6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: We can overcome a critical spirit with God’s help.

Iliff and Saltillo UM churches

August 18, 2002

“Overcoming a Critical Spirit”

James 4:1-12

Introduction: Grandma used to say, “If you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” How many have heard that saying? Yet, why do we find it so hard to live up to that old saying? James had his own ideas on the cause of a critical spirit. When he talked to a group of believers who were bickering, fighting and quarreling among themselves and being critical with one another, he said that it was a philosophy of life that is characteristic of the unregenerate mind and that it is a major ingredient of worldliness. Instead of a climate of peace necessary for the production of righteousness, James’ readers were living in an atmosphere that was anything but peaceful. And he boldly comes out and tells them, “I want you to stop it.” In this chapter, he was trying to jar them loose from their selfish way of life that was causing them to find something wrong with everybody and everything.

1. The Problem of a Critical Spirit: Most of the time we don’t even see the seriousness of a critical spirit until it has taken a toll on our spiritual lives and robbed us of our peace. We begin to realize that something is completely out of whack in our lives, but we can’t always put a finger on what it is. Different things may lead to a critical spirit. It may be caused by external things around us or it may come from internal thoughts and motives. James’ readers had fallen into the habit of criticizing one another and in verse 11 James says, “Stop speaking against one another.” He crushes any right his readers may have claimed to sit in judgment over others. He rules out the harsh, unkind critical spirit that continually finds fault with others.

STORY: A bishop was invited to dinner. During the meal he was astonished to hear the younger daughter state that a person must be very brave to go to church these days. “Why do you say that?” asked the bishop.

“Because,” she answered, “I heard Dad tell Mom last Sunday that there was a big shot in the pulpit, the canon was in the vestry, the choir murdered the anthem, and the organist drowned everybody!”

Not only does James speak of the destructiveness of a critical spirit but in Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus said to avoid it. Luke 6:37 says, “do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. verse 38 says for “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Paul in Galatians 5:14, 15 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out for you will be destroyed by each other.”

The main point here is that conflicts and disputes among Christians are always harmful and that we somehow fall into the trap so easily that we don’t realize what is happening.

STORY: A husband and wife were leaving the office of a marriage counselor. The husband turned to his wife as they walked to the car:

“Well, did what the counselor say about being considerate and not criticizing me finally get through your thick skull?”

I don’t think that it did!!!

2. Overcoming a Critical Spirit: James gives us a ten-point way out when we find that a critical sprit has crept into our lives. It is not so important to analyze the cause but to come up with the solution. James is a book that is very practical.

He says first of all that a critical spirit originates out of our own selfishness--wanting to have our own way so much that we will fight to get it. He tells his readers, “This is the way the world thinks--not the way God thinks.” His first point in overcoming a critical spirit is:

1. Submit to God: Submitting to what God’s will was for them was the first step toward resolving the problem. It was the first step toward receiving the grace they needed to overcome the problem. Through saying “OK, God, I will go your way, it brought about the grace or unmerited favor of God that they could quit insisting on their own way and begin to see things in an entirely different light. The Message Bible says, “So let God work His will in you.” By submitting to God--saying OK to what He wants for you, you will be able to see an atmosphere of peace being restored through His grace operating in your life. Proverbs 3:34 says, “he gives grace to the humble”--the quality that helps to overcome the things that pull us down. Submission to God’s will leads to OBEDIENCE. It is not obedience but LEADS TO IT.

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