In Light Of The Future
Paul Tripp tells the story about a paradigm shift in his daughter Suzanne’s life. She was starting Kindergarten, so they were preparing themselves for their first relationship change. They knew that Suzanne’s new teacher would hold a lofty position in her life, and they were getting ready for the Mrs. so and so said this, and Mrs. So and So did that phase. But that was not the only authority shift that happened that year.
One evening around the dinner table, Suzanne announced that she needed to wear her party dress to school the next day. Paul asked if they were having a party at school and Suzanne said they were not having a party, but Anna said that all the girls have to wear party dresses tomorrow, and I don’t want to be the only one who is not wearing a party dress. In that moment Anna, the self-appointed queen of the playground, became the authority in Suzanne’s life, and she was not about to disappoint her new authority. If Anna said all the girls were going to wear party dresses, or eat only cheese sandwiches, or never swing at recess, then that was the new rule. For the rest of the year Suzanne made all of her decisions based on what Anna wanted because she had authority in her life.
I was reminded of that story as I read our text for this week. James is encouraging Christians in their faith, and how our faith should be seen in our lives. So when we get to our text this morning it seems a bit strange; like James took a right turn and left the discussion about faith. I mean it sounds like a typical conversation between a couple of businessmen discussing their plans. People make plans every day. Why does James feel the need to share this conversation? I mean why share their plans and the details? When? Today or tomorrow. Where? This or that city. How long? We'll spend a year there. What? We'll carry on business. Why? Make money. Why is this important? The Bible talks a lot about planning and this man has planned everything. His purpose, the place, the progress. He's got all the bases covered.
The reason James places this story in his letter, is because we need to remember that the central story of the Bible is found in the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us. That’s why our life, if lived by faith, can never be divorced from our relationship with Him. These men are living life and making plans as though God doesn’t exist. There's not a single mention of God in this entire business plan. He knew what he wanted, he knew how to get there, but he didn't check it out with God first.
James is not talking about planning; he's talking about assuming without God. It's great to have dreams; it's great to have goals, as long as you include God, as long as you pray about it. There's nothing wrong with what the man did; it's what he forgot to do. He forgot to include God. Which lands pretty close to home for me. The men that James are describing are actually doing what we all have been guilty of at one time or another, making plans and not including God.
James says a better way, a more faithful way to live is "Instead, you ought to say, `If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’" (verse15) I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, you don't either. While we can make educated guess, planning without God is presumptuous.
As you read through the letter of James, you cannot lose sight of the fact that he is writing to people who are followers of God. Throughout this whole letter James has addressed his readers my brothers, or my dear brothers. The audience doesn’t change in verse 13, Listen carefully, those of you; he’s writing to brothers. In essence what James is saying is that it is possible to be a follower of God and still live your life and plan your days as though God has no part of it.
We need to be careful, because maybe there are times in your life, like in mine where things get real busy and you just get real focused on all of this stuff happening in the world and you just take God for granted. There have been days that were super hectic and it’s not until my head hits the pillow that I realize not only have I not prayed, I spent all day not considering God or even thinking about Him. I know a lot of people who would readily shout that they love the Lord with all their heart but when it comes to living in the mundane or hectic parts of their daily lives they are practical atheists. Which is so sad because God’s greatest desire is for us to get close to Him. It’s tragic to find somebody who says, I believe in God, but then acts like He doesn't. They just kind of go off and make a bunch of plans, as if all of life depends on our own talents and ability.
So James gives us some practical advice on how to put God back in the place of authority in our lives so that our future will be bright. That’s verse 17 So if you know the right way to live and ignore it, it is sin—plain and simple. This morning I want us to camp out in this verse and see what James has to say about authority, faith, and how that should affect our daily lives.
The first principle that we’re going to look at is: Know James says if you know the right way to live…
Every now and then someone will say, or post, or tweet, that they just wish God would come down and tell them what He wanted from them. If God would just come and sit on their bedside at night, or open the heavens and shine a light down on them and tell them what is their purpose, what God needs for them to do in this life, they would get busy. What they have forgotten is that God has already revealed His will for our lives, we just are not real excited about it.
I think all of us who have struggled with the direction of our lives want that one moment, where we can make a huge sacrifice and go out in a blaze of glory. What we choose to ignore is that God wants us to be busy every day forgiving our enemies and those who curse us. He wants us to fill our days loving God and loving our neighbor as ourself. He has called us to make sure our love is sincere, that we hate what is evil, cling to what is good. He has called us to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honor one another above ourselves. God has told us exactly what He wants from our lives, we either forget or just outright refuse to follow where He leads. After all, just because you know the right thing to do doesn't mean you're going to do it.
Usually when we talk about following God, we talk about the things we are not doing. We define sin as something that would break the Ten Commandments: murder, commit adultery, cheat, lie, steal, and on and on it goes. There are lots of different places where God says, If you do this you are outside of My will. I know in my life, there are so many things that are black and white that I don’t even need to pray about them. I have never gone to God in prayer, Okay God, I’m having trouble with my neighbor, should I murder him? You know, it’s just this once, I can hide the body. I don’t even have to pray that because God’s already answered, right? Those are sins of commission.
James says there’s another kind of sin, where things get a little more grey, we call them sins of omission. I can do nothing and still sin, because there are things I ought to be doing. It’s easy to say I’m a good christian because of all of the things I don’t do. James is reminding you, that your faith is also seen by what you do. Matthew 25 in the parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus says those who are invited into the Heavenly Home, are not the ones who have a list of things they didn't do, but those who spent their lives living out their faith.
You can do everything right and still forget about God in your life. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10? The lawyer wanted to justify himself, and muddy the water just a bit. He knew he was supposed to love his neighbor as himself, that’s black and white. But the grey area comes from his question, Who is my neighbor?
That’s the second principle that James is getting at in our text: We need to Apply what we know. …you know the right way to live and ignore it…
We are called to apply God’s truth and His principles to our whole life. I understand the desire to compartmentalize our lives: this is my family life, this is my work life, this is my hobby life, and this is my church life. But God says it’s all life, and it needs to be lived under His authority. Sometimes that is easy to do, or once again black and white. But other times we enter a grey area, and just try to figure it out on our own. We forget that while God might not have told us in Acts 30:14 to buy a certain house or to go on a certain vacation there are some principles that we can apply that will include Him and His will into our plans.
For example, the principle of stewardship might apply to that decision. God has called us to be good stewards of all His gifts. Maybe purchasing one house as opposed to the other is being a better steward. Maybe instead of going on a 2 week road trip to visit every farmers market in the state, you could use that time and be salt and light and go with the group to Baja.
Let me interject here, that there is nothing wrong with going on a vacation, or buying one house over another. I am afraid that there are times when we worry that there is only one right decision, when the truth is that there could be any number of good decisions. We could pick from a dozen houses and God would still be pleased with the decision that we’re making. We use our vacation time and honor God on a road trip just as well as a mission trip. Far too often we obsess over making the right decision, and never think about how our decisions can honor God.
The mustard seed I want you to take away with you this morning is Following God’s will has much more to do with who you are becoming and how you are living than it does with specific decisions. If God is truly your authority, then you will become more and more like Him every day.
We want to make decisions about our future based on specific choices, what job should I take, who should I marry, what college should I attend, where should I live? But honestly, the vast majority of God’s directive in His word has to do with who we are becoming. The only way I could think of how to unwrap this is to look at this from a parents’ perspective, because God is our parent. While I’m concerned with decisions the boys make I am far more concerned with who they are becoming.
For example, think for a moment what decisions are important for teenage boys? Well, one would be, Where can I get a job, where should I work? I mean, it’s important for any teenager. You know, Should I work at the grocery store, should I work at the waterpark, Taco Bell, Jack’s, where should I work? Now I’m concerned with Trafton’s decision, I want it to be something that he enjoys, something that fits him, that’s convenient, I don’t want him driving to Tuscaloosa everyday. But my greatest concern is what kind of employee is he going to be? I’m more concerned that he approach work with integrity. That he be a hard worker. That he be an example in the workplace. That he be salt and light. That is far more important to me than specifically where he’s working.
Another decision we faced was, what kind of car should he buy? For most teenagers, what they drive is very important. But i believe every parent in this room understands when I say it is far more important to me how he drives than what he drives.
Another decision might be, who should I date? Not that Rylan would ever consult me on this decision. But I am more concerned with how he dates than who he dates, I’m more concerned that he is respectful on a date, that he is a protector of his date’s honor and purity than who specifically he is going out with. I am more concerned that he is they type of person that exhibits God’s grace and compassion to the girl he chooses to date, than the actual girl. If he is the right person, then he will attract the right girl. If he is living out his faith, the who will take care of itself.
Overall I’m just more concerned with how are the boys applying their faith to their daily lives than I am about the specific decisions that they’re making, and I think our heavenly Father has similar concerns. Not that He’s unconcerned with our decisions, I am concerned if the boys want to play a sport, what they want to be when they grow up, who they are going to marry or if they are going to marry. But the bigger issue to me is who are they becoming. I believe that God is more interested in how we are doing and are we living out our faith; are we becoming more and more like Christ, making decisions that honor God. And even if we’re off a little bit, if we make a decision that doesn’t quite work out, God knows that we’re going to grow through it. He is concerned with the person that we’re becoming.
The biggest thing for God is do we allow Him to be a part of our daily life? Now the reason that this is so important according to James, is because we forget that eternity is just right around the corner. James wants to make very certain that we honestly see what is real, that we view our life in the midst of eternity. In verse 14 James says, You are like a mist that appears one moment and then vanishes another. Have you ever just sprayed a spray bottle, you know what it’s like, he says that’s what your life is like. In light of eternity it’s short, it’s brief, that’s why we must make plans and live our life on a daily basis in light of God. James is reminding us that life is short and eternity is real, A life of faith is lived in the idea of eternity. A life of faith builds long term, is concerned with the marathon not the sprint.
Let me explain it another way. Trista and I are renting a house, so we are in a temporary house. What if Trista told me, since we live here we need to fix it up a bit. So we start in the yard, we remove every plant in the front yard and put in all new landscaping, a walkway, and a porch out front that completely changes the look of the house. Then Trista says I think the den needs to be a little bigger, so we hire someone to come and knock out the back wall and add 14 feet to the back of the house. Then, she says what we really need now is a place to entertain folks who come over, we need a pool and a fire pit in the back yard, so we have someone come in and dig a pool and build a fire pit. Then she says the kitchen could really use some better countertops and appliances, and as they are installing those, she says now we need new flooring. How smart would that be? It’s ridiculous because we are living in a temporary residence, its not our house. But when you look at our life, our spirit, our soul, who we really are, we are just living in temporary housing. James says it’s like a mist, is all. And it’s gone but God is making a permanent residence for us, for those who follow Jesus.
It just doesn’t make sense for a Child of God to live our lives and forget about the presence of God. James wants us to remember that as long as we live in this broken world, we are going to need to get close to God. We should pray every day, Father walk with me today, be with me in the decisions that I make, be with me as I treat other people, be with me in every part, every moment of my day. That should be our passion. And, in fact, that’s what we were created for.
So this morning, I wonder about your calendar, your plans for the future. Have you set days, marked your calendar, scheduled appointments and then prayed, By the way, God, I want You to bless my life. Church that is nothing more that practical atheism. The person who acts as if God doesn't exist in their planning is no different than the person who doesn't believe He exists.
Living like Jesus calls us to do the things He did. While Jesus walked on this earth, He fully submitted to God’s authority, and if we are going to live a life of faith we need to fully submit to his authority as well.