What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 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. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
We've been going trough The Young Peacemaker with Ellie and Chad and are beginning to discuss how "it starts in the heart". When we were discussing yesterday how our desires control our heart, they both had lots of examples showing how they understood this concept. Ellie brought up the leaves outside on our new tree, which clearly have been nibbled on by some insect. We haven't seen the culprit, but the nibbled leaf is evidence. Similarly, we discussed that all of our words, attitudes and actions have their roots in our hearts. When we punch or kick or scream (which we've only heard of other families doing, of course) those things are like the nibbled leaves that tell us, in the case of our hearts, that something is wrong in our heart.
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. Proverbs 17:3
God's test isn't to see if we can pass, because of course we can't. His test is more like that which determines blood iron levels, showing us we need more iron. In my case, I need more of the person and work of Jesus. The crucible refines the silver and the furnace purifies the gold, pulling up the impurities so that they can be removed. God shows me my impatience, my greed, my distrust and fear, my hatred, my arrogance, and so on...not to shame or humiliate me but to confirm what I have said I believed all along! I claim to believe that I need Him, but live functionally each day as if I don't. I go to Him for stuff I want or as a means to an end but He graciously determines to convince me that He is the end...and the beginning of all things good.
Thomas Chalmer wrote of "the expulsive power of a new affection" and that only God can fully and powerfully replace and expel our lesser desires, my selfish desires and my ego on the throne of my heart. But He is faithful and He will do it. Only He can work His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control through me and extend them generously and unreasonably to others. Only He can remove toxic affections from my grip and replace them with the living water that I most need. And the disappointing news and very good news is that only He can provide this new affection.
This is disappointing to those of us who feel proud of all our un-nibbled leaves and critical of others, because we like to feel that the credit for our righteousness belongs to us. But it is good news for those like me who have come to see that left to my own ability or will, I would prefer to yell at my children without restraint, to criticize the strangers on the street, to horde all the money and "stuff" I can get my hands on, to withhold generosity from those who don't deserve it, to attach to my name only the coolest and most elite associations and the list only grows.
So, after my children used bedtime as a great example of desires taking control so that inside the battle is between doing what is right (obeying) and what you want most (not going to sleep), we had about an hour of crying, disciplining, arguing and aggravation that followed the time my children should have had the lights out and a quiet room. Knowledge is not power. Knowing what is right does not make us do what is right. (Ask anyone who wants to lose weight or quit smoking, for example.) I need the Spirit to be powerfully at work within me. I need to grow in my understanding that I am beloved, cherished and secure in Jesus so that I quit living to earn that from Him and from others and instead begin to freely live out of that position. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance. May it one day be His life in me that becomes what I want most and the root of all my words, attitudes and actions.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generation, for ever and ever!
Amen. Eph. 3:16-21