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Title : Building A Faith That Works – Making Lasting Plans Text : James 4:13-17 Thesis: To live wisely is to posture your heart so that God is at the forefront of all you do. Aim : Introduction: Read Text: James 4:13-17 We have been in James now for about 2 months now and we only have two messages left after today’s message. Thus far James has been pulling the curtains back to expose how dusty our faith can become. But he has also been offering solutions along the way in an effort to make our faith practical and useful for everyday life. And today’s text is no different – there were followers of Jesus who were living and behaving in a way that portrayed that they didn’t know or follow God. And James hinted at this last week when he said in Verse 4, “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Apparently, there were followers of Jesus who were living and behaving in a way that portrayed that they didn’t know or follow God. That’s what James is driving at in Verse 13 when he says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” The issue James is addressing had to do with followers who had professed faith in Jesus but were still living as if He didn’t exist by the way they were carrying out their plans and activities. And I’m going to suggest to you that what was taking place then still takes place today. Many followers of Jesus (including myself) go about our day-to-day activities living as if God doesn’t exist. Followers who have turned to and trusted Jesus for our salvation yet every day make important life decisions apart from Him. Decisions like: • Who I will marry? • What educational path should I take? • Where should I live? • How should I invest my time, gifts, and money? Illustration: And I include myself in that because multiple times I have started my day out with a devotion or a quiet time but then the rest of day is spend trying to get through my ‘to do’ list and when that’s finished I go home, inhale dinner, do what has to be done around the house, help Luke with homework, get him to bed and then doze off on the couch while watching a rerun of Cheers or Frazier all the while having never given a thought about God since my devotion earlier that morning. Sound familiar? James wants us to sit under the weight of that for a minute because what he’s trying to bring to light is important for us to consider as we build a faith that works. Because to work, to plan, and to make all sorts of preparations without even considering God says something: • It communicates we’re putting ourselves in the place of God. • It means that we believe we know what’s best and what the future holds. • It means we are not living in constant submission to God. Think about it – how many shows, movies, television programs teach that in life we need to be fierce, that we need to know what we want and go after it? And I get that – culture places a high value on independence and teaches us that we are in control of our own destiny. I get that it is important to be dedicated and strive hard for what you want but underneath all of that self-motivating information is the fundamental belief that you know what’s best for your life apart from God. And James is simply trying to point out how silly and ridiculous that thinking really is. That’s why he said in Verse 14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…” I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases it, “You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow!” So, James is reminding us here to not be presumptuous because Life is Uncertain and Short. Illustration: In March 2004 the Readers Digest had this quote for their “Quotable Quotes” section – it was a personal quote by Ray Charles – “Live every day like it’s your last, cause one day you’re gonna be right.” He died June of 2004. Illustration: Richard Love was thumbing through a pile of old Time magazines. It was October of 2001. He picked up the August issue of that same year and began looking at the winners and losers section. His eyes drifted toward the lame duck New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani. His marriage was crumbling, his health was crumbling and so was his political career. He was among the losers. Who would want to be Rudy Giuliani? He looked back to the July issue and there about a man by the name of Ted Olson, the Solicitor General of the United States. He was among the winners. He had an up and coming career. Who wouldn’t want to be Ted Olson? As you know, that was just ahead of September 11th. Time magazine went on to name Rudy Giuliani not only mayor of the world, but Man of the Year. And just a few days after September 11 Ted Olson was on television burying his wife who was in the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon. Life is uncertain, unpredictable, and short. Man likes to think he’s in control but he’s not. All it takes is an accident, a doctor’s report, a financial reversal, a downturn on Wall Street, or a tornado and life can change in a moment. Maybe that’s why Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Man can split an atom, build skyscrapers, and transplant organs, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow may bring health or it may bring sickness. It may bring success or it may confront us with failure – trust me emergency rooms are filled with people who had different plans. So in Verse 14 James illustrates the swiftness and temporary nature of life by saying it’s, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 1 Chronicles 29:15 says it this way, “Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” And what James hopes they and we will understand is we don’t have enough information to be able to live life that is prideful and boasts that, “we will do this” or “we will go and accomplish that.” And that doesn’t mean our lives don’t have meaning or that they don’t count for anything – it means that we derive our meaning from His life – not ours. Our lives matter – this brief moment on earth matters because we were created to worship Him and proclaim His wonders and excellence so that people who are far from God can be brought near. But when we convince ourselves that we know more than God we put ourselves in His place and the truth is we are dependent on God for everything. That’s why he says in Verse 15 instead of bragging and boasting about what we thing we are going to do – “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” So James is saying because Life is Uncertain and Short we should Surrender our Lives to His Will. James is suggesting that we stop talking like we are in control and start talking and living like your surrendered to His will. The phrase, “If it is the Lord’s will” is just another way of saying, “Lord, I want to do whatever you want.” Father, I’m not certain I should do this – what do you think?” Because anything less (according to Verse 16) is evil and arrogant boasting. And we see James example of “If it is the Lord’s will” lived out in the life of the Apostle Paul. • Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:19, “But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing.” • In 1 Corinthians 16:7 he said, “I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” • And in Romans 1:10 Paul said, “…I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Illustration: A man and his mule. See the problem with these followers of Jesus wasn’t in their planning or their activities – the problem was in their posture. And this section is really just a continuation of what he was talking about earlier with regards to wisdom. So what James is trying to communicate is: to live wisely is to posture your heart so that God is at the forefront of all you do. See, their issue wasn’t a belief problem – it was a connecting problem. They weren’t connecting what they believed about God to the situations they were going through – they weren’t connecting it to their daily living. And that has been James mission from the start of this book – if your faith is genuine then it should transform the way you live. To live wisely is to posture your heart so that God is at the forefront of all you do. And here’s why – because He is sovereign and that means there is not one square inch in all of creation in which He doesn’t declare, “That’s mine!” And since we turn to Him and trust Him with our eternal salvation – He can be trusted​ with our job, our kids, our finances, and whatever else causes us to fear and be anxious. So let me ask, “Is God at the forefront of all you do?” If He is James says you are a wise person – if he isn’t let me share with you a few ways to get Him there. First, Remember to Number Your Days. In Psalm 90:12 Moses said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” James was driving at this but how wise you are can be answered by how recently you have considered the fact that life is short. Now the average life span in this country is around 77 years of age. So if you are 25 years old that means you have 624 months to left (if you live to age 77). • 35 – 504 months left. 45 – 384 months left. 55 – 264 months. • 65 – 144 months. 75 – 24 months. 85 – just sit there and smile – you’ve beat the average. I mentioned this to Bob Wilson and he said at his age he doesn’t even like to buy green bananas anymore. Illustration: The bottom of this beautiful vase is filled with little marbles. Since I don’t have room in the vase to hold the number of days I have left, if I lived to the age of 77, I decided to count out the remainder of my days in months. Each marble in here represents one month that I have left. Every month, if I remember, I take a marble out and throw it away an action that reminds me that it’s gone and I need to ask myself, “Did I invest it well or waste it?” You know what else this vase does for me? It reminds me that I’m losing my marbles…faster than I thought! Developing a habit like this reminds us that life is short (and remembering that) develops a heart of wisdom and developing a heart of wisdom keeps me from being prideful and arrogant. Second, Read Scripture. I’ve heard it said, “Those people who hear God best know His word most!” That’s why we encourage people to bring their Bibles, read their Bibles, get involved in a small group that helps you get rooted and grounded in the Word of God. Jesus was a student of God’s Word – we need to imitate that. Third, Be a Person of Prayer. Samuel Chadwick (late 19th and early 20th century pastor) once said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion.” And don’t forget when we pray it is hard to forget God and who He is (and what He desires) if we are in constant communication with Him. Fourth, Be a Person of Rest. One of the sure signs that you’re living as if God doesn’t exist is if you never rest. That’s why God calls us to a Sabbath rest – to remind us that we’re not God and that He’s set us free from being slaves to the things of this world. If you never rest, whatever you’re spending your time doing owns you, and has possibly become your God. Finally, Be a Person of Community. We may not like crowds or even being around other Christians but other believers are a means of grace to our life. The truth is we are blind to our sin and even worse than that – we are blind to our blindness. Which means we need other people to see things in our lives that we just can’t see. That only happens when we let people get close to us and that rarely happens when you just come to a service and leave. But we grow closer to others in setting like this or a setting like a small group – where we serve together and allow others to intersect with our lives. When we grow close with others through community we can speak truth into their lives and they can speak truth into ours in a way that points you to God. Each of these are a means of grace God has given us to ensure that we conform more into His image and don’t go through life living as though God doesn’t exist.
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