Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. (James 4:1-2)
We are creatures of comfort - and often quite focused on getting what it is that we envision will aid us in our comfort. James tells us that we want our own way - and we fight voraciously to get it. We try every plan we can imagine - every scheme our minds can conceive to get our way. Why is it that we don't see the simplicity and safety of just asking God for what it is that he knows will actually bring us the comfort we so desperately want? Even if we are asking a little "askew" in our requests, God is quite capable of purifying our desires and then our meeting those desires in complete delight.
We often don't go to God with our desires or dreams because we are seeking after selfish things - but God wants us to lay these down, learn to trust in him, and then rest in his love poured out on our lives. James goes on in this chapter to tell us that it is not the willful proud that God exalts - it is the willing humble. In looking at that passage, I wondered which side of the fence I sat on most of the time - the willful proud or the willing humble.
The willful proud could be classified as the obstinate, self-willed, unruly, and overbearing side of my character. Yep, it is evident that this is sometimes the side of me that is exhibiting the strongest pull of that moment. Then there is the willing humble side classified as the part of me that is inclined in both mind and heart to be ready, prompt to act, and eager to respond as God would direct. It is the side of my character that does not seek its own power or prestige - does not act independent of God's direction. So, why do both of these exist in one person? It is really quite simple - none of us is perfect yet!
James says that we need to loudly say "no" to Satan. I like the way the Message Bible puts this verse, so here it is:
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet. (James 4:7-10)
Quit dabbling in sin - not a full-fledged, out and out pursuit of some sinful pattern - just a casual dabbling with that which God asks us to avoid (the response and demands of the willful proud side of our character). If we are playing the field, maneuvering for everything we can get out of a situation, we are pushing against God most of the time. James says we need to hit bottom and cry out. God often does the greatest amount of his clarifying work as we hit bottom! Getting on our knees (at least in our spirit, if not in our physical posture) is the only way we can get to our feet again! So, when you find yourself "riding the fence" between the willful proud and the willing humble - cry out to God! Yell a loud "no" to the devil! You are bound to land on your feet if you do!