OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #188 Weeding the Heart
Jan has been busy lately weeding our flower and perennial beds. There is a lot to do, and what makes it all the harder is the size of some of the roots. She has long since discovered that it is not enough to cut weeds off, but rather the roots have to be dug out. We had some thistles which we thought we had conquered last fall, but we did not get all the roots and so some are back.
The last time I wrote (OnFire #187 Pile Drivers and Posts of Wisdom) we talked about some of the qualities that make for good relationships: purity, peacefulness, consideration, submission, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity. This week we turn this around to look at what makes for bad relationships.
In James 4 :1-3* we encounter one of the most insightful and piercing pieces of scripture outside of the Old Testament prophets. James asks, "What causes fights and quarrels among you?"
This is important. There is no shortage of fights and quarrels, and I’ve had my share. In the past, I’ve talked about my argument with the college custodian (Onfire #15) but there have been many others. As a teen I flattened my brother after we got into some kind of argument. At the time it scared me because I realized I could hurt someone quite badly if I didn’t control my temper.
Controlling temper is one thing, but getting to the root of the matter is something quite different. James digs it out as he continues. "...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."
There are parts of scripture, like this one, which make me uncomfortable. I’d prefer it if there was some other explanation, but, like it or not, I have to acknowledge the truth of what James writes. There are times I have quarrelled because I was jealous that someone else had what I wanted. One year at Christmas my brother got a pellet gun, but I really wanted one for myself. That really chewed me up inside, until one morning we ended up in a wrestling match.
Jealousy is powerful. It can lead me to have bad thoughts about people because of the things they have, their homes, hobbies, vacations, successes, and even the way they look. If I’m not careful, it can lead to a bad attitude toward them, and that in turn leads to fights. I think James is right.
Fortunately there is a two-part weed treatment against the jealousy which leads to fights and quarrels. The first part is in the passage we looked at last week. We need to cultivate the qualities and characteristics which lead to peace.
We see the second part of the treatment as we finish this short passage: "You do not have, because you do not ask God." This reminds me of a guy I worked with who told me, "Don’t ever steal anything from me. All you need to do is ask, and I’ll probably just give it to you." There are times when we lack because we simply did not ask God. So, James tells us, stop fighting and ask God for what we lack.
Does James mean God will give us anything we ask for? No.
Motive is important to God: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."God knows when we are being selfish and we cannot expect Him to answer those prayers the way we want. This is not a complete answer to why some prayers are not answered, but it does explain some unanswered prayers.
James uses some strong words in this passage to grab our attention. Instead of blaming other people for the quarrels and fights we get into, we need to look within our own hearts to root out selfish desires, jealousy and covetousness. May God give us the strength and insight to do this hard work of weeding in the heart.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published May 21, 2009. *Bible references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com/