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Sermon #25 — James Series
Title: God’s Will About The Future
Text: James 4:13-17
Subject: Believers and the Will of God
Date: Tuesday Evening — October 20, 2015
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Cody Henson
Four Great Concerns
There are many things about which I am concerned. Like all other men, the cares of life in this world, the welfare of my wife and family, the stability of our democracy, and the well-being of my relatives and friends are all matters of concern to me. And I suppose that they should be. But, as a believer and as a preacher of the gospel, there are four great concerns that lay heavily upon my heart at all times. These are four areas of such tremendous burden to my heart and soul that they push all other concerns into the background and make them secondary.
1. My first and primary concern in all things is the glory of God.
If I am not deceived, if I know anything of my heart’s deepest and truest desire, I want the glory of God above all things. I want to subject everything I am, everything I have, and everything I do to the glory of God. I want the Lord God, my Savior, to be honored…
· In my heart.
· In my life.
· In my home.
· In my attitude.
· In my actions.
· In my preaching.
· In our congregation.
2. The second great concern of my heart is the gospel of God.
It is my heart’s prayer and desire before God that I may be used of him in this generation for the furtherance of the gospel.
(Psalm 71:15-18) “My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. (16) I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. (17) O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. (18) Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.”
I want to be willing to do anything the Lord would have me to do and serve in anyway the Lord would have me to serve, be it great or small, for the furtherance of the gospel of the grace of God in my generation. I do not dare to presume that the Lord will use me for any great thing, but I am bold enough to believe that he might be pleased to use me for something in this world for the furtherance of the gospel. And I pray that he will.”
3. The third great burden of my heart is the family of God.
I want to be able to say with Paul that, “I do all things for the elect’s sake.” This I know, if I am God’s child and God’s servant, the decisions and actions of my life will be governed and motivated by a concern for the welfare of God’s church and family. — “We preach not ourselves (or for ourselves) but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
4. And the fourth great burden of my heart is the will of God.
I want the will of God to be done in all things. I want to know his will, do his will, and submit all things to his will. My continual prayer before the Lord is, — “Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God.”
These are the questions which continually arise in my heart:
· Is this for the glory of God?
· Will this be best for the furtherance of the gospel of God?
· Would this be best for the family of God?
· Is this the will of God?
These things are of more concern to me than ever, “Now that I am old and grey headed.” I do not know what the Lord may have in store for me or for you, or what he has in store for us together. But I hope that we will be content to faithfully serve him together, in whatever way it may please him to use us. We want his glory. We want his will.
My subject tonight is GOD’S WILL ABOUT THE FUTURE. I believe I have a word from God for you all, both for the believing and the unbelieving; and it is my prayer that he will graciously make his Word effectual to each of our hearts for the glory of Christ.
Proposition: In all things, it is our responsibility as believers to seek, to trust, and to submit to the will of God.
Divisions: Here are five facts revealed in our text concerning this matter of GOD’S WILL ABOUT THE FUTURE.
1. It is foolish for anyone to depend upon the future.
2. We are all ignorant about the future.
3. We must trust the will of God regarding the future.
4. It is sinful for anyone to boast of, or rejoice in the future.
5. It is our responsibility before God to use the present.
No Assurance of Tomorrow
1st — Regarding life in this world, this is a fact you will be wise to learn that — It is foolish for anyone to depend upon the future (v. 13).
(James 4:13) “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.”
None of us has any assurance of tomorrow. There is a touch of sarcasm in the apostle’s words, “Go to now.” It is as though he said, “Pooh, who are you to say that tomorrow I will go here or there and do this or that?” The fact that frail, feeble men so proudly arrange their plans and forget God was to James a very preposterous thing. Yet, this is a very common folly.
Men act as if they think they are immortal. Judging by the way people think and behave, you would think that men feel that they will never die, and that life in this world will stand for ever. Notice how proudly and presumptuously ignorant people think and speak about tomorrow (v. 13). This really is a fair sample of mankind as a whole.
(James 4:13) “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.”
· They think everything is at their disposal.
· The one object of their lives is to buy, and sell, and get gain.
· Proud, self-sufficient men and women confidently set out to accomplish their intended purposes entirely in their own strength.
· To them everything was certain and secure.
They look upon the future with confidence. — “No matter what has happened to others, no matter how many others have failed and seen their dreams shattered, for me the future is certain. I am wise. I am strong.”
Such reasoning and such actions are foolishness beyond description. — It just isn’t wise to count your chickens before they hatch. It is foolish to build your hopes upon a tomorrow that may never come. It is madness to risk everything on an unsubstantial future. Those who live for this world and presume that the future is safe are fools.
· We are but frail, insignificant creatures of the dust, “worms of the earth.” — Your life in this world, even if you should live to be an old man, is but a brief, brief existence (v. 14; Isaiah 40:6-8).
(James 4:14) “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
(Isaiah 40:6-8) “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: (7) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. (8) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.”
· This world is a crumbling piece of clay. — Nothing here is lasting. Everything here is temporary. One day, it will all be gone. — “The things which are seen are temporal!”
· Nothing in this world is certain, substantial, and lasting.
To live for this world is to live for vanity. To invest in this world is to invest in sand. To gain this world is to gain nothing. — “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” — “Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth” (Luke 12:15-21).
· We are not strong, but weak.
· We are not immortal, but mortal.
· This world of time is not lasting, but temporary.
· The world to come is not temporary, but everlasting.
· And if you live for this world, you are not wise, but ignorant and foolish.
Oh, I wish you would listen to me. Trust the Lord now. Seek not the perishing things of time, but the lasting joys of eternity, through Jesus Christ the Lord.
2nd — Here is a second fact which we need to lay to heart. Let me talk to you a little bit about the future. — We are all ignorant of the future. — “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” — “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).
We foolishly make our plans for the future, as though we knew what the future holds; but we do not. Will tomorrow come? Will I live another day? If I do, will the future bring me sickness or health, poverty or prosperity, pain or pleasure? Who can tell? This day may very well mark the end of my life. It may be the last day this world will stand. Of this one thing I am sure, both you and I are ignorant of the future; and so too are all other men.
Listen to me, my friends, the Lord God alone knows the future. — With God there are no tenses of existence or knowledge. He is the eternal, ever-present I AM. The whole universe is before him like an opened map. He sees all. He knows all. Nothing takes him by surprise (Isaiah 46:9-10).
(Isaiah 46:9-10) “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, (10) Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
· He has ordained all that comes to pass.
· He controls all.
Spurgeon said, “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass. One is that God knows all, and the other is that we do not know.”
· Since God has not revealed the future to us, we ought not curiously pry into it.
· The future has been hidden from us for our own good.
Our heavenly Father would keep nothing secret from us that would be best for us to know. If we could have all our lives written in a book, with everything that was to happen written in it, and the Hand of Destiny were to give us the book, we would be wise not to read it, but to put it aside and say:
“My God I would not long to see
My fate with curious eyes,
What gloomy lines are writ for me,
Or what bright scenes may rise.”
It is infinitely sufficient that our heavenly Father knows. We should be content with that.
This fact of our ignorance and God’s omniscience should greatly humble us. We should remember the brevity, the frailty, and the end of our lives. We all shall soon perish. — “But thou, O Lord, remainest. Thou changest not. Thou hast the dew of thy youth!”
Man is not great. Man is less than little. He is nothing but vanity. Nothing depends upon man. Everything depends upon the Lord God. This fact thrills and comforts my soul. — My welfare and safety, the welfare and safety of my family, the welfare and safety of the church of God does not in any measure depend upon me, but upon the Lord. — “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
3rd — We must trust the will of God regarding the future and commit ourselves to it (v. 15).
(James 4:15) “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
I hate religious and pious sounding clichés! And I am certain that James is not telling us that we should always say verbally, “If the Lord will, we will do this or that.” But he is telling us that it should be clearly understood and conscientiously acknowledged by us that everything is subject to the will of God.
This is the heart of my message. I hope you will pay close attention to what I am saying.
1. There is a Divine will which governs all things. It is commonly called “the secret will of God” (Ephesians 1:11).
(Ephesians 1:11) “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
There is nothing that happens apart from God’s determinate purpose and decree. Even the little things of life are not overlooked by his eternal purpose. — “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” All things are under the purpose and control of the Almighty. Nothing happens except what the Lord God, our heavenly Father, has ordained. He has ordained the path of the ant, the perch of the sparrow, and the throne of the king. So we say, “If the Lord will.” — We rejoice in and bow to God’s wise, sovereign, immutable will.
2. The Lord God has given us his revealed will in Holy Scripture which we must not violate.
God has revealed his will in some matters. He has told us what we should do in given circumstances, and what we must not do. This revealed will of God, the Bible, must be our rule of life. If I am a believer, I must and do, gladly bow to the Word of God, his revealed will, in all things. Anyone who rebels against God’s revealed will is lost. We bow to the revealed will of God given to us in Holy Scripture.
· In Doctrine
· In Worship
· In Daily Life
3. We recognize, also, the providential will of God which we should always consult.
In his good providence, God graciously guides us into his will. It is a great act of wisdom for a man, in a case of uncertainty, to wait for the Lord to make the path of his will plain by some act of providence. All my plans must wait until the Lord sets before me an open door. If God permits, I will do this; but if the Lord will, I will stop and do nothing. To wait on the Lord is a blessed discipline of grace (Psalm 27:14; 62:1, 5; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:26).
(Psalm 27:14) “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
(Psalm 62:1) “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.”
(Psalm 62:5) “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”
(Isaiah 40:31) “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
(Lamentations 3:26) “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.”
What is it to wait on the Lord? What does that mean?
· It is to trust him.
· It is to seek his will.
· It is to watch for the revelation of his will.
· It is to patiently postpone any action until his will is known.
When should I wait for the Lord to reveal his will to me?
· Before I make any decision.
· Before I undertake any ministry.
· In the midst of my trials.
· As I minister to the souls of men.
Let us learn to be still and wait before God, until the cloudy and fiery pillars move before us to show us the way which we should take.
4. And there is what I will call “the royal will of God” which we should seek to fulfil.
That royal will is that all of his elect should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. If I can in any way do anything for the salvation of men, I want to do it. It is the will of God that all of his sheep be saved; and I pray that he will graciously guide me by his will to them and use me to call them.
May the Lord truly teach us the meaning of these words — “If the Lord will.”
· Put yourselves entirely at his disposal.
· Leave everything in his hands.
· Be content with his will.
· Seek to do his will.
4th — It is presumptuous and sinful, as sinful and presumptuous as it is silly, for any man to boast of or rejoice in the future, so far as the things of this world are concerned (v. 16).
(James 4:16) “But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”
· Do not be presumptuous.
· Do not be unbelieving (Matthew 6:31-34).
(Matthew 6:31-34) “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (34) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
5th — In the last place, I want us to see that — It is our responsibility before God to use the present (v. 17).
(James 4:17) “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
If the will of God is revealed to me and I refuse to obey it, or I postpone my obedience to it, I am guilty.
· Do not postpone your obedience to the gospel. — “Today is the day of salvation.”
· Do not postpone your intended service for Christ.
· Do not postpone your witness.
“The time is short.” — Soon we will be gone. Let us do what we can today for the glory of Christ, according to the will of God.
This is the revealed will of God that you believe on his Son, Jesus Christ. Of these three things you may be sure.
· Soon you will meet God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
· If you are not clothed in the righteousness of his Son and washed in his blood, you will surely perish.
· If you believe on Christ unto life everlasting, God will give you an eternal inheritance with him in glory. — “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
What should our attitude before the Lord be as a church regarding the future?
· Confident faith. — The Lord’s will will be done. — “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”
· Humble submission. We will bow to the will of God.
· Earnest zeal. Let us earnestly and zealously seek to do his will for the honor of his name, for the furtherance of his gospel, and for the increase of his kingdom.
This I know, whatever God’s will about the future may be, it is the very best thing possible; and it is precisely what I want.
“Thy will, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
O lead me by Thine own right hand,
Choose out my path for me.
I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might;
Choose Thou for me, O Lord my God,
So shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill;
As ever best to Thee may seem,
Choose Thou my good and ill.
Not mine, not mine the choice
In things both great and small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Guard, my Strength,
My Wisdom, and my All.”