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Lesson 20: Real Faith Trusts God for His Plans

James 4:11-17 

James Lesson 20 – Real Faith Trusts God for His Plans

As we studied James chapter 4 we were challenged that lives that give evidence to what we believe are those that deny selfish pleasures and worldliness. James began by saying the selfish desires within us lead to conflict within and then conflict with others. And as we seek to find our selfish desires fulfilled, we turn the world and its knowledge and ways and become enemies with God. Being a friend of the world leads to becoming an enemy of God.

Read James 4:11-12

James now warns us again against judging others in verses 11-12. He has already touched on this subject in chapter 2 where he instructs us about the dangers of showing personal favoritism. In these verses in chapter 4, he warns specifically against slandering someone. Slandering is speaking harshly against someone else when they are not there to defend themselves. It is condemned throughout the Bible. Each of us may have experienced being slandered to one degree or another. It definitely is not an experience of another loving us! James says that slander is wrong for two reasons.

1.  When someone slanders, they break the law. Look at verse 11 – "you are not keeping" the law. The royal law as referred to in chapter two, is "to love you neighbor as yourself." When we slander we are not loving others. Therefore we break the law. That is sin.

2.  When someone slanders another, they become the judge. Read verse 14 again. When we speak against the law we judge it. We are to keep it, not to make it or adjust it according to our understanding. Why? Because God is the only Law-giver and judge. He makes the law and uses it to judge people. He is the one able to save and destroy – not us! This does not mean that we don’t use the truth of God’s Word to discern sin around us. The Word says that God’s Word will be used to judge each of us. We are exhorted to turn others from their sin, but we are warned not to slander others – speak against others when they can’t defend themselves. If you see another brother sinning, what are you to do according to scripture? Go to that brother. If you can’t say something about someone else to their face, I believe we need to not say it to anyone else. We need to handle the word of truth accurately and let what we believe reflect what we read in the Bible. To slander someone is sin.

James goes on to address another area through which we must walk out our faith. Our plans must be God’s plans.

Read James 4:13-17

Who has the problem here? Who is James addressing? In context of the whole book we know it is believers.

What’s the problem? The believers are making their own plans – verse 13…"today or tomorrow we shall go to this or that city , spend a year…"

What kind of plans? Where they will go and what they will do.

What was happening? At the time this was written there were many opportunities to go to other cities which were just being developed and make a lot of money. And they weren’t going to miss the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and make a fortune. It looked like a great opportunity! So what they were doing was discussing their business deals and boasting about their plans.

What’s the basis of this planning? The key is given away to us by the word "we." Nowhere does it give us evidence that they have sought God’s wisdom and his direction. Self is at the center of their plans. It reflects back to the beginning of the chapter where there is a worldly attitude of self-sufficiency instead of God-confidence. They are making plans without regard to God.

What’s the warning? verse 14 Be careful about your plans. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

What is life like? James shows us the foolishness of taking plans into our own hands by describing the brevity of life. He compares life to a vapor that is here one second and gone another. Have you ever gotten a whiff of something and then the next second it’s gone? That’s how brief life can be. Job reminds himself in Job 7:7 that "life is but a breath." The scripture also describes the length of our days. Psalm 103: 15-16 says that a man flourishes, the wind blows and just like a flower, it is gone.

In I Samuel 20:3 David explains his life to Jonathan. "There is only one step between me and death." Have you ever realized this when put in a dangerous position? Perhaps a near accident while driving or catching your child’s hand just before they run into danger?

When did God determine the length of each of our days? Psalm 139:16 Before we were even born!

Remember: God is the source of life. Even our time is in His hands.

Psalm 31:15 "My times are in God’s hands." What we do with our days should include God in the planning.

So how do we plan? James says it right here in James 4: 15. Instead of making your own plans you should consider the Lord’s will. The warning here is not to make plans independently from God. Our plans need to be God-centered because he holds our life in His hands. This reflects back to the way out of a worldly attitude as we were instructed to submit to God in 4:7

If you don’t, verse 16 tells it like it is. If you are not God-centered – if you are making your plans independently from God - it is boasting and bragging and that is evil. That is sin. What did James say about the proud in 4: 6? God is opposed to the proud. We need to humble ourselves and receive God’s grace to plan our days.

The knowledge of the brevity and fragility of life should not bring fear and inaction to our lives, but trust and action.  Psalm 31:14-15 "But I trust in you, O LORD…You are my God. My times are in your hands…"

These warnings should bring us to action as the psalmist prays in Psalm 39:4-5. He prays that God would let him know the brevity of his life. Knowing the brevity of our life and who holds our times – literally our life and death in his hands - should motivate us to serve God and God alone!

In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus tells a parable that illustrates this point. When a man in the crowd comes to Jesus to have him tell his brother to divide their inheritance, Jesus warns him in verse 15 to be on guard against greed because a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of possession. How many of our plans are made in light of our possessions. Men are driven to work harder and longer hours to "provide" for their families. Women – what about what we wear and don’t wear…have any clothes in your closet you have been storing, because you have put them aside? See how we can easily fall into the ways of the world.

Jesus goes on to show us in the parable that the man who had too much grain built bigger barns to store it for the future. And then in verse 20 God calls him a fool because he had made himself secure in this world, but his life was to be demanded of him that very night! Jesus exhorts us to be rich toward God and not store things up for ourselves. As this man built more barns, he forgot his plans should include God. Where should his treasure be? In God and God alone.

Not walking in the will of God can put ourselves at war within, with others and with God. God has plan for each of our lives. In His wisdom, He knows what should happen and when. In His love, He desires the best for us. The plans of God come from his heart. They are an expression of God’s love for each of us. We do not have to fear. Psalm 33:11 says, "But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." God’s will for each of our lives is firm and trustworthy, because it comes from His heart for us.

Verse 17 in James 4, gives us a warning. Are you surprised? If you know what is right to do and don’t do it, that is sin. This reflects directly back to how we make our plans – do we seek his wisdom and direction or make our own plans? But this also reflects back to James’ instructions previous about judging, showing favoritism, bridling our tongue, persevering through trials. We can ignore God’s will, disobey God’s will or do God’s will. You can mirror the psalmist’s heart and declare to your God that you "desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." Pslam 40:8

What will you do?

Is your life is in God’s hands?

Will you commit your future and your plans into the Lord’s hands, seeking His will and not your own?

Example: When my husband’s parents came to live near us, so that we could be more available to them, I struggled with the use of my time. I had places to go and things to do and now I had others to consider. There were many times when I wished my time was my own and I am sure that there were times when they wished my time included them more easily. They were very patient with me. I struggled with juggling time and responsibility - making plans for the day. There were two things that set me free. My husband had been doing errands with them one Saturday and when he came home three hours later, I said see how long it takes? He said to me, Janet, they won’t be with us forever…He realized the brevity of life. Three short years later they were both gone. The other thing that broke through my selfishness and my plans was a song we sang here…My life is in your hands.

Tears came to my eyes – I needed to relinquish my life and time to God and I would be free. The truth will set you free. Walking in the will of the Lord brings freedom and joy. I delight to do His will! How about you?