“Come near to God and He will come near to you……..Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.”
James 4: 8a, 10
James 4-5 (Psalm 32)
Conflict is a natural part of life and actually growth; some fear it, some relish it, most would rather not face it unless absolutely necessary. Conflict is unhealthy if it results in division, harm and regression. If handled correctly it leads to maturity, deepening relationships and a greater trust in God. James shows us the root cause of inappropriate conflict: selfish motives; judgement of others; infighting; slander; wrong desires; and inappropriate prayers. The solution and encouragement is to resist our old nature, Satan and pride. Instead we are to draw close to God and humble ourselves before Him. Fear can often be at the root of conflict. James warns of a tendency to counter this by having ill placed confidence in ourselves and what we will do; instead we are to simply trust God for His provision and all our tomorrows.
Another source for false confidence is worldly riches. James condemns these rich unbelievers for their abuse of the poor and tendency towards injustice. Please note he is not addressing those within the Church who are wealthy. Rather this piece of advice is there to encourage all believers not to envy the rich or seek wealth as a solution. Instead we are to persevere and live in harmony with one another as Christ will return and judge accordingly; the long view is essential.
James concludes with the encouragement for prayer, especially for the sick. The prayer of a believer who is right with God, through Christ, accomplishes much!
With my first car I purchased a Haines Manual; it was the ‘how to’ book for vehicle maintenance that, if followed, led to trouble free motoring. Well that was the theory! The manual had to be read closely and applied properly and fully to achieve its goals. This beautiful letter from James is the ‘how to’ manual for Christian living within the Church. Yes you got it, for it to work it has to be read properly and applied fully. In today’s chapters James essentially identifies our hearts as being at the heart of most problems and conflicts. Wrong motives lead to wrong desires and damaging conflict. Conflict where we slander, judge and quarrel with our fellow believers. The antidote is a close, trusting relationship with God wherein we humble ourselves before Him. This leads to a healthy prayer life that bears fruit. Positive guidance and encouragement that will bless in these times of challenge if followed.
The Question of Application
Think of any fear or conflict that you are experiencing. What is at the heart of this fear or conflict? How might you submit to God, what might you pray and then what action could you take?
Keep us, O Lord, while we tarry on this earth, in a serious seeking after you, and in affectionate walking with you, every day of our lives; that when you come, we may be found not hiding our talent, nor serving the flesh, nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished, but waiting and longing for our Lord, our glorious God for ever. Amen
Richard Baxter (1691)
God of Grace and God of Glory sung by Megan Parks
Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.