Why do you quarrel and why do you fight? This is the way of the world, brother against sister, father against son, neighbor against neighbor, each seeking their own desires, pitting themselves against those who stand in their way. Quarrel, contention and strife may be the way of this world, but it should not be our way. God calls us to overcome our desires and our agendas and submit ourselves to Him alone. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Every time you give in to your contentious will, every time you speak evil of someone, stir up dissent behind their back, seek to undermine them or turn others against them, you sin. Not a little sin; not a petty and easily overlooked sin; but a sin that according to Christ Himself is equal to murder and just as liable to the hell of fire! You might think, well it’s no big deal, I know God will forgive me. But don’t fool yourself, God’s mercy and forgiveness is not license to sin and thinking it is, is simply evidence of un-repentance, and without repentance there is no forgiveness. Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” But our sinful nature is strong and constantly at war against God’s Spirit in our hearts. How can you hope — for even a day — to stand firm against your sinful nature that desires its own way at the expense of your neighbor? Only the prayer of faith will sustain you.
In our text for this evening, we hear James tell us about God’s promise to answer the prayer of faith. Did you not hear it in the text? Listen carefully, ” You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” There are two important implications that we too easily overlook. When James writes, ” You do not have, because you do not ask” This is the promise to answer the prayer of faith. We live — not as people of action, but as people of faith. Forget the protestant work ethic. It is not our right to enforce our will over others, any more than it is our right to bring about God’s will on earth. We are not people of action, but people of faith. Our task is to submit ourselves to God and turn to Him in faith, asking for what we need in this world, in submission to Him. And God promises to answer our prayer, but there is another implication of this passage. The prayer God promises to answer is the prayer of faith. James writes, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We are called to not be people of our passions, but people of faith and we err when we substitute our desires and passions for the will of Him who holds our faith. If we are the people of faith, then we are called to live lives of faith in submission to God and not to our own desires. As Paul writes, “ Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” We — as the Church — are the bride of Christ and we are called to live in submission to our husband and Lord, and when we abandon that submission to Him and submit ourselves to our passions, we commit adultery against God Himself. James words are true, we are an adulterous people. It is because we cannot stand against the power of our passions, that Jesus hung on the cross and died for us. But more than this, for the same Jesus Christ that hung on the cross and died for our sins and on the third day rose from the dead raising us up with Him to everlasting life, this same Jesus walked this earth with us; rebuked us in our temptation; comforted us in our trials; fed us in our hunger; and healed us in our sickness. The same Jesus who died for you also lived for you. And this same faith in Jesus Christ that saves you also keeps you safe.
Faith is not just some passive force that you intersect with at the moment of your death, it is active, powerful, and efficacious here and now. James writes, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The faith given to us by the grace of the Father is our glory, we have no need for any glory of our own. Living as the people of faith is living in submission of our husband and Lord; living in humble submission to God. And that faith in which we live becomes our glory. As people of faith, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” For the faith that saves you is the same faith that keeps you safe. The prayer of faith will sustain you! Amen.