Abraham Lincoln said it, “We must plan for the future, because people who stay in the present will remain in the past.” Robert Fulmer famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Indeed, one of the clear ways we reflect the image of God is when we exercise our capacity to plan. Bruce Cook, a management consultant to Christian organizations, once observed, “Success for the Christian can be defined as determining what God wants to accomplish and then getting on with it.”
Years ago LeRoy Sims wrote a book in which he told the story about how he imagined Jesus arriving in heaven after His ascension. The story goes something like this: When Jesus appears in heaven the angels quickly gather around Him anxious to question Him on His plans. “What are your plans?” they ask eagerly as they surround the Lord. Without hesitation the Lord responds, “My men, they are my plan.” Immediately the angels are alarmed, for they have watched this motley gang of men disburse under pressure during the events that led up to the Lord’s crucifixion. “And what if they fail?” asks an angel with concern. Again, with quiet confidence, the Lord responds, “I have no other plans.”
If the Lord had brought in a consultant there’s no way there would have been agreement. No human or angelic consultant would ever have recommended such a plan. Men are prideful, rebellious, and insubordinate. They have little faith and their priorities are twisted. Their selfish desires often overrule all other desires. As the former Englishman John Guest often cites, on his first trip to Philadelphia his eyes were open to this new land he would call home. When his eyes fell upon a sign printed in the early 1770s: “We Serve No Sovereign Here!” And it’s that point that James is highlighting in Sunday’s text: James 4:13-17.
Following upon his observation in Chapter 3:18, James details three things that war against the peace that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give. In 4:1-10, it’s following the selfish passions of our heart. In 4:11-12, it’s harboring a judgmental spirit that seeks to elevate us over everyone else. And in Sunday’s text it’s our propensity to live our lives without reference to the sovereign will and the leadership of God. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.
This Sunday’s message, “Train Wreck”, is an exposition of the last 5 verses of Chapter 4. Our companion text is Luke 12:16-21. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
- What was the worst Amtrack wreck in American history?
- What does such a wreck tell us about ourselves and God?
- What change did James experience in his planning after he met the resurrected Lord?
- What is James doing in verse 13?
- How is this analogous to Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus in John 3:10?
- How does the cross prove that we stink at autonomous planning?
- On what grounds does James cite our insufficiencies in verse 14?
- What does he mean in verse 15 when he says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills.’”?
- How does looking into the mirror of the perfect love (1:25) help?
- In verse 17 James seems more concerned with sins of omission than commission. As you reflect on the words of Jesus, would you say He is too? If so, how does obedience produce peace?