Article: ARE WE DRIFTING AWAY FROM GOD? | Jacob Varghese

We all face strife, infighting, conflict, outbursts of anger, and controversies. These are things that are far too common in life. But if that is happening among Christians, then that would make us look just like the world. So where do such negative qualities originate? These are a few signs to look for to understand if our spiritual life is slowly getting off track. For this message, I would like to take your attention to James 4:1-10. James is writing this letter addressed to the early Christian churches. The pages of James are filled with direct commands to pursue a life of holiness. For James, a faith that does not produce real life change is a faith that is worthless. More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. In this selected text, James explores not only the above question, but the relationship of humility to the life of the Christian. And more importantly he is giving us the key to how one can get back on track in spiritual life and lead a successful Christian life.
In James chapter 4, James is giving us an insight into the problems of our spiritual life. Things that we need to look out for, signs that we need to pay attention to; otherwise our spiritual life will slowly drift away or go off track from God. Then after mentioning those problems he is letting us know God’s provision that what would God do to solve those problems. James is also giving us the prescription of what we need to do practically so that we can get our personal spiritual life back on track.
The first sign is CONFLICT IN RELATIONSHIPS. Whenever we have strife, arguments, fighting and or quarrel in our interpersonal relationships; we are drifting away from God in our spiritual life. Notice what James says here in verse 1” What causes fights and quarrels among you?” That is a good question- why do we fight, why are we so irritable with people around us? James is giving us the answer here in the same verse “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” Yes, it is because of our desires that battle with in us. That is the reason why we fuss and fight and quarrel. James is saying here that there is something wrong with in us, there is something going on inside of us that is causing us to take it out on other people. So whenever we are fighting and creating problems with people; don’t look at the other person, James is saying that there is some sort of desire, there is something going on inside of you and because of that, it is causing a quarrel or causing a fight, or fussing and irritability with in you that is expressed and it is taken out on the other person. Now notice, he also gives us a source for where these things happen and why we do this? He says in verse 2 that, “You desire but do not have, so you kill, you covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” So here he says often times the reason why we quarrel and fight with people is because there are unfulfilled desires with in us. There is something going on in our lives that we desire, we sincerely want but we just don’t have and we are jealous and we are envious of other people and this is causing an irritability with in us and then we take it out on other people. James says that is what often times causes quarrels and fights.
The second sign of spiritually deficient life is YOU DON’T HAVE. Look at what James says here at the end of verse 2 “You do not have”, let us stop right there. There are certain things that we are supposed to have as Christians; the Bible says that we are supposed to have life and have it more abundantly, we are supposed to have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, meekness, self-control and so on. Right, the fruits of the spirit! So whenever we are not expressing these things in an ongoing consistent way, there is some problem with our spiritual life. We have to pay attention to it. To say, we need to look into that; why don’t I have patience, we why don’t I have peace in my life, why am I not experiencing the joy that God wants me to have in my life. So these are signs that we are drifting away from God.
Another sign is not only that you don’t have but YOU DON’T ASK GOD. Again look at what James says here “You do not have because you do not ask God” So here essentially we are talking about prayerlessness or having a weak prayer life. So when we get to the point of our lives, whenever we give upon prayer and we may say; we have tried it Lord, this doesn’t work and I am not feeling you Lord, I am not getting anything out of my prayers and I don’t have confidence that it is going to work. Then James says that is a sign we are drifting away from our God. So I want to encourage you right now to just take a moment and really, truly, honestly, sincerely evaluate your prayer life to know how it is going. Is it vibrant, is it something that you look forward to doing, and is it something that you do consistently? Are you just praying for yourself or are you praying and interceding for other people?
The fourth sign of a spiritually lacking life is- not only we have quarrels and fights with people, we do not have certain things that God told us that we should have and we do not ask God; but fourth one We do not receive from God. YOU RECEIVE NOT! In other words, we are not experiencing answered prayers on a regular basis. Notice what it says here in verse 3 “When you ask, you do not receive”. Sometimes you may pray but you do not receive. In other words, he is saying; there are certain things that are blocking your prayers from being answered. Let me just get your attention to a few things that would block your prayers from getting answered. First thing is that God would not listen to your prayers, if you have sin in your life. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”. Yes, God often times is not going to hear your prayers if you cherish sin in your life. God is not going to answer our prayers until we get the sin out of our lives. The second thing that blocks our prayers from being answered is our unforgiveness. Unforgiveness grieves God and hinders prayers. The third thing is our lack of faith. Yes, if we do not have faith in God when we pray, we should not expect to receive anything from God. Fourth thing is whenever we give up too early in prayer and sometimes God wants us to press on through prayer and do not expect to get all of our prayers answered after just simply praying one time. The fifth reason is whenever we pray with wrong motives and that is what James is talking about here in verse 3. It says “you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. So, if we are asking for things simply because of what we want to get out of it and how it is going to benefit and bless us without thinking about how it is going to benefit other people. Often times, that is a selfish prayer and God may or may not answer that prayer.
WORLDLINESS is the fifth and final sign that we may be spiritually drifting away from God. Notice what James says here in verse 4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” So when we talk about worldliness, we may ask what in the world is worldliness? There is one thing we cannot accept in the church, that is worldliness. Though nearly everyone agrees with this sentiment, there is a major disagreement as to what worldliness actually is. We are talking about everything from the way we dress, the language that we use, our life style, the media we read or watch and the ideology we support etc. In other words, do we believe Christian things according to Bible or do we believe just what is politically correct. Finally in our behavior do we look more like the world in terms of how we live our lives or do we look like a Christian? In Romans 12:2 we read, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So far in this chapter James was warning the Christians. He has scolded them for living according to the wisdom of this word as they had been driven by envy and the ambition to succeed at any cost. They have been fighting with each other to get what they want. But now James offers a reassurance. Even though we have been living this way, we have not outrun the grace of God. The grace is given to all who trust in Christ. Our sin is serious and devastating but God gives us more grace. And in God’s grace He forgives our sinfulness and continues to give us the good we have not earned. So praise God even though we have all these problems, there is a provision that God has made for us and that is found in verse 6 and it says “But he gives us more grace”. Basically what James saying here is, even though we have all these issues that we are stimulated that we quarrel, we fight and we are not consistently displaying the fruits of the spirit and we don’t pray but he says you can relax because God gives us His grace. God has given you grace. Now having God’s grace is great but what do we need to do to rectify the problem. In verses 7 through 10, James gives us five points or prescriptions that we need to do.
The first point is to submit yourselves to God. In other words, he is saying if there is anything in your life right now that you know; you are willingly going against God’s will and you don’t even care anymore. He says the first thing you need to do to get back on track is to submit yourselves, then to God. The second point that we need to do is to resist the devil. In James 4:7 we find the phrase “resist the devil” where the apostle James exhorts believers to resist the devil in order to cause him to flee or “run away” from us. To resist means to withstand, strive against or oppose in some manner. The third point he says here is important. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Yes, that is the prescription number three. James is saying here when you feel dry, when you feel disconnected from God and if you want to get back on track spiritually; then come near to God, spend time with Him in prayer, in fasting and studying His word and worship and just getting back to the basics of spiritual discipline. The fourth prescription that we need to follow, which is very important is we need to repent from our sin and purify our hearts. Notice what James says here “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”. In fact he says here take your sins seriously. He says “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom” He is not saying we should go around just feeling ashamed and guilty. He is saying take your sins seriously because God takes it seriously. Anything that breaks the heart of God should break our heart. And then finally number five and super important prescription is to walk in humility. James says here in verse 10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” So you know what if you want to have God’s grace over your life, if you want God to bless you, if you want God to favor you; then walk in humility. So my friends be encouraged, even though you have a lot of problems spiritually, God has given us grace, He has given us His favor and we know exactly how, what we need to do get back on track. So, don’t you think it is important for us to return to God and be on track in our Christian life?

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