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Attitude Matters: James 4:1-6

Don’t Miss the Meaning
Jamey Bryant

READ > James 4:1-6
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James provided his recipe for a successful journey through trials in verse 1:19 by saying, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” The rest of his letter expands on these topics, and today we begin elaborating on his third command to be slow to wrath. From the first verse of our passage, we encounter words of violence - “quarrels,” “fights,” and “war.” The Greek word for “fights” is μάχαι (machai) which can mean a sword or long knife but also weaponized words.

Our view of the early church is usually shaped by Acts 4:32, where it says the people lived in harmony, but by the time James wrote his letter, perhaps just a few years after, sinful human nature was in full bloom.

Our text today begins by raising the topic of discord in the church, but it instantly identifies the source as a more significant, internal battle within the believer.
WATCH > this clip from today’s sermon:

When you and I don’t understand that God wants to use the trials in our lives to give us what He knows is best, we miss the meaning! And when trials feel like inconvenient interruptions, we get angry and respond in one of two ways:

  1. We do not ask. We don’t ask God for wisdom to get through the trial because our whole goal is to remove the inconvenient interruption from our lives
  2. We ask God wrongly - we ask for the wrong things when we don’t have an eternal perspective toward trials. We ask God to help us fulfill our selfish desires as we try to take shortcuts to happiness. And this is hedonism - the opposite of what He knows we need! Why would he ever give us that?

Without the proper perspective toward trials, we will trade the best thing for something less that can never satisfy, and we’ll be left frustrated. But when we understand that life is about eternity, we can trust God to use the trials to grow us and give us what He knows we need.

With an eternal perspective, we can have the right attitude. Without it, anger grows. Anger is a symptom of missing the meaning.

What is the source of quarrels and fights? Why do we get angry? On the surface, it appears obvious. But anger is just a symptom that my desires conflict with God’s desire to make me perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing.

When we misunderstand the meaning of life, it doesn’t just make us angry. It’s much worse than that!

ASK > What does the Bible mean when it says war is
waging inside us?

Notice how James doesn’t say the problem is “those difficult people you live with” or “the practical issues that you’re forced to deal with.” No, he says they come from the “passions” that wage war in our hearts. In this context, passion means a powerful, ruling desire.

READ > Romans 7:15-23

ASK > How does Paul describe this war? How does it show up in your life?

The word translated as “passions” in verse 1 is ἡδονῶν (hedonon). Hedonism says the chief purpose of living is to satisfy the self. Jesus used the same word when talking about “pleasures of life.”

READ > Luke 8:14

ASK > What does Jesus say the result will be?

READ > Ephesians 4:1-3

The Holy Spirit produces Christian unity, but Christians preserve it.

ASK > Why are our relationships marked by so much conflict of irritation, hurt, and impatience?

The Bible names it: sin. Sin causes us to be self-absorbed and self-focused because it causes us to live for ourselves. It affects how we treat each other. When someone speaks harshly to another, we sometimes say they are “out of control.”

READ > 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

ASK > What does this passage say should control us? How does it say we should live?

Our text today is honest and direct about what we all face and why we face it, but the passage doesn’t leave us there. This little phrase changes everything in the middle of this passage: “But he gives more grace” (v. 6).

In his book New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp says this.
“There is grace for every hurtful moment. There is grace for every time you sin or are sinned against. And the grace that you are given for your relationships will never, ever run out. There is always more of that grace for what is coming around the corner. You can give yourself to love, to forgive, to confess, to confront, to trust, and to persevere even when things are hard, because “he gives more grace.”—Paul David Tripp

ASK > Faith Bible Church’s mission statement says, “we build generations of Jesus followers who take grace to our world.” How do we also take grace to each other?
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