These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Do you ever make plans? What kind of plans do you make?
- Daily plans: Some people make daily plans. They map out their day the night before or in the morning. They have a strategy for their day.
- Weekly plans: They map out their week. On Sunday they go to church, on Monday they go shopping, on Tuesday they mow the yard, on Wednesday they take the kids to practice and so on.
This type of planning can carry on into monthly plans, yearly plans and even life-long plans. You may make plans about your career, education, health, retirement, finances and so on.
The question I want you to think about today is, “What or who drives your plans?” Are you the driving force behind your plans, here is where you do whatever you want to do. Instead of that approach, I want to encourage you to seek God’s wisdom and direction on the plans you make. One of the reasons why people get so dissatisfied is because their plans aren’t really what God wants them to do.
This is what James 4:13-17 addresses. He wants us to think about the plans we make in life with God and His purposes in mind. Look at what verse 13 says, Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (NLT). From that there are five things we need to think about.
Your life should have plans
Number one, your life should have plans. God wants you to make plans regarding your life. He wants you to make plans about your career, your education, your marriage, and your finances to name a few. Look carefully at James 4:13, Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit” (NLT). People make plans everyday. This guy is probably an entrepreneur, a go-getter. Really driven, type A personality, organized and goal oriented. This appears to be a great business mind at work because he has planned for all the basic questions of who, what, and where. He knows exactly what he wants to do.
- What does he want to do? He wants to “make a profit.”
- When does he want to start? He wants to start “today or tomorrow.” He’s not a procrastinator. He wants to get this thing going soon.
- Where will he do this? He has a “certain town” in mind. He has done his research and has narrowed it down to a particular town.
- How long will this job take? He says he “will stay there a year.” He’s planning on moving or least living there for a year. He is dedicated. This is not a weekend adventure. He is planning on spending at least one year of his life on this project.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with these plans. He has thought this through. However, there is one problem. There is no mention of God in this. Is this what God wants him to do?
Before we go any further, you need to understand that God wants you to make plans. Short-term, mid-range, and long-term plans. God is all for you looking forward in your life. Let me give you some examples.
- Psalm 20:4 says, “May he [God] give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed” (NIV). Make sure this desire you have is from God before you launch into it. God wants the plans He has given to you to succeed.
- Proverbs 20:18 says, “Make plans by seeking advice…” (NIV). Go get some wise advise from others on whether you should marry this person or not, start a church or not, go to that college or not, pursue that career or not. God wants you to plan for the future, but He wants you to seek out advice to help you.
- Proverbs 22:3 says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences” (TLB). You know that you are going to get old, do you have a plan when you cannot take care of yourself? You know that you have this bill coming, do you have a plan to pay it. You know that you want to get married, do you have a plan on preparing yourself to be the kind of spouse God wants you to be?
- Proverbs 16:9 says, “We should make plans – counting on God to direct us” (TLB). Go ahead and make plans, but God will direct and redirect you as you go through your plans.
- Proverbs 16:1 says, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” (GN).
Your life should consist of plans, but those plans should be given and endorsed by God. Include God in the plans. Ask the question, “God what do you want me to do?”
Your life is uncertain
Number two, your life is uncertain. You can make plans. Have God-given plans. Seek godly advice and have it mapped out. Those plans you made can be disrupted or completely destroyed. James 4:14 puts it this way, How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? (NLT). You can make your plans, but always remember those plans are not in concrete.
- Just ask that person who saved themselves for the right person, then got married, had a couple of kids, a dog and nice house but now they are divorced because their spouse left them for someone else. Life is uncertain.
- Just ask that young person who had a bright future ahead of them but because of some poor decisions their life has been tragically altered. Life is uncertain.
- Just ask the young family whose dad just lost his job or the kids who just lost their mom or the family who lost their home. Life is uncertain.
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? You don’t know and that’s why God needs to be a significant part of your life and plans. When your life gets derailed you don’t want to find that you are standing on quicksand, rather than the rock of God. One of the reasons why so many people feel dissatisfied in life is because they feel like their life was derailed and taken away from them and they were not ready for it. Life is uncertain, but God wants you to be as ready as you can be if that were to happen to you.
Your life is short
Number three, your life is short. James 4:14 goes on to say, Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone (NLT). Some translations say that your life is like a “vapor” (CSB) or a “mist” (ESV). Have you ever seen steam coming up out of your coffee cup or off of some hot food? There it is and then its gone. Life is like that.
Moses wrote Psalm 90 and he says in verse 10, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away” (NLT). Whether your life has been filled with a lot of joy or a lot of pain or mixture of both those years go by quickly. When I was younger I would hear old timers says things like, “Enjoy life while you can, before you know it your life is over” or “Enjoy your kids while you can, before you know it they are all grown up.” Now that I’m halfway to 100, I get it. When you are living life it can seem to move slowly, but when you look back on life you realize how much your life is like a vapor, a mist, or a fog that is there briefly and then gone.
Back to Moses in Psalm 90. He then says this in verse 12, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). Some translations word this by saying, “Teach us to number our days.” The point and the reason for understanding how short life is, is to help you grow in wisdom and to make the most of the time God gives you. When you think about how short life is and you get depressed or discouraged about it then you are not thinking about it from God’s perspective. If you see it as an opportunity, even though it may be a brief opportunity, you want to make your life count and be a blessing to others.
Your life belongs to God
So what do we have so far? Your life should have plans. You live your life with intentionality. Your life is uncertain, so don’t be surprised when your plans get derailed. Your life is short, let that motivate you to make the most of your life for God. Number four, your life belongs to God. James 4:15-16 says, What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil (NLT). A couple of things from this.
First, this “Lord willing” mindset says, “My life belongs to God and I want to do His will.” This is not making plans and then asking God to bless those plans. This is seeking God’s will before we make plans and act when we have assurance that we are doing so according to His will. You are always filtering your future through the mindset, “If the Lord wants me to….”
This statement is not something you need to say after every sentence. That’s not the point. I do think it is good to say out loud from time to time to remind you and others who is actually in charge. For example, “Lord willing, I plan on going to that university after I graduate from high school” or “Lord willing, I plan on retiring when I’m 65” or “Lord willing, I plan on getting a new job by the end of the year.” I do think its spiritually healthy to say that out loud from time to time.
Sometimes Paul used the phrase, “If the Lord wills,” when speaking about the future and sometimes He didn’t. Let me give you some examples.
- In Acts 18:21 Paul was asked to stay longer in Ephesus to teach God’s Word a little longer but as he left he said, “I will come back later, God willing” (NLT).
- In Romans 1:10 he is writing to some believers in Rome and he wants to come to them and visit with them and he writes, “One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you” (NLT).
- He’s hoping to visit some Christians in Corinth and says to them in 1 Corinthians 4:19, “I will come – and soon – if the Lord lets me…” (NLT).
- At the end of 1 Corinthians he tells the believers one more time in 1 Corinthians 16:7, “This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me” (NLT).
- Again you see something similar in Philippians 2:19 when Paul writes, “If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send timothy to you soon for a visit” (NLT).
Your life and plans belong to God. Remind yourself and others of that. The Bible doesn’t say that we are to say this a certain many times a day. I want to give some spiritual homework to do. This week, if you don’t already do this, try finding at least one time a day to say, “If the Lord wills.” Hey mamma, what is for supper tonight? If the Lord wills, we are going to have meatloaf. Will you be able to make that meeting tonight? Lord willing, I will be there.
This “Lord willing” mindset says, “My life belongs to God and He is in control of my life.” God is in control. He is sovereign. Look at this carefully, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live….” I don’t know how many minutes, days, or years I have left but God knows and He is in charge of that. The length of my life is in His hands.
But look at it again, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Even if God allows me to live what I plan to do in the future may not happen. I may not be able to “do this or that” because God has allowed my health to change, my finances to change, or my relationships to change. The bottom line is God is in charge of my future and I need to seek His plan for my life.
THE BOTTOM LINE is God is central to all their plans and life. We are to acknowledge God in everything we do.
Now watch this, James then says, Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans. A “pretentious plan” is a plan that you have decided is significant and important apart from God. A “plan” becomes pretentious when you decide that no matter what God thinks this is the plan I am doing whether God likes it or not.
There two types of “pretentious plans.”
- Practical-atheists plans: This is ignoring God’s will, living as though God and His will do not exist.
- Self-atheists plans: This person acknowledges that God exists and has a will, nevertheless arrogantly rejects it. This group refuses to submit the uncertainties of life to God, they set themselves, their own goals, and their own wills above God. God’s will, though acknowledged, simply is not as important to them as their plans. Christians are often guilty of setting aside God’s will in favor of their own plans.
When you make plans without God or ignore God’s plans for your life that is considered that is considered boasting. In other words, you are bragging about how you don’t need God and what God says is not important to your life. So James says, “All such boasting is evil.” It is selfish and self-centered.
Your life is to be a blessing
Number five, your life is to be a blessing. James 4:17 says, Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (NLT). He says, “Remember” that even though your life is short and it may get derailed make plans regarding your life with God and throughout your life – no matter what happens – do what you ought to do. If you find out that you have a year left, don’t let the shortness of your life stop you from being a blessing to others. If your life is not where or what you thought it would be, don’t let that stop you from caring and loving and forgiving and motivating others.
What I’m asking you to do today is make plans with God. Let God guide your decisions about who you date, who you marry, what job or career you choose, or how you plan your day or week or year. And if the plans change you will still know that God is in control and all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.