Summary: This sermon looks at three desires that cause arguments and four steps to help resolve arguments. I. Give in to God II. Resist the Devil III. Draw closer to God IV. Seek forgiveness

Avoiding Arguments

We are going to look today at how to avoid arguments. Remember I have said that James is a very practical book – perhaps the most practical book in the Bible. As we get to chapter four James talks about how we are to avoid arguments. He doesn’t beat around the bush when he discusses arguments – he gets right to the point. Follow along with me as I read verse one of James chapter four.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” James 4:1 (NKJV)

The Message translation says it this way:

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.” James 4:1 (MSG)

This verse can be applied to arguments in your home or to international conflicts. When I talk to couples one common complaint that I hear is that, “We just don’t get along. We love each other but we each want our own way – and we fight all the time.” James talks about this in chapter four. He gives us both the cause and the cure.

It’s interesting that conflict starts early in life – even before we can talk. Have you ever noticed that when a baby wants to be gratified – they let you know? Even before you can talk – you can let your desires be known. Babies have certain needs and desires – and they will let you know when those needs and desires are not met.

As we get older we still have needs and desire – some of them are self centered and when they butt heads with others needs and desires – there is conflict.

Marriage has built in conditions for conflict. Think about the things you expected of your spouse before you were married. How idealistic and unrealistic were you about marriage? You know all marriages have three stages in them:

Stage one – the honeymoon stage where everything seems perfect.

Stage two – the reality stage where you realize things are not all peaches and cream.

Stage three – the work it out stage where you say, “Let’s make a deal.”

There are going to be arguments and conflicts in life – how you handle them makes a difference. Let’s look at James chapter four verse one again.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” James 4:1 (NKJV)

Go ahead and circle the word “desires”. First we are going to look at three common desires that affect everyone:


I. The Desire To Have POSSESSIONS

We all want to have “stuff”. We like nice things. Materialism. Possessions. We like nice things around us. God created things for us to use and enjoy. The problem arises when we love “stuff” more than we love people. We are to use our possessions to show people that we love them. We have a big problem when we use people because we love our “stuff”. We start loving things and using people. We manipulate them – try to control them – move them around so that we can have more “stuff”.

The sad fact is – we have our DVDs and MP3s – but we find that we are still S-A-D. A survey was taken of couples getting a divorce. They were asked, “What was the number one reason that you filed for divorce.” Do you know what the answer was? 56% of them said, “We had money problems.” “Things” became the battleground. Is it any wonder that the Bible says:

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10 (NASV)

That brings us to the next desire:

II. The Desire To Have PLEASURE

We all want to feel good. We all want to enjoy life. We all want to have our senses satisfied. Look at what James says in verse three:

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3 (NKJV)

It’s not wrong to enjoy life in fact 1 Timothy chapter six verse seventeen says:

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17 (NASV)

It’s not wrong to enjoy life – but when pleasure becomes your number one goal in life – it will cause conflict. When my comfort becomes number one in my life my thinking is, “I am going to do whatever it takes to make me feel good.” This drive becomes every self centered – and there is conflict. Why do you think people argue about sex in marriage? The desire for pleasure is very strong – and we are only looking out for our own pleasures – resentment builds up.

The third desire we want to look at is:

III. The Desire To Have POWER

This is the desire to have prominence and popularity. I want to be “known”. I want to be “somebody”. I want to be on top – calling the shots. We walk around saying, “Look at me.” Children do that – don’t they? Little children say, “Watch me daddy.” Adults say, “Watch me – everybody.” But we say it in subtle ways. Watch the clothes I wear. Watch the car I drive. Watch the weight I’ve lost. Watch where I go on vacation. Watch the things I have. Watch the things I do. It is easy to become proud when you have power. But being proud can lead to – pride. Look at what Proverbs tells us:

“Too much pride causes trouble. Be sensible and take advice.” Proverbs 6:10 (CEV)

Look at what James tells us in verse six:

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 (NKJV)

God declares war on pride. God declares war on selfishness. Have you ever noticed that when you think, “I’ve got it all together – something else falls apart?” Maybe that’s a way for God to keep us from becoming too proud?

If our desires cause all kinds of arguments – what’s the cure?


The cure for avoiding arguments is HUMILITY.

Do you remember what verse six told us? “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” James goes on to say in verse ten:

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:10 (NASV)

You see the key to avoiding arguments is humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself – it is thinking of yourself – less. It is putting others needs above your own. How do you humble yourself? As I have said before – James is very practical. He gives us four steps to becoming humble. Step one is:

STEP 1: Give In To GOD

James tells us in verse seven, “Submit to God.” Let God be God of your life. Let Him be the boss of your life. Let Him take control. Put Him in charge. Yield yourself to Him. This is the starting point of humility.

James says that the conflicts we have with people is because we are not right with God. We don’t get along with people because we don’t have the primary right – our relationship with God. The starting point of peace – is peace with God. This is the real issue. Before we can have peace with others – we must have peace with God. Colossians chapter three tells us:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 (NASV)

We can only have peace within ourselves when we have peace with the Prince of Peace. We can only have peace with others when the Prince of Peace rules our lives.

Conflict in your life will stop when you stop praying, “Lord, change the other person.” And start praying, “Lord, change me. Be the master of my life. Take control of my life. I give all that I am to You.” Let God work on you and see what happens. The starting point of getting along with others is finding peace with God. The second step is:

STEP 2: Resist The DEVIL

Be aware that when you start submitting to God – Satan will not like it. But James makes us this promise:

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NKJV)

Go ahead and circle the word resist. The word “resist” is a term that is used for warfare. It means to “stand against” – to “withstand the attack”. It means that we must prepare for the battle. We must train for the enemy’s assault. He wants to destroy our relationship with God. He wants to create chaos. James tells us to give in to God – and to resists Satan. We need to let God have control of our lives – not the devil. If you get up in the morning and hit the devil head on – it means you are not headed in the same direction. That’s a good thing! Resist him – go the opposite direction. Believe me – the devil is not headed toward God – but if you are – you will run into him. Step three:

STEP 3: Draw Closer To GOD

James tells us in verse eight:

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 (NKJV)

How do you draw closer to God? By having a daily quiet time with Him – by reading your Bible – by praying to Him – by going to church – by getting involved in a group Bible study – all these things help us draw closer to God. When your mind and your thoughts are on God – it helps you get along with people. Look at what first John says:

“If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (NASV)

When you draw closer to God – your thoughts turn to Him – you try to please Him. But notice too – that as we walk in the light – we have fellowship with others who walk in the light. And James also tells us that as we draw closer to God – He will draw closer to us. The fourth step is:


If you want to avoid arguments in your life – you need to learn to ask for forgiveness – both from God and from other people. James says:

“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep!” James 4:8-9 (NKJV)

Our hands represent our actions – our hearts represent our attitudes. James is saying, “Clean up your act.” Don’t minimize what’s happened. Take it seriously. It is a big deal if you have hurt other people. Be willing to ask for forgiveness.

Do you remember the story of Zaccheus that is found in Luke chapter nineteen? Most of you probably do – because children sing a song about him.

“Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he;

He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.”

Zaccheus was short and there was a great crowd. Zaccheus could not see Jesus – so he climbed up in a tree to get a better look. When Jesus came by – He called Zaccheus out of the tree and went to his house. Zaccheus was a wealthy man – a chief tax collector and he welcomed Jesus into his house with great joy.

When the crowd saw that Jesus was going into Zaccheus’ house they started grumbling, "Jesus has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

Zaccheus heard the comments and he stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

Do you know what Jesus said? He said, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

When we get our lives right with God – it affects our relationships with other people. If we have wronged someone we need to seek God’s forgiveness – but also the forgiveness of the person we have offended. That takes a lot of effort. For Zaccheus – he gave back four times what he had taken.

What desires cause conflicts in your life? Is it the desire to have possessions, power, or pleasure? How do you treat people as you try to fulfill your desires? Do you need to let God have control of your life? Do you need to quite going in the direction of Devil? Do you need to draw closer to God? Do you need to seek His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others? Today could be the day that Jesus says to you, "Today is the day that salvation has come into your house."