This week was particularly good for me. Why? Well, I think I told you on day one of my blog here (or maybe I didn’t) but I am an assistant small group leader in the Women’s Ministry at my church. My group leader was actually going to be out of town this past Thursday so I was going to have to lead the small group discussion. Eeeeek! Its good for me to have to do this every so often so that I grow as a leader and get comfortable. Perhaps one day I can be a group leader….. but for now I feel I’m still learning and growing. We’ll see what the Lord has in store. Anyway, so I did a lot of studying and paying special and close attention to things that I might want to discuss or bring up to stir conversation. So, this week really made me think.
We went through James 4:1-17 this week. I feel like there is a lot that was covered and though I don’t want to short-change you guys at all, I do want to cover everything so I’m going to buzz through each section pretty quickly.
The first thing Beth Moore had us do was answer some questions. Nine to be exact. They were mostly about battles in our lives, people we argue with and then about things we have desired, prayed and wanted for a long time. She asked us these questions so that she could then discuss what Jameshas to say at the beginning of chapter 4:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” -James 4: 1
I never really thought about my arguments with others having anything to do with the desires plaguing my heart. Did you? I guess it makes sense because either the things I desire can be given to me by someone who isn’t and that causes strife between us or I am jealous of someone who has what I want which does the same. But I began to think about it more closely in my life. Sometimes the desires of my heart are sooooo strong that it causes me very physical and mental anguish. When I am feeling this way there is no one (not even Moviestar) who can console me or make it right. So, either we argue because I’m in a bad mood (because I dont have what I want) or there is tension because they don’t know how to help me but want to. Usually its because I’m upset and in a nasty mood that causes arguments. This all just came up when I was contemplating how to compare the two in my life. Apparently I have some stuff to work out…. Anyway, to finish up this segment Beth then discusses why sometimes we don’t have what we want: because we don’t ask God for it.
“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” -James 4: 2-3
Wow. Powerful stuff. Now of course we dont always receive what we ask God for, even if it has pure and righteous motives, so dont start thinking just because you want something, ask God and have the right motives that it will be granted to you. We still have to remember that it may not be in Gods will and therefore He will lovingly have to say no. But sometimes we don’t have because we don’t even ask. I know, I know…. Doesn’t God already know what’s in my heart? Why do I have to ask Him? Well, if you are a parent or a guardian or a leader of some sort don’t you appreciate it when your child or follower asks you for something (even if you already knew they wanted or needed it)? Its the same with God. What asking for it does is show your humility, your respect, your love and your faith in them to provide. So, ask Him.
James then moves onto the topic of friends. Oh not your best gal pal but your friendship with God and your friendship with the world.
“Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who choose to be a friend of the world because an enemy of God.” -James 4:4
Hea-vy. So what is being “a friend of the world”? Well, Beth puts it pretty well:
“To have a warm, familiar attitude toward this evil world is to be on good terms with God’s enemy.”
If you feel that way, you may need to spend some serious time with Jesus to figure out what’s going on. For me, this world crawls under my skin so much that I want to be in Heaven with the Lord every second of every day. However, I must live here until my final day comes and fight the principalities of darkness that wage war against us believers. I am not a friend of the world. I am a friend of God.
Awwwww….. a friend of God. Beth made a statement which prompted me to ask my group a question. Here’s what she said:
“Friendship with God comes only by practicing the elements of that beautiful, almost unfathomable relationship.” (emphasis mine)
So my question to the ladies was this: “Are you actively practicing your friendship with God?” And I ask you the same thing. What I mean is are you (as you would with any human friendship) in the act, daily, of working on your friendship with the Lord Almighty? I was saddened to hear one of the girls in the group say, “I don’t feel I have a friendship with Him.” My heart just broke. So, as we all discussed it, we tried to encourage her. I hope it is making a difference. And I hope contemplating this question encourages you too.
James then goes into submitting to the Lord, humbling yourself before Him who is the one and only judge. Which takes to His next point of the way we treat others. James is huge on loving your neighbor as yourself and he talks about it all throughout this book. But here he speaks on not judging them. And in the context of the book, he is speaking of not judging other believers. I can’t say too much about this other than, Leave the judging of other Christians to God. He alone knows their heart and motives.
Lastly in chapter 4 James talks about planning your life in verses 13-17. Have you ever made a 5-10 year plan for your life? Most of us have. I know in college, a professor or two asked us to come up with a plan as to where we see ourselves in that time frame. I’ve even had people ask me on job interviews. I know that there they are just trying to see if I’m committed to them enough to see myself still working there in 5 years, but the concept to me is hilarious. Look, my life has been such a whirlwind of change and not receiving the things I planned that I have had to accept that God’s will can never be planned by us. I simply have to live my life and make my plans knowing full-well that none of it may actually come to pass. And I laugh in the face of people who get so frustrated when their “life-plan” isn’t working out the way it’s suppose to. So, let’s follow James here:
“Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lords will, we will live and do this or that.’ ” -James 4:15
To finish up this week, I’ll quote Beth in a beautiful statement on this subject:
“God is the only one looking through every layer and at every implication. He also looks upon a situation in context of what is, what was, and what is to come. His deliberations don’t just involve immediate impact. He sees our place and our positions amid carefully woven generations.”
I also have a daily devotion that I do and today’s was about this very subject. Is the Lord trying to tell me something? I don;t know… but the woman spoke of wondering if Mary -the mother of Jesus- was upset that she had to deliver her baby in Bethlehem and not with her family who would be there to support and encourage her. She wondered if Mary ever prayed that she could have her baby in her home-town. Little did Mary know that Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem. But not only that, she didn’t know that
“the shepherds had been chosen, the weather was planned, the star was in the right place, the wise men were on their way, other events in Herod’s life had brought his jealousy to the boiling point, every person had carried out his part of the program, even renting all the available rooms! Everything was ready in Bethlehem for the long-awaited prophecy to be fulfilled. God had made His plans.” – Lifetime Daily Devotions
All that was ready and she had no idea. So what if God just said, “Okay Mary, since you prayed and asked for it with a pure heart, we’ll do it your way.” I don’t think so. Make your plans, dream your dreams and hope for what you want, but know in the end that God has it all worked out amid the history and future of the rest of humanity. Don’t you feel so small and unknowledgeable? What an awesome God we have.