Summary: Continuing a series in the letter of James I ask to what extent our plans match up with God's plans.
We come to the 10th episode of our series in the New Testament letter of James. His Hebrew name is Yaakov. He was a half-brother of Jesus, and he was one of the earliest leaders of the church in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus. In this section James (4:13) addresses believers who have constructed all sorts of future plans, travel arrangements, and income generating schemes without reference to God; and he issues a warning and a reminder (4:17) that applies to our lives each and every day: ‘Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.’
I believe the best laid plans are those plans that we construct in obedience to God and directed by God.
I like a lot of James Blunt’s music but one of his songs entitled ‘Best laid plans’ includes these lyrics: ‘Tell me why all the best laid plans, fall apart in your hands; And my good intentions never end, the way I meant.’
Have you ever built something, or planned something or tried something you were really proud of? Did it turn out the way you planned it? If you’re a believer have you ever planned something or tried something that you later realised was your own idea and that God’s idea was actually something quite different?
Max Lucado wrote this short story: 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 upends 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 moat and packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. [Lollipop] sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.
Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic. 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 sentries. 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 [eventually] 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. Soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide.
'It's my castle,' he [defiantly declares]; but the ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs.
Lucado ends by saying, “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 [Heavenly] Father's hand and go home" (Max Lucado, More Stories for the Heart).
As I’ve studied James chapter 4 this week the more I’ve realised that much of it is exhorting 1st century believers to live according to their ancient Hebrew scriptures – the Old Testament of our Bible. Time and again the author either quotes from, or alludes to, the Book of Proverbs – ancient trustworthy wisdom.
Let me give you some examples. Last week Paul Harcourt our preacher majored on the power of humility, reminding us of James 4:6; ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Proverbs 3:34 says, ‘He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.’
From today’s Bible reading James 4:14, ‘You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.’ Proverbs 27:1 says, ‘Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.’ In James 4:15 we hear the author’s encouragement; “you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”’ Proverbs 3:5-6 says, ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’