Any plans for tomorrow? - James 4:13 - 5:12
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
Does the future fill you with excitement or with anxiety? When you think about what is ahead do you get nervous or does a big smile appear on your face? I’m sure there will be a variety of responses in this congregation. Our emotional mood when we ponder the future can certainly vary depending on our personality and our current life circumstances.
So, for example, you might be feeling very positive and have lots of energy, and the direction of your life seems to be exactly as you would want it to be. And if that’s you, then thinking about the future may bring you much pleasure.
But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you are prone to anxiety or depression. Or maybe life just seems overwhelming at the moment. Perhaps it’s the busyness of family. Perhaps the demands of young children. Or a stressful work environment or an uncertain work environment. Or perhaps it’s the health of your spouse or your parents that keeps you awake at night. If this is you then thinking about the future will not bring you pleasure but more likely send you into a panic!
But how should we think about the future? Regardless of our personalities, regardless of our emotional temperaments and regardless of our life circumstances, is there a universal way for Christians to face the future? This morning I want to show you from this section of James not just one way, but three attitudes that Christians should have as they look ahead.
- Confidence (4:13-17)
- Generosity (5:1-6)
- Patience (5:7-11)
First we are to face the future with confidence (4:13-17)
Look at verse 13. Read verse 13.
This is addressed to the those who had a proud confidence. This was probably written to Christian businessmen who were preparing to travel to different parts of the world in order to trade their stock.
In the ancient world this would not have been easy. Planning for essential. The Bible has nothing against good planning.
Proverbs 6:6-11, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
It’s not the planning that is the problem. But it’s the arrogant man centred planning that is highlighted.As if the future success could be assured by the careful detailed planning of a human being.
Did you pick that up in verse 13? “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” It’s certainly a confident statement but it’s a proud confidence.It’s an assurance based on the belief that human beings are in control of their future.
How are we to respond to such confidence? Look at verse 14. Read verses 14.
Two things are highlighted.
- Ignorance. We cannot know the permutations. You speed a little bit to work, don’t let that person in and go through a red. You have no idea what could happen in the next few minutes.
- Brevity. You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Something similar gets said at religious funerals. He flourishes like a flower of the field, when the wind blows over it, it is gone and it’s place remembers it no more. Although now about 80% of funerals in Hull are humanist.
How should Christians face the future? If not proud confidence then what? Look at verse 15. Read verse 15.
It’s not fear. That should be our response if we didn’t believe in God and were facing our ignorance and our brevity head on. Christians are to face the future with humble confidence.
How is this possible? There is a Lord who wills. A God who is in complete control of everything.
This is not the Christian version of touch wood.
A God directing the course of history for the good of his people and the glory of his name. We must remember that our holiness is more important to God than our happiness.
This truth should give us humble confidence. This truth is very liberating. How terrifying if I was in control of my future. I would be fearful. I may even try to manipulate the future by making ungodly decisions in the present.
What about plans? Should we passively wait or proactively dream? Verse 15 assumes that we will make plans. What does it say? If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. Do what? This is the plan.That is what we haven’t planned.
The truth of God’s sovereignty is not to stop us making plans but is to stop us thinking the future is in our hands. Because it isn’t.
I suspect our danger is not that we are making too many confident plans about the next few months and years. I suspect our danger is that we aren’t really making any plans.
Are we making gospel plans? A plan maybe for us to understand the gospel better or to participate in some activity to enable others to hear about Jesus? A plan to grow in our knowledge or to serve to to give?
Plans control what else we do. If you plan there is already something in the diary. It saves you and me from being controlled by every whim or fancy or voice.
When we make our plans we are to submit them to the Lord’s will. This doesn’t mean we always have to say 'God willing’ or write it down. Although that can sometimes be helpful. It’s about an attitude of heart.
Second, we are to face the future with generosity (5:1-6)
The words in this section are not primality addressed to rich Christians but unbelieving rich landowners who are abusing those who work for them.
Why write to them if they won’t be at church to hear the words? Not the first time. The OT prophets frequently denounced the other nations. Why do this? A few reasons.
- God doesn’t just have things to say to his people. It is God’s world and unbelievers are accountable to him.
- You never know when they might hear. In that generation and beyond.
- God’s people need to hear these words for their own good. They need to have a few about such things. They need to make sure they do not envy them.
What does James say to these rich landowners? Look at verse 1. Read verse 1.
He speaking about the future return of Jesus and all the implications of this. They have lived in a way that makes their ultimate future one of weeping and wailing.
How have they lived? They have lived without God and hoarded money. This has resulting in them not paying their workers what they deserved. They have done this so they can live a life of self indulgence and luxury.
That will have eternal consequences. They will face God in judgement. All their treasures will not save them on that day. Only Christ can save on that day!
In fact, we’re told that their gold and silver will corrode. This doesn’t happen on the earth. But in the atmosphere of the coming of Jesus this is exactly what will happen to them.
What lessons for us?
First, we should provide generous wages when we are able. The CoE got itself into trouble recently over paying some employees minimum wage rather than a living wage.
Second, we should face the future with an attitude of generosity. Our days before Christ are not for our our personal comfort. They are to be lived for Christ!
Our big choice? Will we be committed to comfort or committed to Christ? If comfort then we will use our treasure to buy us comfort. We will hoard money to buy us future comfort, either sensations or security. If Christ, then we will use his treasure to spread his gospel and help other people!
So make the decision to be committed to the cause of Christ and then look to the future with an attitude of generosity. This will make all the difference in the world.
Third, we are to face the future with patience (5:7-11)
We all need patience don’t we? Parents need to be patient with the crying and whining of their little children. And then the minor rebellion of many teenagers. Wives must be patient with husbands who come back late from work or sport. Husbands need to be patient with wives who never want to leave the party. With other people who forget to do things. Everyone remembers some things and forgets another. One forgets names and dates, another forgets facts. We all need patience in life. How is this possible?
Look at verse 7. Read verses 7 to 8.
The future coming of the Lord Jesus is a certainly and in light of this we are to wait patiently.
How does this work?
Take the farmer example.The farmer could get frustrated and irritated by all sorts of things. Why is he patient? Because he knows there is a final harvest. He knows that there will be intervention to bring about this final end, the autumn and spring rains.
Likewise for the Christian, we know that there is a final purpose that will be disclosed at the future coming of Christ. We also trust a sovereign God who is using events in this world to achieve that final end. Which means that we can calm down, trust God, and be patient with each other.
The practical application for us - look at verse 9. Read verse 9.
We are often tempted to grumble about each other. They haven’t done this. They were late for this. They forgot about this. Be patient with people. Don’t excuse and overlook but have patience at the heart of your character. It is a beautiful virtue.
It is a possible virtue. It’s not just one to read in the books. It can be practiced in real life.
To convince us of this James gives us a few examples of patient people. Look at verse 10. read verses 10-11.
I love the phrase, 'What the Lord finally brought about'. That should spur us on to be more and more patience.
How should we face the future as Christians? With confidence, with generosity and with patience. Let’s pray.
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