The Battle Rages but Hope Remains
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 1
New Testament Reading- James 3:13-4:3,7-8a
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -September 19, 2021
There is a battle raging inside of you every day. Did you know that? You might not, because it becomes so much a part of us and our daily lives that we often don’t even know it is happening. So, what is the battle about? Desire!
We desire, in other words, we want, we wish, we have a longing, and we crave. We also need; need is something that is necessary for life. Wants and needs, these are the two things raging inside of us every single day. The two terms that we continually flip-flop around in our minds to best fit our wishes.
When God created us, He called it, good. We are built by the very best, but we are placed into a world that is in a fallen state. Fallen state meaning, it has fallen from what it was originally intended to be. Everything, all of us, and everything surrounding us is in a fallen state, we call it being born into sin. We know no other way, so it doesn’t always seem so bad to us, ignorance is bliss, they say. Fortunately for us, God did not leave us to fend for ourselves in this world, so there is still good in it. Wherever God is there is good and beauty and love, but when God is pushed aside, the good is gone and chaos reigns.
Wherever God is there is good and beauty and love, but when God is pushed aside, the good is gone and chaos reigns.
George grew up in the wealthy part of town. He always had the best food on the table and a beautiful, large home. His clothes were the best brands and were the most up to date in fashion. Whatever George wanted, his parents would provide, cars, clothes, shoes, music, boats, motorcycles, you name it George had it.
Once George asked for a trip to Colorado to ski with his friends, and his parents, who were in the middle of buying a new summer home in the Outer Banks told him, no. So, George threw a little temper tantrum and soon his parents relented and set up the trip for him, all expenses paid. George had all he ever desired. Then, one day when George was seventeen, his parents were killed in an automobile accident and all that he had ever known came crashing down around him. The parents had insurance, but not enough and it seems that some of their business dealings did not meet the rules put out by the IRS. Much of George’s parent’s assets were sold to pay the IRS for back taxes and fines and what was left could not begin to finance the life in which George had become accustomed.
The first week of going to the new school had come and gone and George was frustrated and depressed. The second week, no different. The first month, no changes. George was a shadow of what he once was and his desire to have all that he had before was becoming overwhelming. He was starting to act out against his grandparents in mean and aggressive ways. Belittling them both for living such simple lives, calling them stupid and worthless. George was really missing his friends, then one day he was at a local convenience store when his friends pulled up in their sports cars. George ran to his buddies and shouted aloud at how much he missed them, but George was cut to the bone when his friends acted like they didn’t even know him, calling him poor boy as they sped off laughing. What was he going to do? Suicide, maybe? Maybe he would turn to drugs, but he didn’t have money to even buy them.
During the next month of school George was required to do a project with a partner for his history class. The project required two people to uncover and report on how the town they lived in was brought into being and how the people of the town joined together to achieve a common goal. The teacher would be assigning partners and George was partnered with a guy named Ian. George knew who Ian was, but really knew nothing beyond his name. The same for Ian, he knew nothing about George, but knew that something was not quite right, as he often saw George become frustrated and angry very easily.
Ian was the polar opposite of George. Ian was raised on the poor side of town to a family that didn’t have much and seemed plagued by one personal tragedy after another. Ian’s family had lost his older brother to cancer, which had put a large financial strain on the parents. Ian’s mother stayed home with the kids, which left his father as the only wage earner. He worked hard but was often not paid a great wage.
The boys were now about a month into their projects and were getting along well. They had both shared their stories with the other and found that they had shared a common thread- tragedy. One day when Ian, who was always upbeat, noticed George looking pretty down, and asked what was up? George told Ian that it was the anniversary of his parents’ accident. Ian decided to ask George if he would be interested in going to youth night at his church. George really didn’t know what to think about it, as he had never attended church of any kind, but Ian was his friend, and he really needed a friend right now.
George had always believed in God, and identified as Christian, though he didn’t really know why, other than that was what his family called themselves. He just didn’t know much at all about faith or religion. Ian had been raised in the church and was active in youth and some of the adult aspects of worship and missions. The topic of this youth night was prayer and George listened intently about asking God for things and receiving them. He asked Ian at the end of the night if all this prayer stuff really worked, to which Ian exclaimed, yes and in ways you can’t imagine. When George got home, he decided to give it a try right away. George prayed right away for his old life back, especially the money, oh what he wouldn’t give for that money. When Ian got home, he prayed too. He prayed for God to help George find peace.
In our New Testament lesson today we are told the following in James 4:1-3,
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
After a couple of months of going together to youth events at the church, Ian cannot help but notice that George is becoming angrier all the time. He is becoming contradictory and negative in conversations with others. He is quick to blow his top over the smallest things and he is becoming aggressive again, like he was before with his grandparents. Finally, one night Ian flat out asks George, “What is your problem?” George tells Ian that he has done all that he told him to do. He has prayed to God and asked for what he wants, but God hasn’t delivered on any of it. What kind of God is this? Haven’t I been through enough already? Aren’t I entitled to what I want?
When do I get mine Lord?
How about you? Haven’t you been in George’s spot before, maybe not exactly, but haven’t you thought that thought before? When do I get mine Lord? When does my ship come in? Remember what our Scripture lesson told us in James 3:14-18,
14 “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
Ian prayed harder and harder for George to find the peace that only God provides, in fact, he had George added to the prayer list at his church so that many more people could begin to pray for George. George unfortunately became angrier all the time and eventually quit praying to God at all. All George could see was what he desired more than anything, money. But God sees to the hearts of us all and through Ian and his church’s prayers God listened to them because they were prayers offered up in the best way, the selfless way.
One night, when George was alone and at his very lowest point, contemplating suicide because of the battle that was raging inside of him, because he could not separate his needs from his desires, and his desire for money and material wealth was so strong that he was destroying everything, and everyone left in his life because he couldn’t have it. That night when all seemed lost, was when God answered Ian’s prayer and unhardened George’s heart allowing him to feel that peace to enter in, that peace that Ian had prayed selflessly for him.
Soon George was a different guy, he returned to youth nights and began attending worship and other church events. George found a new passion in missions for children who lost their parents. He found that the more he prayed for the kids, the less he focused on himself. George also learned that needs and desires are two different and often opposing things and that those who trust in the Lord are never denied their needs and often even some of their wants show up, too.
What is the battle that is raging inside of you? Are you wise enough to know the difference between your needs and your desires? Are you willing to admit that this is a battle that you cannot fight alone? We are all in the same predicament, this battle is a common one and one that we don’t have to fight alone, we have each other, the Church, and we have God. James 4:7-8 tells us,
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
What an awesome, yet simple statement of power that God gives us for our lives. It starts with the wisdom to know you can’t do it alone and that you need God, submit. Then we are given the power to resist the devil by means of the ‘Armor of God.’ (See Ephesians 6:10-18) Finally, we come to God and He pulls us in, surrounding us with His loving care.
"...we don’t have to fight alone, we have each other, the Church, and we have God," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Prayer is powerful and it is highly effective if we pray in the Spirit of God, prayer that is pure, peaceful, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and goodness, impartial and sincere. This type of prayer has the power to move mountains and to bring the kingdom of God amongst us all, even in a fallen world. Praise and glory be to our Almighty Father. Amen.