*This was a sermon preached on October 14, 2018. Sermonic elements remain. I really benefited and gleaned from the work of George M. Stulac in the IVP New Testament Commentary Series on this passage.
I’m a planner. I’m a goal setter. I’m a list maker. I like things in order and orderly. This creates problems for me when it comes to matters of faith. My self-reliance comes into conflict with my God-reliance. This should not be.
Perhaps you too struggle to trust in God rather than taking things into your own hands. If so, our passage has a word to you and me.
Join me in reading James 4:13~17.
Arrogance in knowledge (vv 13~14)
“Now listen” is a short, blunt expression to get the reader’s attention. James confronts the reader’s habit of making plans with the use of their limited, finite knowledge. It’s arrogance in knowledge.
The arrogance in knowledge exposed in verse 13 is confronted in verse 14: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
You are born and then … poof you’re gone.
Yet, as a believer in Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you. You live in the presence of God 24/7/365. Lift your voice in prayer to God and he will provide you with wisdom without finding fault. You stand upon the promises of God.
Why trust in your limited, finite knowledge? For we serve a God who is unlimited, infinite and eternal. You are born and then … poof you’re gone. God has been and always will be.
Arrogance in attitude (vv15~16)
In light of our limited, finite, knowledge we should have a humble attitude. We should not trust in our plans but in the will of God. James exposes arrogance in attitude. He instructs us to voice our plans in light of the Lord’s will. Beware: this instruction can be misunderstood or misapplied.
First, it would be superficial spirituality for us to sprinkle our prayers and speech with “the Lord willing” or around Crawford, “the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” God doesn’t want us to merely change our speech patterns but he desires that we also change the source of our plans.
Second, it would also be superficial spirituality for us to make plans and ask God to bless them. Many of us experience a superficial prayer life because we make plans and ask God to bless them or ask God to close doors that we already plan to walk through. Such a superficial prayer life leads to a superficial relationship with God.
James is not banishing planning or condemning the planner. Yet, he is banishing self-sufficient and self-reliant planning and the arrogant planner.
The sin of self-sufficiency is at the core of the passage this morning. Rather, than relying on our own plans, effort, and desires, we should trust in God. We should approach God with open hearts, minds, and hands.
I was talking about this sermon with a pastor friend of mine. He responded “It is hard to hear God over what we want to hear.” When you make your plans … write in pencil. Give God free reign to scratch out, erase, and write anew.
Arrogance in behavior (v17)
James concludes this passage with a sudden shift in emphasis from whether we know God’s will to whether we do God’s will.
Verse 17 seems at first not to fit the thrust of the passage. This is not a failure on the part of James but it is a failure on our part to understand. The picture of one who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it recalls the earlier picture of one who finds a person in need but does not do the good that needs to be done. It is also yet another call to be a doer of the word.
James expects that those who worship God will also know the will of God. James expects that humble attitude will be manifest in humble actions. The Lord’s will comes through relationship. Seek him and you will find him. When you find him, obey him.
You are born and then … poof you’re gone. Do you want to waste your brief moments on earth pursuing your own plans? OR do you want to devote your life to the will of God?
Those who give their life to God, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, are given eternal life. Poof … you’re gone. And then you receive the reward of eternal life in the presence of the eternal God.
I really don’t want to pastor a church of 500 or 5,000. Give me 20 people that live with open hearts, minds, and hands.