As the dogs and I were walking along, I noticed that Marci was walking differently. I picked her up and found something on the bottom of her foot that I quickly removed.
Observation – paying attention – requires us to be intentional. It is necessary to be intentional to understand the needs of the people around you. In this busy world, we often don’t listen when someone is talking with us, because we are trying to contemplate the best answer to the conversation or even thinking about the next task we must accomplish, looking beyond the current interaction. Many times, we are so stuck on ourselves and our goal is to be heard instead of to listen. Also, we are rarely present in the moment, and yet this presence is what is needed to show love and compassion to others. Time is precious, and how you use time is a choice. Do you choose to run around on empty and allow the situations around you to dictate your actions? Do you attempt to be in the moment wherever you are at, being at attention, and calmly following the leading of your Father?
Notice that Jesus was always intentional—always present – and able to understand the needs of those around Him. He spent much time in prayer. He spent much time interacting with people, whereby He invested in their lives, actively listening and engaging in conversation. Conversation, such a lost art today.
Today, be mindful of what is happening around you. Wherever you go, be there. Slow down. Listen for His still small voice. Invest in those before you. Enjoy the people God has put before you, and ask God how you can bless them today to bring Him glory.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 [ESV]
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 [NIV]
Paul told the Philippians to “stay true to the Lord.” This is all about being totally committed to God, not letting anything come between you and your relationship to God. In Matthew 5, we read that those who are pure in heart are blessed. They will see God! How awesome is that?! Staying true to the Lord is having a pure heart—a heart for Jesus.
James speaks of a divided heart, a heart that is for the world and for God. This isn’t a pure heart. This is not staying true to the Lord. In James 4:7, we read that we should submit to God, resist the devil, wash our hands, and purify our hearts. We should stop being double-minded, and stay true to the Lord.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Do all you can to stay true to the Lord. When you find your heart divided between God and the world, ask that He give you a clean heart and a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10).
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.” – Philippians 4:1 [NLT]
There are people that are living life hardcore for Jesus and then something happens to rock their world. Sometimes these people wander away from the truth. This could be gradual so the person doesn’t see it coming. One day things are not the same.
Even though these people wander away from the truth, they can be brought back. Read verse 19. Wanders away from the truth. Brought back. God pours out His overflowing grace. James says that in doing this, we save the person from death.
Today, continue to share the love of Jesus to those who are brought along your path. Don’t rule out those who have wandered away. If you know someone who wandered away from the faith, pray for them. Pray that they will be restored by Jesus Christ.
“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” – James 5:19-20 [NLT]
We spend a lot of time trying to label sin and rate sin. We will list certain sins as worse than others. We group some sins together. Some sin is more acceptable than other sin to some people.
The truth is that sin is far stretching. Some sin we overlook because we don’t have a label for it. We forget that sin is anything that goes against what God says. Sin is desiring something more than God. Even knowing what you should do and not doing it is a sin! Yes, if you know the right thing to do, but you don’t do it, that is a sin.
Today, recognize that you are a sinner. Through Christ alone are you made right with God. Consider if there is any sin lurking in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that you need to address. Remember, it is a sin to know what you should do that you fail to accomplish.
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” – James 4:17 [NLT]
My dog Max is laying on the sofa by my side as I type this devotion. If I get up and go into the kitchen, I have moved away from him. We then are not as close in position. When it comes to God, some people will say they feel like God isn’t around, like He moved from them. But the truth is, it is they that have moved.
James reminds us that if we come close to God, He will come close to us. We simply need to reach toward Him, and He is ALWAYS reaching back.
Today, be intentional with your relationship with Jesus Christ. Recognize that if you dig into the Word of God, you will hear God speak. If you spend time in prayer, you will feel the presence of God. If you feel like God is faraway, take a few steps closer to Him and you’ll find you had strayed. Thank God, He continues to keep His arms wide open awaiting His children.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” – James 4:8 [NLT]
James says if we resist the devil then he will flee. That seems so easy. We resist him and he leaves us alone. But it’s not as easy said and done. The devil continues to press upon us.
We must continue to resist him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, he will flee at some point. When he realizes that there’s no breaking you, he will move onward. But don’t think that will happen anytime soon. It’s likely that he will attack again and again, trying to find his way in. He will look for weak spots. He will try to sneak through the cracks. Continue to resist the devil. He will flee from you.
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7 [NLT]
We are in the world though not of the world. We will be in the world until we are called home to be with the Lord. But James reminds us that we cannot be a friend of the world. This doesn’t say we cannot be part of the world. We are a part of the world. We are still in the flesh. This verse says that we aren’t to be a friend of the world.
A worldly friendship is something we have when we decide to choose the flesh and the temporary rather than God. A worldly friendship is when we turn ourselves away from our Creator and to something less. This kind of friendship has eyes taken off of Jesus and focused on everything around us that will one day fade away.
Today, are you a friend of God or an enemy? Have you made friends with the world? Or do you have a heart for God?
“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” – James 4:4 [NLT]
In James, we read about wrong motives. Sometimes we ask for things but our motives are wrong. We want something for the wrong reason, and because God is gracious, we don’t get what we want. What a blessing!
Consider what you request. What are your motives? Are you seeking something that will allow you to press forward with God in your journey? Or are you seeking something for pleasure? Do you want something that will benefit you with temporary pleasure or do you seek something that will bless many for eternity? Is what you are asking for something that will bring you closer to God or pull you away from God?
It’s okay to request things from God. He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to make the desires of our heart known. But the desires of our heart should first be Him. And the requests we make should reveal this desire we have for God Almighty. If they don’t – if our motives are wrong – God can see our heart. Isn’t it awesome that despite us not placing Him first in our lives, He still withholds something that is not good for us, because He does not want to withhold goodness in our lives?!?
“And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure.” – James 4:3 [NLT]
Yielding to others is difficult. Try driving in a roundabout with everyone thinking they are justified in going first. There’s a pattern to the road plan that has given drivers a time to yield and a time for others to yield. The world tells us we shouldn’t have to yield. The world tells us that we are owed the opportunity to go first. The world has caused us to think we must rush around, without pausing to allow someone else to go, because there isn’t enough time.
Yielding to others is not simply something we are to do when we are driving. We are to yield to others in life too. Another way to say this is being reasonable or accommodating. You might consider this to be very sacrificial in some regards, or it could be something very small. At the end of the day, if we are not willing to yield to others, if we are not flexible and able to adapt for others, we will neglect those that God has placed before us. We will charge over them just like someone who rushes into a roundabout without acknowledging the yield sign.
Today, consider how you interact with others. Remember that we aren’t supposed to be stressed out and OCD over every area of life. We need to be willing to yield to others as we go through our days. This demonstrates our compassion for others. This is a way of surrendering to the fact that you are not in control. This is all about thinking more about the ministry than about your selfish desires or pride. If you aren’t at a place where you feel ready to yield, continue to fix your eyes above. Remember that this is a wisdom that comes from above.
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” – James 3:17 [NLT]