James asks, "What causes wars and what causes fightings among you?" It almost seems that it is human nature to fight for what you want. We've all witnessed babies and toddlers fighting over a toy. Sometimes those minor, domestic squabbles can almost escalate into a war between families or within families. Conflicts can occur among friends, between neighbors, organizations, among church members, communities, states, and even nations. At any level these conflicts are usually destructive. To the participants it can become a full scale war whether the weapons used be harsh words and law suits, or bombs and bullets.
Turn with me to Philippians 4 if you will. We will be spending some time looking at Philippians 4 because it contrasts with James 4 so well. James 4 has been called the WAR chapter and Philippians 4 the PEACE chapter.
Philippians 4:6, "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (RIGHT PRAYING.) Warren Wiersbe, in his book Be Joyful, explains that RIGHT PRAYING will include the three things Paul mentions to the Philippian brethren here: prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving.
Prayer is the general word for making requests known to God and carries with it the idea of adoration, devotion and worship. When we find ourselves tempted to do battle with a loved one, neighbor or a country, our first action ought to be to get alone with God and worship Him. We need to adore Him and realize and acknowledge His greatness and majesty. When we see His greatness, we can then see how small and insignificant our petty wars really are. God is big enough to solve our problems and we must be big enough to turn them over to Him. We can't expect to rush in and throw up a prayer and expect God to take it from there. We need to approach His throne calmly and reverently and then offer up our adoration. Our first step to RIGHT PRAYING is ADORATION.
The second step is SUPPLICATION. This is the earnest sharing of our needs and problems. When Jesus was about to enter into conflict with the Sanhedrin Council and the Roman authorities, He spent His time not in a law library to defend his case nor at the local Army/Navy surplus store preparing a military defense, but He spent time in Gethsemane earnestly sharing His thoughts with His Father.
SPIRITUAL INTENSITY is the key to supplication. This is the time we spill our hearts out to the Lord. There is something about confessing to the Lord your innermost feelings that will help you in your conflict. When we search deeply we discover our inner motives and begin to see our actions from someone else's eyes. It also aids in understanding the other person's side of the dispute. It would be extremely difficult to get through this type of prayer and still feel anger and animosity toward others. Anger and animosity are the fuel for wars of any kind.
After adoration and supplication comes the third step--APPRECIATION, giving thanks to God. "... let your requests be made known to God with thanksgiving." It is easy to asksometimes we are slow to appreciate. Remember to say, "Thank you, Father," not only when things have gone our way, but also when right praying has pointed out our shortcomings to ourselves. When we have praised God, turned our problems over to God and thanked Him for interaction with us, then we will have that "peace of God which passes all understanding" as mentioned in Philippians 4:7. And that peace will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
But right praying is awfully hard to do when we are in the wrong frame of mind. Another contributor to war that James mentions is found in James 4:8, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of DOUBLE MIND." Double-mindedness is WRONG THINKING. It is not the single-mindedness we see in Philippians 1, nor the submissive mind of Philippians 2, nor the spiritual mind of Philippians 3. If double-mindedness is wrong thinking, what is right thinking? Again, in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS."
Listen to the parallel between what Paul says to think about and the way David describes the law of the Lord in Psalm 19:7 & 8. "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." The Christian who fills her heart with God's Word will have a "built in radar," not for tracking enemy missiles during war time, but for our own wrong thoughts which threaten our peace time.
Wrong thinking leads to wrong feelings, and before long the heart and mind are pulled apart, and we find ourselves struggling not only in our own mind, but in conflict with others. We must think on these pure, honorable, lovely, gracious thoughts and the law of the Lord to avoid the wars and find God's peace within.
A third thing that James says causes wars is found in verse 4 of chapter 4. "Unfaithful creatures, 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 with God." Friendship with the world is WRONG LIVING (James 4:4). This is a result of double-minded thinking. If the inward attitude is wrong and divided, the outward action will be wrong.
If living as a friend of the world is wrong living, what is right living? Again, from Philippians 4, in verse 9, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do ..." (RIGHT LIVING.) We must learn the Word, receive it, hear it and do it. Didn't James tell us this in James 1:22? "But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only."
Outside of Jesus, I know of no better person to imitate than the Apostle Paul. His life was single-minded, spiritual-minded and always submissive to the Lord's will even when he knew the mission would be perilous. "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you."
Selfish, double-minded and worldly thinking people may enjoy being at war. They may get some kind of "high" when they go into battle. They may experience a temporary feeling of power and glory when they demand to have their own way and fight their battles to achieve their own ends. But that power and glory will only last until someone more stubborn, selfish, and more worldly comes along. What a Christian seeks is PEACE. He doesn't think his way is right and more important than the other person's. He wants the peace of God that passes all understanding.
James was an early writer of the New Testament. He had a timely message for young Christians who just may now be coming to terms with the fact that their Messiah didn't come to fight the Romans and set up their earthly kingdom. They may still have had their war-like mentality. Many felt belligerent at this time. They may have been turning that mentality on themselves as we sometimes do.
There is a time for a Christian to go to war. When a Christian is thinking right, praying right and living right, she stands strong in the Lord and is able to put on the whole armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil as mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-20. "But we are not to contend against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." We put on the whole armor of God that enables us to withstand in the evil days of the world. We stand with our loins girded with truth, and having put on that breastplate of righteousness. We shod our feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace. We take the shield of faith that can quench the flaming darts of the evil one. We put on the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spiritthe Word of God.
If we must go to war, let's make sure we are battling the real enemythe Prince of Darkness, and not the Prince of Peace. Let's make the battle worthwhile. The wars and fightings among us that James mentions are counterproductive to the Christian and his/her cause. When we pray wrong, think wrong and live wrong and only wear the Christian name, we have become counteragents and destructive to ourselves and the church. It is not important to be at peace with the world at all times, because that so often involves being friends of the world. What is important is that we have peace with God which enables us to have peace with our fellow man and peace in our own minds that only comes from right praying, right thinking and right living.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR