As you and I delight in God, our hearts open to the Lord, to be moved by God’s Spirit, to be formed by God’s love and goodness, we find that we begin to receive from God good and godly desires. Desires that are aligned with God’s will, that have healthy and good motives, that promote the flourishing of God’s purposes and principles within us—as well as in the lives of those around us.
Goals and Desires
We often get our goals and desires mixed up.
|Healthy||I have the ability to achieve it, so I take responsibility for it, and work towards fulfilling it.||I do not have the ability to achieve it, I need outside help, so I acknowledge I cannot take responsibility for it, and express my desire to God and others in the hope it will be fulfilled|
|Unhealthy||I do not have the ability to achieve it, but I still take responsibility for it and work towards fulfilling it. I find I have to resort to deceit and manipulation.||I have the ability to achieve it, but I do not take responsibility for it. Instead, I place the responsibility on God and/or others, and expect them to fulfill it. I find I have to resort to deceit and manipulation.|
The key is whether I can legitimately achieve the aim and therefore can legitimately take responsibility.
James has already given us several, so far.
- Ask God for wisdom, then put it to use.
- Develop perseverance during difficult circumstances.
- Show God’s love to people in practical ways.
- Be respectful of all people, regardless of their station in life.
- “Make” others happy—or any other state such as obedient, law-abiding, of good character.
- “Make” God bless, protect, heal, provide, or any other action.
- Others would have good character, respect and honor boundaries, love.
- God would bless, heal, provide, protect, or any other action, in given situations.
- God would give me character and wisdom (without my own cooperation or involvement).
- God would make me love and respect others (without my own cooperation or involvement).
Unhealthy Desire: When I get angry at my partner for “letting” me sleep in and therefore be late for work, I have wrongly placed the responsibility for my lateness on that person. It is actually my own responsibility to see to it I wake up on time. That is a goal I have control over, not simply a desire I hope others would fulfill.
Unhealthy Goal: By the same token, if I get angry at my partner for sleeping in and getting to work late, after I came in and shook them again and again, made loud noises, got their breakfast ready for them, practically showered them and dressed them as they lay there . . . I will have wrongly taken responsibility for their behavior. Their prompt arrival to work is a desire of mine, but I can not fulfill it alone. I can only express to God and my partner it is something I hope for.
Adulterous ones, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes-himself an enemy of God.James 4:4 (DLNT)
James was not changing the subject. He was saying something very significant. Adultery happens when you and I give the love we have promised one person to someone else. Spiritual adultery happens when we give love that belongs to God alone to something or someone else.
And now we return to that Big Question about freedom of choice, desires and goals, what it means to be human.
God desires faithfulness while at the same time honors our dignity of choice. God does not “make” us be faithful.
James was saying human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery.
How do you and I get out of this cycle?
Or do you think that the Scripture speaks vainly? He yearns jealously for the spirit which He made-to-dwell in us!James 4:5 (DLNT)
The Holy Spirit longs jealously for our full devotion. Love for God is foundational to everything else. Love for God will lead to loving others as ourselves, so their desires, and their needs will be at least as important to us as our own.
There are only two ways to look for satisfaction and fulfillment: Jesus, or something else. If you and I let ourselves hunger-to-the-point-of-making-it-a-goal after that something else, a relationship, the desire for vengeance, a particular event to happen, wealth, could be anything, then we have stopped looking to God for that deep heart fulfillment.
A Wise Person
Now, a bit ago, James began to list those things that make a person wise with heavenly wisdom. The first was
- A wise person lives in humility, submitting their life to God, allowing the Holy Spirit to control their thoughts, their feelings and thereby their words and actions.
Now comes the second.
But He gives greater grace!
Therefore it says [in Proverbs 3:34], “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. Therefore, submit to God, but resist the devil and he will flee from you.James 4:6-7 (DLNT)
- A wise person is strong in the Lord by humbly submitting to God, to be patient, to persevere, and to stand firm against evil, against Satan himself.
And then a third
Draw-near to God and He will draw-near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded ones . . . Humble-yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.James 4:8, 10 (DLNT)
- A wise person knows a reboot is just a confession away and is therefore always living a life of repentance.
Do not be speaking-against one another, brothers [and sisters]. The one speaking-against a brother [or sister] or judging [their] brother [or sister] is speaking-against the Law and judging the Law. But if you are judging the Law, you are not a doer of the Law, but a judge.James 4:11 [DLNT]
Verse 11 is linked with verse 7 where the word translated devil actually means slanderer.
James is implying slander is the work of the devil.
It does not have to be open words, it can simply be micro-messages delivered through sly remarks, tone of voice, facial expression, innuendo.
Remember that James followed Jesus’ teaching pretty tightly.
Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’, shall be liable to the Sanhedrin. And whoever says, ‘Fool’, shall be liable to the Gehenna of fire.Matthew 5:21-26 (DLNT)
- A wise person speaks words that naturally glorify God and build up the people who listen.
The most powerful idol of all is the idol of self. This is the thing that God is in the process of breaking and transforming in you and me so that we can live for God’s glory and not our own.
Come now, the ones saying “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such-and-such city and do a year there, and we will do-business and make-a-gain”—who do not know the thing of tomorrow! What is your life? For you are a vapor appearing for a little while, then indeed disappearing!—
instead of you saying, “If the Lord wills, we indeed will live and do this or that”. But as-it-is, you are boasting in your pretensions. All such boasting is evil.
Therefore, to one knowing to be doing good and not doing it, to him it is a sin.James 4:13-17 (DLNT)
Making plans without prayer, without consulting God, is a form of pride.
- A wise person, in submission to God, understands their complete and utter dependence on the Lord for the course of their life, the course of their day-to-day living, and sees the hand of God in all the events and people in their life.
Every situation in life potentially includes a struggle between our own interests and the Lord’s. There are always things you and I are going to want in certain ways and at certain times. It is easy to move away from God’s plan toward our own.
You and I will pursue our plans -or- we will pursue the Lord’s plan for us