ADAM RITCHARD — “BOLD LIVING - RIGHT PERSPECTIVE”
30 June, 2019
Scripture reading: James 4:13-17
So far in our Bold Living series, James has shown us that as followers of Jesus there should be something different about our lives - differences in our speech, our treatment of others, our response to trials, navigating conflicts, judging others and so on. In James 4:13-17, James focuses on the ins and outs of daily living - making plans and going about our business - and teaches how to have a right perspective on what is most important in life, who has control of our lives, the vanishing nature of our lives and the priority of God’s will in our lives.
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”— 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (ESV)
Contained in these verses is a warning for us to guard against self-sufficiency in life, which has an underlying root of pride. James challenges us to consider three questions:
What is truly important and who has control?
What is your life and what are you doing with it?
What is the place and priority of God’s will in your life?
WHAT IS TRULY IMPORTANT AND WHO HAS CONTROL?
I’ve found there are two kinds of people when it comes to making holiday plans: those for whom a “good holiday” means mapping out everything and those for whom a “good holiday” means mapping out nothing!
There is nothing wrong with making plans, of course, but the issue is when we make plans for our lives from an attitude of self-sufficiency and presumption, without regard for God.
James is addressing this here, just as Jesus also addressed self-sufficiency in his parable of the rich man who built bigger barns, hoping to ensure his future prosperity (Luke 12:16-2). James says that any kind of presumption of the future is evil (v16), based on an overestimation of our ability to control our own lives and is the product of boastfulness of the heart.
We may not be merchants and traders or have a desire to go and make money in a certain place as is James’ example here, but perhaps we too need to guard against the heart attitude James is describing. We could apply verse 13 to our current context and society… “Come now, you who make your own plans, do your own thing, do what feels right, have your hearts set on temporal, earthly pleasures and desires but leave no room for God’s will, leading, authority and lordship…”
If we dig deeper, at the heart of the issue is an underlying wrestle for lordship of our lives, for who has ultimate control and the final word in our lives. In the popular poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, two of the more well-known lines are:
“I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
Many have grabbed hold of these lines for a feeling of empowerment and self-determination… ‘bold living’ from the world’s perspective. But James contrasts this sharply with the way followers of Jesus are called to live. We’re not called to merely live with the temporal things in mind as our highest aim. We’re not called to be in control of our lives, living from our own resources and abilities, leaving no room for the Lordship of God or the priority of His call on our lives. In fact, bold living means living from an understanding that it is God, not us, who has the final word in our lives.
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH IT?
In verse 14, James delivers a reality check – you do not know what tomorrow will bring…your life is like a vapour.
Life is short and precious, even frail, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone...there is a truth here that perhaps has been lost in our Western culture and mindset. Sometimes we can feel a bit flat about facing up to this – it can cause us to operate out of fear, or not make plans, or to feel deflated or not step into what God has for us. But when faced with the uncertainty of what the future holds, we can have certainty because of who our God is…because of His faithfulness and because of the hope we have in Him! In Christ, we don’t have to face the future with fear or inaction, but with confidence and assurance.
The Bible tells us that this life is not our own. It is a gift. You are not your own, you were bought at a price...glorify God with your body (1 Cor 6:19-20), our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15) and all our days were ordained by Him before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). We would do well to echo the prayer of Moses, the man of God, in Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days, that we might get a heart of wisdom.”
The fact that our lives are short and our time precious should in fact lead us to the desire to make them count! It should impact how we work, how we love and value our families and friends, how we love our spouse and children, how we live for the Lord…on what we plan for! Don’t waste your life!
As a personal hero of mine, C.T. Studd, once wrote:
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Because life is short and precious, and because tomorrow isn’t promised, we offer ourselves today and each day to the One who has given us life and holds our time in His hands.
WHAT IS THE PLACE AND PRIORITY OF GOD’S WILL IN YOUR LIFE?
In Verse 15, James presents an alternative to self-sufficient living – instead, you ought to say, if the Lord wills…
Jesus himself taught us to pray, “Your will be done” (Matt 6:10; Mark 14:36), although I often find it’s easier to fall into “MY will, not yours, be done”! Can we be honest here – I’m sure at times we all groan inwardly and resist God, based on a belief that being submitted to the will of God is somehow stifling or not as fun, a killjoy. But as we grow in an experience of relationship with God, we find the opposite is true! Freedom and true life is experienced in living within God’s will for our lives. If our prayer is truly ‘Your will be done’, then we have the assurance that our present and future are in the protective care of our Heavenly Father.
‘If the Lord wills’ is not meant to be trite saying we tack onto every sentence, but rather a heart posture for all of our lives, acknowledging and expressing our need of Him and dependence on Him.
When I was in the US, I noticed ‘Give Way’ signs were labelled ‘Yield’. To yield is to give way, to give up and cease resistance or contention. In the case of a road sign, it means ‘don’t get in the way of what is coming’! I might have wanted to pull right out in front of five lanes of oncoming traffic, but instead I had to recognise this was the right time to yield. Did you know that His will is good, pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2) and that as we yield to Him we discover life in abundance (John 10:10)?
If we think about the kind of lives that truly honour the Lord, the kind of lives of bold living we’re called to, let’s remember that bold living is not living for ourselves, thinking that we know best. It’s not seeking after earthly gain (the world’s idea of living boldly). Bold living is living yielded and surrendered to God’s will and using our time wisely and for His glory, facing the uncertainty of the future not with fear or inaction, but with the confidence and assurance that comes from God.
I pray we would be a people who live like this.