Everyone loves to get their own way, right? It's like it's this inborn desire to do things our own way in our own time. But guess what? James says that isn't the way things should be at all. He calls it sinful. Our own sinful nature is constantly battling against the part of us that longs to follow Jesus (Paul talks about this, actually), so we shouldn't be striving for our own way all the time.
"Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it." (James 4:1-2a)
Can you think of a time that you wanted something so much that you would have done anything to get it? What about a time that you just wanted something and schemed until it happened? Maybe there wasn't violence (I hope not), or even the risk of it, when you wanted something but you still went about getting your own way in the wrong way. Let's read the next couple of verses from James on this:
"You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way." (James 4:2b-3)
Let me tell you about the semi-annual fight at my house, the proverbial hill that we are willing to die on around here. Shaun and I have been married for 14 years now and we have just one really big argument twice a year every year. It's a total first-world problem and ridiculous. You've been warned. We fight in the spring/summer about when to put the AC in/on and then we fight again in the fall about when to turn the heat on. Shaun wants his way because running these things is expensive. It costs us a lot of money each time either thing is running. I want my way because I live in this house all day nearly every day with four kids. We get hot (cold in the fall) and feel that we "need" the AC (heat in fall) to be comfortable. And you know what happens when we both fight for our own way. There is no violence or death, of course, but there is an argument because we are both so focused on getting our own way. Feelings are hurt and we aren't following God's way on it at all.
So what does James say about this?
"You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that 'he’s a fiercely jealous lover.' And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that 'God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.'" (James 4:4-6)
Ouch. Cheating on God? How is it cheating on God to want your own way? Well, James tells us that wanting our own way and scheming to get it is "flirting with the world." How would you feel if your spouse or significant other were flirting with someone else? You'd be upset, I hope. Imagine that feeling and I think we get a small glimpse of how God feels when we are so focused on our way that we totally disregard him and his way.
"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet." (James 4:7-10)
As silly as the semi-annual fight is around here, it's a serious event to Shaun and me. And it says in verse 7 that this fight is just one more way that Satan is trying to drive us apart. In the first few years, there was yelling (Shaun) and crying (me, haha) as we both vied for our own way on this. Our former neighbors knew the day was coming each spring and would practically set up lawn chairs because they knew we'd be ridiculous about it. Honestly, aren't most arguments ridiculous at their core?
But in the last few years, we've approached this differently. We've come together and talked out the issues we each have with our own sides. We've prayed about it. We've done our best to submit to one another as we are called to do in Ephesians 5, giving a little from each side. This year, instead of putting the AC in on the first hot day of May like I would really like to do, I compromised by waiting until July. And I didn't whine about it. That's another key to submitting to one another and trying to do things God's way. You aren't truly submitting to God's way if you are doing the right thing on the outside but insisting on the wrong thing on the inside.
What proverbial hill are you dying on right now? What is it that you just have to have your way on, no matter the cost? God is calling you to a better way, to his way. Lay that sword down at the base of the cross and hand your way over to God. His way is so much better! He has bigger things in mind than you can dream and you will never be disappointed by God's dream for your life. My prayer today is that we can all move forward in God's will rather than our own. Amen.