wants it for you. Why not ask? Why not appeal to the Lord and see if your desire is in His perfect plan for you?
Many of us don't ask because we are afraid that God doesn't want for us what we want for us. Try asking.
Of course, there is also the possibility that you have asked. "I asked, but God didn't make it happen," you might say. "He never gave me the pleasure that I was pursuing." Why didn't He give it to you? James answers that question in the next verse.
Even when we ask God for something, our motives are often wrong. Consider why you want what you are desiring, why you are pursuing this certain pleasure. Is it for selfless reasons? Will it benefit the kingdom of God? Will it help others? Or is it merely to satisfy you?
Again, one might ask, "What's wrong with wanting something that's just for me? Am I not allowed to have fun? Am I not allowed to get what I want once in awhile?" Let's look at the hard reality, saints. Pleasure is fun, but our lives have not been given to us just for pleasure. As the Scripture says,
1Cor. 6:19-20 ...you are not your own... you have been bought with a price...
You don't belong to yourself - Jesus Christ has bought you with His blood for His purposes. No, it is the unsaved person who may pursue pleasure. After all, like the apostle Paul wrote,
1Cor. 15:32 ...If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
If I have no hope of eternal life, then I am going to pursue pleasure, for that is all I have. But if I have been given the gift of eternal life, then I am going to do what is right, even when it is conflict with my flesh, because I am not my own.
Many people live lives of compromise. They want to be Christians, they want to go to heaven, to have eternal life, but they also want to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of this life as well. James is as blunt as you can be, saying,
James 4:4 ...friendship with the world is hostility toward God...
Are you a Christian or not? Does the Spirit dwell in you or not? If so, then you must submit yourself to the Lord's will, and stop pursuing your own will. He knows what's best for you, and if you will be patient, then He will accomplish His perfect plan for your life.
Ps. 37:3-5 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will give you a greater grace, giving you what you don't deserve, blessing you with abundant and wonderful things. So be humble enough to know that His plan is better.
So be willing to bring your desires to the Lord. Ask Him. Say, "Lord, if what I'm desiring is your will for me, then I'm trusting you to do it. If it's not, no matter how much I want it, I will not pursue it." That is what it means to be in submission to the Lord - state your desires, and let Him decide.
Unfortunately, the devil works overtime on us when we want something we're not getting. This is often where we fall into sin, being tempted to take the matter out of God's hands and into our own. So James says to "resist the devil and he will flee." The word "resist" means "to stand against." Make your stand against the desire to take control and make it happen in your own flesh.
Take your stand against the devil and repent for sin, turn away from it. Confessing it. Be sorrowful over it, weep because of it. Stop treating it like nothing, and do something about it.
Saints, God may want for you what you want. He may be waiting for the right time to give it to you, to accomplish it, to bring it about. If you will simply humble yourself before the Lord and give Him the control, He will lift you up.