Summary: How to know and follow God's will for my life.
A middle-aged farmer wanted to be a preacher for years, but wasn't sure if it was God's will. One day, while he was working in the field, he decided to rest under a tree. As he looked up into the sky he saw that the clouds seemed to form into the letters P and C. As he thought about it, he realized that PC stood for Preach Christ! Immediately, he jumped up, sold his farm and went out to preach Christ. He was convinced that this was what God was leading him to do.
Unfortunately, he turned out to be a horrible preacher. After one of his sermons, a neighbor turned to his wife and whispered in her ear, "I'm not so sure that God wasn't just trying to tell him to Plant Corn!"
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that a lot of us approach the whole idea of God’s will a lot like that farmer. We view it as some mysterious concept and we look for God to reveal it to us in some supernatural manner. The reality, however, is that God isn’t trying to hide His will from us and make it hard to find. In fact, as we’ll see this morning, the real challenge isn’t trying to discover God’s will, it is attempting to do it.
So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to James 4 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 13:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17 ESV)
For Jesus, there was nothing more important to Him during His earthly ministry than doing the will of God. When His disciples returned one afternoon after Jesus had been speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar and encouraged Jesus to eat something, Jesus responded to them with words that I’m sure were completely unexpected by His disciples:
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
(John 4:34 ESV)
Sometime later, after healing a lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, Jesus reiterated His desire to do God’s will:
I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
(John 5:30 ESV)
So it’s not surprising that as James continues to lay out a number of tests to determine the genuineness and maturity of the faith of the Jewish believers to whom he is writing that he would focus on the importance of doing God’s will. After all, if we want to be like Jesus and that was important to Him, then it ought to be important to us as well.
Here in James, we find that there were three different ways that people in his audience were responding to God’s will. Nothing has really changed today. Every person chooses to respond to the will of God in one of these three ways.
3 Possible Ways to Respond to God’s Will:
1. Deny it
First, there was the group that was saying “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”. The verb “say” in verse 13 is in the present tense, which indicates that these people were constantly engaging in this practice. It was a habit in their lives. And that particular verb “to say” indicates that they were saying something based on reasoning and logic. It is the same word from which we get our English word “logic.”
So the picture here is that they were carefully making plans based on logic and reason. Now there was nothing wrong with the fact that they were making plans. In fact, God commends planning in the Bible and financial planning in particular is essential for good, Biblical stewardship. Nor was there anything wrong with the fact that they were engaged in business in order to make a profit. The Bible commends hard work and makes it clear that man is to profit from his labor.
In fact, the problem here isn’t really indicated by what is said, but rather by what is not said. Obviously we need to be careful about drawing conclusions based on arguments from silence in the Bible. But in this case, given the context, it is obvious that what is missing in this planning is any mention at all of God. The problem here is that these people were making plans as if they were sovereign. They made the mistake of assuming that they could somehow control their future. So they chose their own time, their own location, their own operation and their own objective completely apart from God.