I’ve got three boys: a nine-year-old and twin six-year-olds. And yesterday, I made the biggest mistake ever! I offered to them that we could do “…whatever you want!”
They didn’t have an immediate answer, but eventually the topic of donuts for breakfast came up.
You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal… until the day played itself out. First off, we had to run by Target that afternoon, so on the way I called the donut shop. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, so I had to leave a voicemail… but first I had to listen to their outgoing message… over the car’s Bluetooth… for all the boys to hear. The message politely said that their hours of operation are 4:00am – 2:00pm.
This is where my mistake began to take fruition.
“Dad! Let’s get donuts at 4:00am tomorrow!”
“Ain’t no way we’re getting donuts at 4:00am.”
“You said ‘anything we want to do’… you’ll do it!”
I tried to reason with them. I told them we’re all adults (45, 9 & 6 year old adults). I tried to compromise with them. I offered 6:00.
“Alright, fine. 5:00?”
Begrudgingly, they agreed on 5:00am.
I thought I had pulled one over on them. I’d wake up at 5:00 and “attempt” to wake them up. They won’t want to get up that early, so I’ll roll back into bed for my snoozefest!
I underestimated their excitement for 5:00am donuts! They were dressed, buckled in and ready to eat sprinkled donuts before the sun ever even considered rising! Even my oldest, who we have to shake awake on Christmas morning was ready to roll at O-Dark-30!
Then it got worse.
Little did I know that it would be pouring rain that day at that hour. Not a huge deal for most families, but my oldest HATES the rain, because it’s often accompanied by thunder and he can’t handle the sound of thunder. So, at 5:00am, I crank up… and begin to sing along with… Michael Jackson in order to thoroughly distract my donut-deprived son.
What does that have to do with the fourth chapter of the Book of James? Maybe very little, but it’s what’s been going on in my life, along with me being convicted by James’ words!
Like in the movie Reservoir Dogs, where the cop is getting a beat down by Michael Madsen… I sometimes feel like I’m strapped to a chair getting a verbal beat down by James: “…and your tongue can set a forest on fire…!”
I feel convicted. There’s no way around it!
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Talk about convicting!
But don’t get me (or the Bible) wrong – there’s nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life. God gives us each gifts that He wants us to enjoy. But if all we are looking for is pleasure from the world, we will never get what we truly want. The pleasure we seek and strive for MUST come from God.
Otherwise, if we try to find happiness, pleasure, fulfillment – whatever you want to call it – from other places (relationships, sex, shopping, food, alcohol, etc.) you will never, ever, ever be happy. In fact, that stuff will eventually actually bring you down. The only way you can experience actual joy is by allowing the Holy Spirit to work inside of you.
I’m living proof of this!
I once lived a life that was completely morally bankrupt. Then I began to follow and pursue God’s will. Then, over the last year-and-a-half, I strayed… maybe not to the point that I would call morally bankrupt, but definitely away from God’s will. But I was definitely making choices that I know were not the right choices. But instead of feeling the happiness that I was striving for, all I actually felt was a longing for God.
I relate to Adam and Eve. When they sinned and ate the fruit, they realized that they were naked and were ashamed. They ran off, hid and made some fig-leaf underwear. God then came around looking for them and called out, “Where are you guys?” But, they were so ashamed, they didn’t want to come out of hiding.
That’s how I felt. I was ashamed of what I had become and how little I was talking with Him. Especially since there was a time when I was so in love with Him, I was incrementally ashamed when I took that hard look in the mirror at myself.
James continues in verse four:
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
Again! I feel like I’m strapped down in that chair and James is just pounding on me with hard truth! I hear this and can’t help but think, “Yeah… I think I’m a ‘friend of the world’. You know why? Because I still like BMW’s. I still think they’re cool. I don’t drive one anymore, but I still think they’re cool. And I’m still really into Fantasy Football.
Now, I’m not saying that these things are wrong. They’re not. There’s nothing wrong with BMW’s or Fantasy Football.
The problem is prioritizing.
When those things become more important than the Lord, that’s when they become problems. That’s what James is saying here.
And here’s the flipside – go down to verse six:
And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
He gives grace to the humble! So, what does this tell us? It means that the cure for evil desires is humility. Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we can see, touch, or even imagine. It creates greedy appetites within us.
This was the hardest thing for me. My heart was so hardened by pride that I didn’t even realize my need for humility. It took me so long to get humble.
But that’s where God wanted me. And it’s where He wants all of us. He wants us all to have humble hearts.
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
In other words, when you are tempted to gossip about someone, or have sex outside of marriage, or face any other temptations to go against God’s will for your life… when you are tempted and you don’t take the bait, but instead resist, the devil will move along.
Now, know this – it’s not a sin to be tempted!
We all are tempted – even Jesus faced temptation – but it is a sin to take the bait and fall into sin.
But, getting back to humility, James writes more in verse ten:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
This is mind-blowing! If you can do it… if you humble yourself. My Bible has a note at this verse that says: “Bowing in humility before the Lord means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone. To be humble involves leaning on His power and His guidance and not going our own independent way. Although we do not deserve God’s favor, He wants to lift us up and give us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings.”
That NAILS what humility is. As we are faced with whatever temptation comes our way throughout the day, and we put God first and ask Him for His strength and guidance on how to handle the temptation, then He promises to meet us and lift us up!
James goes on to make perfect sense in verse eleven:
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
Think about it… you didn’t knit Bob in the next cubicle from his mother’s womb, so stop trying to figure him out so much. God knitted him together – not you. So, let God be the Judge – not you.
James continues in verse thirteen, talking about self-confidence:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
Verse seventeen says it all!
So many times, people run around, driving themselves crazy trying to decipher what is a sin and what isn’t. James makes the argument very clear: If you know what you ought to do and you don’t do it, then you have sinned. It’s simple.
So, one thing we need to do is to search within ourselves and say out loud what our toughest temptations are. Because that’s where the enemy will attack us with the most power and stealth. He’s cunning like a prowling lion, waiting to devour us. But, when we put on the whole armor of God, we are prepared to resist his temptations.
So, pray, read your Bible, serve others, connect with a local church for fellowship and accountability. Otherwise, you have a huge target on your back that the enemy will go after with a vengeance.