Summary: Only God’s plan will matter in the long run, so we had better join Him.
God’s plan is the only plan.
I remember lying on the bed, the hot, humid air pressing down on me, and wondering, “What was I doing here?” I was on my first mission trip to the Philippines. I was serving for 10 weeks working in the housing complex, Villa Carolina II on the outskirts of Manila. I was helping a local church with evangelism and various programs. At least I was supposed to be helping. I had visions of how I would be involved in evangelistic Bible studies, leading scads of Filipinos to Christ. I had some success in leading evangelistic Bible studies in university and I heard that in the Philippines people were really hungry for the gospel. In reality I found that when I went door to door with the local pastor people weren’t interested in hearing the gospel, let alone studying the Bible. Even the church ministries I was involved with seemed to going poorly. I was tasked to lead the youth group, but I found that most of the youth, though they seemed friendly on the outside, often didn’t follow through on their commitments. I’d arrange meetings and they wouldn’t show up. I’d set up appointments for Bible studies, but when I went back to their houses, they would be gone. I began wondering why God had brought me to the Philippines at all. Many people had given money sacrificially so I could go on this missions trip and I felt I was doing absolutely nothing of value.
In my life I often have found that my plans don’t work out the way I want them to. I’ve envisioned some kind of future and it rarely turns out the way I thought. Many of us are facing major decisions in our lives. Some of you have graduated from high school. Congratulations by the way. You have a major change coming, whether you’re planning to go to university or college or get a job or do something completely different. Some of you have graduated from university or college and you’ll be looking for a job or maybe grad school. Then after that you may be wrestling with who to choose for a life partner or even to get married or not. And when you get older, the important decisions don’t stop, they just keep coming. Do you have a plan for your life? If you do, how did you come up with that plan? That is an extremely important question to answer correctly because if we make our plans in the wrong way, then we will be on the path to disaster. That’s exactly what the passage we’re looking at today says. Look at James 4:13-17 (read verses).
Verse 13 describes how most of us make decisions in life (read verse). The passage begins with an attention getter. Have you ever been in a sermon or speech and the speaker says something like, “I want you to pay special attention to this,” or “If you just remember one thing from this message, remember this.”? That’s what James is doing here. This is an important topic that he doesn’t want his readers to miss. He addresses how we make important decisions in life. Take a look at this decision. The decision is that sometime in the near future, either today or tomorrow the people described here will go to a different city. Okay, that sounds pretty simple going to a different city right, but how long will they be there? A year. This isn’t just a short business trip, this is a move. This decision has huge implications. These people have to leave their jobs, their homes, their friends, their church and move to a totally new place. This is a major decision, a life changing one. James isn’t talking about making decisions like what clothes to wear in the morning or what model of refrigerator to buy. He’s talking about choices that change our lives.
What motivates these people in their plans? Why do they make their choice? According to this verse the motivation is to make money. That’s the one factor that powers this decision. There is absolutely no indication that these people have asked God what He wants them to do. They haven’t considered in any spiritual factors at all. They just let money decide for them.
Now before we go ahead and condemn these people for being so shallow in letting money guide their life choices, I think we should look at ourselves. How do we make our life plans? If you’re thinking about going to university or college, how do you make your choice? Most people go about it this way. They pick a career that they think is pretty sure to have job openings when they graduate. Then they try to pick the school that is recognized as the best in that field. They choose it because they know that employers will offer the job to a graduate from that school over one from another school. Do you agree with me that is the process a lot of young people go through to pick a school? What’s the motivation for making this choice? It’s making money. And unfortunately, since many young people pick a school without any spiritual consideration, they end up being in a very spiritually dangerous place. I think one of the most ungodly places in North America is in university dorms. I lived for two years in dorms, both my first and last year, as a floor senior, and those places are filled with drinking, partying, drugs, sex, you name it. It’s very, very difficult for a Christian young person to stay pure in those kinds of environments. Sometimes I think we parents, are very, very foolish in how we encourage our kids once they get out of high school. When they are young we send them to Christian schools or if they are in public schools, we fight against legislation like Bill 13. When they become teens we make sure they go to youth group. We encourage them to go to their high school Christian group. We do our best to help nurture them in the faith and keep ungodly influences away from them. And then suddenly when they graduate from high school, we encourage them to go to a university out of town and live in dorm. We let them leave every Christian friend and godly influence we spent so much time nurturing over the years and then we throw into one of the most ungodly living situations you could imagine, all with our blessing. And the motivation is so they can get a good job. It’s money that makes the decision.