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James 4:13-17 Princeton Christian Church 14 February 2021

Some of us are the type of person who just lets life happen. Others of us like to plan out our day down to the very last detail. Which are you? One who has a general, indefinite plan, or one who plans every little detail?

Who, or what factors, do you consider while making your plans? What are some things you consider as you prepare a plan?

We are looking this morning at the letter of James again. We know that James addresses, in his letter, very common questions and activities that we encounter in our daily lives. So, today we come to James chapter 4, verses 13-17 and we find there an often overlooked, but very important aspect of our walk with God.

That is, the test as to where we are with the Lordship of Jesus in our life. Through the teaching in James’ letter we can find where we see, and where we include God in our lives.

Read James 4:13-17

When you put together a plan, is God in your plan? Is God at the center of your plan or do you formulate a plan and then tell, or ask God to bless it?

Let us look first at verses 13-14: “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” 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.

Leaving God out of our plan is not wise because…

I. Life is too short to get it wrong all the time. (13-14) - and for the Christian, any plan made without first bringing it before the Lord will increase the opportunity for failure.

In verse 13, James uses the phrase “Come now”. This is a strong form of address that was used to make sure James had his readers’ attention. Today, we might say,”Listen Up!”

This, as I said before, is the second way in which we can measure the amount of the Lordship of Jesus we allow into our life.

There is nothing wrong with formulating plans and strategies. You have likely heard the proverbial statement which says, “Show me someone who fails to plan and I will show you someone who plans to fail.” So, the issue is not planning but instead how we go about it.

If we are in Christ, the way we go about making our plans reveals our attitude about Jesus and where He really fits into our life. James is speaking to those who were habitually planning for the future with no thought of Jesus or God’s will as they made the plans.

James, as he does so well, provides an example. He says someone makes this plan: “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit.”

The planner obviously indicates that God had no place in the plan. The time and date are set for the plan (today or tomorrow). The destination is determined (such and such a city). A time frame (today or tomorrow) for the beginning of the trip is set. The duration of the trip is determined (a year). Even the purpose of the planned trip is stated; that is (to make a profit).

Now, of course, if we are planning such a trip we had better know where we are going, when we plan to leave and how long we expect to be gone. And we need to know the purpose of the trip. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is necessary.

But, let’s look a little closer to this plan. We may see ourselves in the plan as well.

First of all, this plan was formulated without considering God’s will. Notice what the planner said, “WE WILL GO”. What if that was not what God called them to do? What if the plan was the worst thing in the world for them to do?

Verse 14 reveals two major reasons as to why we should not leave God out of the plan.

1. You do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Proverbs 27:1 tells us: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. But, we know someone who does know what tomorrow is going to bring. That, alone, is God. So, He should be included in our plans. It would definitely be wise to consult the one who knows.

2. The second reason we see that planning without God is not wise is also found in verse 14. James says, “What is your life? For you are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

We don’t know how long our life will be – how many years, months, or even days we have to live. Since we lack that knowledge we need to make sure that we are including God in our daily living, making every effort to remain on the path that He has called us to as His followers.

In daily life, we have busy schedules. It becomes easy to forget to include God in our plans and daily activities.

People set goals for themselves and their families for their careers, education, employment, and church. God expects us to work hard on those areas and to be successful in them, but we must consider his will as we plan our goals in those areas of life.

Now, let’s look at verse 15. James says here: 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”

Leaving God out of our plan is not wise because…

II. God’s will should be our driving force. (15)

When James says “instead” he has indicated we have a choice as we plan – we can proceed without including God and His will, or we can have the attitude that God’s will for our life doesn’t need to be considered. We should, instead, have the mindset that if it is God’s will we will do such and such.

We should understand that ultimately what matters is what is Jesus’ goal and purpose for our lives. Jesus has authority over all things.

Hear Jesus as He speaks in Matthew 28:18–20: “And Jesus came and said to them, ’All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We also know that God wants us to know His will. Paul makes that clear to us as he speaks in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Several times we see in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul spoke of making plans, and at the same time, realizing that God’s will was to be the driving force behind his plans.

1 Corinthians 4:19 “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.

Acts 18:21 “But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

It is evident that Paul always made his plans contingent upon, and superseded by, God’s plans.


First we can go to God’s Word. Within it we will see the parameters in which we are to live our lives. For instance if I devise a plan, but I see in God’s Word that my plan contradicts what the Word says, then I know that it is MY will, not GOD’s will.

If we have trained our hearts to follow God, He will instill within us a desire to follow Him. We will seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

God works with us where we are, but we must incorporate Romans 12:1-2 into our lives so God can work with who we are and who we can become, as we mentioned earlier.

WE need to spend ample time in prayer. Really seek what God’s will is for your life. Even Jesus prayed to His Father to know His will.

Lastly, let’s look at verses 16-17. James continues to teach us as he says, “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Leaving God out of our plan is not wise because…

III. Forgetting God in our plan reveals what is really important to us. (16-17)

• James really calls us out in this statement. Here he is pointing out the contrast between what we ought to say verses what we were saying. Verse 16 reveals the heart behind what was said in verse 13.

Arrogance is confidence in one’s own knowledge or cleverness.

The philosopher, Aristotle defined arrogance as the character of a man who lays claim to what will bring him credit when the claim is either all together false or grossly exaggerated.

When we leave God out we are again telling Him we know better. We are smarter and we can trust ourselves over God. That, of course, is an obviously dangerous assumption.

The word translated “evil” not only denotes the evil itself, but also it implies one who tries to get others to follow in their ill-advised plan.

James includes, in his teaching here, a lesson on sin. Most of the time we consider that sin is only those things we do wrong. This would be a sin of commission. In other words, we committed a sin.

But, James expands on that and reminds us that when we do not do what we are supposed to do, we are also sinning. This is a sin of omission.

When we ignore God, we are showing Him who is really most important to us. That is, we show Him that we, and our desires, are more important to us than Him and His desires for us.

Making plans is something that we must do in life. It is vital to our existence. But as we make those plans, we must make sure we do not leave Him out of our plans. If we leave God and His will out, we may do something we may regret.

We have the very best and most reliable resource available to us as we live life daily. That resource is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Consult Him at every event, every plan as you decide the direction of your life.

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