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Got drama? Recently, we sat down with Senior Pastor Mike Adkins to talk about the book of James and how to live a drama-free life.

Pastor Mike, as a former counselor and someone who’s grown up in a dysfunctional environment yourself, you’ve been around your fair share of drama. Why do some people’s lives seem to be filled with drama?

I think it’s important to make a distinction between suffering and drama. Some people will experience unthinkable tragedy on earth and that’s not “drama.” That’s suffering. When we think of lives characterized by drama, we think of dysfunction and chaos. And the book of James actually links this sort of drama to worldly wisdom. James says that where there is worldly wisdom, there will be disorder and every evil practice. He calls this kind of “wisdom” unspiritual, earthly, and even demonic (James 3:15-16).

So how do I know if something is wise and comes from God, or if it just sounds awesome but comes from the world? James gives us a clue by saying wisdom produces certain things inside of you. If you’re following worldly wisdom, it’s going to produce bad things in your life – like bitter envy and selfish ambition – and so it will lead to the increase of drama, not the decrease of it (James 3:14-16). Conversely, James says that the “wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without pretense” (James 3:17). So if you live according to God’s wisdom, it will produce those characteristics inside of you. 

What does living according to worldly wisdom look like in a practical sense?

If you’ve ever known somebody who’s filled with drama, here’s what you’ll see in their life – their life is constantly one fight with someone else after another. They tend to triangulate, which means to take two people and spin them against the third. They do this because their life and intimacy is built off of dysfunction. People who become accustomed to dysfunctional relationships actually build intimacy through conflict. 

If you grew up in a family like mine, your tendency is always going to be to feel comfortable in conflict, to feel comfortable in sorrow, and some people just really have trouble shaking that. So when the Bible talks about it, notice James says “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” That word “cultivate” means you have to learn to build it. You have to learn to build godly wisdom into your life. Wisdom takes work. Even though it’s a gift, it’s something that takes a ton of work to build into your life. 

How can we grow in godly wisdom?

A lot of times wisdom is picked up as you watch people who are wise around you. That’s the primary way in which people learn wisdom. They don’t learn it from books generally, because wisdom is different from knowledge. Knowledge is information. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. 

You might have someone who’s super smart, but they don’t know how to use it in a way that brings about godliness or righteousness. You can also find somebody who’s very simple – and I don’t mean “simple” in the Proverb’s sense; I mean it in the “work with your hands and lead a quiet life” kind of way, which Paul commends in I Thessalonians 4:11. You can meet someone who’s simple in that sense, and yet super wise. They’re gonna make righteous decisions. So to grow in godly wisdom, we need to surround ourselves with godly people. 

What hope can you offer to someone who’s welcomed drama into their life by listening to worldly wisdom? 

To me there’s so much hope in the reality that we are constantly learning and growing. No matter what kind of person you are today, you don’t have to be that same person forever. I heard a quote once that said, “Hell is the place of no more becoming,” and I love that. As long as you’re alive, you are in a place where “becoming” is possible. You can become someone new. You can become someone pure and peaceable, who’s governed by godly wisdom. Someone unwavering, without pretense. Someone who cultivates peace instead of drama everywhere you go.

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