Wars, quarrels, wanting our own way, lusting for what we don't have, but probably also don't need - sound like society today? If you said "yes", you are probably observing some of the same things I am. The problem, as James explains it so aptly, is the "war within" each of us - wanting things we really don't need or things which will eventually be our undoing. Life deals us all kinds of options - learning how to sort through those options is imperative to living well. James also warns us with getting so close to the things this world has to offer that we stray dangerously close to the line of compromise all the time. A couple of weeks ago, I commented about how my pastor spoke about being in the world, but not of it. His illustration was that of a thermometer and a thermostat. As Christians, we are to be thermostats - controlling the temperature of the culture around us, not being thermometers who just "adjust" to the temperature the culture affords. Maybe we'd do well to listen to this advice - then take inventory of our actions. Are we being more of a thermostat - bringing society into alignment with the principles God desires, or are we being more like a thermometer - adjusting our beliefs, principles, morals, etc. to what society declares to the the "norm" of the day? The truth, as declared by James, is that if we are just "thermometers", we end up flirting with the things of this world every chance we get, and this will ultimately end in us being enemies of God. Something I don't think any of us really desires!
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 MSG)
How do we accomplish this "living in the world" without becoming just "like the world"? I think we find the beginning of our answer to this question in the instruction to let God work his will in us. First of all - see the wording here - it is not "give God permission" to work his will in us - it is LET him actually do it. I have given some manicurists permission to do a pedicure on me, but when it comes to them scraping the bottom of my feet, on the arch portion, I am terribly ticklish. Therefore, although I gave them permission to do the pedicure, I didn't let them go as far as driving me insane with the scraping on my ticklish portion of the foot! I think this is an over-simplified explanation to the idea of "letting" someone have their way in our lives, but it works. We do a lot of giving God permission - as when we pray "change me", "create this or that anew in me", etc. We do a whole lot less of the "letting" God do what it is he wants to do in us, though!
Letting God do his will in our lives is something akin to stepping back, yielding control of the reins, and then allowing the direction of our lives by the expert. I had a friend when I was in high school - mom and dad's friend, actually. He was a pilot and owned a small plane. He'd get me in the co-pilot seat and then lift the plane adeptly from the runway, soaring over the edge of the mountains of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Then as soon as we were airborne, he'd turn to me and say, "take the controls". To say the least, I never learned how to fly - I just learned how to keep the nose of the plane headed in the right direction! He may have said he was allowing me to "take the controls", but I know the truth - he still was operating everything from the pilot seat. He remained the expert pilot - I was only "playing" at being in control. At best, we all play at being in control of our lives - I think we might just want to consider how fortunate we are to actually have someone still truthfully in control!
Another important aspect of "letting" God take control is our willingness to say "no" and mean it. Too many times we make a half-hearted attempt to say "no" to the things of this world which give us heartache and turmoil, but we don't really mean our "no". We just give lip-service to letting go of these things - but we are still really intrigued and drawn in by them. The only way to deal with what acquires and demands our attention is to change our focus. As long as we look intently at sin, we will sin - even if we have convinced ourselves we don't want to! Why? Our focus is on the sin - how hard it is to let it go, how much influence it has on our lives, etc. When we turn our back on the sin and focus instead on the one who desires to take control (Jesus), we no longer see the sin. We see the Lord - and when we see him - we don't have room for the sin in our view! It may seem simplified - but truthfully, these things are not rocket-science. God tells us to determine our focus - HIM. Then choose to remain consistent in that focus - not dabbling in the things of this world one day, and then the heavenly the next. Whenever we dabble, we don't have determined focus.
So, thermostat or thermometer? In the world, but not of it? In the world, and having a hard time leaving it behind? Get your focus redirected. Eyes fixed on Jesus yields one in control who actually knows how the controls work together to keep us in flight! Just sayin!