Thursday, February 25, 2010

james 4: submission

inspiration: notes in the margins.

i was trying to figure out something to "blog" about today since i try and write every day or so. i was flipping through the New Testament and going through all my little "sticky tags" that i have sticking out of my Bible and i flipped to James 4. In the margins of my Bible in certain books, next to certain chapters and scriptures, I've written words or phrases to catch my attention about those specific passages. I won't say what i have written in the margins by James 4, but I will say this: I wish I had taken these words more seriously.

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You 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. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4You 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. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[a] 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."[b]

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

[a] Or that God jealously longs for the spirit that he made to live in us; or that the Spirit he caused to live in us longs jealously
[b] Proverbs 3:34

Verses 1-3: I desired so greatly for certain things in my life, that I completely walked away from God to get them. And for what? Pleasure. False happiness. Guilt. I lost sight of the important things in life. I lost sight of God. I wanted what I wanted and nothing else mattered. But what ended up happening? Since I wasn't walking in the light with God, I was denied what I "thought" I wanted most. "You do not have, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3). I was selfish, greedy, and manipulative. And I hope to never go back to being that way again.

Verses 4-6: God is jealous for us. He longs for our love and desire passionately. Not because He is an egomaniacal crazy god; but because He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us (John 3:16). He wants us to delight in Him because He brings us ultimate happiness and grace. He knows that worldly desires and becoming a "friend of the world" will turn our eyes away from Him. And that's what I did for a long time. I had my eyes fixed on worldly things and became very self-sufficient and unhappy.

Verses 7-10: Once I gave my "baggage" up to God. Once I submitted myself to Him fully. Once I turned from an old life and had my spirit renewed through the Holy Spirit, my life and outlook shifted as well. God never changes; His love is always unconditional, his mercy always overflowing. Whenever we stray from Him, be it two days, be it two years, be it two decades, He is always waiting for us with open arms. Waiting for us to return to Him. (see Luke 15:11-32)

Verses 11-12: This is something I definitely struggle with sometimes. My natural reaction to being hurt is to put up my guard and start firing insults, slander, hurtful words back. I judged actions. I judged people. But who am I to judge someone? I am flawed and imperfect just like everyone else. What authority do I have to ever hurt another person or to judge them? I don't! I try incredibly hard to keep my tongue and thoughts in check when I'm in situations that involve pain and situations where I may be tempted to judge, gossip, or slander.

Verses 13-17: "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:14-15). I plan. A lot. I like to have structure, I like to be organized. I like to have the general gist of how things are going to go. And I had a "plan" for my life at one point (one without taking God into consideration) and I thought I was in control. I thought "This is my life, I'm gonna live it how I wanna live it, by golly!" (awful lot of personal pronouns, huh?)

But, of course, God had other plans. Much more important plans. And I found myself with no other choice but to surrender and say "I trust you, God, with everything." Who am I to believe I am the most important person? Who am I to believe I can control everything?

All these things, I wish I had realized sooner. I wish I had taken these words seriously and applied them wholeheartedly before. Granted, I know now and I'm continuing to grow in my faith and I'll always make mistakes. But if I can at least help one person to keep from making mistakes I did, from walking down a path I did, I will have helped one person strengthen their relationship with God. And that's the most important thing: our relationships with God. They need to stay strong and we need to trust in Him to provide us with anything and everything we need in order to do His will for us.


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