The Book of James

Lesson 9 - "Conquering Conflict"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 4:1-10, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”


-Introduction:

One of the most common problems that prevent us from having a "journey into faith that works" is conflict or disagreement. A "faith that works" is all about right relationships—with God and with people. Some of us have had conflict with someone in the last year, month, week, or maybe even on the way to this Bible study. In this passage James tells us there are three things we need to know if we are to conquer conflict, beginning with...


#1) The cause of conflict.

Look again with me at James 4:1-3, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”


James reveals the reason for feuding: From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? The cause of conflict is lusts that war in your members. The word translated lusts here means a craving for pleasure or satisfaction. It can be a desire for pleasure, prestige, possessions, or prominence. James describes this kind of desire or lust in the next verse: Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war. The craving James describes is so strong he writes: “you kill because you desire to have, and cannot obtain.”


The fact is that people commit all kinds of evil in pursuit of selfish desires. Jesus taught the commandment against murder applies equally to anger. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said in Matthew 5:21-22, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment!”

Listen folks, uncontrolled desires can lead to physical murder, and hardly a day goes by without us hearing about such in the news. When we are angry with someone we are often guilty of verbal assassination, but we usually don't physically kill them. However, when we are angry or harbor resentment toward someone, we have actually killed them in our hearts. At the very least, unfulfilled selfish desires lead to murderous thoughts, words, and actions that result in conflict. Why is there so much conflict in marriages, at work, at school, at church, and between God and us? Proverbs 13:10 says, “Only by pride cometh contention.”


Conflict is caused by pride or ego. Someone has said "ego" stands for Edging God Out—edging Him out of our lives and desires. The root cause of conflict is always selfish desire caused by pride and leaving God out of our lives.


We said that the cause of conflict both relationally and spiritually is selfish desires. Now, we need to look at...

#2) The consequences of conflict.

James 4:4-5, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”


Selfish desires not only cause conflict with other people but conflict with God. James describes the spiritual consequences of selfish desires that lead to conflict by writing: Ye adulterers and adulteresses. Adultery is sometimes used in the Bible as a metaphor to describe spiritual adultery or unfaithfulness to God. The words adulterers and adulteresses are used to shock us into realizing the seriousness of being unfaithful to God's commands. In the Old Testament, God's people, Israel, tried to combine the worship of Jehovah with the worship of Baal.


To be politically correct, the world says we should be flexible, tolerant, and even accommodating of sin. But James writes: know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Our selfish desires that result in conflict draw us to the world. The word translated world here means "orderly" or "arrangement of things." Friendship of the world is to adopt the values of the world system dominated by Satan. The world order of things and God's order of things are polar opposites. As Christians, we must choose to live by the "Word view," for culture or for Christ.


James continues to emphasize the seriousness of the problem by writing: Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? Though this verse is very difficult to interpret, James seems to be saying, "Don't you know the Scriptures teach that God's Spirit is jealous for our total allegiance?" The Holy Spirit envies our entire faithfulness to Him and to Christ.


We've looked at the cause of conflict and the consequences of conflict; now we need to consider lastly,

#3) The cure for conflict.

James 4:6-10, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”


How can we be totally faithful to God when there is so much in this world to draw us away? James answers that question by writing: But he giveth more grace! The word grace is used in at least three ways in the Bible.

          -There is saving grace (Eph. 2:8),

          -Empowering grace (Acts 4:33), and

          -Equipping grace (Rom. 12:6).

 

Here James is talking about empowering grace to live totally for God. God wants us to be totally faithful to Him in a very sinful world; therefore, referring to Proverbs 3:34, James writes: God resisteth the proud...  Pride makes us self-centered and creates greedy appetites that cause us to use people to gratify our selfish desires. God resists us when we are proud because our selfish desires are in conflict with His purpose for our lives.


The cure for selfish desires is humility; therefore, James tells us God giveth grace unto the humble. God's empowering grace enables us to change. What do you need to change about yourself? Do you need to be a better husband, wife, parent, employee, employer, student, teacher, or whatever? You can't change on your own, but with God's empowering grace you can. To help us make those changes, James gives us four commands we must obey,

          -We must submit... to God. The word translated submit is a military term that means "to yield" or "arrange oneself under" like a good soldier places himself under one of higher rank. We submit to God by recognizing His authority. Submission means we offer all we are and have to God without any reservations.

          -We must resist the devil. When we do, he will flee from us. Never in the Bible are we told to attack the devil. He does the attacking; we must do the resisting. The devil wants to destroy your marriage, your church, and all your good relationships, and he does it most effectively through conflict. When we give in to the Evil One, we argue, cause confusion, hurt one another's feelings, and get angry. He loves to get us to do these things, and he is successful when he plays on our pride. He will do this by whispering in our ears things like: "You don't have to put up with this kind of stuff." "Who do they think they are?" "You need to give them a piece of your mind." He tells us what our pride loves to hear. However, we resist him the same way Jesus did—by quoting Scripture.

          -We must draw nigh to God. When we do, the promise is he will draw high to you. When we take one step toward God, we find He has been anxiously waiting for us to do so, and he will quickly come near to us. In the parable of the prodigal son, who squandered his inheritance on drunken parties and riotous living, Jesus describe the father's response (which illustrates how our heavenly Father responds when we come back home to Him) in Luke 15:20 which says, “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”


This is the only place in the Bible where God is pictured as being in a hurry. God never says, "You have gone too far this time." The promise that when we draw nigh to Him, God will draw nigh to us is not based on how bad we have been but on how loving God is.


          -We must ask for forgiveness. James puts it like this: Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, which means we are to purify our actions and change our behavior. James also writes purify your hearts, ye double minded. This means we are to purify our thoughts and motives. If we try to live for both God and the world, we are double minded, which is spiritual adultery. To be pure in heart means to be single-minded or totally faithful to God.


When we draw nigh to God, it makes us aware of our own shortcomings, and our sin will cause us to be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. The phrase be afflicted means to realize our own misery. Thus, we will repent with deep grief since being self-centered and hurting or using others are serious sins. It is a sin to hurt your wife's feelings or be an overbearing parent. It is a sin to gossip about anyone. We must take our sin seriously and mourn, and weep when we ask for forgiveness. We don't bring animal sacrifices anymore to show our seriousness about repenting. Instead, Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart.”


In verse nine he continues, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” It simply means there is a deep, heartfelt repentance in which we refrain from laughter and light-heartedness that refuses to take our sin seriously.


James ends this section by writing: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. This means we recognize our desperate need for God's help and submit to His purpose for our lives. Humility is not only the way to get right with God but also to improve all our relationships. Humble people are always willing to admit when they are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”


This means I consider the desires, needs, and feelings of other people more important than my own because life is not all about me; it is about others. When I realize this, I have taken a big step in conquering conflict. Conquering conflict requires we understand the cause of conflict, the consequences of conflict, and the cure for conflict.



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