Summary: Our greatest dreams will come true when we get close to God and give our hearts completely to Him. How to get prayers answered and how not to.
When Dreams Come True
James 4:1-10 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Intro: A New England pastor and a rabbi were having a conversation one day over lunch. The N.E. pastor proudly proclaimed, “One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence”. He thought that the rabbi would be very impressed by this. To his chagrin, the rabbi responded, “I understand your pride. One of my ancestors signed the Ten Commandments.” [Chris Talton, sermoncentral.com]
One of the problems with pride is that there will always be someone who can best you.
-James deals with some basic human problems in today’s reading: namely pride and selfishness. People are often tempted to take matters into their own hands in order to achieve their desired outcome. They will fight and kick and scream until they get their own way. Sometimes people will even kill to get their own way! Once again we turn to the historical setting to which James was responding. There was a tremendous amount of political unrest and dissatisfaction among the Jewish population. They had grown weary of the oppression of Rome and wanted to do away with these swinish Gentiles who would presume to rule over them. Their plots of violence against Roman forces were easy enough to justify. After all, hadn’t God promised this land to them from the time of Abraham? They figured it was time to take back what was rightfully theirs no matter how many lives they had to take in the process.
-So James strikes back with some strong words to oppose this anger-driven uprising, showing that their dreams of repossessing the land were way off base. God was doing something different that did not include violent uprisings. Certainly God had led Israel to defeat numerous enemies in the past, but those who are led by the Spirit of God cannot always look to the past for their cues. We can learn from the past, but must learn to trust God in the present and the future. He will plant dreams in our hearts and bring them to reality, not by might or human power, but by the power of His Holy Spirit. And that is where we are headed today.