One Day at a Time
The book of James • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 15:33
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I have had friends, I’m sure you have them to, who are constantly telling you what they’re going to do in the future. I’ll admit as I get older and that future is not near as long there are fewer of my friends that are like this. But the problem is they never do anything about those plans.
I’ve shared with you earlier in this series that James is sometimes referred to as the New Testament’s book of Proverbs. James is known for his timeless instructions about showing favoritism, about how our tongues with what we say get us into trouble, and more. We’ve been reading it.
Today’s text is another one of those timeless instructions. We’re going to be looking at James 4:13-17. Before we do, let’s ask God to open our the Word to us:
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
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? 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 that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
A reading from God’s holy Word,
Thanks be to God.
One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time
These 5 little verses hold a wealth of truth for us as does so much of James. It speaks of the plans we might make, and the truth that life is short. There is no time like the present! Our lives are in the Lord’s hands. For us to brag of anything contrary is evil. And finally, when you know the right thing to do and fail to do it, its sin.
Our passage this morning begins with the words “Come now,” or in the NIV it’s “Now listen”. This construction is rare in the New Testament, in fact it’s only found here and in 5:1. However, it is common in the Hellenistic literature. The term is meant to convey tones of insistent and and even brusque address. And when you read James words, they are rather blunt.
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”—
He speaks of merchants who are making their plans to go here and there, to spend a certain amount of time to do their trade and make profit. The way he lays it out the profit has become the only thing they are interested in, it has overshadowed everything else. This smug certainty leaves no room for God.
This recalls the merchants of Amos 8:4-5 who trampled the needy as they focused on the end of the Sabbath so they could go and make more money. They may have observed the Sabbath, but their heart wasn’t in it. There focus, their ultimate goal, had nothing to do with honoring God but was on how and where to make their next profit.
In verse 14 we have reflections of the rich fool in Luke, who relies on his stored wealth only to find out that his time on earth is drawing to a close.
yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James is not arguing against earning a living, making money, or even the desire to make money; instead what he is arguing against is an individuals own self-certainty. It’s the same attitude that marked the teaching of the false teachers. This certainty reveals an attitude that does not take God seriously and a way of thinking in which the making of money means more than any sense of devotion to God. The desire betrays the friendship with the world and is, therefore, enmity with God.
Beyond this is another sin: for too many in the church have not seen the poor as their sisters and brothers. They have not shared with them, instead they’ve shown favoritism. James has said to us already, “faith without works is dead,“ (2:17). James is once again asking us that question I’ve heard since a teenager, “If Christianity were illegal, and you were charged with being a Christian, would there be proof to convict you?”
For his audience, James is speaking bluntly. He’s asking them, “Is there a discernable difference in your lives for having come to know Jesus?” In so doing he asks us the same thing.
Then there is that slap of reality, “What is your life, you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” For most of us here, our time left in this life is shorter than what we’ve already lived. How are we living it?
Are we living saying:
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
IF the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that - recognizing that it is the Lord who gives each day. “This is the day the Lord has made.” Or, are we boasting in our own plans.
As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
James constantly points us back to God. Have faith in God; pray, trusting in God; be doers of the word and not merely hearers; don’t play favorites; Love your neighbor; tame your tongue; submit to God; resist the Devil...
As it was then, not much has changed in the human heart. We focus on ourselves. Even in our charity, too often it is for our own glorification.
He closes with:
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Your own heart convicts you because you know what the right thing is to do.
If, we pause, most of us know the “right” thing to do. I contend once again it is not about the right or wrong,
“In the beginning, God...” these words open the book of Genesis in our Old Testament. It was God who created day and night.
God created day and night that we might not wander around without limits but rather might already see our goal, namely, evening, lying before us in the morning.
Such a division of time is such a gift for us.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
As I read my Bible, as I pour through the Scriptures, it seems to me that again and again, God calls us into the fold daily. God doesn’t call us for a lifetime, a year, a month, or a week. God calls us daily, each and every day. To think beyond today is exhausting and overwhelming.
I began today’s message speaking of friends who always have plans for the future, but never seem to get them done. There is also something that I see in them, and that is the inability to be fully present. They never seem to be in the here and now, in the moment.
I want to close with the broader context of the quote I shared from Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer: Each new morning is a new beginning for our lives. Each day is a self-contained whole. The present day is the boundary of our cares and toils (Mt 6:34; James 4:14). It is long enough to find or to lose God, to keep faith or to fall into sin and disgrace. God created day and night that we might not wander around without limits but rather might already see our goal, namely, evening, lying before us in the morning. Just as the ancient sun rises daily anew, so also is God’s eternal mercy new every morning (Lam. 3:23). Being able to grasp God’s ancient faithfulness anew each morning, being able to begin a new life with God daily in the midst of one’s present life with God, that is the gift God gives us each new morning.
Each day is a new opportunity for us to serve love God with all of heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.
To God be the glory.