Of course, we’ve been studying the Book of James, and we’ll continue that today. And you saw man, we are a very active church, as we saw in Keith’s legendary announcements. It’s not easy to get through all that. And he’s got information coming to him right and left to share with us. So we make a lot of plans as a church, and that’s really right up my alley. This is something I believe in. If you know me, you failed a plan, you plan to fail. All right? That’s my default setting. That’s the lane I usually stay in. If you ask anyone in my family, anyone I work with, almost annoying. Yeah, that’s my lane. I am a planner.
And a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I actually helped plan my own wedding. Yes, indeed, you’re learning some things about me today. Defying the gender stereotypes. I booked the venues, I designed the invitations, and people still came, and I even picked the florist. Oh, yeah. Now, before you start giving Amy sad looks okay, and pitiful looks here, we did work together on this as best we could. We did learn some things along the way about one another, but we did work together as best as we can to plan this wedding, given that we were young and we were love struck as a couple. And we’re living in two different cities during our engagement, so it turned out pretty good. Still going strong.
All right, so that’s me. I am a planner. And on my better days, I like to describe myself not just as a planner, but I am a visionary. Yes. On the other hand, people call me a control freak. So that’s the other side to the planning. A control freak that really needs to relax.
But I think a lot of you are with me in this day and age. You and I are always making plans, are we not? That’s our life. That’s the world we live in. If we’re in America, we’re planning something. I mean, we’re up to something. We’re constantly buying, selling on Amazon, ebay, online. I mean, I’ve got some deliveries coming from Amazon soon. I’ve even gotten this habit of like, okay, it’s shipped, it’s on the way. Okay, how many stops away is the Amazon delivery? You can even know if they’re in your neighborhood. All right. Yeah, we got some guilty souls out there. You know what I’m talking about?
But that’s what we do. We live, we make money, we save money. We’re spending our money. We travel. We travel for work. We travel for pleasure. We plan vacations. We’re a very mobile society. And if you haven’t noticed, people are moving to Florida in droves. I won’t make you raise your hand if you’ve moved here recently. We love you. Okay, you did it anyway. We’re glad you’re here. But we’re selling homes. We’re buying homes. We’re renovating homes. We’re moving for better job, better house. Better schools, home school, investing. We’re always looking for a deal. We’re always shopping black Friday. We want the hashtag live your best life. That’s who we are. That’s what we’re a part of. And that’s the reality for most of us in America, especially if you’re anywhere near the middle class, right?
So that begs the question, and I really think it’s something we need to consider today. Here’s my question. If we follow Jesus, is it okay for us to live this way? Because we want to align with Jesus, right? If he’s our Lord. So if we follow Jesus, is it okay to live this way?
Let’s go to James, chapter four. We’re going to look for some answers if we follow Jesus, here’s what I’m saying, is it okay to make plans to pursue wealth and happiness and pleasure in our lives. If we follow Jesus, we want to explore this, and that’s what we’re going to do today with James and see what James would have to say about the hashtag live your best life. All right. Live your left life. Yeah, you’re with me. Live your best life. We already prayed about the politics.
OK, here we go. So as you go into James chapter four, I did want to give you a quick overview of James and where he’s coming from when he writes this letter. The author of James is likely the younger brother of Jesus. And this letter actually was written probably only a decade or so after the time of Jesus. So this makes it one of the oldest of New Testament books. And you see a lot of shades of Jesus. You really see we’ll see a lot of parallels between the teachings of Jesus, specifically in the Sermon on the Mount and what we read in James. James led the church in Jerusalem for many years. He had two nicknames, James the Just, and he was also called Old Camel Knees. And that was a compliment to his prayer life. The letter of James, it’s punchy, it’s practical. The primary theme of James is this: faith that is real, really works, or as a shoe company has stolen from James. Just do it. All right, if you’re a Christian, let’s see it. Just do it. So this morning we pick up in James, chapter four, verse 13, and remember our question, if we follow Jesus, is it okay to pursue wealth and happiness and pleasure?
James four, verse 13. “Come now, you who say today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit. Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? What a question. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or do that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance and all such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him, it is sin.
All right, so at first glance, we find three very famous Scriptures in this one paragraph. We have in verse 14, you are a mist, that appears and then vanishes. And then verse 15, you ought to say, God willing, or if the Lord wills, we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that. And then verse 17, if you know the good you ought to do and you don’t do it, that’s sin, right? So all three of these are tied to the same theme here by James. But I’ll tell you what, all three are strong enough even to stand on their own, right?
But let’s give some context to this paragraph. The original audience for this section of the letter is likely the merchant class in the church. All right? These are people, they’re not the nobility. They weren’t born rich or famous, but they do have some discretionary spending money, right? So these are church members who are involved in commercial ventures. Many of them would travel or move from city to city to pursue business interests or just to make money, right? So if we’re talking about socioeconomics, this is the middle class, like many of us. So these Christians are not wealthy compared to the upper class. Of course, wealth, and if you’re rich or not, it’s always relative, right? But here, compared to the others, they’re not wealthy. But these are church members who are definitely seeking wealth, and they were seeking happiness. So with this in mind, remember the question we started with, if you follow Jesus, is it okay to make plans to make money, to pursue happiness and pleasure? So James answers in verse 13 with this phrase, come now.
Or in other words, okay, I hear what’s going on. I hear what you’re saying. Pay attention to what I’m about to say next. Come now. And then James restates something that he’s hearing people say in the church. And you’ll see this, it happens throughout this entire letter. James will just quote things. He’s like, you know what? I’m hearing this or you’re saying this. He definitely knows what’s going on among the members of the church. He’s plugged in, and so he restates something here that he’s hearing among the members and what he says, okay, I’m hearing you say today we’re doing this, tomorrow we’re going to this place. Next year, that’s where we’re going to go. And that’s where we’re going to go live for a while and make some money. Now, keep in mind, James believes that what people are saying reveals the orientation of their heart, right? Again, a theme, a common theme he’s learned from his older brother Jesus. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. All right? What we talk about a lot of times is where our heart is.
So who is James addressing here among us today? Just to make this practical and help us out, help us to grow and be more like Jesus. Who is he addressing among us? Well, it’s those of us who plan their lives and future without deep consideration of God’s own plans, not just lip service. I said a prayer about it. No deep consideration of what God’s will is. The warning here is for those of us who make plans separate from God. And James is saying, man, this is what I’m hearing. I’m hearing of people say, hey, I have the time set, I’ve got the places set, I know where I’m going, I know what I’m doing. Everything is secure. You’re feeling all secure. But there’s very little to no consideration of what God has in mind for us.
To break this down it’s being a Christian on Sunday, but being an atheist in other areas of our life. It’s being a Christian on Sunday, but being an atheist when it comes to our finances. It’s being a Christian on Sunday, but being an atheist in our occupation and how much we invest in that. It’s being a Christian on Sunday, but being an atheist with how we spend our money, how we spend our time, where we move, where we live, how we raise our kids. It’s being an atheist in practice when it concerns our romantic pursuits and who we will marry, you know what I’m talking about? It’s very easy to give lip service to God, but then when the rubber hits the road on something we really want or we’re fearful or we feel like we need it and it’s so important, we lose trust in God or what his will may be, and we go for it on our own.
And I know it’s so convicting for me. It’s so easy, right, to take control and do what we want to do and push it through without God or without the church. Too many times we can make plans without Godly counsel. And this is so important because wherever you are in life right now, you’ve never been here before. I’ve never been here before, but we like to pretend like we have. We need help.
And then what can happen is we can have the gall to wrap a spiritual bow on our decisions, right? We make a decision. We kind of say it was with God and we prayed about it. We can do this in the church, but then we just wrap a spiritual bow on that decision and tell everyone we prayed about it. Or we find that one kind hearted, gullible Christian to validate our decision. This person said it was cool. They validated me. They told me it was a good decision and to go for it. So it must be God’s will. We know better, right?
But the thing is, God is so good. God is exceedingly good, and we take advantage of that right? In his mercy. God is an expert at cleaning up our messes, right? We can make decisions with such arrogance and such forgetfulness of him and such independence. And then God comes along and he cleans it up because he loves us, right?
But we test Him way too much on this church. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. I mean, just because God has all this grace, should we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means. We died to sin and independence of God. Let’s not live that way any longer. That’s Paul in Romans chapter six.
So don’t get me wrong. Don’t get James wrong in this section. James has no problem with us making plans. James is all about wisdom, being smart. It doesn’t even seem that James has any problem at all, the Holy Spirit has any problem at all with us even having some secular ambition, right? But with James and the holy spirit, what they’re doing, they’re warning us about having a secular attitude and a worldly heart. Because we looked at this in James chapter three and what godly wisdom is versus demonic wisdom and worldly wisdom, it really is so easy to slip into this demonic, self serving worldly wisdom that James has described in chapter three.
Now, in verse 14. This could be its own lesson, its own sermon. I’ve heard it done before, many times. In verse 14, James gives us a reality check. He points out the folly of making plans without God.
All right. You see that? Yeah. I won’t spray too much for those with allergies, but these are your plans compared to the plans of God. This is your life compared to the I Am and the eternal nature of God. You see that mist? It’s gone already. James tells us in the grand scheme of God, that’s the span of your life. That’s it. We can make our plans, and we make those plans, and they’re big for us in the moment, right? It’s our heart. Plans that man, I just can’t let this plan be broken. I have too much invested in seeing things go this way. This plan, or what’s going to happen here will make or break my happiness and the happiness of my family. But James says those plans are a vapor. In fact, our very lives are simply a mist. We appear for a short time, and then we vanish.
As many of you know, we’re doing renovations on our house. We’re so happy that we were able to finally buy a house last year in Orlando. We love it. We’ve done lots of different projects. We’re currently getting the exterior painted. And I don’t know, it’s just so refreshing. It’s just great. It’s just been wonderful to make our home. I feel very blessed with that. We ran out of paint. We needed some more paint yesterday. And Amy goes to Sherwin Williams, and she runs into a lady that’s buying a ton of paint. And Amy gets into a conversation with this woman and finds out this woman’s home had been nearly destroyed by the recent hurricane because of flooding, right? Now here’s the kicker. Amy talks to her more and finds out the reason she has a ton of pain is not just because there was more sorrow to this story. Eight days before the hurricane, this woman, her family, had completely repainted their home inside and out. Eight days before the hurricane, they had redone all the flooring in their house, all of it destroyed. They had it all for eight days, and now all of it’s gone.
That’s the mist.
My heart goes out to her. But that’s what James is saying. Life is a mist. Our plans are a vapor. We make our plans, but God has bigger plans. Thy will be done. So James, he’s a man of action. I think we know that by now. Next, he dares us. You know what? I paraphrase, but what he’s saying here next in this passage is, hey, if you have faith, let’s see it. Let’s put your cards on the table. Show me your cards. Let’s see the action.
So he calls us out in verses 15 and 16. He says, this is what you need to be doing. Instead of making plans independent of God, you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and we will do this or we will do that. It’s like as it is, guys you boast in your arrogance and all such boasting is evil.
So if you follow Jesus, is it okay to make these plans, to build your life, to pursue wealth, happiness, pleasure, renovate your house, all these different things? The answer is yes, if preceded by the mind, heart and actions of if the Lord wills, God willing. If the Lord wills, thy will be done. That’s a nod to the King James that’s our title for the lesson this morning. Thy will be done.
And once again, I love it. James draws from the core teaching and lifestyle of his older brother, Jesus and I appeal to us to do the same. Everything Jesus said and did flowed from his ultimate desire to trust in the good plans of God.
John 4:34. It blew me away to read this again. Jesus said My food, Jesus said, My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work. That’s the food of Jesus to do God’s will. In other words, Jesus said forget eating. I have food here you know nothing about, all right? For me, the food of seeking God’s will, that’s what fueled him. That’s what fuels Jesus, doing the will of the Lord. That’s what we have in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus made sure he built it in like the guys asked, well, how do you pray? Well, he showed them how to pray, and he made sure that it was built into that prayer, Father, may thy will be done.
So we have to think about it. Whatever we’re praying about, from the plans we’re making to what we want to do, people we’re praying for, illnesses, it should always have the caveat to it, thy will be done, thy will be done on earth as it always is in heaven.
How often do you pray this when you’re speaking to God and sharing your plans with God? Thy will be done. I’m feeling this sort of way and I want this to happen. I want to see these results. But God, I’ll submit to your will. I want to be a part of your will and not fighting against it. Lord willing, I will do this, I will do that, I will go here, I will go there. God willing.
In recent years, I’ve actually tried to get in the habit of saying this out loud when I make plans and my hope is, and it’s starting to work is it will go from my mouth to my heart. I’m trying to do a reverse here, reverse psychology on myself. But I think a lot of times if you start saying something, then it gets to your heart and you start believing it. It’s a discipline.
God willing, and I do want to say this, this is not something to be repeated mindlessly in some weird religious way, God willing. But it’s also not an expression of fatalism either, right? This doesn’t excuse us from taking responsibility for our actions.
Here’s what this is. It’s meant to convict our hearts of God’s sovereignty in every area of our lives. Nothing’s off limits.
Who here just took a breath into your lungs? Right? Rhetorical question. Of course you just did. You can’t do that without God’s permission. God lets you do that. We take it for granted. You don’t breathe without God allowing you to breathe. If the Lord wills, we will live. There’s no boasting, there’s no bragging when we have this humble posture. We only boast in our own weaknesses and we boast in Jesus Christ. Then James concludes this section of verse 17. He says, therefore, or some translations. So, okay, I told you all this, therefore, alright, here’s what’s next. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him, it is sin. In context, we’ve studied this just now in context here. James has already appealed to us to make all of our plans by what first? Seeking God’s will, involving God in that plan, partnering with God, letting God lead us. Therefore, if we do not humble out and make decisions with God at the forefront, this is sin. It separates us from God. If we don’t acknowledge God and all we do and all we say, especially with the big things like money and our plans, our family, this is sin.
In verse 17, it’s one of those standalone scriptures, right? I think many of us have used it, and rightly so, it can apply to so many different situations. It’s a scary scripture. I don’t really care for it. I do, but I don’t. Right? It’s a sword because it’s not enough just to avoid doing the bad things. It’s not enough just to be socially acceptable or acceptable in the church. Right? It’s also a sin to avoid doing the good things we know we ought to do. That’s often called the sins of omission. Wow. I need the cross. I feel like I need the cross more today than I did 20 years ago when I got baptized. The sins of omission. You got to be kidding me. I need Jesus. You need Jesus. I may not be out there cursing anymore or getting into sexual immorality or stealing, but if I’m at home being lazy and selfish or I’m critical in my thoughts or judgmental or any number of sins, I mean, just look them up. I mean, look up two Timothy, chapter three. In the first six or seven verses there. Oh, my goodness. It’s not, I am a sinner. If I’m at home just being lazy and selfish when there are needs out there that God has specifically called me to meet, this is sin. God have mercy.
And parents, if we have children growing up in the church, this is a good scripture to hold on to as you help them. Right? It’s a very important scripture for both you and your children to see their sin and their lostness once they come of age. Right? God does not have grandchildren. He only has children. Right? And so we’ve got to see our sin. If you’re having a hard time, like, well, Galatians 5:19- 21 really doesn’t work for my kid yet. Well, James 4:17 does if our eyes are open.
So this is so important to hold on to. You cannot be saved until you realize you’re lost. Great, great scripture. Very challenging scripture. So what do we do with this? Some living water challenges. Our theme as a church is we want to bring the living water not of ourselves, but of Jesus to central Florida. Man. James is living water, isn’t it? This is the way to live. Number one, I’ve started to do this. It’s starting to work for me. I haven’t arrived, but I’m on my way. Learn to regularly verbalize, God willing as you make your plans. Really think deeply. Is this God’s will or is this really something? My passions, desires, my dysfunction, my triggers, those are pushing this forward. What’s pushing this agenda forward? Me or God’s will? Are the two in sync or not? And as James said in chapter one, pray for wisdom. Fast for wisdom. When was the last time you fasted over a very important decision for you or your family?
Pray for wisdom. And when wisdom comes, make sure you are not expecting the wrong thing. We talked about that a couple of weeks ago. What true wisdom from above is. That’s James, chapter three. Also I would say, I love this prayer. It’s a scary prayer to pray. You got to have a lot of courage to do it. Imitate the prayer of David in Psalm 139. He ends that psalm by saying, God reveal any offensive way in me. Yikes.
If you know the story of David, there were some offensive ways in him. He was a man after God’s own heart. But God had to work on him. God’s got to work on us. So that’s a scary prayer. You know, when you pray that duck, okay, get ready. But you’ll be better for it. God, reveal any offensive way in me. I want to do your will. This ties into self reflection, I think, self awareness. And we need people to help us with that.
Thinking is my pursuit of money or my job or my passions and plans in life causing an independence from God? That’s the danger. Money can be good, but money, it’s kind of a neutral thing, depending on what you do with it. But the challenge with money is the more you have, the more temptation that you’re going to be autonomous from God. You don’t need God as much.
You’re not in a position where you have to beg for anything. You’re taken care of. You’re more secure. That’s the danger of it. Parents, I’ll tell you what our kids are paying attention to our rhythms of life and what we do and the choices we make. God have mercy. What are they seeing you. What priorities do they experience in your weekly schedule? The rhythm of life? What are they see in you? Are we a Christian on Sunday but atheist when it comes to making plans for our family?
Teens, campus, singles. This is a big one. It was a big one for me. It actually stopped me from becoming a Christian for a long, long time. How often do you consider God’s will in your dating life? I know you have passions and desires and needs and wants, but how often do you consider God’s will in your dating life and those type of decisions? It is so easy to be Christian until you really start liking someone. And again, that could be neutral, but it could be really bad or good too. And is God’s will involved? Or do we suddenly become atheists when it comes to romantic pursuits?
2023 is coming soon. I’ve mentioned how important we are to one another. We need one another. There’s at least 59 one another commands in the New Testament. Is that a part of your life? Because none of us have arrived, right? We need one another. So I say, hey, a fresh start is coming. Commit to a discipling relationship with someone for 2023. I’m not saying commit for life and you know what I’m saying. But the very least, say, hey, start praying about it. Pray for wisdom, and that God will lead you to someone else that’s also looking for that. And get together every week, or at least every other week and put it on the calendar. We need one another. Commit to a discipling relationship for the coming year.
And last but not least, life is a mist. If you’ve not been baptized into Christ by faith as an adult, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Life is a mist. Make a decision today, because if you want to live your best life, follow Jesus. There’s no other way.
So to summarize what we’ve talked about today yes, make your plans. You fail to plan. You plan to fail. Planning is a vital part of wisdom. But when you make your plans when we make our plans, you and I must consistently make a healthy allowance for God’s sovereignty. He knows what he’s doing. He has a terrific track record. Perfect indeed. We can trust God. Let’s trust God like Jesus trusted God. Thy will be done.
And speaking of Jesus, we’re going to take communion here together. And as I said earlier, if we follow Jesus man, we always have to be learning from Jesus. If you’ve taken a break from reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, get back to it. Just see how he lived life, how he dealt with life, how he dealt with people. He showed us how to be human. He wants us to learn from Him. If Jesus lived next door to you today in your neighborhood, how would he be living in 2022? What would the vibe be from Jesus house?
Keep in mind the quote I shared from Jesus in John 4:34, he’s serious about that. And we’re following the man who was serious about that, about God’s will. He said, My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work. Absolutely. If you read Jesus life, he made plans.
Hello, siri. Quiet. She responded to me. She’s responding to the sermon. And she wrote yes. I’m not allowed to be frivolous. Amen. So if someone wants to study the Bible with Siri after this, she seems to be open or he seems to be open. I don’t know how she identifies.
Okay. All right, here we go. Off track. But keep in mind, pull it back in. Keep in mind the quote from John 4:34. Jesus said, my food is to do the will of Him who sent me. And to finish his work. Jesus fed on the will of God.
And as I was saying, Jesus made plans. He enjoyed his life. I would have loved to hang out with Jesus. Not just because the, I mean, of course, the miracles, the teachings, all that, but I would have enjoyed being with Him. I mean, he’s my hero. It would have been so cool to hang out with Jesus and the way he approached life. He enjoyed life. He ate, he drank, he went to parties, he laughed. He spent time with family and friends and strangers. He met new people. Jesus traveled. Jesus took time to rest and relax. Amen. But ultimately, what sustained Jesus and fulfilled Jesus, what gave him that true life to the full that he talks about was that he was always seeking out to do the will of his Father. And Jesus did this to the very end, and I’m personally grateful for that. Jesus, at the very end, could say it’s finished. Did it. I did it, Father. Only moments before his arrest that led to his death on the cross, Jesus prayed, my Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may thy will be done.