Prepare yourself to discern what is and what is not of God today. Still yourself so you can hear how God is calling you.
James 4:1-10 (NRSV)
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
In 2001, John Hodgman from NPR’s This American Life conducted an informal, unscientific survey asking the question: Which is better? The power of flight or the power of invisibility?
One typical respondent, who had chosen flight, commented, “I don’t think I’d want to spend a lot of my time using my power for good. I mean, if I don’t have super strength and I’m not invulnerable, it would be very dangerous. If you had to rescue somebody from a burning building, you might catch on fire. Just having the power of flight, I don’t think it’s necessarily quite enough because you don’t have the super strength. I’d still be weak when I got there. I don’t fight crime now.”
Do you hear the inherent selfishness in her response, which is present within all of us? James pinpoints the problem: “Those conflicts and disputes among you… Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?”
What to do? James has some very practical advice. If we truly want to follow Jesus, then we must
• Submit ourselves to God,
• Resist the devil,
• Cleanse our hands,
• Purify our hearts,
• For all our selfish ways, lament and mourn and weep,
• Let our laughter be turned into mourning and our joy into dejection, and
• Humble ourselves before the Lord
How can we, with all of our selfish desires, do any of that? Very simple: We “draw near to God, and [God] will draw near to [us].”
As we draw near you, Lord Jesus, please draw near to us. You’ve called us together as your body in this world. In our gratitude and love of you, help us not forget others whom you know as your beloved children, others whom you call to be part of your beloved family, others for whom you are seeking and searching, others who need our help. Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we settle down with folks who are like ourselves, when we content ourselves with those in our community, when we stop calling, inviting, and welcoming strangers as our beloved sisters and brothers, when we ignore those who need our help. Tear down the barriers that separate us from others; open us up; and turn us inside out. For your sake and in your name we pray. Amen.
Go with God.