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).