Summary: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
READING: James 4
TEXT: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1)
Sunshine - Not a cloud in the sky! That was, in itself, an unusual event for a Saturday afternoon in the valleys of South Wales. Most of the players found it strange to be playing rugby in the sun with no mud to be seen! Five minutes remaining and everyone looked as clean as when the first whistle had been blown. After all, it was a beautiful day.
A cynic might consider it a complete waste of time, this game where people chase and pass about a bladder filled with air. On the other hand, one can talk of teamwork, goals and objectives, strategy and mutual co-operation – all of which display a good model for Christians working together for God’s kingdom. When viewed in this light, tackling, barging, obstruction and the like become the efforts of a frustrated opposition endeavouring to thwart a winning team.
Perhaps then, even a game of rugby can illustrate the progress of the Church of God as she enters these last moments of the millennium, and as she fights the last match against the forces of Satan. Satan knows he can never win, because victory over him was assured in this contest two millennia ago by a crucified saviour hanging on a cross.
So how then can we possibly lose?
It was a long high ball curling in from the wing. For a moment, it hung suspended in the air, seeming as if it would never fall. Then it dropped - suddenly it was right at his feet. For one brief moment he stood on the centre line amazed at his good fortune and then as the ball threatened to bounce away he brought it swiftly under control. Grabbing the ball and gathering his thoughts, he swiftly began to accelerate. He dodged past one man, sped by another. He knew he mustn’t lose control. A shoulder swerve, gentle flick, dummy to the left and then his speed took him past the last defending back. Now only an empty try line was before him.
No one left to beat - he was going to do it! Surely, his team will win! As he approached the line, he prepared himself to translate this thought into action when he suddenly crashed to the ground. Pain ran up his side as the ball bounced aimlessly over the touchline. A certain winning try and he had been tackled. Brought down at the last minute, but by whom? The answer was somehow inevitable – within a metre of the try line, he had been tackled by one of his own side! We live in a time where it is popular to criticise other believers, even from our pulpits. Even when we give praise, we qualify it by adding that little damaging word “but” and adding a list of what we believe they are doing which is wrong. What lies behind this attitude? Is it jealousy, pride or a sense of undue competition? Is it self-centredness on our part? Why is it that we are reluctant to rejoice in other’s success? You know, such attitudes are totally against the biblical injunction of 1 Corinthians 12, verse 26, which says, “If whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” We have got so used to tackling each other that we fail to notice the negative attitudes that eat us up, let alone the game itself being played in a different part of the field. No wonder then that we so often fail, no wonder then that we lack God’s blessing. Not content with fighting the enemy, it often seems that we want to destroy our own team as well.
In the fourth chapter of the epistle of James we have the root of our problem exposed and a remedy suggested. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the New Testament will know the general line of this epistle. Primarily, it is a PRACTICAL book and its greatest value is its blending of truth and life.
It is precisely because of this unity of truth and life that this epistle so relevant to us today. The reason for its relevance is that even as believers, we have an incurable tendency to become unbalanced. We either concentrate on doctrine at the expense of enthusiastic action, or we dash around in a mad whirl of activity, to the neglect of faith and truth. To this problem, James provides the required balance that we all need. I once heard of a bible college student who was asked by his friend to name his favourite translation of the scriptures. He replied, “My Mum’s”. “Is it a translation into English?” his friend asked. “No”, he replied, “it is a translation into action!” This surely has to be the main thrust of the epistle of James. Therefore, I would like to look and share with you some thoughts on this first verse of chapter 4. It is my hope that as we consider it together, that our Lord will help us to obey His clear injunction to be “…doers of the word, and NOT HEARERS ONLY!”