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SERMON STUDY NOTES

 

SERIES:    UNDERSTANDING AND HANDLING CONFLICT IN THE CHURCH

 


 

 

SUBJECT:            “Worldly Desires, The Source of Our Strife”

TEXT:             James 4:1-12

PURPOSE:   To share the human factors involved in conflict in the church and to offer biblical solutions for the conflict.

INTRODUCTION

Conflict is a strong word in any language.  In Greek the word is Agon; from the verb ago, implying force or violence. Strife, contention, contests for victory or mastery such as pertained to the Greek games of running, boxing, and wrestling. Paul plainly uses the word in this fashion (1 Tim.6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7) and applies the word to the struggles in the Christian life (1 Cor.9:24). A race Heb.12:1).   A struggle, contest, contention (Phil.1:29; Col.2:1; 1 Thess.2:2).

 

In the text before us, James uses two powerful and destructive words. “Where do ‘wars and fights’ come from among you?” these are between people in the church, not internal conflict in individual people.

“Wars” speaks of the conflict in general; “fights” of it specific manifestations. Discord in the church is not by God’s design. Since conflict is not by God’s design, we need to focus on some preventive measures.

 

Let’s face it, the first five verses here in James chapter 4 present a dark, depressing, disgraceful and divisive picture of a local church. But again, this is not a desire or design of our Lord, His portrait is just the opposite; one of delight, decency, delicacy and dignity. Both Jesus and Paul anticipated the potential for conflict and offered the one way around it – unity (John 13:34,35; 17:21; 2 Cor. 12:20;Phil.1:27).

The actions of James 4:1-5 is a far cry from what Jesus and Paul commanded and requested of the people of God. What, then, can be done to prevent the “wars” and “fights” which are so prevalent in many churches today?  The immediate context is insightful (James 3:13-18).  This passage describes a striking contrast between “heavenly and demonic” wisdom.

 

Verse 13 contains a question and an application. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” The phrase “wise and understanding” is filled with valuable insight. First, “wise” is the common Gk.  Word for speculative knowledge and philosophy, but the Hebrews infused it with the much richer meaning of skillfully applying knowledge to the matter of practical living. The word for “understanding” is also interesting and is used only here in the NT and refers to a specialist or professional who could skill- fully apply his or her expertise to practical situations. James is asking who is truly skilled in the art of living.

Second, I want you to notice the request in the last part of verse 13. “Let him (the wise and under-standing) show by good conduct that his works are done is the meekness of wisdom.” “Meekness” is a good thing and is also rendered ‘gentleness,’ it is the opposite of arrogance and self-promotion. In other words, the Greeks described it as power under control. Wisdom here in verse 13 is the kind that comes from God ( Job 9:4;28; Prov.1:7; 2:1-7; Rom.11:33; 1 Cor.1:30; Eph.3:10; Col.2:3; James 1:7).

Verses 14-17 are a vivid description of demonic wisdom. James says, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Verse 14 uncovers two devilish and dangerous actions. “Bitter envy.” What’s that? The Gr. term for “bitter” was used for undrinkable water. But when combined with “envy” it defines a harsh, resentful attitude toward others. It gets worse. “Self-seeking.” Sometimes translated “strife,” it refers to selfish ambition that engenders antagonism and factionalism.

 

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