Sermon Synopsis March 5

James 4:13-17

I vividly remember my earliest experiences as a Christian.  There were a lot of things I learned in a short amount of time.  I quickly began a habit of reading God’s Word and praying.  I changed a lot of my life priorities, and rearranged many of my friendships.  Life was new and different.

One issue with which I quickly became obsessed was the issue of God’s will.  What did God want for my life?  Part of this obsession was related to my newfound faith.  It was also connected to my age.  I was a young college student, so I was naturally curious about my future.  Where should I go to college?  Whom should I marry?  What should I study?  Did God have a plan for my life?

Through a lot of emotional anxiety, studying, and praying, I was forced to wrestle with the issue.  I had to come to grips with how I could experience His leadership in my life.  Some friends, mentors, and Christian books were of great help.  Scripture was my ultimate guide.  From the pages of the Bible, I learned four actions one must embrace in order to discern God’s will.

ACCEPT THAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR LIFE (vs. 13-14).

The folly of trying to control our lives rests in the fact that no one can ultimately know what will happen from one day to the next.  Sure, we can typically plan with a degree of confidence, but we ultimately don’t know all things.  There is always the possibility that something could happen that goes against what we have scheduled.  Undoubtedly, you have had such an experience.  Last minute requests, cancelations, emergencies, sicknesses, tragedies, or weather situations can quickly alter our plans.  It is for this reason that we should always count the Lord in on our planning.  James explained this truth to his readers, saying, “You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14).

SEEK GOD’S WILL (v. 15).

The pursuit of God’s will should be at the center of our plans for our lives.  Christian’s don’t believe in a far-off, distant God — a proverbial clock-maker, similar to the god of the old deists.  On the basis of their book, they hold to the belief that the Maker of all things is intimately acquainted with His created beings.  Furthermore, He has strong desires concerning the direction and destiny of their lives.  One can know God, and one can experience His desired outcomes.  James assumed this truth, as he encouraged his readers.  Instead of planning from a pre-text of pride, they needed to be praying for the Lord’s provision.  He admonished them, saying, “Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).

STAY HUMBLE (v. 16).

The way up is down in the Christian life.  There is no spiritual advancement without spiritual debasement.  James referenced this reality, saying, “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”  The syntax of James’ words draws a stark contrast between what his readers should have been doing (see verse 15), and what they were actually doing (verse 16).  Instead of humbly allowing the Lord to direct their paths, James readers were bragging about all of their plans, with little thought of God.  If we want the Lord’s leadership in our lives, we must shed off this way of thinking.  We must humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, seeking the lowly and contrite state of the soul which pleases Him.  When we are puffed-up with pride and self, there is little room for the Lord. 

DO WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO (v. 17).

In the end, no one will experience the Lord’s leadership without obedience.  Action is the key to immediately receiving His direction and guidance.  James knew his readers were deficient in this area.  He exposed their lack of action-oriented faith again by saying, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it” (James 4:17).  Notice that disobedience isn’t just categorized as a bad choice or a mistake.  It is called a “sin.”  If we don’t do what God instructs us to do, we can’t expect to experience His leadership.  Our families, marriages, health, relationships, careers, and emotional well-being will suffer.  Our lives will be like castles built on sand.  Doing, not just hearing, is necessary.  If you want the Lord to direct your path, find out what He wants you to do and do it!

Get the full manuscript of the sermon for March 5, 2017 here

Dr. Patrick Latham
Pastor

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