November 29, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Quarreling and Fighting”

James 4.1-10 (NASB)

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

As I have been processing the death of Stan Lee, someone who shaped much of my childhood as a 90’s kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, I’m reminded again of how death causes us to reevaluate life. In death, we see what’s really important—what is the substance of man. We think of people like Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade—people who seemingly were at the top of their careers with everything that they could ever imagine—crumble internally to the point of taking their own lives. It is a reminder that there is more to life than riches and fame.

Today’s passage is a poignant reminder of this reality. In a community filled with quarreling and fighting, James quickly addresses what is truly at the root of it all. Especially when it comes to our conflicts with other people, it is so easy for us to look at the other side and point out everything that the other person did wrong. We even use religious language, accusing the other person of lacking humility or being worldly. But at the core of it, God’s word teaches us that it is because of our own lustful, envious desires that we find ourselves in conflict with others.

The consequence is multi-faceted: There is conflict and drama externally around us, but there is also another layer where these desires cause chaos within ourselves. A commentator notes that the word member in verse 1 is more often used to refer to a bodily organ or part of the human body; in other words, our unchecked, self-seeking desires cause a war within ourselves. The pleasures we seek actually disrupts our peace and well-being.

There is yet another layer. Why is there a disruption of peace? Because these lustful pleasures separate us from God. We become an enemy of God because we have befriended the world. We ask and do not receive, because we ask with wrong motives. We suffer because our prayers become ineffective. God no longer hears our prayers for they will only hurt us more, for we ask with wrong motives. We are separated from the very Source of our peace.

So what is the solution? Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (v.10). And James lays out what this looks like. He calls for us to submit ourselves to Him because He gives us a greater grace. Confess that we need Him. Mind you, the first step isn’t to try to fight this thing on our own. It is to come back, crawling if we need, to our Father who will draw near to us if we draw near to Him. Brothers and sisters, may we always be a people who seek to draw near to Him, knowing that there is no life apart from Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that You provide a greater grace to those who earnestly seek You. Thank You that Your grace is greater than our lustful desires that disrupts our peace. Help us to constantly submit ourselves to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Colossians 3:4-10: When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the things that belong to our old self? What is the consequence of a life that lives in these things?
  2. What should be the mindset of a person who has put on the new self?
  3. What does it mean for you that in Christ who is your life, you are being renewed (v.10)?

Notes

  1. These things belong to the old self: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech. The consequence of living such a life leads to the wrath of God.
  2. Paul writes in verse 5, “Therefore consider…”—in other words, turn your mind to the truth that you are no longer your old self. I especially appreciate how the Amplified Version puts it:  So put to death and deprive of power the evil longings of your earthly body [with its sensual, self-centered instincts] immorality, impurity, sinful passion, evil desire, and greed, which is [a kind of] idolatry [because it replaces your devotion to God].” We are commanded to cut off the power of these old desires because of Christ.
  3. Personal response. Perhaps there is a part of your old self that you have been struggling with. What does it mean for you that Christ is your life?

Evening Reflection

Have there been moments throughout today where you felt the nearness of God? In what ways did you experience the truth of James 4:8, where you drew near to God and He drew near to you? Reflect on these moments. Cherish them in your heart. Give thanks to God for them.

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