Bible Study on James Chapter 4: Our Will vs. God’s Will
The Book of James is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s proof that often great things come in small packages. This book is only five chapters long; one that can easily be started and finished in one sitting (just like a pint of ice cream – another great thing that comes in a small package), but the central message is so big that you can honestly gain new understanding and deeper meaning when you come back to study it time and time again.
Which is what I’m hoping these posts will do for you.
If you’ve missed the first few chapters you can easily catch up here:
- James Chapter 1: Living What We Say We Believe
- James Chapter 2: Faith and Works
- James Chapter 3: Summary
Or you can skip to the final chapter: Book of James Bible Study | The Prayer of Faith.
The overall central message of the Book of James is perseverance through trials.
James wrote these letters to encourage people to live a life consistent with what they know about God. He further drives home the message that hey.. it’s easy to be tempted by things like pride, favoritism, and anger – but he challenges us on how we should choose to live our lives when those feelings emerge; (basically saying that we need to obey God’s word and do everything in love – despite those temptations).
He doesn’t tell us that we won’t go through trials and tribulations, instead, he shows us how we should deal with them as we’re in the thick of it.
Into the thick of it. Into the thick of it. Ugh!
So since we know we’re going to face hard times, let’s further prepare ourselves with God’s armor to help us deal, k? K.
Bible Study on James Chapter 4: Our Will vs. God’s Will
Submit Yourselves to God
I recently saw a meme circulating on Facebook (I actually shared it – you can see it below):
“In order to follow Jesus, you will have to unfollow the world.”
How often are we guilty of mindlessly scrolling our newsfeeds and clicking that “Follow” button every time we see something that tempts us? Luxury handbags (guilty). Cute outfits (guilty). Adorable puppy pics (double guilty). Celebrity gossip, Bravo celebs, our favorite actors, singers, models.. the list goes on and on.
But if we’re not careful, those seemingly harmless worldly pleasures can quickly turn into idols. We start to spend more time focusing on what those people or accounts are doing and spend less time with God, and less time helping others.
It can especially become harmful as these outlets take up our time and get free rent taking up space in our minds. There are a LOT of things out there that we are subjected to on a daily basis that are not of God.
The music we listen to.
The shows we watch.
The people we choose to follow.
And sometimes – when we do dig deep and find the courage to stand up against something we see that is blatantly wrong or sinful in God’s eyes, we run the risk of being canceled.
It’s the culture and the climate we live in right now.
“Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”James 4:4
But you know who won’t cancel us for doing what is right?
You should know the answer by now.
Now, does this mean we can’t find joy in our daily lives? Does this mean we can’t have friends and never watch TV again? Or go to pumpkin patches and enjoy a nice iced chai tea latte from Starbucks?
I don’t think so. God created us to have community. He created us to have relationships and form bonds with other people.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25
And there are parts of this world that we will obviously find joy and contentment in.
But what He’s saying is if we are more concerned with pleasing the world than we are with pleasing Him, then that’s a problem.
When you’d much rather listen to Lil Nas X because it’s the “cool thing to do” and his defiant acts against God are “just expressions of art” – that’s a problem.
When you’d much rather get on Facebook and slander someone with different political views than you, instead of demonstrating the commandment “Love thy neighbor,” that’s a problem.
When you care more about how you look and how you dress and spend all your money to level up your Instagram account than you do helping those in need – that’s a problem.
When you start to deny His name to fit in with unbelievers -that’s an eternal problem.
God is explicitly telling us through James that we need to submit ourselves to God. Resist evil, and keep God close. Purify our hearts, and cleanse our hands so that all sin can be washed away. In doing so, if we can humble ourselves before God- He will lift us up.
Oh. And one more thing…
“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”James 4:11-12
We have to leave the judging up to him.
So all these things we’re taking a look at in our own lives? We can’t sit here and judge others who continue to do them.
We can’t judge others for their life choices, or even their sins – even when we disagree or know that what they’re doing is wrong.
Because we have sinned, too. Glass houses, kettle black. We can try to live perfect lives in the eyes of the Lord but the truth is we all sin and fall short of His glory.
There is only one who is capable of judging and let us rejoice that the role of lawgiver and judge does not have to fall on our shoulders. It should come as a sigh of relief that the weight of others’ actions do not have to fall on us. Only God can judge.
So what can we do?
Love. Pray. Encourage. And be a living testimony of God’s grace and His word. Show people, even the sinners and unbelievers and the ones we want so badly to judge but know we shouldn’t – how amazing a life in Christ really is. So that they may start to feel that same gentle nudge we felt that led us to a desire to learn more about God.
Our Will vs. God’s Will
Have you ever prayed for something that you wanted SO BADLY but that prayer didn’t come true?
It’s not that God wasn’t listening or felt like you weren’t deserving, it just meant that whatever it was you were praying for did not line up with God’s plans for you. And that can be a hard truth to swallow sometimes. Because our selfish desires can come in HOT. (And I’m not saying that everything we pray for that we want stems from a selfish desire.. stick with me here for a bit).
Here’s my favorite “oh snap” moment of this chapter:
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”James 4:14
Ouch, James! Little rough. Can you imagine saying that to the next person who is rude to you? “Psh. You’re just a mist. You’ll vanish after a little while.” Someone would probably take that as a threat and that wouldn’t be good for anyone involved.
But the next verse goes on to say:
“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”James 4:15
If it is the Lord’s will.
If it’s in His plans.
It’s very easy to fall into the rhtyhm of living our lives. We make plans, we have dreams and goals that we aspire to accomplish, we find hobbies and things to entertain us and keep us busy.
But we also run the risk of falling into the habit of living our lives so much for ourselves that we forget about God. We live as though He were not present.
This chapter isn’t to discourage us from setting goals or working toward things in life; instead, it’s reminding us that we cannot do it all alone, and encouraging us to look at the things we’re praying for. Do they line up with this path that God created for us? Or are they simply selfish riches that will provide fleeting moments of happiness but never quite fill us up?
God created each and every single one of us with a divine purpose – and yeah, maybe sometimes figuring out that purpose takes a little time, and little trial and error, a lot of coffee, and even more prayers.
But we have to go about our days knowing and understanding that God has a path and a plan for us and it’s been there since before we were even born. That’s how serious He is about us. So it’s our turn to get pretty serious about Him in return.