Summary: In this text James is making the point to the readers that knowing the future is not near as important as being prepared for the future.
Ways to Deal with the Future
Mankind has always demonstrated an almost unquenchable desire to know the future. Psychics in this country rake in millions of dollars annually because people want to know what the future holds. Probably every major newspaper in this country runs a daily horoscope for its readers.
Even Christians are fascinated by a desire to know what the future holds. Dwight Pentecost, a long time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, is held by man to be a premier scholar on biblical prophecy. He stated that when he spoke on some subject other than prophecy the attendance at his meetings was greatly diminished. He related that he had made a study of the New Testament of every reference to the second coming of Christ. In his study he stated, “I was struck anew with the fact that almost without exception, when the second coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.”
That is exactly the point that James is making, knowing the future is not near as important as being prepared for the future.
Perhaps one of the most prevalent sins of our modern day is simply leaving God out of our lives. When one talks, plans, and even implements those plans with a total disregard for the will of God, regardless of what they may say they believe, they are out of line. The test of what one believes is not found in what one says, but in how one lives. Many people today profess to believe in God, but nevertheless continue to live as if there were not.
We discovered last week that it is a wonderful thing to live in uncommon grace. But there is a tendency to live with the benefits of God’s grace, yet not acknowledge it. It is all to easy to get to the point as a Christian that you start living as if God does not matter. Now of course we would never say that in words, yet we live like it from time to time. We can get so use to the grace of God that we take it for granted. Some have suggested that the steps are that we:
• Experience Grace
• Become Accustomed to Grace
• Expect Grace
• Finally, we think we deserve Grace.
The attitudes that James addresses in this passage are not so very different from the attitudes of today, when people live in total disregard for the wishes of an all knowing and all powerful God. In this passage we see both right and wrong ways to deal with the future.
I. The Wrong Way to Deal with the Future
• Three common mistakes in dealing with the future
Mistake #1: Planning without God (v. 13)
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
• What is under consideration here is not open defiance of God, but of an utter disregard for God.
• This is an attitude of arrogant self-sufficiency.
• It is possible for one to acknowledge God’s existence with their mouth and yet live their daily life in such as fashion as to deny in a practical way all that they say.
• James rebukes this arrogant self sufficiency by saying, “come now,” today we would say, “Oh, come on now.”
• It is a please for us to re-exam ourselves and it expresses disapproval of this way of thinking.
Mistake #2: Presuming to Know the Future (v. 14)
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
• I began this sermon by talking about how people have become so fascinated with knowing the future and even using psychics.
• One of the most famous of America’s psychics was Jeane Dixon.
• In the late 90’s Dixon announced plans to join the 1-900 telephone network with her own Psychic Network unfortunately she did not foresee her own imminent death.
• She passed away un-expectantly after making that news.
• The key word to understanding verse 14 is the word, “know.”
• The Greek word conveys the idea of “knowing for sure or being absolutely certain.”
• Since it si impossible, even for the supposed psychics of today to know what the future holds, their decision making is highly presumptuous.
• The futility of their attitude is shown by exposing the assumptions of which it rest.
1. There is a failure to comprehend the purpose of life
• “For what is your life?” With that question James seeks to lead us by answering it to a proper attitude toward life.