A. Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile – called “Christ of the Andes.”
1. The statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries. As long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina.
2. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted, because the statue has its back turned to Chile.
3. Just when tempers were at their highest, a Chilean newspaper writer saved the day.
4. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, he simply wrote, “The statue of Christ faces Argentina because, “The people of Argentina need more watching over than the people of Chile.”
B. Isn’t it amazing how prone to conflict we human beings are?
1. We can find an excuse or reason for conflict about almost anything!
2. If you or I pick up a daily newspaper, we will read of multiple stories of conflict.
3. There is conflict among nations.
4. There is conflict in our own nation over all kinds of things.
5. Locally, there is a conflict about the DESTINY project.
6. Churches, the so-called families of God, whose places should be most noted for Christ’s peace, are often marked by conflict.
a. We read reports regularly of denominational disputes and divisions.
b. And who of us here has not observed, or been a part of a fight within a local church?
7. And there is also the issue of the nuclear family – we know from experience that the nuclear family is fraught with hurt feelings, broken relationships and divorce.
C. As we turn to James chapter 4, we observe that James not only raises the question of what causes conflict, he answers the question, giving both the specific causes of the problem and the cure.
1. So, let’s spend some time looking at James’ assessment of conflict.
2. Let’s look at his explanation of the reasons for conflict, and then his prescription for its remedy.
I. The Cause of Conflict
A. James 4:1-3 reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
1. I like the way that James doesn’t beat around the bush; he gets right to the point.
2. He says that the cause of conflict is conflicting desires.
3. When my desires conflict with your desires, and when I don’t get what I want, then the sparks are going to fly!
B. You know, it is so easy to blame others for that which rips and tears at the fabric of human relationships. Turn to someone and say, “It’s all your fault.” We don’t need much practice at that.
1. You and I might work hard to find external circumstances which we can blame.
2. But the truth of the matter is, as James tells us, we need to look within ourselves for the source of conflict.
3. You and I need to be very honest with ourselves.
4. We may think of ourselves as godly persons, followers of Jesus Christ and we are, but at the same time, deep within each of us is that “old man” that dark and selfish side.
5. Selfishness, when it is observed in another, is so obvious and ugly.
6. But selfishness, that is malignant within us, can be neatly surrounded with rationalizations, excuses and even spiritual blindness.
C. James describes us as people who want something, but don’t get it, and therefore we are unhappy.
1. We therefore become restless people, discontented, driven by pleasure.
2. And the more we are driven by the pleasure principle the more likely we will be participants in quarreling and fighting.
3. Three words and concepts leap out at me from today’s text that describe the problem we face.
D. The first word is COVET.
1. The word covet is often used in its negative form, usually referring to lust.
2. It can have a sexual connotation. Jesus, in Matt. 5:28 warned against looking at a woman so as to “lust” after he.
3. But the same word can be used positively to describe the desire for a good or godly thing.
4. Jesus, in Lk. 22:15 used this word when He declared that He had a desire to eat the Passover with His disciples before he suffered.
5. And so we desire many things – some good, some not so good. Sometimes we receive what we desire and sometimes we don’t.
6. The problem with covetousness is when it leads us to do whatever we must to get what we want, whether the thing is good or bad.
7. If we covet in a way that when that covetousness is frustrated by not getting what we want, we quarrel, fight, and in some cases even kill, both figuratively and literally, to get what we want, then we are truly far from being right with God and having a faith that works.
E. The second thing that stands out to me is the concept of GODLESSNESS.
1. The word “godlessness” doesn’t appear in the text, but the idea of it certainly is there.
2. James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (vs. 2)
3. If you are like me, then all too often I don’t ask for God’s help. I act like he is unavailable.
4. So, here I am, a child of God, who has been promised that God hears and responds to my prayers, but I often don’t pray.
5. James tells me that some of what I desire that is good and legitimate, I do not receive because I do not allow God to give it upon request.
6. But then James quickly points out that asking is not the only step, we must also ask with the right motives.
7. I may be asking God to be involved in my life, but I am not asking God to rework my desires so that they conform with His will.
8. Our prayers can be utterly selfish – like the name it claim it approach to prayer.
9. Greedy prayer is not mature prayer. Greedy prayer is not godly prayer.
10. You and I are entitled to bring any request to God, but our prayer must be in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer, “But not my will, but Your will be done.” (Lk. 22:42)
F. The final word that describes what we face is the word ADULTERY.
1. You and I can easily become adulterous people.
2. I know that our immediate reaction to this word is to recoil from it.
3. The word brings to mind vivid pictures of sexual adultery.
4. And this kind of selfish, pleasure seeking, covetous, godless orientation we are discussing can lead to sexual adultery.
5. However, at the deepest level, James is talking about spiritual adultery in which we are unfaithful to God.
6. Throughout the OT, God is seen as the husband and Israel is His bride.
7. In NT imagery, Jesus is the bridegroom, and the church is His bride.
8. When we are having an affair with the world, then we are being unfaithful to our heavenly spouse.
9. James reminds us of a theme that is ever present in Scripture and that is that God is a jealous God. He will not share us with the world.
10. God reacts with holy jealousy when we become enamored with the world.
G. So, now we have explored, and hopefully better understand the source of conflict.
1. Our conflict comes from our desires that battle with us.
2. We are prone to selfishness, covetousness and spiritual adultery.
3. That orientation is going to create conflict between us and others, and between us and God.
4. An even more important question though, is “What is the Cure for Conflict.”
II. The Cure for Conflict
A. You all probably remember the classic PEANUTS situation between Charlie Brown and Lucy.
1. Over and over again, Lucy would offer to hold the football while Charlie Brown kicked it.
2. But time and time again, as he ran up to kick the ball, Lucy would pull it away, and Charlie Brown would fly into the air and land flat on his back.
3. One day, Lucy offered to hold the football again, Charlie Brown declined saying he knows how it always goes, and he does not want it to happen again.
4. As soon as he accused Lucy of her past wrongs, she began weeping, “Oh, you’re so right. I admit that in the past I’ve played cruel tricks on you. But I’ve seen the error of my ways. I’ve seen the hurt in your eyes. Won’t you give this poor repentant girl another chance?”
5. Charlie Brown said, “Okay.” So he backed up, ran up to the ball, and just as he was about to kick it, Lucy pulled the ball away. Once again Charlie Brown ended up on his back.
6. As Lucy walked away, she commented to a friend, “Unfortunately, recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things.”
7. So, we all would agree that recognizing the problem is only part of the solution. Doing something about it is much more difficult.
8. James’ prescription for the problem is fourfold.
B. First, we must submit ourselves to God.
1. The word for “submit” is a military word that means to put in proper order or rank, to subject oneself to another, to obey.
2. To submit, then, is to yield to the authority or will of another. In this context, to God.
3. In submitting to God we will be enabled to obey God rather than follow our desires.
4. When we find ourselves in conflict with others, we might want to fight and argue. We might want to prove our point and put the person in their place.
5. But if we have put God in charge of our lives and we are living in submission to Him, then His peace will rule our lives.
6. And if we can admit that we have conflicting drives within us and keep coming to the Lord in submission then we will find the strength to be more like God in our interactions with others.
C. Second, we must resist the devil.
1. If we have not submitted ourselves to God, then it won’t do us any good to try to resist the devil.
2. The Bible declares that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
3. When we understand the reality of evil and the power of Satan, then we will realize that he is ultimately a coward and that he runs from the strength of the Lord.
4. The promises of Ephesians 6 show that we can be spiritually armed for the war against Satan and with God’s armor the evil one can be defeated.
D. Third, we must come near to God.
1. James says, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”
2. Isn’t that an incredible promise?!! The Lord wants to walk with you and me! He wants us to be very close.
3. How can we draw close to God? James suggests the following:
a. We need to clean up our hearts and lives – remove the pollution, moral filth and ungodly attitudes.
b. We need to express remorse for our sin.
c. We need to humble ourselves.
d. The Bible is replete with stories of people who in their proud self-sufficiency tried to exalt themselves above God. There is Lucifer, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Simon the sorcerer, just to name a few.
e. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And not just grace, but more grace!
E. Finally, we must stop judging others.
1. When we set ourselves up as judge and jury then we are spiritually in trouble, and conflict is the unavoidable result.
2. James reminds us that God is the lawgiver and judge. Let’s keep in mind who He is.
3. He says that we have no business judging our neighbor and speaking slanderously against him or her.
4. It is so easy to judge others and, in the process, make ourselves feel bigger or better.
5. James has already instructed us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He called it the royal law (James 2:8).
6. Let’s also keep in mind who we are and who others are. We are all just people made in God’s image who need his love and grace.
7. God gives us more grace. The more humble we are, the more grace we receive. And the more grace we receive, the more we should pass on to others.
A. We all want to live at peace with God, don’t we?
B. We all want to live at peace with others, don’t we? Turn to someone and say, “I want to live at peace with you!
C. If we will take seriously these four prescriptions, then we will have discovered the antidote to that which destroys relationships both with God and with others.
D. May God bless and help us to realize these things and put them into practice.