Ye Ask Amiss

James 4.1-6  From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

James is such a good book. Well, of course the whole Bible is such a good book. But I like sinking my teeth into James and really chewing on it.

The fourth chapter of James speaks of talking to and relating with God. He spells out our own sinful flesh and desires, and how contrary we are to the ways of God. And he highlights the grace and faithfulness of our gracious, wonderful Heavenly Father.

Look at vs 7-10:  7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Verse 8 reminds me of Philippians 2.12: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Work out your own salvation. Draw near to God. God bows down and gifts us salvation. We don’t work for it; He gives it as a gift. Yet we are then to work it out. It’s WORK to draw near to God. We are to forsake all the ungodly attitudes, actions, and material things in our lives, and submit to God alone. That requires our attention and energy.

And then, look at verses 9 and 10: we are to be afflicted and mourn and weep. This is suffering, and we are to embrace it.

James 4.3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Nowhere in the Bible do I find that we are to pray for our own comfort or ease. We are encouraged to look to Jesus as our source of comfort and joy and peace; but we are not to seek a life of ease.

Look at the apostle Paul. He didn’t pray for comfort for himself. He went out and preached Jesus and got pummeled for it. We are to do the same.

“Well, I don’t want to be like Paul,” you might think. “I don’t want that kind of suffering and discomfort in my life.”

But suffering and affliction bring us closer to God. Look at the complete joy and peace Paul had, the rejoicing that poured out from him, look at his prayers that we all might experience what he had.

Paul worked out his own salvation, alright; and look at his amazing reward. I don’t think we are to go out beating the bushes and looking for trouble, mind you. Just follow hard after God, and He will direct your paths. He has promised He will not bring upon us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10.13). And when we are suffering and drowning in troubles, we can cry out to God, and He will save us (Psalms 107). We become blind to the grace of God when we are at ease; we can see Him more clearly when we are in trouble.

When you pray, don’t ask amiss. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5.6); Submit yourselves therefore to God (James 4.7a); Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (James 4.10).

Anguish in the Palm of His Hand

As we live in the palm of God’s Hand, we often suffer pain from death, physical hurt, mental anguish, broken relationships, separation, inability to fix things, hurtful words, and broken expectations.

Sometimes we bring pain upon ourselves; but often there are circumstances we cannot avoid. God always has reasons for tribulation in our lives. The most basic reason is to bring us closer to Him. Whatever is going on, God knows all about it: He is close to you, He loves you, and He wants to be your Number One Comfort.

When you are experiencing trying times, resist the temptation to fear. Remember that you live in the palm of His Hand. Give your situation, your feelings, your confusion to God, talk to Him about it, explain why it hurts so much. He wants to be your Confidante. He is your closest and best Friend.

God feels this pain with us, and He gives us Words to express our feelings.

As you speak with God, explore how you’re really doing. Think of David’s example in Psalms 25:

16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. 18 Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.

 David acknowledged his need to confess his sins and be forgiven in order to fully receive the peace and joy that God offers. Make sure you have no sin standing in the way of complete freedom before God.

In Psalms 103, we are reminded of all the blessings God showers upon us. He IS good! He DOES love us! Remember how good He is. Read the words, remember what God has worked in your own life, and praise Him:

1 {A Psalm of David.} Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; 18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. 19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. 20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. 21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. 22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

A few more verses to comfort:

Romans 8.15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

1 John 4.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Psalms 56.3, 4 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. 4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

And a reminder in a precious hymn:

Tell It to Jesus

From http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/t/e/l/l/tellitto.htm

Words: Ed­mund S. Lo­renz, in Frö­liche Bot­schaft­er, 1876. Trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Jer­e­mi­ah E. Ran­kin in Gates of Praise, 1880.

Music: Ed­mund S. Lo­renz

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

What are your Lions?

WhatAreYourLions1*

God promises throughout His Word that we will face trials, tribulations, and sufferings. He also promises salvation, joy, and peace. How can all this co-exist in the same realm?

Daniel was thrown into a den of lions. That’s some tribulation. Yet Daniel went in with perfect peace. He had perfect trust in his Heavenly Father. If he died, it was God’s will; if he lived, it was God’s will.

We have lions prowling about us, seeking to devour us: 1 Peter 5.8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Satan may work with his minions, or he may use people to carry out his plans.

Do you have lions in your life? A bully? Someone wearing continually on your raw nerves? Sickness or death? Stress in the family or at work? Memories?

God to the rescue. Just look for Him, and you will find Him.

God works to bless us and guide us in many ways. He may work through His Spirit or His Word. He may work through other people.

He can also work through His angels. [Side note: I have often wondered why God created angels. I mean, He can do any work He wants, all by Himself; it’s not like He needs the help. But sometimes He sends His angels to do the work. I think there must be a glorious reason for the work of angels, something so fantastic and wonderful that I can’t even imagine it.] Hebrews 1.7, 14 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fireAre they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Hebrews 13.2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

When you face your lions, read Chapter 6 in the book of Daniel. God gives us human examples of faith all through the Bible. (Another great one is in 2 Kings Ch 6.) He wants us to pay attention and learn.

Daniel 6.26, 27 … men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

*image from the Internet