Step Towards Transformation
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will[a] go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;
14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
So far, we have examined
Today we will learn on How To Plan Your Life With God .
Illustration: In the film Back to the Future, Michael Fox plays the role of a guy named Marty MacFly who suddenly is thrown back into time 30 years earlier. Because he knows what the future hold for his family he feels compelled to make sure things happen the way they are supposed to. His future Mom and Dad actually now go to high school with him so he makes sure that they go to the prom together and fall in love with each other. The goal for Marty when he went into the past was to make sure things turned out as they should. The problem was when he went back 30 years the young woman who was supposed to marry his father, instead, fell in love with him.
So let me ask you a question.
In my opinion there are two areas where we are not supposed to live. One is the past and the other is the future. We have to learn to live in the now.
Many people today are obsessed with the idea of trying to learn the future. They look into crystal balls, tarot card readers, & check their horoscope. The truth is, none of us really know the future here on this earth.
Life is brief and we must live every single day to the fullest. And that is exactly what James is saying to us in this passage today.
In other words live to the fullest your daily time
Illustration: Chuck Swindoll stated this in His book Living on the Ragged Edge and its focus is about the importance of our time: Every morning someone who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time 86,400 seconds of time-which represents 1,440 minutes-which, of course, equal twenty-four hours each day.
Now you’ve got to remember the same stipulation applies, because God gives you this amount of time for you to use each day. Nothing is carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a twenty-six-hour day (though some of us wish there were). From today’s dawn until tomorrow’s dawn, you have a precisely determined amount of time. As someone has put it, “Life is a coin. You can spend it anyway you want to, but you can spend it only once.”
One of the most fascinating (and, I might add, frustrating) of all subjects is this four-letter word TIME. It’s amazing. We all have the same amount of time. Whether we are penniless or whether we happen to be the richest person on earth, whether we are young or old, single or married, employed or without a job, an adolescent in school or the President , we have exactly the same amount of time.
Illustration: Mike Yaconelli writes in his book Messy Spirituality “When my children were young, track meets filled a part of each week during the spring. One particular hot spring day I attended a Jr. High track meet, arriving in the middle of the boy’s 1500 meter race. During the last lap of the race, the audience stood, cheering 2 boys running side by side for the final 50 meters. A short distance behind them ran a pack of 4 or 5 boys racing for the 3rd place. The crowd broke into applause for the first two runners and then increased as the pack fought for 3rd place.”
Then Mike says, “Another runner caught my attention. As I looked down the track, I saw one boy lagging behind all the others, way back. Poor Kid. The 7th grader struggled for each breath. His face was red and sweaty, the main artery in his neck bulging and throbbing to supply oxygen to his deprived muscles. Suddenly the woman to my left stepped over me and rushed to the railing, obviously the boy’s mother. She screamed, “Johnny, run faster.”
I wish you could have seen the incredulous look on Johnny’s face. He had to be thinking “Mom, are you kidding!!! I’m running as fast as I can!”
Satan is the god of the urgent. He is the god of fast living. Sin does not always drive us to drink; more often it drives us to exhaustion. Exhaustion, tiredness is more debilitating to the soul than drunkenness. Fatigue of our souls is the product of “running faster.”
I love this quote: “Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us, it’s about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop.”
Speed damages our souls because living at a certain pace consumes all our energies. Urgency has a scream that drowns out the still small voice of God, and instead of knowing Jesus more intimately, He becomes a diminishing speck in the rear view mirror.
It’s as if we arrogantly think we have life figured out. Time is just a petrol we put into our tank to get down the road…and.. A lot of this happens because we talk about faith and God’s plan, but really we’ve got tomorrow figured out better than Him.
Really? Maybe the first gift we should give to God, especially through this “run faster Johnny” season is, OUR TIME.
Illustration: Listen to this event in Jesus and the disciples lives. Jesus has just told the story of the “Good Samaritan” in
LUKE 10:38-42 … 8 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[a] feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus[b] answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
You get the picture in your mind don’t you? Martha is a type A (order, structure, and she’s also thoughtful). She’s opened her home to Jesus and His disciples .Martha, the army sergeant of the kitchen, attacks the meal and its preparations. But Mary, hair braided, tye dyed T-shirt, holding a flower, (laid back, non-rushed, hippie type personality) sitting in the living room on a pillow while Jesus talks, drinking in His words like a man dying of thirst in the desert.
When all of a sudden Martha barges in the room, hair a mess, sweat running down her brow, and she points at Mary and yells at Jesus “Don’t you care about me? I’m working my fingers to the bone. She’s just lazing there. Tell her to come help me!”
The key verse for Martha, “Martha you are worried about many things.” Satan loves that kind of urgency. If I can just get to this place today. If I can just get the meal fixed. If I can make it till tomorrow I’ll catch up on everything I missed today.
Urgency keeps us worried, upset and hoping our future will be rich and leisurely because of our efforts.
Jesus says, “But few things are needed, indeed only one.”
By the way the only thing that needed is a real and intimate relationship with Jesus. “He’s the way, He’s the truth, He’s the life and the only way to heaven, the Father’s presence is through the Son.” Man has chosen to pursue that above the urgent! So should we, and there is a very good reason we should trust God with our time.
James 4:13, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
They are going about it in the wrong way. So let’s try to learn from his mistakes
The First Mistake We Make Is That We Leave God Out Of Our Planning Completely
They have decided on
So they have selected a time, place, length of their stay, their activity and the outcome and they have done all of it without even asking God for His opinion. And that is pride at its highest level.
We are too much like these individuals found in this passage…we are saying… “I not only know what the future holds for me but I also have complete control over the future.” We leave God out of our planning. That Is mistake #1.
The 2nd Mistake Is That We Presume To Know The Future.
James 4:14a . James says, you don’t even know what tomorrow will bring.”
Illustration: Suppose for a moment you were like the man in the following story…
Mr. Jones, we will call him, wasn’t feeling too well and went to see his doctor for a physical checkup. Shortly thereafter, He went back to see him for the results. The doctor said he had “bad news and worse news…which did he want to hear first?” The man was a bit puzzled and said he’d rather hear the bad news first. The doctor said, “The bad news is that you only have twenty-four hours to live.” At this the man jumped up, totally flabbergasted and distraught. He paced the doctor’s office and complained, “Twenty-four hours to live? I can’t believe it! How can I possibly get my affairs in order that quickly? I can’t believe this, it is incredible! What could be worse news than this?” The doctor said, “The worse news is that I was supposed to tell you yesterday but I forgot.”
That’s a funny, little story, but there are some important lessons in it:
The key word here to understanding verse 14 is the word “know.” In the Greek it gives the idea of being absolutely certain about something. James is saying that you and I cannot even be certain about what will happen TOMORROW….much less way out in the future.
There are at least 3 reasons for that.
Proverbs 27:1 says “do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring.”
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who was so wealthy that his barns were filled to overflowing. The rich man said to himself, “I will pull down my barns and build greater ones and they will store all my crops and goods. But the Lord said, you fool this night your soul will be required of you.” In the parable the man is called a fool; not because he was planning for the future but because he thought he could control the future.
In this story the merchants have not only assumed that they will be alive tomorrow…… they have made the mistaken assumption that the length of our lives is actually a guarantee. James reminds us that life is like a vapor. Like a puff of smoke. Like your breath on a cold day
Here James rebukes Presumption of Life
James 4:14:b. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Illustration of mist: Place a tea kettle of water on the stove and as it heats to the boiling point the water turns to steam, but that steam doesn’t fill the kitchen; it disappears about a foot above the kettle
With all of this emphasis in God’s word on the shortness of life we continue to believe that somehow we’ve got this all under control. David the Psalmist said “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
James says in V14:b. What is your life?
Illustration on purpose: Many years before Abraham Lincoln was elected president, he was a store-keeper in Salem, Illinois. Abe had a rifle displayed in his store that was one of the most beautiful rifles ever made. The barrel was made from the finest steel, the stock from the best walnut wood; and a world-famous gunsmith had assembled the gun. The price was extremely reasonable. Displayed next to this attractive gun was a rack of ordinary Kentucky squirrel rifles. These long-barrel rifles were made from ordinary gun steel, and plain wooden stocks. Yet, the price was higher.
A customer entered the store looking for a new rifle. He was impressed by the fine-looking gun, but was confused as to why it was priced much lower than the less attractive rifles. Abe explained that the good-looking rifle was for show, while the others were for shooting. The pioneer bought the Kentucky squirrel rifle. A little while later, a rich farmer was decorating a room in his country mansion. He wanted to place a gun over the fireplace mantle with his big game trophies. Abe’s fancy gun was exactly what he needed. The fact that it would not shoot was irrelevant. The purpose of the gun had changed.
God has given each of us a purpose, too. We can choose to work for God’s glory and make disciples for Christ, or we can choose to be decorations in the church. What purpose are you serving in your relationship with Christ?
It seems that James is saying your life is a gift. One person has put it this way- What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God. And the way we look at life makes all the difference in the world. And you live all of your life and never really discover what God’s purpose for you is…..it is possible you have wasted it.
It is how we look at life ….our perspective that makes all the difference in the world. We often run across people in life who have an attitude problem. Know any? We see people young and old who have been doomed to a life of misery all because of their attitude. Life is a gift. Never take it for granted. The Lord gives and He can just as easily take away.
Illustration: TEMPORARY CASTLES
“A little boy is on the beach. On his knees he scoops and packs the sand with plastic shovels into a bright red bucket. Then he topples the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created. “All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the sand. Packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.
“A man in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made.
“All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be guards. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.
“Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come. “Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches. “As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father’s hand, and goes home.
“The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide. “‘It’s my castle,’ he challenges. “The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs…
“And I don’t know much about sandcastles. But children do. Watch them and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child’s heart. When the sun sets and the tides take — applaud. Salute the process of life, take your Father’s hand and go home”
James offers a Precaution about Life
James says you are a mist or a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James is making the point that you are running out of time and you are wasting what time you do have on yourself.
Illustration: When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to be thirteen so I could be called a “teenager” then I couldn’t wait to turn 18 so I could get my driver’s license, then I couldn’t wait to get married, I couldn’t wait to get our first house. and the list goes on and on about how all of those things have now come and gone and now that I am well into my 40’s and I see my nieces and nephews that seemed to just have been born now going to school and my friends children starting their own families. Life is just moving so fast. I can’t help but wonder where all children are going to be in 5 years. One moment they are in your arms, the next they are leaving for college, and then they are getting married and time keeps moving on.
Where will you be in 5,10, 20 or even 30 years from now? The majority of us are going to be in eternity, some of us will be there in 20 years, some will be there in 10, there may be a few that will be in the presence of the Lord before this year is over with. The point is we don’t have as much time as we believe we do, to do the things we hope to do, and the things we hope to do are usually the things we shouldn’t be doing anyway. Where is God in your five year plan? Is he in your short term plan? Is he in your long term plan? Because God created you for a purpose and it wasn’t to waste away your life for nothing more than to pursue your pleasures. He never intended for any of us to stay here long so we should embrace whatever duty God has called us to and do it with all the strength and energy we have, while we still have the strength and energy to do it.
Psalms 144:4 says “Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.”
Illustration: The dash between the dates on your tombstone represents accurately your life. short, small, and hardly noticeable. Even famous people are eventually forgotten. Spurgeon said “six feet of dirt makes all men equal” The worm that crawls through the rotting flesh of the dead doesn’t know if he is feasting on a prince or a beggar.
This life is reduced to a dash between two dates: The date you were born and the date you pass away. The two worlds that exist, are a spiritual one and a physical one, and that spiritual world will be shortly realized when our time is up. There is such a fine line that separates us from this one and that one.
When we die we leave things as we were doing them. The farmer leaves his field half plowed, The blacksmith still leaves his hammer on the anvil, the artist leaves an unfinished painting, a sculptor leaves behind a half finished sculpture. Jesus said two men will be in the field one will be taken and the other left, two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and the other left. It is better to be prepared for the afterlife than to be well prepared for this one.
Illustration: There are thousands of ways we can slip into eternity on whim: An automobile accident, a gun accident, a plane crash, a falling object, a burning house, a deadly virus, a stroke, food poisoning, heart attack, insect bite, and allergic reaction, choking, lightning strike or something unexpected and then life is over.
Our life is a vapor or a mist. it is something that is visible for a moment but nothing solid or certain.
Illustration; I got up Friday morning and looked out the window to see fog, after a while without any thought about it, I looked out another window and the mist was gone. That is the way life is- fragile.
James first explains the error of living only for the temporary and in the next verse he gives an alternative perspective on how Christian should approach their plans.
First he rebukes a presumption and then offers a precaution and in the next verse James instills a preparation
James instills a Preparation about Life- Avoid presumption
James 4:15: “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
James now is teaching these Christians that they should seek God’s will for their life and follow what He wants rather than doing whatever they felt like doing to suit their pleasures. He instills in them a way to prepare for all of life. If we say ‘I’m going to do this’ or ‘I’m going to do that’ we should at least in our minds, if not from our mouths follow that with “If it’s the Lord’s will.”
We must never presume about tomorrow, for we cannot see beyond the next moment with any certainty. The fact is that you and I do not know how much time we have left. It is only God who knows the future. Therefore, we must look to Him.
Everything in the universe operates by to laws. If we cooperate with these laws, then the universe works with us. If we disobey these laws, the universe works against us. For example, certain laws govern flight. The engineer who obeys them in designing an airplane, and the pilot who obeys them laws in flying the plane, will have the joy of seeing their plane fly. But if they disobey the laws that govern flight, the result will be a crash. God’s will for us is comparable to the laws of the universe, with this exception: those laws are general, but what He has planned for our lives is specifically designed for us. This is why Paul said in Romans 12:2 that “God’s will for you . . . is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Now consider this law regarding our living a God-centered life that delights in the things of God and the doing of His will:
“You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:7b-9 (NLT)
We can face the uncertainty of life with confidence, if we’re sowing obedience to the revealed will of God, for we will be focused on doing what is right with the time we have.
A seminary professor was asked what he’d do different if he knew Jesus would return that day. He replied, “Nothing. Because I’m convinced I am doing exactly what the Lord wants me to be doing.”
The 3rd Mistake Is That We Boast Of Our Future.
16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
This word ‘boast’ means to exult and rejoice in something. It is used of the worship of God, but here it is used of man bragging in himself.
Illustration: A striking example of this took place in 1971 when I had a summer in New Jersey near New York city. One of the men I baptized at that time was a converted Jew called Sam Rotman who is an outstanding pianist. Then he was studying in the Julliard School of Music in New York. One day some friends came to visit him and they went together to the recording of a TV chat-show programme with a well-known presenter. One of the guests on the show was a man called Rodale whom I had heard about. He was the editor of a vitamin and health food magazine called “Prevention” which my parents-in-law took and kept. It was full of suggestions about overcoming sickness, living longer, and the family consulted it. Sam Rotman told me that Rodale looked a fit fifty year-old, and when he announced that he was in his seventies the audience applauded. “I am going to live until I am a hundred,” he added. More applause. Then he moved along the couch for the next guest to be interviewed. He did not appear to take much interest in this person, bowing his head and looking at his feet, so that the audience began to titter. But the merriment soon stopped as he slumped to the floor. The cry went up for a doctor. The programme’s recording ceased and the focus of attention was on Rodale. But he never got off the floor. He who was going to live until he was a hundred did not live another five minutes. He had died of a massive heart-attack. We are feeling so good about ourselves, so self-promotional and boastful, and then, as Milton says, “comes the blind Fury with th’abhorred shears and slits the thin spun life.” The audience quietly left the TV studio and that programme was never shown.
God wasn’t in Rodale’s thinking. There in that New York TV studio was a man who in one area of life had some knowledge, that is, of vitamins and healthy eating. He had one piece of the jigsaw and had become an authority in that single piece. But the other pieces? Such as length of life? And human unpredictability? And the divinely forged connection between sin and death? And the whole picture? He knew nothing at all about these things.
V 17: Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin
We delay what should be done today until tomorrow. We procrastinate. Here is how James words it…”to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Sin is not only doing something wrong, it is the failure to do something right. In that respect procrastination is actually a sin
It is a sin, says James to know the good things we should be doing but not doing them because we are putting them off for a later time. Perhaps I should remind you once again of my favorite anonymous poem; it seems to fit this moment and this message.
Conclusion: Who I Depend On Will Determine My Destiny
Illustration: Elizabeth Elliot tells of two adventurers who stopped by to see her, all loaded with equipment for the rain forest east of the Andes. They sought no advice, just a few phrases to converse with the Indians. She writes: “Sometimes we come to God as the two adventurers came to me — confident and, we think, well-informed and well equipped. But has it occurred to us that with all our accumulation of stuff, something is missing?
She suggests that we often ask God for too little. We know what we need–a yes or no answer, please, to a simple question. Or perhaps a road sign. Something quick and easy to point the way. What we really ought to have is the Guide himself. Maps, road signs, a few useful phrases are things, but infinitely better is someone who has been there before and knows the way.
Do you know what will happen tomorrow? No one does. The Bible is not saying we are not to make plans or just sit on a couch and wait for our ship to come in (as it will not). Nor, does it indicate for us to just pray and then put forth no effort on our part; rather, the Christian, godly life requires our effort and impact, but the principle point is that our lives are to be spent seeking what God wants from us.
God will not only show me what things should be priority in my life, but how I should go about addressing them; and as I give priority to those things god has in mind for me, my life will be lived to the full!
Illustration: A story is told about a professor who stood before his class and took a large empty jar and filled it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He asked the students if the jar was full. They said, “yes.” He then picked took pebbles and poured them into the jar. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. Then he asked if the jar was full. They chuckled and agreed that it was indeed full this time. He then took sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas. “Now,” he asked, “Is the jar full?” Again, they answered, “Yes.” Finally, he took water and poured it into the jar. It willed in between the grains of sand. “Now,” he said, “This jar is full.”
This story is used to speak about priorities –
But how does one know how to prioritize and organize the things of life? The key is the professor! In this story, he represents Christ, who said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10 (NIV)
Is your life full? Only God knows how our life should best be invested. Therefore, let’s avoid pride in our planning and humbly look to Him, living God-centered, rather than self-centered lives.