Leaning on the Master: Devotional Commentary for August 2-8
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
13Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit";
14whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
15Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."
16But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
So far in chapter four, James has urged us to draw closer to God in order to ward off the devil and effectively deal with all of the ungodly traits of the sin-nature. Here in the closing verses, he exhorts us to do more than getting nearer to God. He teaches us that the relationship between God and His children is more than a spiritual proximity. He urges us to lean on God for everything that we hope and plan to do, because in Him, and only in Him we move, act, and have our being.
James identifies two major perspectives which shape the background and the framework of our plans and actions. The one is right, sound, and godly while the other is wrong, unreliable, and mannish. The one works through faith in God and acknowledges His sovereign Authority in all matters including our plans and actions. The other hangs on man's egoistic self-confidence and runs wild with its own vain imaginations and expectations.
James does not condemn planning for the future and taking right actions to accomplish what is planned. He thoroughly understands that life must go on and that each individual is the privileged actor in one's own life. However, he observes a chronic problem with the manner and perspective of our plans and actions. He speaks to Christians who unaccountably declare their intentions to go someplace, spend a considerable length of time doing business and become profitable.
As Christians inspired by the Spirit and informed by the Word of God, we should know that life apart from God is but a vapor. God Himself is life's meaning and significance. Without Him, we can do nothing. God never relegated His sovereign prerogatives to human whim or man's scanty resources. Indeed, He is our Creator, Father, and Redeemer. He is also the Lord of our lives and the Master of our plans and actions.
While we are endowed with faculties and capabilities for thinking, planning, and action, our capacities and capabilities do not preclude God. They are given for God's Purpose and for His Glory. therefore, our plans and actions must be contemplated and carried out in keeping with God's Will. We ought to look to God for guidance and wisdom even for our plans and actions. Tomorrow, indeed the next moment does not belong to us. Life is but like a mist, reiterates James. Now it is here, now it is gone. But God our Father endures forever.
James was profoundly troubled that the same Christians who are operating with a godless perspective feel good and confident about their ungodly ways. He charges such boastful believers with evil arrogance. Such disregard to God's Will is presumptuous, contemptuous, and conceited. Anything done without faith is contemptuous and is, therefore, displeasing to God. Prideful deviance is evil before God.
Christ Himself lives within the heart of the Christian in the person of the Holy Spirit. Any conduct that fails to heed the Will of God is diseased with egotism. That, says James, is evil because it stands contrary to the spiritual union Christ sealed with His blood between the redeemed and the Redeemer.
4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Once again, James' message is simple, uncomplicated. Now that you know the truth, do it, lest you are found guilty of disobedience. The defiant or indifferent believer is charged with a godless self-confidence, boastful attitude, and evil arrogance. If one knows the good that must be done and does not do it, then it is sin to him or her. Disregarding the good one knows to do is an act of willful disobedience. It is a defiant indifference.
God's sovereignty is the fact of life. One knows from the Scriptures that there is no salvation without God's Grace, no sustenance without His Providence, and no fulfillment without His Will. These are the known facts of the Christian experience. No true believer can claim ignorance of any of these truths. Believers who live and act without submitting to God's Will displease God and sin against Him.
No true believer can ignore the admonitions of the Scriptures, exhorting us to trust the Lord in all our ways and never to lean on our own understanding. Knowledge demands action and action calls for commitment and obedience. If we must trust God, then we lean on Him. If we lean on Him, then we must heed His Will. If we know this, then we must do it lest we are found guilty of willful failure to obey. Even Jesus came to do His Father's Will. Why not you and me? So help us God!
These closing verses of James chapter four reflect a profound message which should guide our Christian lives. Our challenges do not cease after a degree of compliance in drawing closer to God and resisting the devil. There is a Christian-living to be practiced for the glory of god.
We must draw nearer to God to be empowered by the Spirit and to be fortified by His Word. But we must practice our dependence upon God in real-time situations and actual circumstances in our daily walk in order to have a meaningful experience of our close fellowship with God. This is a living communion with our Father. The Current of the Spirit's Power and the Wisdom of His Word must continually flow through our conscience and our minds transforming our souls. Our thoughts and actions must be commanded by a transformed conscience and a renewed mind.
James' exhortation is realistic and simple. He says, we must plan with God so we can act with God. We must think with God so we can execute with God—not alone as godless derelicts but with God as God's redeemed children. We might know this as a matter of truth. But it profits us nothing unless and until we put it into practice in real-life in real-time. James is quite emphatic about this because he knows the struggle we all face to get beyond our own flawed sentiments and live in the victory secured for us by Jesus Christ.
Even though we are confessing Christians, we often exhibit an instinctive tendency to believe that we are the masters of our lives. So we proceed to initiate steps to provide for ourselves by planning and by contemplating our future path as it seems good or right to us, and to us alone apart from God's wisdom and guidance. Often in such cases, we commend ourselves for acting responsibly. While acting responsibly is a godly mandate, doing so merely out of natural wisdom, personal preference, intuitive perception, or visceral sentiment is unwise and even prideful at times.
This is total foolishness, according to James. While the old nature entices the heart with promises that might be appealing to human desire, it cannot offer anything legitimately good because every good gift comes only from God. Nothing good can be supplied by our ego. Our good is only in God.
The Christian is the temple of God redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. No one can relegate God's Lordship over His children to the natural man or the devil. We belong to God. Therefore, everything that takes place in our lives must be done in harmony with God's Will and His direction.
A life that is stabilized by staying close to God is not easily perturbed by the temptations and snares of the world. Such a life is less disquieted by the hostile noise around it. It is more at peace, because God is its refuge, its fortress, its rock, its anchor, its hiding place, its haven, and its abiding place. Such a life finds satisfaction in God, and in Him alone. It proceeds forward in the light of God's unfailing guidance by the Spirit and through His Word. It will not grope in the dark for its ways because God's Will is its Vision. His Word is its light and its lamp. Such is the life given to us in Jesus Christ by God our Father. There is one good plan. There is but one valid plan. The Plan that He has for you and me. So let us plan with God so we can act with God.