In James 4:1-4, the Apostle makes a direct and explicit connection between sinful conflict amongst believers and raging war of desires inside each individual Christian. But notice more: The ultimate reason why these raging desires are uncontrolled is because we do not ask Christ. “You do not have because you do not ask.”
Ask what? Not for Christ to enable us to pursue sinful, selfish desires. If we ask with that motive–and we probably do that more often than we know–we are among those who “ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” So when we ask Christ, we are to ask not for what we can spend on our own lusts and deceitful desires. What, then, should we ask for?
There’s a clue in the Gospel of John. Talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus says to her, “If you knew the gift of God and whom it was speaking to you, you would ask him and he would give you living water.” (John 4:10) Jesus is saying: If you realized who I am, you would realize that it is not I who need water, but you–and if you realized why I am here, you would not hesitate to ask, and I would not hesitate to give.
The woman did not ask Jesus for living water because she did not realize that the Fountain of Living Water was speaking to her.
We know from the rest of the narrative that physical thirst was not this woman’s supreme problem. She was an adulteress whose “thirst” was moving her to drink from endless fountains that never satisfied. So Jesus does not enable her to continue this. Instead, the living water of Jesus she offers focuses on Him. The living water of Jesus is not mainly about us, but mainly about him. He is the living water. All that God is for us in Christ Jesus is the only water that will satisfy permanently.
According to Scripture, a real cause of sinful conflict is unquenched spiritual thirst. The reason we do not experience the satisfying living water of Jesus is because we do not ask Him, and the reason we do not ask Him is because we do not know who He is. As John Piper puts it, “There is a direct correlation between not knowing God and not asking much of him.” When we know Christ–truly know that the Master of the Universe, whose purpose cannot be thwarted and whose word will stand forever–we instinctively go to Him. We go to him for our daily bread, yes, but firstly the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The people hungry and thirsty for righteousness will be filled, and will be satisfied, forever.
So know Christ. Then ask him for His living water. Then serve others out of the overflow.