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Internal Disturbance Breaks Out

James 4:1
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (NIVUK)

Violence certainly does roam around the world, but it has no part in the kingdom of heaven. Fights are personal struggles which inflict pain and damage onto others. Quarrels start with a complaint and, unless resolved, they can easily erupt into emotional, verbal and physical fury. Some people say that it is just human nature. They are right: it is one of the signatures of corrupted human nature - but not of Jesus. Jesus is the 'Prince of Peace', who never advised His disciples to fight (John 18:36) to support His cause because He trusted in Father God (Matthew 26:39). Jesus never tried to overthrow the oppressive Romans or eliminate the irreligious Gentiles ... quite the opposite. Although the Romans whipped and crucified Him, He asked Father God to forgive His Gentile tormentors (Luke 23:34).

The outcome of aggression can be a massive problem, but it's origin is a much darker malignancy. According to James, verbal and physical violence are only symptoms of a dangerous disease. They are a reflection of the internal turmoil in the mind and conflict inside the heart, because we are frustrated that we cannot get our own way. If we do not ask God to guide and help us, we will be driven by inner urges to grab what we have not been given, trampling over anybody who stands in our way (James 4:2-3).

The restless and discontented heart is a boiling cauldron of evil. All it needs is a trigger to set it off, exploding over whoever is nearby. However we easily blame the circumstances and people involved in blocking our goals. They become the problem, the reason, the excuse, for our anger which seems quite justified. We take a self-righteous stance, based on our unrighteous desires, to support the action we take against other people. We camouflage the venom in our hearts by pointing the finger at others, oblivious of the fact that we have lost connection with the Lord (Colossians 2:19).

Doctors can only give the right treatment when they have the right diagnosis. While the symptoms may be uncomfortable, it is the root of the problem which needs to be addressed. James tells us that fights and quarrels are just symptoms of a dissatisfied heart, at war with itself and with God's purposes. However well behavioural therapists try to modify aggression, unless the heart is satisfied, the problem will break out in another way. As we go through this chapter, James will teach us how to change from the inside with the help of God. But for now, at least we can be clear about the source of the problem - a heart that is not yet fully under the mastery of Jesus Christ. Once we become aware that we are operating 'in the flesh’ and not ‘in the Spirit' (Romans 8:5), then we can repent and ask the Lord to show us what our hearts are like. Psalm 139:23-24 says, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." That is a good prayer to pray today.

Great God of peace. Thank You that Jesus came to announce peace, and died to secure peace with God for all who trust in Him. Forgive me for my restless heart which erupts in ways I regret. Help me to see myself as I am so that I will choose to lay aside my own desires when they conflict with Your will for my life. Alert me to the root problem of my frustrated heart, and give me insight into my great need of Your intervention in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams