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A Carrot on a Stick, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 6, 2023 12:00 am

A Carrot on a Stick, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 6, 2023 12:00 am

(James 4:1-3) Are you satisfied today? In your marriage? In your job? In your church? If not, the Apostle James offers the only remedy.

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Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey

But in our heart of hearts, we just want our lives to be better, richer, healthier, more comfortable. By the way, this text in James chapter 4 is the signature biblical indictment on the prosperity theology of our generation.

If I put in my 25 cents of faith and maybe another dime of claiming it in the name of Jesus, and maybe a nickel in longer prayer or maybe fasting, at the heart of it, God is nothing more than some giant vending machine. Finding the satisfaction that you crave doesn't come by trying to bribe God into blessing you. And it certainly doesn't come by living according to selfish desire and ambition. In James chapter 4, we learn how to live a truly satisfied life. James begins by telling us what not to do. If we want to live the satisfied life, we don't live for ourselves. On our last broadcast, Stephen Davey began a message.

He didn't have time to complete it. So we're going to do a little bit of review and then conclude this message that Stephen called a carrot on a stick. I was sent a link a couple of weeks ago by one of the secretaries in my department to a live camera located high up in a pine tree in the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. And it's about eight feet away from a nest where there in the wild you can link in and watch this female bald eagle sitting on her three eggs. What a pleasure it is to watch.

In fact, I log in just about every day just to see what's going on. I can't wait to have the pleasure of watching those eaglets as they hatch and then as their mouths are open and then as they'll be fed some unfortunate mouse. Which I would love to have the pleasure of donating to that mother. She'll fly my way. So all pleasures and desires are not evil.

The whole word appears, the concept appears with different synonymous terminology to let us know that. Paul writes to the Corinthians. He says, desire earnestly spiritual gifts.

Have a longing for that. Paul wrote to the Philippians, I desire to depart and to be with Christ. He even said this of someone who longed for the office of an elder.

He said, if any man aspires to the office of elder, it is a fine work he desires. David would say, whom have I in heaven but thee and there is nothing or no one on earth beside thee that I so desire. Psalm 73 25. But the word chosen by James and in this context is the dark side of desire. It's the evil, shameful desire of forbidden pleasure. And isn't it great to know the outside of our study that we can blame all of that on the devil. Oh, let's look again just to make sure. Verse one, what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you is not the devil.

Oh, wait, is not the source your what? Your pleasures that wage war in your own body. See, we give the devil way too much credit for our sin. James informs us here that we actually have a war going on internally. Pleasure is waging war. Immoral pleasures, evil desires, self-centered plans, wicked thoughts are at war with our spirit to see who gains control. In fact, the words translated wage war comes from one original word in the Greek language that can literally be translated an armed camp.

So get this picture in your mind. You happen to have camping within your fallen flesh an army. It's an army of desires and they are constantly plotting, constantly maneuvering and strategizing and then emerging to attack so they can gain control over your life. Imagine you have within you an army right now camped out and they've got plans. You know, I've been told we purchased this land that we're on now from a family goes all the way back to the eighteen hundreds. And I've been told that Sherman camped out on this property on his way back from burning Atlanta. My wife from Atlanta has trouble worshiping here has all the time we've been here.

You just see that the tents as they're all set up in rows. One Greek scholar explained this word as referring to a military expedition where the passions of the flesh are described as constantly fighting to have their way, to be victorious over the spirit, over that new nature which Jesus Christ has given us. James would agree. He says there is a war going on. The Apostle Peter used the same word. James uses here when he warned the believers in 1 Peter 2-11, Beloved, I urge you as aliens, that is as strangers in the world, to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul. One of the worst things you could ever tell someone is that when they come to Christ everything will settle down.

No, everything will get stirred up. The real battle begins. Up until that point it didn't matter. Take over.

Now it does. And the shocking truth that James begins in this paragraph by telling us that you are at war. And get this, you are at war with yourself. Shameful desires are constantly trying to win the day.

That's not all. James goes on to give us the second source of conflict. Sinful attitudes. He writes in verse 2, you lust and do not have so you commit murder. Now that sounds like more than a bad attitude.

A really bad attitude. It could be. James could be referring to actual murder to fulfill some lust.

It happens every day. Christians are not immune to that depth of sin. I know one believer who had an affair with a woman while her husband was stationed in the Middle East. Contrary to their secret plans, in an affair she became pregnant. They knew that neighbors had seen them together and the truth would probably come out. This man had a friend in the military. In fact, he was serving in this woman's husband's same platoon. He contacted him, they worked out the plan and the next firefight he made sure he didn't back him up and he died. It all came out later. They confessed to it all. The man actually ended up marrying his neighbor, that widow, and her name was Beth Sheba.

And his was David. It's possible for believers to lust and plot and kill to get their way. The Greek word for kill could also have a wider meaning simply to destroy. To destroy. Shameful desires, sinful attitudes are going to destroy something or someone.

But note this, it will destroy you and it will destroy me along the way. One author wrote that the word James uses here within this biblical context of lusting for this and this attitude in which rises up to kill refers to passionate longing for something misdirected or sinful. And whenever any strong sinful lust is not gratified, when that lusting person cannot achieve his desired goal, whether for reputation, prestige, money, power, sexual gratification, escape through drugs or alcohol, success, possessions, whatever, the affections of another person, the result is catastrophic often to others and always to oneself.

And that's the warning. Maybe you're old enough to discover that maybe you belong to Christ long enough to where you can say, Stephen, you and I contract together with James because we know we are our worst enemy. The person I have the biggest problem with is in my seat. James goes on to say in verse two, you are envious and cannot obtain. So you fight and quarrel. Notice the external fighting and quarreling is again the result of internal envy and frustration. You are envious and cannot obtain, so you, I think it's a great translation, so you fight and quarrel. But notice here, you are envious and you can't quite reach the objective. Sin is like that. It's like a mule chasing a carrot on a stick that's attached to his bridle.

Can't quite achieve it, so I think I'll kick the farmer or run away. The truth is our desires and our attitudes that serve as the source of everything he's describing here are like an armed camp within us and they're ready at a moment's notice to declare war against anybody, anything that stands in the way of some form of personal gratification on which we've set our hearts. And James is saying watch out. Watch out. Watch out.

There is a battle going on. So if you ever get up in the morning and you think, you know, I'm tired of the battle. Maybe it is because I'm not mature. Maybe I'm not following Christ. No, it is because you want to mature. It is because you desire to follow Christ. And the more you desire to follow him, the hotter the engagement becomes. The more problems you have because it isn't just you or me. It is our world, which is contrary to that process of maturing, which inflames those desires within us. And so we live in a world and we are confronted by one commercial, one billboard, one announcement, one story at the job or in the neighborhood after another that says hedonism is the way to live. And you've got all these people around you chasing the carrot.

And you think maybe I ought to chase one too. You know, the next time you go to the grocery store and you get up to the checkout lane, I want you to make a couple of observations. To your left will be a magazine rack.

It will have on it pictures of people either dieting. Typically, I've noticed that's the main thing. I was there just the other day to get a few things. I was standing there with, you know, milk and bread and chocolate-covered almonds because they're good for your heart. And then to your right, you ever noticed that candy rack?

The shelves go all the way to the floor. You can't bend down there without risking permanent damage. It isn't for you. It's designed for your kids. They can get to it really easily.

In fact, the top shelf is no higher than that which a two-year-old can reach while sitting in the buggy and grabbing a fistful. It is a life of battle and potential frustration as we give in to wrong desires, shameful desires and sinful attitudes. And I want you to notice James is being very, very realistic when he tells us, look at verse 2 again, You lust and do not have. And you ought to underline just those words, do not have. You're envious and, here it is, cannot obtain.

You do not have because you do not ask. In other words, these people desiring here are desiring and never satisfied. They're longing for something they cannot have. They're lusting for something they should not have. And it only leads to more craving and more coveting.

In fact, James uses the present tense for covet. This inward sinful desire, this is ongoing. This is unrelenting. You give in and it grows worse. Plans, feelings, desires, thoughts that only lead to more desiring and more planning and more feeling without ever finding satisfaction. Satisfaction, one author said, through self-gratification is an ever-eluding goal. It's a carrot on a stick.

C.S. Lewis wrote this of temptation and forbidden desires, whatever they may be, should they gain control of the believer. He wrote, listen to this, there will be an ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure.

Let me say that again. There will be an ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure. James is actually giving us in this chapter as sort of a categorical theme. This is the way in life to be satisfied.

And he's starting the paragraph with this is how you can't be satisfied first. Feed your shameful desires. Fantasize over forbidden fruit. Compartmentalize immoral thoughts, selfish plans, thoughts of prestige, power, money, whatever it may be. Defend your sinful attitudes. Inwardly condemn those around you while at the same time coveting what they have, who they are, what positions they hold, how they look. And we're talking about in the assembly. And that's for starters.

This is how to live an unsatisfied life. There's one more internal source of conflict. Let me give that to you quickly. Selfish motives. He writes in verse 3.

Look there. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures. In other words, you do indeed get around to asking, praying to God for certain things you know aren't overtly sinful. But the truth is you want them for selfish reasons or motives. You want your own comforts. You want your own way. You want your own success. You want your own path. Like the man who prayed, Lord, bless only me.

That's as far as I can see. The verb James uses for asking is the word I tell. Oh, it means to beg, to plead, to implore. James used the same verb, by the way, in chapter 1 verse 5 when he said, Do you lack wisdom? Then go beg, ask, implore God for wisdom.

Now here in chapter 4, the verb is used again. How do we know it's wrong that they're doing something wrong because of the middle voice used in this language, which means to beg for yourself, to beg for your own interests, to beg for your own personal comfort. These believers are not accused by James at this moment of praying for sinful things. They are accused for praying and in their request desiring what would only further their own personal lives. In other words, it's possible to ask God for good things for the wrong reasons. And I wonder, as James pulls off the mask, if we could put at the top of our prayer list, this is really all about me.

James just rips off the mask and he says at the end of verse 3, you just want to spend it on yourself. So get real about prayer. You just want your best life now. You want to be comfortable now. You want to be healthy now.

You want to be rich now. And prayer just must be the magic key. And maybe if I do it right, I'll get God boxed into a corner where he can't help.

But give me that. But it's really all about us. When John Ward, a member of the British Parliament, died in the mid 1800s, a prayer was found among his papers that was somewhat embarrassing to his estate. It went like this, and I quote, Oh Lord, I have to get past the old English here of a few centuries ago, Thou knowest that I have mine estates in the city of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in the county of Essex. I beseech thee to preserve these two counties from fire and earthquake. And as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg of thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county. As for the rest of the counties, thou mayest deal with them as thou art pleased. You want that guy praying for you?

We would never do that. Oh Lord, there's a hurricane coming through and, you know, keep my house. I'll help my neighbor out when his roof falls in, but may this be a sign of your blessing. The word James uses for spend is the same verb found in the story of the prodigal son who spent his father's inheritance on himself. Yes, we're going to the Father. Yes, we're asking for our inheritance. Yes, we're asking for his blessing.

But in our heart of hearts, we just want our lives to be better, richer, healthier, more comfortable. By the way, this text in James chapter 4 is the signature biblical indictment on the prosperity theology of our generation. At the heart of it, God is nothing more than some giant vending machine. And if I put in my 25 cents of faith and maybe another dime of claiming it in the name of Jesus, and maybe a nickel in longer prayer or maybe fasting, and then here comes your blessing, glory, hallelujah, and if it doesn't come, maybe it shouldn't have been a quarter, maybe it was supposed to be 50 cents, or maybe I sent it to the wrong guy. One commentator from a past generation said if prayer is no more than a formula of saying the right words and believing hard enough and then confessing that it will happen, then Christians are really only practicing magic. That they can then with the right formula or incantation manipulate God and impose upon Him their will, for now He must answer.

In contrast, New Testament prayer grows out of a trusting relationship with a Father whose will is supreme. We don't go to Him. And see, I think I've got all the boxes checked, and now I obligate you to my will. No, we go to Him and we say, look, we, Lord, will obligate our will to you. We don't command you in our presumption. You command us. You are not our servant.

We are yours. You want to live an unsatisfied life? Live on the basis of shameful desires and sinful attitudes and selfish motives, and you will get that kind of life.

You want to be satisfied? James will tell us how in a few verses, and I hate that we've got to stop here before we get to there, but he will tell us effectively to confess quickly and to follow God with fresh vigor and then to be patient as the farmer who waits for the harvest. Be patient.

I wonder how often Satan has encouraged those shameful and sinful and selfish desires by convincing us that God isn't working quickly enough. Be patient. Maybe you feel like my son did. One of my twin boys, 21 years ago, they turned the ripe old age of four.

I went up to the twins' bedroom that morning, and one of my sons was awake, and he had tears in his eyes. I said, hey, buddy, what's the problem? He wiped the tears from his eyes, and he said, well, today's my birthday. I said, well, yeah, it's your birthday, but aren't you happy about that? I mean, you're four.

How great is that? You're now four. I have no idea where he got this from, but he said to me with tears in his eyes and with sincerity all over his face, he said, but, Daddy, I thought when I turned four, I'd be big. He thought that somewhere in the night, he was going to skip middle school. Just get there.

He was so disappointed. Don't be that way too, Christian. Don't be discouraged. Some of the saints that I have had the privilege of talking to in their 60s, 70s, 80s, none of them ever reached a point where they would talk to me about how they'd safely reached maturity. No, they'd talk to me about the battle, about the war. I close with a prayer from a book called The Valley of Vision. It's a collection of prayers from great church leaders in the fight, in the battle, who pray so realistically and so wonderfully.

It's a wonderful little book, a little leather-bound book, The Valley of Vision. One of them several generations ago, again in Old English, said this. This was his prayer. When thou, O God, wouldst guide me, I control myself. When thou wouldst be sovereign, I rule myself. When I should depend on thy provision, I supply myself. When I should submit to thy providence, I follow my own will. When I should honor thee, I serve myself. Lord, it is my chief desire to bring my heart back to thee.

That was Stephen Davey and a lesson he called Carrot on a Stick. This is wisdom for the heart. Stephen is currently in a series from the Epistle of James, a series he called Satisfied. I encourage you to install the Wisdom International app to your phone. Once you do, you can take this Bible teaching ministry wherever you go. In the menu along the bottom is a tab that says Bible. If you don't want to read the Bible, you can actually hit a play button and listen to the Bible being read to you. Also, if Stephen has a lesson from the section that you're reading, you'll have a link right to Stephen's lesson from the Bible. Let's say, for example, you're looking at Genesis 1-1. Right at the top of your screen, there's going to be a link to Stephen's lesson from Genesis 1-1.

Install the Wisdom International app on your phone today. We recently received an email from a listener named Tim. I'm only going to use Tim's first name because he mentioned some personal information.

He said this, I work as a courier and I spend a lot of time behind the wheel. I look forward every day to hearing your message. I agree wholeheartedly with what you teach.

Many in the world, including my youngest daughter and her family, are living for the world. Please pray for them. And thank you for clearly and faithfully teaching the truth of God's Word. Well, Tim, we were glad to hear from you and we certainly will be praying for you and for your daughter and her family. We have a team of people who pray for every prayer request that comes in. If there's something going on in your life and you'd like us to pray for you, be sure and tell us.

The best and easiest way to do that is to visit a special web page that we've set up for that purpose. Go to forward slash pray. That's forward slash pray. And once you get to that page, you're going to see some ways that you can pray for our ministry. You're also going to find a link that will let you send prayer requests to us. And again, I want you to know that someone will pray personally for you. If you'd like to join our global prayer team and pray for us, we'd be very grateful. And please join us again next time as Stephen brings you more wisdom for the heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-06 00:44:58 / 2023-06-06 00:54:34 / 10

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