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

Church Fights

James 4 is perhaps one of the strongest passages in scripture regarding discernment. The beginning verses highlight a church in conflict. While these verses may seem disconnected from the later part of the chapter, they provide the basis for James’ instructions to the would-be businessman.

People are fighting; they are striving for their own ways. In fact, they are going to great lengths to make sure they get what they want.

(James 4:2 ESV) “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

So often, this is the dynamic at church meetings. Perhaps you have never witnessed a murder at a church meeting. Maybe some have come close. Yet Jesus likens attitudes of anger and hostility to murder in Matthew 5.

(Matthew 5:21–22 ESV) “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”

At the root of such discontent are selfish motives. James suggests a different stance. Instead of fighting for our own way, perhaps we should submit to God’s way. Rather than battling for our own interests, we should seek God’s plan for our congregations. James continues to recommend a posture of discernment.

(James 4:13–14 ESV) “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Planning to carry out business doesn’t seem like a crime. Yet James criticizes excluding God from our plans.

(James 4:15–16 ESV) “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance.”

These are profound words. James challenges us to preface our planning with God’s will. Otherwise, we are boasting in our arrogance. Maybe we don’t intentionally exclude God. We often open our meetings with prayer, right? But if we really think about it, we do not always seek God’s direction in our churches.

As we consider James 4, may we seek to be discerning churches. May we preface our plans with a wholehearted if the Lord wills!. Submission to God’s way is seldom easy. It often requires us to forgo our ideas, agendas and strategies. May we have the courage and humility to lay down ourselves in light of God’s mission. As James puts it,

(James 4:10 ESV) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”