Wednesday is almost here again. As a children’s department staff, we are continuing our examination of James’ epistle which deals with the theme of living faith vs. dead faith. James uses real life situations to demonstrate if our faith is living or dead. Here are some of the previous lessons that cover James chapters 1-3.
- Living faith vs. Dead faith
- Living faith vs. Dead faith part II
- Trials and Temptations; what’s the difference?
- Genuine faith in action
- Two spiritual births; death and life
- Living faith in action
- Living faith revealed
- Living faith produces good works
- Living faith tames the tongue with wisdom from above
- Teach heavenly wisdom
This week, we shift our focus to chapter 4. As we look at chapter 4, we will once again discover real life situations that will prove if our faith is living or dead. In this chapter, the focus is on conflicts. Since we all have a sin nature, conflicts will be a part of our lives. Living faith helps us resolve conflicts in a Godly way.
As I wrote a bit earlier, conflicts will always exist among us because we are selfish sinners. In James’ epistle, he demonstrates that conflicts exist among us in the church because not everyone in the church has living faith. People with living faith and dead faith will end up working on the same team. The conflicts will point out that not all have living faith. Those who have living faith will be known by the way that they handle the conflicts. James shows us the source of our conflicts and the manifestation.
Source – There are several sources for conflict among us. The first is our personal pleasure. Since we are all selfish sinners, we want our pleasure and we want satisfaction. When we do not get what we want, conflict arises. Unsatisfied desires leads to lust. We boil over until we are out of control. Again, that lack of satisfaction will produce quarrels. Another source of conflicts among us is the fact that we are envious. Envy means that we boil over with jealousy because something good happened to someone else and not to us. Envy causes us to try and destroy the person to whom the good happened or the good thing that has happened to him or her. Another source is unfaithfulness or lack of faith. Unfaithfulness is a clear indication of dead faith. Pride sticks its ugly head up. When two prideful people get together, conflict will usually arise. Because they have dead faith, they are double minded. Double-minded means split thinking. A person who is double-minded is not fully convinced of God and His ways. Faith literally means being fully convinced of the Truth about God. Dead faith produces double-mindedness. When people are double-minded, conflict will arise. The final source is arrogance. When you get people together who think more highly of themselves than they should, conflict will arise. What is the manifestation of these attitudes and desires?
Manifestation – Although we are supposedly part of the same body of Christ on the same mission, we go to war with each other over things that are not important, like the color of the carpet or the style of worship music, or, teaching vs. entertainment. If you have been in a church for more than 5 minutes, you have already noticed that there are pastors who teach the Word of God, there are pastors who tell good stories, and there are pastors who “preach” at “lost sinners”. Many people want to hear a good story. Others want to the preacher to “preach” at those lost people. Few want to have their own hearts pricked by the teaching of the Word of God. This usually turns into a battle when it’s time to seek a new pastor. In the middle of this “war” we murder each other with our words and attitudes. We “arm” ourselves and choose sides against one another, all while we claim to be part of the same body on the same mission. By doing this, we make ourselves friends with the world, doing things the world’s way and end up setting ourselves up against God and His ways. Being in the church, we may know the right thing to do but, if we have dead faith, we will not do the right thing.
Does this sound anything like your church? Do you realize why? It is because there are people in your church who have dead faith. Maybe you are the person with the dead faith, what do you do? Let’s take a look at God’s solution to dealing with conflicts and dead faith.
God never points out a problem without offering a solution. That is what makes Him so different than we are. We are great at pointing out problems yet, in many cases, lack solutions. I am so glad that God is in charge and we are not, although, there are many who seem to think that they could do better.
God gives us 7 solutions to the problem of conflicts. One thing I would like to point out, all the verbs used here, with the exception of the last one, are all in the aorist tense. This means a completed action in the past that has direct implications in the present. These verbs are for those who have dead faith and need living faith.
1. Submit to God – This is the root of the problem. A person who has dead faith cannot and does not want to submit to God. In order to be able to deal with conflicts the right way, he has to give up his will and submit to God’s way. The conflict is there because he wants to do it his way. Verses 13-17 exemplify this for us. We must orient our lives around the will of God and no longer around our own will, our own plans, and our own desires. Why? Compared to God’s eternal will, our will is just a vapor, here one minute and gone the next.
2. Resist the devil – Up until this point, if you have dead faith, you have not resisted the devil. Once you submit to God, now you are able to resist doing things the way that the world does things.
3. Draw near to God – Up until this point, you have been running away from God as His enemy. Now that you have submitted to God and begun resisting the devil, you are able to draw near to God.
4. Cleanse and purify yourself – Because of the sin in your life and your selfishness, you have done things the world’s way, the devil’s way, even in the church. As a result, you have experienced much conflict. You must make a choice to remove these ways of doing things from your life.
5. Be miserable – Realize just how bad things are and how bad you really are. Stop blaming others for the conflict.
6. Humble yourself – Lower yourself in your own eyes. Bow your knee to the Lord’s reign. Make a conscious choice to serve others instead of simply serving yourself.
7. Do not speak against your brothers – This is the only verb that is present active. This is a choice that you must make every single moment of every single day. From the context, this would be judging your brothers incorrectly. How? That would be judging according to your own standard, instead of the standard set forth in the Word of God. Another example would be calling out your brother on something and then doing that very thing yourself. A third would be judging the motives of a person. We do not have the right to judge this way. In the context of James 4, another way of speaking against your brother is constantly blaming him for the conflict you are in instead of examining your own role. Confronting sin according to the Word of God is not the same thing as judging others incorrectly.
What about you my dear friend, are you experiencing conflict in the church? Why? Is it because you have dead faith? How are you handling that conflict? Have you submitted to God? Are you living to perform God’s will or have you oriented your life around your own will? When in the midst of conflict, do you do some soul searching or do you simply just blame the other party for the conflict? May the Lord help us examine our faith to see if it is living or dead and then use living faith to resolve our conflicts.