TEXT: James 4:1-10
Key Verse: James 4:10
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” (HCSB)

It’s taken me longer to write this post for a couple of reasons. First, the last two weeks have been very busy in my life. Second, the biblical implications for verse 1 of our text seem to run counter to things I am reading. You see, I am preparing to teach a seminary class in June of this year on conflict resolution. And all of the writers tend to say that “conflict” can be a very good thing.

I can agree with the sentiments that “conflict” can have a good side IF—and it’s a huge “IF”—we handle it appropriately! Yes, conflict can be good if the parties involved communicate, listen to each other, and then seek what is best for everyone. However, life doesn’t always work that way. That’s why we need to understand what God’s solution to conflict is long before it ever enslaves our relationships and churches.

It might be good for you to read our text one more time. As you do, you will want to notice what the biblical author is doing. For instance, he seems to be continuing his critique of church leadership that started in the previous chapter. In James 3:1-12 he noted that leaders (teachers specifically) should be cautious in what they say, because their behavior might come back to contradict their words, and in turn undermine the faith. In James 3:13-18 he exhorts Christians to select leaders who are wise and gentle, not necessarily the most impressive according to human standards. And then when we come to James 4, the writer raises the issue of conflicts, but we should understand these conflicts as the destructive ones between the various church factions that were rising up in the first-century church.

In addition to these contextual observations, you will do well to notice that the flow of thought in the passage goes from an analysis of conflict, to an indictment of the people in conflict, and finally God’s way of escape from conflict in vv. 7-10. Yes, conflict may have some positive benefits in our lives if we take time to look at all the dynamics going on. Apparently our first-century brothers and sisters were not doing that. So James introduces us to a truth that he wants us to see and embrace in the care of our own souls. Allow me to state it this way: THOSE WHO AVOID THE TRAGEDIES OF CONFLICT INTENTIONALLY CHOOSE TO SUBMIT TO GOD.

Let’s probe this concept in a little more detail. Two questions must be addressed. First, why is it important for us to intentionally choose to submit to God? The answer has to do with who God is? Our passage says that He is a God who opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (v. 6). That means that in the church or in our marriages if we insist that our way always wins out, we can count on God being opposed to our actions. Therefore, we must intentionally choose God’s way over our wants, lest we face the very real opposition of God in our lives.

But that leads to the second question. If we are to intentionally submit to God, then what would intentional submission look like? Three action steps are implied within the vocabulary of our text.
  • First, those who intentionally submit to God will agree with His assessment of causality (v. 1 & 2). Notice the question the writer raises in verse 1. “What is the source of wars and fights among you?” He doesn’t give the writer time to ponder the question, because he wants us to look within—to the utter propensity of our hearts toward selfishness. There is no one else to blame, because WE are our OWN SPIRITUAL CULPRITS. Therefore, to avoid conflict before it starts we have to start with causality—WE are the source of the conflict!
  • Second, those who intentionally submit to God will also agree with the rightful consequences of our selfishness. That is, selfish demands lead to conflict, and our conflict comes from our propensity toward pride. But that puts us in danger, because God is opposed to such pride. In fact, James says that in our state of pride we are “enemies of God” (v. 4). Just read the Old Testament to see how God dealt with His enemies. It isn’t a pretty picture. Therefore, we have to agree with the rightful consequences of our selfishness.
  • Third, those who intentionally submit to God will also pursue heartfelt repentance (cf. vv. 7-10). James uses a string of verbal images that picture a person in deep repentance. It is the person who realizes they have sinned and deserve the judgment of God. But in turn they embrace heartfelt, deep repentance—choosing to live under the rule and reign of God.
So this is the way of conflict resolution. It is to recognize that Jesus is King and the pursuit of His will is our greatest calling in life.


So let me ask you, if you found out today that a small tumor was growing in your chest, wouldn’t you have it removed…IMMEDIATELY? And if you knew that an accident on the interstate was evolving in to a major traffic jam, wouldn’t you take a different route…IMMEDIATELY? And what if you discovered that your selfish demands were ruining your marriage, your friendships, and…your church, wouldn’t you take steps to resolve the issue…IMMEDIATELY? Of course you would. So… REPENT of your prideful intentions. Tell the Heavenly Father you are going to do His will. And then…do whatever He wants. In the end, you will be exalted for your humble obedience to Him (v. 10). Conflicts might threaten, but it doesn't mean they will reap the devastation that is so prevalent in human history. Therefore, HUMBLE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE LORD, AND HE WILL EXALT YOU.

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