Desiring God or the World

James 4:1-10

Have you ever wanted something really bad?  Most of us have. I remember in high school and college wanting to find “the one.” The one girl that was going to be good for me, that I would fall in love with, and that I would marry. A friend of mine and I used to joke that we wished God would give us a bright neon sign telling us who to date and marry. Have you ever been jealous of somebody? They were dating the boy you had a crush on, or they just received the latest iPhone and you still have the iPhone 4. That jealousy arises from our wanting something, and this sometimes leads us to hating that person and fighting with them.

God commands us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exod. 20:17). To covet something is to be jealous of and want something that you’ll do anything to possess the item. We shouldn’t desire anything, especially to this extreme, because God will provide for our needs. Jesus teaches, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field…will he not much more clothe you…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:30-32). Jesus was teaching about being anxious for tomorrow and not knowing where our next meal would come from or how we were going to clothe ourselves. Our jealousy comes from our basic needs and desires sometimes. I don’t have food, but they do. I need food, but they won’t share with me. What can I do to get their food so I can eat, maybe steal it or kill them? Now that I have food, bread and water, I want a feast full of steak, bacon, and mashed potatoes. You see how our needs can escalate into jealousy, fighting, and desires beyond what we need?

It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I began to focus on God and stopped trying to find “the one” that my future wife became apparent to me. I wasn’t focusing on God and the desires He has for me. I was focusing on my desires and the things of the world. That was why I had relationship problems and couldn’t find someone worth marrying. My desires were selfish and didn’t line up with God’s desires, but when I focused on God and His desires, things began to fall into place and work out. You may have different desires. You may want a luxury or sport car. You may want a huge mansion, with a huge retirement fund, and the ability to take vacations whenever you want. You may want to make it into the NFL, NBA, MLB, or MLS. The problem is that many of our desires are not the desires of God, especially in our lives. Sometimes our selfish desires are fulfilled, but when they aren’t, we become disappointed and blame God. Instead of blaming God, we need to be searching for His desires in our lives. We need to be obedient to the things He has commanded and called us to do. We will never find true happiness or joy until we do so.

Continuing His lesson on anxiousness, Jesus teaches, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). This does not mean that because we are worshiping God we will receive nice cars, big houses, pay raises, or NFL placements. This means that God will meet our needs, and He will bless us beyond that as He sees fit. Some people are blessed with wealth so that they are able to bless others and help meet the needs of the poor. Instead of focusing on our needs and desires, we need to be focusing on God.

James was talking to churches and people who were fighting because of their jealousness. They desired things that were not theirs instead of asking God to meet their needs in true faith. Jesus also teaches,

Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matt. 7:7-11)

Even in our sin and lowest moments we know how to give good gifts to people. God, who is perfect, omnipotent, and benevolent, is even better at giving good gifts and meeting our needs. We need to trust, rely, and ask God to meet our needs instead of quarreling with others for them.

We need to make sure we are asking for the right reasons as well. James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3). As I said already, sometimes the things we want aren’t honoring to God or what He wants for us. I can ask for the new Ford GT, but I most likely won’t receive one because I don’t need it and don’t see how it would honor God. Now, God can and will use anything for His Glory and He does bless some people with nice cars like that. God may want me to ride a bicycle to work and the grocery store to minimize my carbon footprint on the environment and to teach me humility. God will not bless us with things out of our own selfishness or things that will not bring glory and honor to Him.

When we love the things of the world more than we love God, then we become enemies of God (4:12). But James teaches us that when we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us (4:8). This helps us to resist sin (things of the world) and to live a live full of joy. When my wife and I come home after work, we like to sit on the couch together. We’ll sit close holding hands or cuddling and talk about our days to each other. We draw close physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I’m having a bad day or feeling ill, I like to lay my head in my wife’s lap or on her chest. Drawing close to her like that makes me feel better. She feels safe and warm when wrapped up in my arms, and I feel like I can protect her. God desires us to draw close to Him in the same manner so He can help us to resist sin, to make us feel safe and comforted, and build a deep and intimate relationship with us. It is better to be a friend of God than to be His enemy.

We should desire the things of God and heaven over the things of this world. We need to stop getting upset because we don’t always get what we want. Instead, let us be joyful in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father in His provision for our needs.


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