This week’s daily readings will take us to the end of the book of James. And this past Sunday, we also wrapped up our teaching series called The Road to Imperfection. Jeff Brodie (Lead Pastor at Connexus Church in Barrie) talked about living with freedom – not as people legalistically striving to obey all the rules, but as people fully SURRENDERED to God’s Spirit to live lives of love and care for others.
That word, surrender, is a big one in our journey of faith. In fact, it can make all the difference.
Day 1: Surrender to God
Read James 4:1-12
James doesn’t mince his words. He’s calling out some destructive dynamics that seem to exist in this community. Quarrelling and fighting. Coveting and jealousy. Bad-talking and judging.
I know none of this happens with us… maybe… not…
It happens when we forget (or refuse) to surrender. We hold on – to our own selfish desires, our own need for control, our own self-centred sense of “justice”. We can even “spiritualize” these self-motivated desires and shape our prayers and our spiritual conversations around them. But it rarely yields meaningful fruit (v. 3). In fact, it actually creates more space for the devil to do his destructive work among us (v. 7).
So how do we work against these very natural, but destructive, tendencies and temptations?
James says, “Submit yourselves to God.”
Open your hands and your heart to the FREEING presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Jeff Brodie reminded us on Sunday of a similar thing that the Apostle Paul wrote: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Gal. 5:16-17, NLT).
So, what does surrender look like for you today or this week?
Take a few deep breaths.
Reflect on your last few days…
Is there anything that you’ve said, thought, or done that has been driven by…
…your need for control or need to be right
…your desire for something you want
…your need to prove yourself
…your fear of what might happen or what others might think
What impact has this had on you or others?
Pray a prayer of surrender in light of this. Ask the Holy Spirit to take control, and to lead you into freedom from your “self”, and into the freedom and goodness of His ways.
Day 2: Surrender Your Future
Read James 4:13-17
In these few lines, James taps into another major need for surrender that his community had – and ours does too.
Surrendering our future.
There are a million and one ways that we hold on to a tight grasp on our future. We have expectations around what we’ll do for a career. And then when we start our careers, we begin to build our expectations for retirement. We have certain ideals in mind for where we will live, what kind of car we will drive, what kind of vacations we’ll go on…
But our “grip” on the future works in some more subtle ways as well. Sometimes we make statements like “I’ll never do that…” or “That relationship (or person) will always be…” or “Things will always be this way…”
We may not realize it, but statements like these – whether we speak them out loud or whether they remain just below the surface of our consciousness – can have a massive impact on the decisions that we make about the future and the relationships we have in the present. And more, they’re actually statements that all come out of a pretty massive assumption – that we know the future. And we of course know that we don’t know the future. That’s only God’s to know.
This isn’t to say that making plans is bad, or against what God wants. But it is to say that we miss out on God’s possibilities when we pigeon-hole our future by our own narrow expectations and subconscious pronouncements.
Take a moment and reflect on your future…
- Are there any plans for your future that you may be holding onto with too tight a grip? One way to tell is to ask yourself: “What would happen if those plans don’t come through?”
- Are there any pronouncements you’ve made about yourself, another person, or a relationship that are cutting you off from seeing other future possibilities in that situation?
Surrender these things and your future to God in prayer. Ask Him to free you to follow him into your future without the need to control it. And ask Him to free you into a future with even greater possibilities than you otherwise might be open to!
Day 3: Surrender Your Wallet
Read James 5:1-6
I’m not sure James is the kind of guy I’d want as a friend! Ouch!
Well, they say a true friend will stab you in the front, not in the back. And that’s definitely what James is doing here.
Another call to surrender. And this might be a hard one to take – our wealth.
James warns his listeners (and us) about what riches can do to the soul. It promises pleasure, but any pleasure that wealth brings is temporary at best. Sooner or later, the stuff we buy will rot and fade. But worse, if we remain bent on acquiring more and indulging much, it won’t just be our stuff that rots, it will be our hearts. The love of money can turn us so inward that we can not only become fixed on self-indulgence, but we can become willing to use, manipulate, and even abuse others for our own benefit – perhaps without even realizing it. Don’t underestimate its power, says James. Instead, surrender your wallet to the One who really owns it in the first place — and who knows how to use it best.
- Consider a significant purchase that you’re planning to make, or that you’d love to be able to make one day. Have you taken the time to talk to God about it? What might it look like to surrender this purchase to God?
- Let’s make it a little more real today. Ask God to bring someone to mind who could use some encouragement or support. Is there a way you could use your money or something you have to bless them, as an expression of Jesus’ generous love? Go and do it!
Day 4: Surrender Your Need for “NOW”
Read James 5:7-12
Same day delivery. Fast food. Watch on demand. Get it now, pay for it later. 30 minutes or its free. Skip the line with your gold pass.
We live in a culture that loves NOW. We value NOW. We want NOW.
NOW is definitely better than later.
And we are finding more and more ways to eliminate waiting from our experience.
But James reminds us – no matter how hard we try to speed up our deliveries and downloads, there is still a deep longing in our souls that none of these things can fulfill. What we’re really waiting for – what we really need most – is not a what, but a Who. Jesus himself.
And as we wait for Him, we can’t help but be faced with all the temptations that come with waiting – longing, frustrations, grumbling, complaining. So James says, “Surrender your need for NOW.”
Like a farmer waits for the land to yield its crop, learn to cultivate patience. A person who can persevere in the waiting is a beautiful gift to the world. We need more of them. Because they give us a glimpse of the compassion and mercy of God himself (v. 11).
What are you waiting for today? Why do you feel like you need it NOW?
Write out a prayer as a way of surrendering your NOW. Ask God to give you the patience you need to persevere with hope and joy and love. And ask him to use your waiting – whatever it is you’re waiting for – to cultivate in you a deeper hope for Jesus himself.
Day 5: A Surrendered Life
Read James 5:13-20
What a beautiful way to finish this letter. James gives us a picture of a surrendered life. And it’s one full of prayer.
“Pray!” says James.
Pray when you’re in trouble.
Pray when you’re happy.
Pray when you’re sick.
Pray when you’ve sinned.
Pray through the mundane.
Pray for miracles.
A surrendered life is a life of prayer. Of taking each moment, each circumstance, each joy that we experience and trouble that we face – and sharing it with God. Giving it to him. And journeying through each day in active, moment-by-moment partnership and dependence on the One who James has already reminded us – gives every good and perfect gift (1:17).
Take some time now to reflect and pray.
Begin with gratitude – give thanks to God for the gifts He has given you, big and small.
Think over the events of your last day or two. Replay the flow of your day over in your mind.
Are there any elements of your day that you went through unaware or inattentive to God? If so, share those moments with Him now. Praise him for the gifts. Ask him for help through the difficulties.
Are there any elements of your day that you went through with a clear sense of God’s presence and grace? Thank Him that He was with you in those moments. Ask him to help you to continue to be aware of His presence and work.
Is there anything in the day ahead that you want to bring to God in prayer now? Surrender your day to him – your thoughts, your emotions, your ambitions, and your actions.