James Study 10: Who’s in charge of your plans?
Read James 4:13-17
‘Now listen!’ James is calling our attention to the important area of our lives where we just go jet propelled into the future without a moment by moment consideration of God’s plans for us. In the rush and busyness we so often forget how short our life is ‘you are a mist that appears for a little while’ (James 4:14) and who should be the director of our everyday activities. He says ‘listen’ but this can be so hard. We often don’t listen to those we love and live with; we can be on the phone and doing other jobs at the same time. We are in conversation and our heads have moved on to the next job we ‘must’ do. We fill our lives so we don’t have to hear what our hearts are saying to us.
How much more important is this with regard to our relationship with our heavenly Father. We say He is our Lord and yet we often go about our day without having a clue as to whether He is pleased with what we are doing, or if it is even part of what He wants for our life. James is challenging people who were successful business men, obviously making extensive travel plans; to cut out the arrogant, proud attitude of thinking they are invincible and successful through their own good brain and business deals. To recognise Who they need to rely on and consider the source of all their creative ideas and wealth. The first century was a time of great commercial activity of various kinds where the motive of hard work, like today, was profit. God wanted to use the words of James to challenge the reader to look at the motives behind all their activity. Just as it challenges us today!! Their plans are very much made with this world in mind which is what James is challenging.
Motives – just ask yourself these few questions to check out your motives. Be honest!
*Having done a job do you make sure as many people know about it as possible?
*Do you offer to do a job so people notice even if you hope you don’t have to do it?
*If a job does not go well do you take responsibility or do you blame someone else?
*Are most of your plans geared towards increased income?
*When giving or receiving presents does the price indicate the value to you?
*When you receive a pay rise or a lump sum are you more excited about what you can purchase or the difference it will make to the Kingdom of God?
*Do you ask God first before offering to do any job?
*If you have a spare couple of hours do you look for a job to fill them rather than pray?
*Do you feel guilty when you do something for yourself?
Look back at the study “Joyful Woman 05” which recognises that life is too valuable to be just for wasting time. “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”. We must do our jobs with joy, and take full responsibility for them, work diligently even if there is no immediate and visible reward. We do not need to be ‘stressed out’ as we have a plan, put together with the Holy Spirit’s help. We make wise use of every moment and even if things do not go according to plan, we have plan B to deal with ‘unforeseen circumstances’. James is saying we should plan ahead.
Help in planning our time is available to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as it is He who helps us to discipline ourselves to obey His leading. Look again at our plans and ask ourselves if we are spending time doing things of no eternal value like: – hours in front of the T.V. magazines, chatting on the phone etc: As we make plans, we do need to look ahead but as we check out our motives we then go to God in prayer as our entire life belongs to Him anyway. As we make the plans we must always say in our hearts ‘If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that’ James 4:15.
God is a God of order and shows us the priorities in our lives. Everything is uncertain; there is no guaranteed stability in this world except in our relationship with God our Father. Like the farmer who plants seeds year after year and expects a harvest, so we need to make plans with God at the centre and totally surrendered to His will whether there is a harvest or not. Paul was often saying ‘if it is the Lord’s will….’ Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19; so we must not put our trust in plans but in the only One who has our life in His hands. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we know we can always have the right attitude if we walk at all times in the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:16-26. If we do have this intimacy planning will be straightforward
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 The most exciting part of the Christian life is experiencing intimacy with the Living God and hearing our Father. It is getting up close beside Him and hearing His heart beat, talking to Him about not only what is on our hearts but also what is on His Heart has to be our first priority. If we have been faithful in the little things He will share more with us as He knows He can trust us. Intimacy does not require us to be perfect but it does require us to be fully surrendered to Him.
We show this by our actions of total obedience and when we fail we repent immediately and don’t wallow in our failure. We have to stick with God even in difficult circumstances which we may not understand. Paul wrote ‘we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body….. We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 4:18. So what is our focus when planning? God is talking all the time if we are listening….
Some of what He says will be to be done straight away. Romans 8:14. Deuteronomy 5:1.
Some will be to enlarge our hearts to be more like the heart of the Father. Mark 4:11-12.
Some will be to share with others to encourage them. Hebrews 3:13
Some will be to warn others, if God is having difficulty talking to them direct, but this will only be if God can trust us to have a right attitude, not a superior one. 2 Samuel 12:1.
Some will be to store in our hearts for a future time. Luke 2:19.
We must remember that no person on earth knows or can predict the future. We cannot afford to read horoscopes as ‘just innocent fun’ or practice levitation; tarot cards; Ouija boards; or go to mediums to contact a dead person and know the future, Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-13. These things will never tell us the truth, it will only deceive us. Of course demons know things about us as they know what they have done in our lives and they hear what we speak out of our mouths.
If you have been involved in any of these practices ask a strong Christian friend to pray with you, repent, turning away one hundred and eighty degrees. If necessary burn all tarot cards, books and regalia you possess. Call on the Holy Spirit to fill you up to over flowing with His presence, Luke 11:24-26
We do not need to know the future we just need to know Who holds our future!
James (James 4:16) reminds us that all forms of boasting are wrong from the straight bragging of what we have done to the more subtle way of self abasement making sure people know what we have done, 1 John 2:16. This is all pride in different forms. No man can buy his salvation or the salvation of another, we are all dependant on the price Jesus paid for us so we are all totally equal, Psalm 49:7-9.
All our boasting must be in God. If we take for ourselves the praise that belongs to God we sin against God. To give ourselves the praise for what God has done is a very great evil. Then the next verse James teaches about sin showing that God will judge us according to what we know. The more a person knows, greater will be his punishment, if he disobeys God, James 3:1. James also highlights that sin is not just doing wrong but also failing to do something we ought to do, so if we do not believe in Jesus we sin against Him. We must choose to ‘humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may lift us up in due time.’ 1 Peter 5:6 Without Him we are nothing, so we can look forward to His amazing plans knowing we can rejoice in all He has for us and walk daily in close communication with Him as we give Him our all.
The Real Church – Home Challenges 10
Read all the notes about James 4:13-17
1. What do you find most exciting about all that James has said in this passage?
2. Do you have great plans for your future? b) Are they God’s plans? c) What are they?
3. How is your intimacy with your Father? Take time out now to talk with Him, is He happy with your relationship with Him?
4. According to these notes has boasting been a sin for you? What does James say about it?
Read James 5:1-6
5. What jumps out at you in this passage?
6. What will happen to all our worldly wealth?
7. What will money not buy? 1 Peter 1:18-20
8. Compare these verses with James 1:19-21. How should we be living according to these verses?
9. Read 1 Timothy 6:9,10. What does it say about money?
10. What does 1 Timothy 6:6-8 say is the way we should live?
11. What changes do you know you should make in your attitude and lifestyle?
Read James 5:7-12
12. What three examples of patience does James show here?
13. According to Galatians 5:16-25 where does patience come from?
14. Write out the verses in the Galatians passage in your own words that describe how we should live.
15. Is grumbling a problem for you? Describe how your grumbling can affect other people both at home and in the Church.
16. According to James 5:12 what is the best way to talk? Give examples
17. Write a short sentence describing what you think these verses are about.