These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
God wants you to live a life that blesses people. He wants you to be that person that brings wisdom and peace into the relationship. He has given you everything you need to accomplish His will for your life. You can experience the abundant life God designed you to have. But along the way you will experience conflict with others. In James 4, God is helping us understand why we argue and fight with others and why others argue and fight with us?
James 4:1-3, 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. (NLT)
We are answering the question, What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? We have already looked some of the answers that James provides. I want to encourage you to go to our website sometime this week and listen to the previous lessons on why we quarrel and fight with others. I believe you will find it insightful and helpful with the conflict in your own life.
Let’s look at two things that James says adds to the conflict in our lives.
You have conflict because you think you are self-sufficient
Number one, you have conflict because you think you are self-sufficient. James says, Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. Let’s make sure we understand what this is saying and what it is not saying.
This is NOT saying that if you ask God for something then He is obligated to give it to you. Just because you ask God for something you want doesn’t mean God is going to give it to you. Just because you ask God to make your spouse nicer, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Just because you ask God to make your teenager have the kind of work ethic or cleaning standard you have doesn’t mean its going to happen. Just because you have conflict with someone and you ask God to help them see it your way doesn’t mean its going to happen. God is not obligated to give you what you want simply because you asked Him for it.
So what does this mean? What does God’s Word mean when it says, Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it? James is pointing out that many Christians don’t even think about asking God for help of any kind, because they consider themselves self-sufficient, fully able to take care of themselves. They believe that all their needs and wants can be met by human means through their own wisdom, power, and diligence. It never occurs to them to “ask” for anything.
If, during your day and especially during conflict, God doesn’t even come across your mind then James is talking to you. You have forgotten God in all this. When you don’t talk to God, listen to God, hear what He has to say about it in His Word, or seek out godly advice you think you are self-sufficient. And that is another way to say pride.
Look at Proverbs 13:10 which says, “Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise” (NLT). Here is what pride does. It gets you to thinking you don’t need God, you don’t need godly advice and that you are the most important person in this relationship and therefore your needs and your wants are primary over others. That leads to conflict every time.
You have conflict because you are selfish
Number two, you have conflict because you are selfish. James says, And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure (NLT). Let’s break this down into bite size pieces.
- And even when you ask,
James says, and even when you ask…. Let’s stop here for just a moment. You need to know that God wants you to ask Him for help, guidance, protection, provisions, wisdom, and a host of other things that are important to you and to Him. God loves it when you go to Him and ask. Let me show you.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you” (CSB). Jesus is teaching about perseverance and prayer, but I want you to notice that Jesus assumes that you are going to ask. To Jesus, asking God for things is completely normal and expected. God wants you to talk to Him about what you think you need.
Jesus also said in Matthew 21:22, “And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (CSB). Jesus is highlighting the connection between faith and prayer, but I want you to notice that Jesus is also letting us know that it is completely normal and expected by our Heavenly Father that we ask Him for things.
Now notice what John said in 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (CSB). God wants you to ask Him for things and it really grabs His attention when it is according to His will. If my kids were to come to me and say, “Hey Dad, can I have $5 to buy a pack of cigarettes?” It’s not my will that my $5 be spent on cigarettes, so the answer would be no. “Hey Dad, can I have $5 to help pay for my friend’s lunch.” I’m hearing compassion and generosity. Yeah, you can have $5. That’s how I want my $5 spent. “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (CSB). God wants you to ask Him for things.
Then in John 14:13, John says this, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (CSB). When what you are asking for glorifies Him and its according to His will, God will do it. God wants you to see Him respond to your prayers. God wants to prove to you that He is real by answering your request.
Ask. God, I need wisdom on how to love my spouse. Ask. God, I don’t understand what’s going on my daughter, I need understanding and insight on how to help her. Ask. God, I’m asking for patience with my parents while you work things out. Ask. God I need help with my finances, help me to manage the money I have better. Ask.
- you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong –
God wants you to ask, but look again at what James says about this, when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong (NLT). A “motive” refers to the reason you do something. Most of the time your motive is hidden, it’s not obvious to others and sometimes not to you. However, God is fully aware of why you do what you do and why you are wanting what you are asking Him for.
Your motives is that part of you that reveals your intentions and reasons for why you do and why you ask for what you ask for. Psalm 139 is about your motives and reasons and intentions behind what you do. Take a look at Psalm 139:1 which says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (NLT). When you come across phrases like “examine my heart” or where God is searching the heart of someone it is referring to the person’s motives and intentions. So, the Psalmist is acknowledging that God has examined his heart and truly knows everything about Him. Why he does what does and why he does not do what he does. Then at the end of Psalm 139 we read this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT). That is a bold prayer. Have you ever asked God to “point out anything in your life that offends Him”? The Psalmist is saying, “God, point out my motives that are wrong. Help me to see my selfish reasons for why I do things.”
- you want only what will give you pleasure.
Let’s go back to James 4:3 again where James says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure” (NLT). God’s promise is to supply your need, not your greed. Prayer is not asking God for what we want, it is asking God for what He wants.
If you don’t look at what James is saying carefully, you will think it says something that it doesn’t. For example, you might think James is saying don’t ever pray for anything that will give you pleasure. That’s not what he is saying.
- If you were to pray for healing and God were to heal you? Would that bring you pleasure? Yes.
- If you were to pray for help regarding your finances and God were to answer, would that bring you pleasure?
- If you were to pray for your children’s salvation and they give their heart to Christ, would that bring your pleasure? Yes.
You get the idea. There is nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure, joy, and happiness regarding something you have prayed about and God gives it to you. So what is James saying. Again, look at what James is saying, “you want only what will give you pleasure.” Circle that word “only” and circle that word “you.” James is saying that the reason you don’t see God answering your prayer in the midst of conflict is because when you pray, your prayers are all about you and your happiness. It’s not about what God wants or what’s really best for the situation. It’s all about you and your wants and your needs and your desires.
- “God, I’m so sick and tired of my spouse’s laziness. Would you convict them and do something that would make them work harder around here?” or how about this instead, “God, I’m struggling with bitterness toward my spouse because to me they seem so lazy. Help me to lovingly encourage them and motivate them. God is there something I should do or something I should say to help them be the person you created them to be. But God, if they don’t change help me to still love them and remove this bitterness from my heart.” Do you hear the difference in those two prayers? One is about making me happier and the other is concerned about God’s will, the person they are praying for, and their own happiness.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray using the Lord’s Prayer as a model. The first three items on the list dealt with God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. The final three dealt with our needs, our forgiveness, and our protection (Matt. 6:9-13). The purpose of prayer is not to try to get God to do what we want; it is actually a means by which we align ourselves to his priorities. Part of the point of prayer is to remind ourselves of what God wants.
Why do you go from one conflict to another? Why do you go from one argument, one quarrel or one fight to another? Because you think you are self-sufficient. You don’t need God. You don’t pray. You don’t seek His wisdom for you and the conflict you are in. Another reason is because of your selfishness. You think its all about you and making you happy.
Look at what we find in Job 35:12-13, “And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride” (NLT). That pride and the attitude of self-sufficiency will mess your prayer life up. The devil wants to take you there and keep you there.
Now look at James 4:6, “But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble’” (NLT). You are going to be fighting these evil desires all your life and you cannot do it alone. You need God and others in your life.