Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


A few weeks ago, I was reading James 4. James is addressing a fighting church. I know that it is difficult to imagine Christians fighting; those inside the church never bicker. I hope you can sense the sarcasm dripping from these words. Certainly, those inside the church quarrel. James asks the question,

(James 4:1 NIV) What causes fights and quarrels among you?

He then answers his own question.

(James 4:1–2 NIV) 1) Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2) You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

We often lack what we desire because we don’t seek God’s way. We struggle to maintain control, to fulfill our agenda. That is why we fight. If we were all seeking God’s direction, we would move as a unified group. I love this chapter; James highlights our inability to get along and credits this dysfunction to our selfish ambitions. We are all about getting our own way. This is why we can’t get along. We are like selfish children fighting over limited toys. James offers a solution.

(James 4:7 NIV) Submit yourselves, then, to God.

This may seem simple, but the ramification of such action is profound. For each of us to submit our desires, our plans and our ideas to God requires significant effort. James continues to describe this looks like in our day to day living.

(James 4:13–16 NIV) 13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14) 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. 15) Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16) As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

Surely, such submission requires a shifted worldview. We must move from the understanding that we control our destiny to an understanding that God is in control. Even our business affairs should be subject to God’s desires. Our life, our plans should begin with if. We will move in this direction if . . . We will go to this city if . . . We will minister in this way if . . . Only if God desires, only if God directs will we do. This is certainly a shift in how we think. It is a shift from our understanding that we control our future.

May God grant us the power to preface our statements with if . . . May God solidify the church that is ready to submit to his leading. As we move into the world of post-Christendom, we may find it easier to live in this way. As the church has maintained cultural power, it has given up its dependence on God. May we discover the joy of living in God’s mission. May we be willing to sacrifice church programs, church affluence, cultural pull in order to follow God. May we begin each sentence with if . . .