James 4:9 (NKJV) 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom
In order to walk in God’s possibilities, we must realize that we have an enemy to our souls. His name is Satan and he is committed to either corrupting us to the point where we will be useless to God or destroying us. James 4:7 gives us the promise that if we resist him, he will flee from us. However, it also makes it clear that the position from which we can successfully resist the devil is submitted to God.
We have looked at a number of things that are indicators of our level of submission to God. We must draw near to him. We must put away sin. We cannot submit to God and behave like the devil. It just does not work. We must put away double mindedness. This is the tendency to be stuck between two thoughts or opinions. Our opinions must be dominated by the truth that God is always right. What he says is the truth, whether in his Word of in our hearts. We must believe and act on that truth no matter what other opinions are present.
In the verse above we once again are confronted with the harshness of James’ language. On the surface it seems that what he is saying is in contrast to Paul. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always! (Phil. 4:4) James tells us to lament, mourn and weep. How can both be true?
There is no doubt that the joy of the Lord is an important part of the Christian life. Nehemiah calls it our strength. Jesus said he gave us his joy. We are not to be a dour, depressed people. One of the rules of bible interpretation is that we interpret the bible with the bible. Joy must be a part of our walk with God. So what is James saying?
As I was looking at this, I considered what I have observed in my own life and in the people I have pastored over the years. James is not telling us that to be joyful is wrong. He is talking about what it takes to draw near to God in true submission to him. As I read this, what struck me is that we need to take our relationship with God seriously. Many times we simply do not do that.
How many times have we all said, “I really need to pray more.” or, “I really need to get in the Word!” How many times do we actually do those things? How many times do we just treat that thought as one more thing we need to get around to in our busy lives? How important is our submission and relationship to God?
If it was your wife or husband who came to you and said, “I need some time with you.”, what do you think would happen if you ignored them? I can tell you that if you did it too long your relationship would be in trouble. If your children constantly asked you for time but you never give it to them, you should not be surprised when they grow away from you and the things that are important to you. Our relationship with the Lord is even more important.
If your boss came to you and said, “There are some things we need to talk about.”, what would you do? Would you tell him that you would get around to it at some point? Too many of those kinds of responses would result in you looking for another job! You would make time for a meeting with the boss and pay attention to what he had to say. If you valued your paycheck, you would make whatever changes he or she deemed necessary. Do you treat the Lord of the church and of your life with the same respect?
James is not telling us to stop being joyful people. He is telling us that we must begin to take our relationship with and submission to God seriously. We need to give it time. We need to pay attention to what he is trying to tell us. We need to make time for communication with him. That is the real definition of prayer. We need to read, study, meditate and do his Word. We must not do these things when we get around to it. We must do them regularly. We must see this as vital to our success. We cannot walk in God’s possibilities if we do not.
How many times have we felt dry in God? Maybe we feel like we are in a wilderness. We just do not have the same sense of faith or joy we used to have. Maybe we are feeling unloved by God. Maybe we just know something is wrong in our relationship and we do not know what. What do we do about it?
Too many times we ignore the problem. Sometimes we want to blame God. There may be something that did not go right for us or we just feel that God is far away. Once again, if this was a natural relationship that was important to us we would make time to deal with the situation. We would talk about the problem. We would listen to what the person had to say. We would ask what was bothering the person.
We need to take our submission to God just as seriously. When you recognize something is wrong in your relationship to God, immediately make time to spend with the Lord. Pray and ask him what is wrong. Share your heart with him. He is there and he will comfort you. It may take days and you may have to block sections of time when you can, but do not give up. Stay with it until you know you have met the Lord.
Go to his Word and let him guide you to the answers. If he brings correction, pay attention. He never says or does anything that is not for your good. If the problem persists, make some time to fast and pray. I know this may sound extreme to some and you may say, “I just don’t have that kind of time!” We need to remember to whom we are speaking. This is God almighty. Do you really think it is valid to tell him you do not have the time to get things right?
I have seen far too many people take their submission relationship to God lightly. They put off relationship problems with him. They tend to prioritize everything in life as more important than dealing with the issues that keep them from a healthy relationship and a proper submission to God. The longer they ignore the seriousness of this relationship, the farther they get from where God wants them to be.
One day they find that they are so far from where they should be in relationship that they cannot seem to get back. Sometimes they find themselves in sin, in trouble or in crisis. Sometimes they find they just do not care anymore. Both are dangerous. Both will keep us far from God’s possibilities for our lives.
James’ says some harsh sounding things but we need to pay attention. When he tells us to “lament, mourn and weep” he is not advocating that Christians be a dark people. He is talking about taking our submission relationship seriously. When he says “let your laughter be turned into morning and your joy be turned into gloom” he is not saying church should be a quiet, somber place. However, we cannot “laugh off” relationship problems with God. We cannot blame him when things do not go right. I believe in a joyous celebration of our relationship with the Lord but I have heard and seen people who laughed at inappropriate times. Again, we need to remember who we are dealing with.
Lamentations 3:22 (NKJV) 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
Hebrews 10:31 (NKJV) 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
These are not the kind of scriptures we like to read but they are in the bible. We are really talking about the fear of the Lord. That does not mean we should be afraid to be in God’s presence. It means we must remember that we are in the presence of almighty God, not someone else. When almighty God speaks, we listen. When almighty God indicates there is a problem, we deal with it. That is what James is trying to tell us.
If we take our relationship with God seriously, we will be in proper submission. If we are in submission to God we can resist the devil and he will flee from us. If we do that, we will walk in God’s possibilities.