The Time for Tears

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, June 30, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Whether you are knowledgeable regarding Old Testament wisdom literature or are a big fan of late ‘60s rock music, you are probably familiar with the saying, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." If the Bible interests you, those words can be found in Ecclesiastes 3:1. Even if it does not interest you, just turn on your local oldies station on the radio and you may hear almost identical lyrics in the classic from The Byrds called “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)." Both the song and the Scripture mention some of those specific activities for which there is a season, including “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). It seems pretty clear that the writer sees laughter and dancing as the clear opposite of weeping and mourning.

In the New Testament, James sees things the same way and writes about a time when weeping and mourning is most appropriate. In James 4:6-10, he’s giving a step-by-step process of coming to the necessary position of humility before a holy and righteous God. After writing in the previous verses that some believers are allowing their selfish desires for whatever pleases them to affect how they treat one another and their relationship with God, he turns our focus toward what God does for us anyway. While we are enemies of God due to our spiritual adultery and evil deeds (James 4:4 and Colossians 1:21), God gives us grace. In fact, it says He gives MORE grace. Do you know why God gives us more grace when we are His enemies? It’s because we NEED more grace when we are His enemies!

God is always pursuing us, but what we receive from Him is directly related to our attitude. James quotes from Proverbs 3:34 and declares that God stands in opposition to those who are prideful but shows favor (that’s what grace is, by the way) to the humble (James 4:6). Think about why this would be. The humble heart recognizes its desperate need for God’s grace. The proud heart demands that God bless it on the basis of that person’s own merits, whether they are real or imagined. When James writes that God “opposes” the one who is proud, it literally means that He sets Himself in battle against that person. Picture “Lieutenant Dan” in the movie Forrest Gump when he is challenging God to a fight in the middle of the crazy storm, only it’s God who is calling YOU out if your attitude is proud. You don’t have to challenge Him because He is already prepared to let you have it.

There generally isn’t a better way than that to deal with pride. It has to be destroyed, and the proud person has to be knocked down a few notches. It’s what is often referred to as “eating a slice of humble pie," only God usually gives us a lot more than a slice. This is because pride is the natural enemy of grace. A proud person cannot receive the “more grace” no matter how much God wants to give it due to the inability to recognize his need. James explains that, in view of God’s stance toward the proud, we must submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Charles Spurgeon had some interesting thoughts about this verse, recognizing that so many have it backwards - submitting to the devil while resisting God. Spurgeon said, “If he were a tyrant it might be courageous to resist, but since he is a Father it is ungrateful to rebel."

Those who don’t accept the Father’s free gift of grace or who use it as a license to keep sinning are like spoiled children who can no longer even recognize the precious gifts given by their parents and now act as if they are owed whatever they desire. Many of those people would argue that they submit to no one, but Spurgeon later said that even now, we are all submitting one way or another. He declared that if we refuse to submit to God, we are submitting to the devil. He added, “If you do not submit to God you will never resist the devil, and you will remain constantly under his tyrannical power. Which shall be your master, God or devil, for one of these must? No man is without a master” (Spurgeon).

Some of you feel like you are resisting the devil all the time and with all your might every day, yet you are still losing your battle. First, I want to remind you that even though James says the devil will flee from us if we resist him, that doesn’t mean he’ll never come back! The devil runs from the name of Jesus, but as soon as we start fading away from our Savior due to laziness or circumstances or whatever else drives us away, the devil comes back. Even Jesus didn’t get done with devil as soon as He resisted him the first time in the wilderness. Luke 4:13 says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." When was that “opportune time” when Satan came BACK to keep tempting Jesus? Was it every time a Pharisee mistreated Jesus or tried to plot his murder? Was it when he hung out with sinners and prostitutes who no doubt offered Jesus opportunities to engage in their depravity with them? Was it when all of his disciples left him? I’m sure the devil tried to tell Jesus how worthless He was and how nobody even cared if He lived or died. How about the Garden of Gethsemane? I’m almost certain Satan was there as Jesus perspired drops of blood, and he was probably at all of these other moments as well.

James gives us more instructions regarding our humility when he tells us to “come near to God” (4:8), but he also adds that God will come near to us when we seek Him. This is not a one-time thing. Every time we are struggling with resisting the devil, we must draw near to God. Again, this is a mark of humility. A prideful person believes he can just keep resisting sin. He has made his own willpower an idol. But a humble person recognizes the struggle and tell himself, “Unless I draw near to God, I stand no chance against the devil and his schemes." Then, based on that recognition, he gets up and seeks the Lord in prayer, worship, and the Word, just to name a few common ways to draw near to Him.

All of the above instructions from James are what separate the character of a humble man from that of a proud man. But, perhaps the most important mark of true humility comes in James 4:9: “Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." When I used to read this, I’d wonder why James was such a downer. And if we take this one verse out of context, we’re left with those thoughts. That’s why we must read and understand the verse in context. James is writing about the humility we must have if we truly recognize the damaging impact of our sin and the amazing grace that God offers us. He wrote to people who seemed to be allergic to humility, people who claimed to follow Christ yet seemed joyful regarding their sin. It was like laughing in the face of God. His challenge to them was to humble themselves before Him, and to “grieve, mourn, and wail” over their sin and the offense it has been to the God who created them and loves them. In James’ view, this was truly the appropriate time for tears.

Friends, if the realization of your sin has never brought you to tears, I’d ask you if you ever truly realized your sin. I encourage you to appropriately humble yourself before God Almighty and repent of your sins to the point of tears that are not fake but come from a deep sense of the pain you’ve caused God, yourself, and others. As you humble yourself before Him, HE most certainly WILL lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).

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