James 4:13-17


Bible Study Notes
Let Plans Include 'God Willing'
James 4:13-17


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro. - James has been dealing with the subject of worldliness and its contrast with true godliness. Basically, worldliness involves becoming friendly with the world (cf. 4:4).

Worldliness manifests itself in a variety of ways, but always behind the activity - whatever it may be - is the desire to be involved with the world and what it offers at the expense of your relationship with God. It involves an arrogant, self centered determination to satisfy your own wants and desires.

One of the ways we manifest worldliness in our lives is by simply excluding God from our everyday activities. We make our plans without any thought or concern for God and His will for us. It is to this area that James now turns our attention.

It is all too common for believers to divide their lives into two compartments, the secular and the spiritual. We come together on Sunday to worship God and learn more about Him through His Word. But we approach the rest of the week as though our relationship with Him were only a minor factor.

Biblical Christianity is to make an impact upon every area of our lives. Even the plans we make in our jobs are to be submitted to God and to His will for us. James has some strong words for those who would live otherwise.

4:13 -
Come now is a forceful demand for attention. It is used one other time in the New Testament - again by James - in 5:1.

James wants the attention of the businessmen who are involved in planning their business activities.

These people display a confident assurance that they have control of their lives. They mark out their course without any thought to things not going as they planned.

Their plans are well laid out. This is emphasized by the repeated use of the word and: (1) Go to such and such a city, and (2) spend a year there and (3) engage in business and (4) make a profit.

4:14 -
The problem with the planning of verse 13 is that it fails to take into consideration the uncertainty of life. We do not know what life will be like tomorrow. In fact, we do not even know that we will be alive tomorrow.

Our lives are like the transitory vapor that is here for a brief time and then gone. The Bible uses various figures to depict the transitory character of our lives ("cloud," "breath," "shadow," "grass" - cf. Job 7:7-9; Ps, 39:5; 102:11; 103:15,16; 144:4; Isa, 40:6-8).

James made note of this point in 1:10,11. It is characteristic of the people of this world to engage in the relentless acquiring of all that can be had, while giving little or no consideration to the brevity of life. Jesus demonstrated the folly of this kind of planning in a parable He told in Luke 12:16-21.

4:15 -
This verse connects with verse 13 and shows what our attitude should be in the plans we make. What James is condemning is not the making of plans, or even planning to make a profit. Rather, he condemns the making of our own plans as though we were sovereign over our lives.

'If the Lord wills' should condition all the plans that we make. In effect, we are called to acknowledge God's sovereignty over life and all its activities.

This expression is used several times in the New Testament (Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 4:19; 16:7; Heb. 6:3), However, there are times when Paul speaks of his plans for the future without conditioning them by this expression (cf, Acts 19:21; Rom, 15:28; 1 Cor. 16:5).

The point is not that these words have to be recited every time we express plans we have made, but that all our plans should be made with recognition of God's sovereignty.

My plans for tomorrow are contingent on God's will that I be alive tomorrow to do what I have planned.

4:16 -
They had been warned in 4:6 that God is opposed to the proud, but their actions demonstrated their attitude of arrogance.

The word arrogance (alazoneia) carries the idea of boasting or bragging to impress others - making extravagant claims which cannot be fulfilled. Its only other use in the New Testament is in 1 John 2:16 where it is translated boastful pride.

all such boasting is evil - It is evil because it is an attempt at usurping the place of God. The Old Testament warned against this type of boasting (Prov. 27:1).

4:17 -
James concludes this paragraph by stating a general principle that demonstrates why their conduct is evil. Sin is more than just doing what is wrong; it is also the failure to do what is right. First John 3:4 defines sin as lawlessness. James tells us that this includes the failure to do what God commands, as well as overt acts of defiance (cf. John 13:17; James 1:22).

Conclusion -
It is important that we understand worldliness as God defines it. It is much broader and more serious than we usually admit.

It is more than avoiding certain kinds of dress or abstaining from certain habits. We can do many of those things and still be very worldly. James says that we must have an attitude of dependence on God and a recognition of His sovereignty in all the activities of life.

It is also important that we recognize the principle of responsibility that James sets down in verse 17. This has serious implications for the unbeliever as well as for the believer (cf. Luke 12:47,48; Rom. 1:20,21).

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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