The time that we have designated as the start of a brand new year has come. Though time has ‘changed’, there are still a few things that remain constant on our journey through life. As scripture states and from what we have learned from our own personal experience, one of those constants is God. God, we know, is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow (Is. 40:8; Heb. 13:8).
With the changing of the year, we have new aspirations – dreams and hopes – that we will certainly desire to see become reality. While we look ahead to seeing these dreams become reality, one of the other constants presents itself. We know for certain that there are going to be hurdles – obstacles, trials, and tribulations – as we try to see our dreams become reality.
Now, some of us will clear those hurdles while others will struggle to clear them. By the end of the year, some will feel accomplished while others will feel empty. What I mean by this is that some will feel that they did not profit (accomplish or gain anything) throughout the year. Why will some feel satisfied in their hearts while others will feel empty?
Here is where our next constant presents itself to us in the form of a choice: the choice of depending on going to God for His assistance or not. As you have heard me preach recently, the blessing of contentment comes from God. Some will go to Him and some will not. So, the question of the year is this: will you go to God to help you achieve all that you desire, or will you lean on yourself, someone else, or something else to bring you satisfaction?
To Those That Have Not
At the opening of James 4, we will see James writing about the topic of gaining or receiving the things that we desire. As we dive into this scripture, let us understand that James was directing this message to believers.
Worldliness blocking your blessing
We will see James state in the opening verse, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members (Jas. 4:1)?” We should understand that in this particular verse, James was not talking about conflict between two individuals or even nations. The conflict that James was speaking about in this verse was on a personal – inner – level rather than on a larger scale.
The inner turmoil that James writes about in this verse, we will see him mention again a few verses later when he speaks to those who he called “double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). Double-mindedness will lead to inner turmoil within believers because there are two contrary parts – worldliness and spirituality – fighting against each other (Rom. 7:18-25; Gal. 5:17-18). Those that go to God and are led by the Spirit will always overcome this inner turmoil and will profit (be blessed).
On the other hand, some are led to take part in worldliness because they have not turned to the Lord. James writes in today’s key verse that in order to gain, some will move out of lust while others will even murder or covet; some will even take this striving in wolrdliness to the point of fighting and going to war with others (Jas. 4:2). In all of this striving and strife, let us notice that James says that they still did not gain (have).
Not turning to God
There are many people that will approach trying to see their dreams become reality with a mindset driven by worldliness instead of spirituality. As you have heard me say on several occasions, the only way that one can experience the blessing of contentment – true satisfaction, accomplishment, joy, and happiness – is through God! You see, James was talking about profiting – being rich in the spirit – rather than being rich in the world. Again, we often get hung up on getting rich in the world where that should not be our focus.
I would tell anybody that I am a rich man because Christ has made me rich in my soul. I do not concern myself with the riches of this world because my soul is full! There are many empty souls wandering around in our world today believing they are rich because of their worldly possessions yet, on the inside, they are as empty as can be.
So, we will see James state in my key verse for today, “you do not have because you do not ask.” What they do not have, I want you to understand, is a spirit that is full. You see, James was not concerned with mammon – the riches of the world. James’ main concern was the soul and whether or not we feel accomplished and satisfied in our soul! In order for us to feel accomplished and satisfied in our soul, James essentially tells us to go to God instead of using worldly tactics.
Go to God in Prayer
The tactic of going to God, that I want you to pay close attention to James talking about in my key verse for today is prayer. Again, note that James said to those who do not have, that they do not have because they do not ask. So, to ask of the Lord, I want you to understand, is to make supplication. It has been a while since I have focused intently on prayer in a sermon, but I want to focus on prayer today because I want to encourage you to make 2022 a year of diligent prayer.
The right way to go to God
Now, with prayer, scripture shows us that there is a right way to go to God in prayer and a wrong way to go to God in prayer. James touches on this thought when he states that some do not have because they ask amiss. This is to say that some go to God and ask wrongly or for the wrong purpose and reason (Jas. 4:3).
So, what is the right way to pray? Well, the right way in which you ought to go before the Lord is humbly and diligently (Col. 4:2). This is shown to us through Jesus’ telling of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
In this parable, Jesus tells us of a Pharisee that went to the Lord in prayer and exalted (glorified) himself before the Lord; he praised himself for who he was (Luke 18:11). Now, we should understand that even though he went before the Lord in his heart, the Pharisee went before God amiss – wrongly.
On the other hand, there was the tax collector who also went before the Lord in prayer. Jesus tells us that this man went before the Lord humbly, acknowledging exactly who he was as he sought the Lord’s help and mercy (Luke 18:13). Of this man, Jesus taught that he would be justified and exalted. Jesus commented that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be exalted (glorified/blessed) by the Lord (Luke 18:14).
Now, I do believe that there are those who live in our world today who do make an attempt to go to God in prayer – this is a good thing. However, we must make sure that when we do go before the Lord in prayer, that we are doing so properly. Again, that is with a humble heart. When we do this, the Lord will reward us greatly.
Not going to God at all
While prayer is life to some, on the other hand, prayer is a joke to others as they go out and grind and hustle to make their dreams become a reality. Turning to the Lord in prayer is simply not on the table for many people in our world today. The question is: why do some refuse to go to God in prayer?
Of course, the answer to such a question is always the fact that some simply do not believe in the Lord. So, certainly, if they do not believe in God, then they are not going to pray to Him. With that being said, I want to remind you, again, that James was talking to those that say they believe in the Lord in this passage of scripture.
Truth be told, there are many who say that they believe in God but seldom do they utter a prayer to the Lord, if they utter one at all! I was one of these believers in my younger years! I did not feel I needed to pray for myself because I knew and felt that mom and pop’s prayer covered me. There are many believers who are just like this – they feel that the prayers of another covers them but, in actuality, we all need to pray for ourselves.
There is another group of believers that feel they do not have to go to God and pray for themselves because they have everything in control. Now, this is a misguided thought to have because no person has everything under control. To have this thought would suggest that there is a lot of ego and pride in this person and it should be put in check immediately. You see, there are far more things beyond our control than in our control to which we should certainly feel the need to go to God for His help.
There is one last group of believers that I want to mention that do not feel they have to go to God in prayer. This group does not pray to the Lord because they believe that the Lord already knows what they require. Again, I was one of these believers. I felt that because the Lord already knew what I needed, then there was absolutely no need of me having to pray. Little did I know.
Jesus shows us prayer is needed
In the gospels, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, He told the disciples very plainly that the Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him (Matt. 6:8). So, to be clear, we are not wrong when we say that the Lord knows our needs before we ever go to Him because He does.
However, what I want you to notice is that after Jesus makes this statement, He does not say that we do not need to pray. In fact, we will see that Jesus went on to teach the disciples how and what to pray to the Lord about. Even though the Lord already knows our needs, Jesus told the disciples to thank and honor the Lord; pray for His forgiveness and mercy; and, again, to make supplication. So, to all who profess to believe in the Lord, we should understand that we need to pray to God.
To further show that this is the case, I want to direct your attention to the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 65, the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah about a new heaven and earth (Is. 65:17; cf. Rev. 21:1).
The Lord said of the days of eternity, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear (Is. 65:24).” Heaven, as we know, will be a place where there will be no burdens, struggles, or troubles. The Lord will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death, sorrow, or crying (Rev. 21:4). Yet, from what the Lord says in Isaiah’s prophecy, scripture seems to suggest that even in heaven we will not only be moved to worship the Lord but we will still desire to call on God even though it will not be needed!
Glorified by the Lord
In the world, I believe that before we call on the Lord, He answers. Though the Lord may know our needs beforehand, it is certainly good for us to go to God in prayer!
Praying to the Lord truly is the first sign of faith and dependence on God for all who genuinely believe in Him. Our prayer life is also indicative of our fellowship (relationship) with the Lord. As we say, every good relationship has good communication and prayer is our line of communication with God. When there is little to no communication in a relationship, we would say that relationship is in serious trouble.
So, I must ask you today about your relationship with the Lord? Is your relationship with God in good standing? If not, I tell you today that it is time for you to go to Go!
God moves without fail
As His anointed, when a child of God prays to the Lord, He goes before them with special intent and purpose without fail. Jesus said to His disciples, and therefore us, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you (John 15:8).” This was a statement that Christ was making to all who are in fellowship with Him – what you pray for, God will give!
When the Lord moves before us, we are told that He can and will make the crooked places straight; He will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron (Is. 45:2). I want you to understand that every hurdle that stands to inhibit you while you are on this journey, the Lord is going to remove! You see, those of us that clear these obstacles, trials, and tribulations do so not by our own might! The Lord is ever faithful to His children and desires for us to be lifted up. God desires for us to make it!
We can see this through the children of Israel as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Moses reflected on the Lord and said, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.” Moses then asked the children of Israel, “Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good (Num. 23:19)?”
Moses would pass away and Joshua would assume leadership of the children of Israel as they entered into the Promised Land. Upon entering the Promised Land, Joshua led the children of Israel in conquering kingdoms and getting settled into the land.
At the end of his life, Joshua reflected on all he had witnessed in his farewell address. He would say to the children of Israel, “the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass (Josh. 21:44-45).”
Some will say that God moves slowly, but as Peter stated, the Lord is not slack concerning His promise (2 Pet. 3:9). When we go to God, the Lord will answer and move on our behalf. Again, Jesus said that anything we ask in His name, He will do so that the Father may be glorified (John 14:13). The Lord will move on your behalf because He desires for us to bear much fruit and by the fruit we bear, He will be glorified (John 15:8).
So, let us understand today that when we go to God, He is not going to fail us. Just as the Lord went before the children of Israel on their pilgrimage, the Lord is going to go before us on our pilgrimage and make the crooked places straight! God is going to go before you and break into pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron! Any obstacles that stand in the way of you achieving your aspirations this year, when you go to God, those hurdles are going to be taken away!
For you who already go to God, I pray you continue to do so in this new year. All of you who do not go to God, I pray that you make this the year where you will turn and go to the Lord. I know firsthand that the Lord indeed will make a way for you and in Him you will be full in your soul – you will be exalted (glorified and blessed).