Summary: Don’t be envious, and don’t be an enemy of God. Instead, submit to Him, and watch Him bring peace to your turmoil.
William Muir, a biologist at Purdue University studied chickens to determine what could make the egg layers more productive. Chickens live in groups, so first, he selected just an average flock, and he let it alone for six generations. He also created a second group of the individually most productive chickens – you could call them superchickens – and he put them together in a superflock. Then with each generation, he selected only the most productive for breeding.
After six generations had passed, what did he find? Well, the first group, the average group, was doing just fine. They were all plump and fully feathered and egg production had increased dramatically. What about the second group? Well, all but three were dead. They'd pecked the rest to death. (Margaret Heffernan, "Forget the Pecking Order at Work," TED Talk, May 2015; www.PreachingToday.com)
Sad to say, that’s what happens when you get a bunch of super-achievers together. Instead of achieving something even greater together, they often end up pecking each other to death.
For example: Two “good” people get married; but instead of marital bliss, they experience a marital brawl. Good people start a church together with great ambition to reach the lost for Christ; but instead of making disciples, they all too often generate disputes.
Why is that? Why do “good” people so often fight each other? And how can we keep that from happening around here? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to James 4, James 4, where James talks about dealing with anger in the midst of trying times.
James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (ESV)
Literally, your pleasures are at war within your members. Your desires are like rebel soldiers within, demanding satisfaction. And when they don’t get that satisfaction, they go to war. Conflict starts with unmet expectations and desires.
James 4:2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (ESV)
God is the only one who can meet our real needs; but instead of asking Him, people make demands of each other. Husbands demand respect from their wives. Wives demand romance from their husbands. Employees demand higher wages and better benefits from their employers. Employers demand longer hours and more work from their employees. And even in the church, members want their needs met while pastors want greater commitment from the members.
When people look to one another to get their needs met, they are disappointed, because only God can meet their needs. Then their disappointment leads to disagreements and disputes.
Historian Daniel Boorstin suggests that Americans suffer from all-too-extravagant expectations. In his book, The Image, Boorstin makes this observation of Americans:
We expect anything and everything. We expect the contradictory and the impossible. We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical. We expect to be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind and competitive… We expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly, to go to a "church of our choice" and yet feel its guiding power over us, to revere God and to be God. Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much more than the world could offer. (Barry Morrow, Yearning for More, IVP Books, 2013, pp. 19-20; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s why there is so much conflict in our world today. People’s desires are at war within, demanding satisfaction from others that only God can provide.
So if you want to resolve conflict in YOUR world, stop making demands from the people in your life. Don’t look to others to get your needs met; look to God! Ask the Lord for what only He can provide.
But even then, don’t be selfish in your prayers. Don’t ask for things just so you can satisfy your own pleasures.
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV)
Better: to SQUANDER it on your own passions. God does not answer selfish prayers. God is not some kind of Cosmic Genie, who exists only to make you happy. In fact, God is more concerned about making you holy than making you happy. God is more concerned about making you righteous than making you rich. God is more concerned about sanctifying you than satisfying your passions.
So don’t be selfish in your prayers. Don’t adopt the attitude of some Christians who say…
Name it and claim it, that’s what faith’s about!