James 4:13-17

Sermon preached on December 31, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

On the morning of November 22, 1963
President Kennedy was given a Shady Oak Western hat at a breakfast sponsored by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Some of the press photographers wanted him to try it on so that they could take a picture of him in it. President Kennedy grinned at them and said that he'd be glad to pose in it,

"If you come to the White House Monday morning."

But he never made it back to the White House alive. He was killed in Dealey Plaza in Dallas later that day.

On Saturday August 30, 1997,
Diana, the Princess of Wales arrived in Paris for what she thought would be a pleasant visit. She was on her way to London had plans to fly there the next day. She spent some time at the Ritz Hotel and shortly after midnight she got into a car for a short trip to a nearby apartment. But she never made it to the apartment. She was killed in a tragic car accident in a Paris tunnel.

In the late 1980s and early 1990's
Sergei Grinkov and his partner Ekaterina Gordeeva were at the top of the staking world. They had won the Olympics twice and were four times World Champions. On Monday, November 20, 1995 twenty-eight year old Sergei Grinkov was preparing for a 'Stars on Ice" tour in Lake Placid. He was rehearsing on the ice with his wife and partner. In the middle of the rehearsal they did a side-by-side double flip and then he threw her for a double axel. He was then supposed to do two crossovers. But he didn't do them. He bent over like something was wrong. Ekaterina thought he had hurt his back but then he bent his knees and lay down very carefully on the ice. In a few minutes he was dead of a massive heart attack.

During her last year of university Marg and her best friend had their graduation pictures taken and they were both making plans for the future. Marg was going to teach in Newfoundland and her friend was looking for a job in Nova Scotia. But one November night her friend decided to go for a ride with her boyfriend. He fell asleep at the w heel and went off the road and the car hit a tree. She was killed instantly.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 almost 3000 people went to their jobs in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, fire and police stations. All of them had plans for that afternoon, evening, the coming weeks. But their plans were all in vain. They were tragically killed in the terrorist attacks.

What's 2007 going to bring for you? What's tomorrow going to bring for you? Things like I mentioned could happen to any of us. We all have plans—for tomorrow, for next week, for next month, for the summer. But we really don't know what one day is going to bring about. In light of that, how are we to live? James tells us. He wrote, (James 4:13-17)

"Now listen, you who say,
'Today or tomorrow we will go
to this or that city,
spend a year there,
carry on business and make money.'
Why, you do not even know
what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears
for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say,
'If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that.'
As it is, you boast and brag.
All such boasting is evil."

The great truth that he impresses upon you is that

you are not to be presumptuous. Rather you are to live your life in reliance upon God acknowledging His care and disposal of your life.

Genesis tells us that Enoch walked with God. His walking with God was not a temporary thing, that occurred during parts of his life. Genesis 5:22 says,

"And after he became the father of Methuselah,
Enoch walked with God 300 years…"

His whole life for those 300 years was a continual walking with God. He lived each day with God by his side, as his confidant, leader, advisor, friend. That's what we are to do too. That's what James is encouraging us to do here. Let's look at both the negative and the positive in his command.

First, the negative. James tell you that

you are not to be presumptuous about your daily life.

D. Edmond Hiebert tells us that what is condemned by James here is, (James, p. 272, 274)

"an arrogant attitude of self-sufficiency in planning daily life activities in total disregard of God… They presume that the whole year is at their disposal to use as they decide."

They were making plans without thinking about God. They failed to acknowledge that their lives were in the hand of God and that He, not them, controlled their lives.

We are not to do that because we don't even know what will happen to our lives tomorrow. Our lives are very uncertain. James compares them to a vapor, like when you breathe out on a cold day and for a moment or two you can see your breath—but then it vanishes. As Job said in
Job 14:2,

"He springs up like a flower
and withers away;
like a fleeting shadow,
he does not endure."

We don't know what will happen tomorrow. We may be gone tomorrow.

But even more than that we should always be aware that God directs our lives. We are far from being self-sufficient. God gives us every breath we take. Your life is completely in His hands. In Job 12:10 Job said of God,

"In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind."

The life of every creature is in God's hand. In Daniel 5:23 Daniel said to King Belshazzar,

"you have set yourself up
against the Lord of heaven.
You had the goblets from his temple
brought to you,
and you and your nobles,
your wives and your concubines
drank wine from them.
You praised the gods of silver and gold,
of bronze, iron, wood and stone,
which cannot see or hear or understand.
But you did not honor the God
who holds in his hand your life
and all your ways."

God held the life of King Belshazzar in His hand. He held all the king's ways in His hand. It's the same with each one of us—God holds our lives and all our ways in His hands. Proverbs 16:9 speaks of this. It says,

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps."

In Acts 17:24-28 the apostle Paul said of God,

"he himself gives all men
life and breath and everything else.
From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live…
For in him we live and move
and have our being."

We are not self-sufficient. We do not have life in ourselves. We do not have the ability to control our lives.

Our lives, our daily activities are in God's hands.
Thus it is a great sin to be arrogant in this matter and act like we are self-sufficient and not give God the glory for our lives. We see this sin in King Nebuchadnezzar. One day the king walked on the roof of his royal palace and said, (Daniel 4:30)

"Is not this the great Babylon
I have built as the royal residence,
by my mighty power
and for the glory of my majesty?"

While the words were still on his lips a voice from heaven came and told him that his royal authority would be taken away from him and that he would be driven away from people and live with wild animals and eat grass like them. The voice said that he was going to be like that,

"until you acknowledge
that the Most High is sovereign
over the kingdoms of men
and gives them to anyone he wishes."

What a fitting punishment that was. King Nebuchadnezzar's punishment shows us that people who do not acknowledge God are like dumb animals and that they are not really fit for human society.

This is a sin that even the best Christians can fall into. You'll remember why
Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. Although I feel sorry for Moses I believe that there is a great lesson for us in his punishment. He was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of a sin of presumption. The people we complaining of thirst. We read that Moses took the staff of the Lord and said to them people, (Numbers 20:9-12 NIV)

"'Listen, you rebels,
must we bring you water out of this rock?'
Then Moses raised his arm
and struck the rock twice with his staff.
Water gushed out,
and the community and their livestock drank.
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
'Because you did not trust in me enough
to honor me as holy
in the sight of the Israelites,
you will not bring this community
into the land I give them.'"

Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land because he did not honor God as holy in front of the Israelites. He forgot himself and committed a great sin. His not being allowed to enter the land after such an illustrious life of serving God shows us the seriousness of the sin of presumption.

Instead of being presumptuous,

you are to acknowledge and praise God in all that you.

You who are Christians are to be honoring and acknowledging God in everything you do. His praise is to be always on your lips. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 the apostle Paul wrote,

"So whether you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God."

And in Colossians 3:17 he said,

"And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Why should we do this?

It's fitting because God enables us to do all things.

Without Him we would not be able to do them. In John 15:5 Jesus told His disciples that without Him they could do nothing. In Ephesians 2:10 we are told that we are God's workmanship and that the good works that we do have been prepared for us in advance. But we should not just be praising God for what we are able to do, but also for what we are. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 the apostle Paul wrote,

"by the grace of God
I am what I am"

And in Galatians 1:15 Paul praised God for setting him apart from birth, calling him by grace and revealing His Son in Him according to His pleasure.

You are God's workmanship! He has made you what you are. He gives you everything you have. He even gives you the good works that you do. How dare you be presumptuous! It's a horrible sin. In all things you should be acknowledging and praising God.

God doesn't want us His people to be dumb when it comes to acknowledging His care over us, His goodness to us, His sustaining power working in us, enabling us to do things. As Jesus said in
Matthew 5:14f,

"You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp
and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way,
let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven."

The good life that you lead is to lead people to praise our great Father. When people see your good works they are not to praise you—but God. How can that take place? It can only take place if we take no credit for it ourselves but give all the honor and glory to God. That means that in explaining our lives and actions we need to be like Paul and Barnabas and Lystra. You'll remember the story. Paul and Barnabas healed a man who had been lame from birth. When the people learned of it they shouted, (Acts 14:11)

"The gods have come down
to us in human form!"

They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But Paul and Barnabas would have none of it. They were so opposed to it that they,

"tore their clothes
and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:
'Men, why are you doing this?
We too are only men,
human like you.
We are bringing you good news,
telling you to turn
from these worthless things to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea
and everything in them.
In the past,
he let all nations go their own way.
Yet he has not left himself without testimony:
He has shown kindness by giving you
rain from heaven and crops in their seasons;
he provides you with plenty of food
and fills your hearts with joy.'"

They gave all the credit to God. They pointed away from themselves to God and His kindness. They tried to get everyone to acknowledge and praise God for that goodness. That's what you are to do as well.

Part of doing that involves simply saying,

"If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that."

Hiebert tells us that this gives, (James, p. 277)

"recognition to God as the One who has absolute authority and effectively controls all of life and its activities."

.Christians, Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He is the One who gives you life, who sustains you. He is the One who gives you good works to do and the grace to do them. He is the One who is leading you to your heavenly home. Your life is in the hands of One who has loved you given Himself for you. Trust Him. Acknowledge Him. Praise Him.

Lastly, for those of you who haven't trusted in Jesus.

You need to trust in Jesus now because your earthly life could end at any moment.

Perhaps you're thinking that you can trust in Jesus in 2008, 2009 or 2010. But what if 2007 brings death to you? If the Lord tarries you are going to die. Most likely it will occur on a moment when you don't expect it. You need to consider that now. As Ecclesiastes 7:2 says,

"It is better to go
to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart."

Your eternal destiny is too important for you to put off. Will 2007 be the year that you accept Jesus? Don't even put it off till then, for even tomorrow is not promised to you. Go to Jesus now.