"Pray in Faith" - Notes on James 5:16-18
We will focus first on James' statement that "the prayer of a righteous man avails much."
The word "righteous" in the original means "approved of." As Scripture is clear that "none is rghteous" (Rom. 3:10-11), it follows that it is the prayer of those who have been MADE righteous THROUGH Christ that is at point here. The prayer of the redeemed is that which is powerful and effective. Such prayer is possible because of Christ's finished work at the cross. Through Christ, believers can freely enter into God's throne. Whether one is new in the faith or has been a saint for decades, the privilege of calling God, "Abba," our Father, is the same. All believers have the same Mediator, the same Intercessor-- that is, Christ who died, was buried, and risen again! In Him we have forgiveness of sins; and, God's wrath is no longer upon us. He reconciles us to the Father, unto whom we make our prayer, our requests, our heart's cry.
Of course, there are hindrances to prayer. Unconfessed sin or doubting, for example, hinders a believer's prayer. When we pray, we must do so "in faith" (James 1:6-8, 5:15).
Interestingly, James brings to our attention the great prophet Elijah. He makes the important point that Elijah is actually "a man just like us." Even the apostle Paul communicates this truth, as made clear in Acts 14 when a crippled man was healed and Paul and Barnabas were heralded as gods by the crowd. They told the people, "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you." The point is apparent: whether you are a Paul, an Elijah, or a babe in Christ, your prayer is reckoned as powerful and effective. Why? Because Christ is your Mediator and Intercessor!
Next, notice HOW Elijah's prayer is described. He prayed "earnestly" or "fervently." The expression is "he prayed with all prayer" (parallel expressions are found in Gen. 2:17- "you will die the death" or "dying you will die;" Luke 22:15- "eagerly desired" or "with desire I have desired"). The emphasis is on the INTENSITY of the action described. Elijah prayed with intensity because he had a clear understanding of who GOD is and what GOD is able to do.
As we know, prayer is not a matter of using "magic" words or a matter of praying "long enough." It must be a prayer offered in faith! Apparently, we need to be taught and reminded of this fact. Indeed, there is no biblical account of Jesus ever teaching his disciples how to preach. However, he taught them how to pray.
Before wrapping up, let us not neglect how that prayer is tied to praise. We find in Scripture a number of instances when believers are joyful, not because of the absence of suffering but as a result of it. We find this complementary act of prayer and praise on the part of believers while they were undergoing suffering. See Acts 27:25 when Paul calls for the men to "be of good courage" during a fierce storm. This call is the similar call to "count it as joy," which is often expressed in song! See also Acts 16:25 when Paul and Silas, bound in prison, were "praying and singing hymns to God." These accounts are reflected in James 5:1 when James calls for the brethren to "sing songs of praise."
For further thought, consider your own sufferings, past or present, and view them in light of the truths presented in the epistle of James:
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:2-4).
Pray in faith.
"Enter the Place Where Nothing is Impossible" - Notes on James 5:13-16
James addresses very specific needs in this passage: personal suffering, physical illness, and the need for forgiveness. Indeed, James' closing words simply reiterate the reality of trials in the believers' life, the same reality of which he spoke in the beginning of his letter.
Observe how James directs the brethren's thoughts to two vital needs in the life of a believer: to praise the Lord and to pray.
With respect to prayer, two ways are encouraged: personal and intercessory. First, pray directly unto God if you are suffering. Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, gives insight as to the importance of personal prayer. As a Dutch believer who suffered severely in a Nazi concentration camp as a result of hiding Jews during WW2, she could personally testify as to the wonderful privilege of prayer, as it allows the believer to "leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God's realm where everything is possible....Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love." When we fail to enter that realm, we needlessly worry, which Corrie describes as being like a rocking chair that "keeps you moving but doesn't get you anywhere."
As we enter personally into God's throne room, we not only pray for ourselves but also for others. "Call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over [the sick]... and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Note that when we pray, we should trust in how the Lord answers. When the answer is yes, we praise Him. When the answer is no, we praise Him. The reason we are able to do so is because of a vital truth that has been clearly revealed to us—God is trustworthy. He declares without reservation that He is molding us to be like His Son, working all things—whether they mean moments of rejoicing or tragedies marked with weeping—so that we, as a body of believers, may be presented as the bride of Christ, blameless and spotless!
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, we are given the experience of the apostle Paul whose pleading for the Lord to take away his thorn in the flesh was met with a clear, "No." This "thorn," in fact, was given so as to "keep [him] from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations" granted to him. He is told by God himself, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." In response, the apostle Paul concluded, "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
In the experiences of Job, we are also taught that illness is not necessarily the result of personal sin. Job was "a blameless and upright man." However, illness came upon Job for the purpose of testing. Job's illness and tragic losses displayed for generations to come that Job's trust in the Lord was genuine; and, his example of perseverance continues to give courage to fellow believers all over the world and for every generation that has come after him. Job did not follow the ways of God just to be blessed materially, as Satan had accused. He did not revere God just to be given good health. Job's trust in the Lord was not dependent on what the Lord would give or not give. Indeed, when his own wife told him to "[c]urse God and die," Job responded, "You speak as a foolish woman speaks. Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?" (Job 2:10 HCSB). At the end, when Job began to complain and defend his own righteousness under pains of prolonged suffering and the comfortless words of his friends, the LORD said to Job, "Dress for action...I will question you.... Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? To this Job replied, "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.... therefore I retract and I repent, sitting on dust and ashes" (Job 42:1-6). (Indeed, even if God where to answer our every "Why," our finite mind cannot comprehend His infinite mind!)
In light of the life of Paul and of Job, we can see from James' exhortation that when praying, we can always rest in the fact of God's goodness and sovereignty. He will never do wrong. In what He permits or prohibits, every act of His will is perfect; and, none can thwart it. For this reason, we can obey what He commands, for He is trustworthy. James, therefore, calls us to enter God's throne room not only for ourselves but also for others. He also calls us to confess our sins one to another, a task which requires humility. Let blaming be set aside. Rather, extend the grace and mercy we ourselves receive daily.
More quotes from Corrie Ten Boom:
- The devil...laughs when we get too busy. But he trembles when we pray—especially when we pray together.
- Discernment is God's call to intercession, never to faultfinding.
- Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
- If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.
- Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.
- When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
- There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.
- In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm.
- Jesus did not promise to change the circumstances around us. He promised great peace and pure joy to those who would learn to believe that God actually controls all things.
For Further Reading: The Hiding Place
Our Ultimate Deliverance - Daniel 3:8-18
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a very familiar one. As a result, we sometimes fail to appreciate its historical and doctrinal significance. These three young men were taken captive by the Babylonians. They were educated in the ways of this foreign power and appointed over its affairs.
In Daniel 1:7, we find that the Hebrew or original names of these three young men, respectively, were: (1) Hananiah, which in Hebrew means, "the Lord is gracious;" (2) Mishael, which means, "who is like the Lord;" and, (3) Azariah, which means, "God is my help." Why did the parents of these young men name them as such? And why did the Babylonians change their names?
Observe how that these three young men stood their ground along with Daniel, the beloved of God. They determined in their hearts to please God, despite their being under a foreign power (Daniel 1). Given the meaning of their names and the resoluteness of their hearts and actions, one cannot help but think of the kind of family from which they had come. Could it be that they were nurtured and trained in God's word and ways? In Daniel 3, even on the pain of having their bodies burned alive, they would not break God's commandments. They would rather give up their safety and power as high ranking officials. They are convinced that as their God is the only God whom they should worship, they will not bow down to an idol, even if it meant an agonizing death by fire.
Notice first how Nebuchadnezzar gives these 3 men another "chance" to bow down. Notice next the pride (and ignorance) of Nebuchadnezzar who said, "who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"
Now recall what had happened to these men as youths. They beheld the destruction of their homeland. They experienced being torn violently away from their families. They were taken as captives. These trials could have shaken their faith in God who did not deliver them from the cruel hands of the Babylonians. These trials, though, instead of stripping them of their faith, strengthened them. They, indeed, were grounded in the truth of God's sovereignty, for they said to the king, "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
We all know the outcome of the story. The three men were thrown into the fiery furnace, but not a hair on their heads was singed. Not even the smell of fire was upon them. The Babylonians saw 3 men thrown into the fire, but four walked unharmed in its midst. The Lord delivered them.
As we start this new year, let us remember the example of these three men. Their service to God did not depend on whether God will deliver them. They were grounded in the knowledge that God is Sovereign. He is God. They determined in their hearts to honor him, no matter the consequences. After all, as ones who have been redeemed, we know of the cross of Christ-- how that the greatest tragedy of all resulted to our ultimate deliverance. And as ones who have been set free from sin, we can suffer for Christ's sake. Let us take up our cross and follow Him.
"Christmas- More Than Just a Day"
Christmas, the remembrance of that day when Jesus was born-- goes far beyond a day's celebration. From eternity past, God has ordained the virgin birth, the fulfillment of the coming of "Immanuel," God with us-- God incarnate.
"I bring you good news"-- this is the concept of "to evangelize." This good news "is so good because the bad news is so bad."
What this "good news" should cause us to remember:
- The sovereign will and gracious act of God being displayed through Christ! See Eph. 1:4-6, Titus 3:4-7, and Rom. 5:8. He "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him."
- The truth of God's Word-- He fulfills His promises in Christ! From Genesis to Malachi, God makes clear the prophecies concerning the Messiah; and, in Jesus, they are all fulfilled. See Luke 24:44-46.
- The accomplishment of man's redemption through Christ! See 1 Cor. 15. This same Jesus will come again to make all things right. See Acts 1:6-11.
Despite the fact that angels are excluded from knowing the grace that we, as human beings, experience, they brought glad tidings of joy. How much more should we, then, rejoice!
We who deserve God's wrath because of our sins are offered forgiveness through Jesus. He, who was from the beginning with God, through whom, for whom, and by whom all things have been made, became flesh. He, the sinless one, dwelt among us, was crucified, dying the death we deserve so that we can be reconciled to God.
Jesus lived a sinless life but became sin for us. He died, was buried, and He rose again, offering life eternal to anyone who will believe in His finished work-- a work so complete that no one can add to it or subtract from it, a work that cost the shedding of His own blood-- blood that can make the vilest sinner clean!
Christ Jesus, in offering himself as the perfect sacrifice, satisfied God's wrath; and, God declares righteous each one whose trust is in His Son, the Savior He promised and whom He sent, that man would be reconciled unto Him-- to the praise of His glory. Praise the Lord, O my soul, praise His holy name!
Patiently Grumbling?-Notes on James 5:9-12
After exhorting the oppressed believers to be patient until the coming of the Lord, James calls them next to "not complain against one another...so that [they] will not be judged." The root word for "complain" means to groan or to sigh, which in this context means much more than the mere disappointment expressed upon some inconvenience. This call to not grumble has to do with a problem stemming from a heart attitude that is not pleasing to the Lord, as it speaks of a heart that disregards the sovereignty of God and doubts His purposes.
Ponder on Philippians 4:10-13. There, as the apostle Paul himself had to LEARN to be content, it is evident that while still in the flesh, we have the tendency to grumble. By God's grace, though, we can learn like the apostle Paul "how to be brought low" and "how to abound in any and every circumstance." The same Spirit that enabled Paul is able to help us be content as we yield ourselves to His control.
Again, James points the believers to the soon coming of Christ as his basis for exhorting them to not complain. "[Behold], the Judge is standing at the door." As an example, James reminds them about "the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." Note how that in the O.T, the prophets had to rebuke God's people and they were ill-treated! Nevertheless, the prophets faithfully delivered God's message. In Hebrews 11, we are given the testimonies of those who suffered and patiently endured for the sake of Christ. By God's grace, it can be done!
As a more specific example, James calls the believers to consider the "steadfastness of Job." James points out how they have seen "Job’s perseverance and… what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." Job's every trial and every tear was under the sovereign purposes of the Lord!
Finally, God calls the believers to treat God's name with respect and to be truthful. "Say only 'Yes' when you mean yes, and 'No' when you mean no, and then you will not come under God's judgment." Why this exhortation? Because in the midst of trial or oppression, there is the real temptation of using God's name in vain for our own ends or of lying to get out of situations we should, instead, face with steadfastness.
In brief, as we are assured of the unchanging character of the Lord God who is compassionate and merciful, we must, by His grace, patiently endure! We are to persevere in truth; and, we are to do so without grumbling-- for His glory. Hard? Absolutely. Impossible? No. As has been made plain in Scripture, the Spirit of God indwells every believer; and, if you as God's child have His Spirit, then with God, nothing is impossible! Step by step, let us, therefore, start learning. Let's learn to patiently endure without grumbling, for "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6).
“Early and Latter Rain” - Notes on James 5:7-12
In this passage, James changes gears from rebuking wealthy oppressors who live for their own wanton pleasure to exhorting his oppressed fellow believers to “be patient.” (On a side note, this passage is a timely message for us as we continue to face the effects of Covid-19, the rise of government restrictions, the movement towards loss of religious freedom, and the worsening of moral values in our society.)
In view of the reality of trials in this life, James’ message is repeatedly addressed to fellow believers -“brothers and sisters.” As those who belong to Christ, we are told to be patient, which means that we are “not to lose heart.” Rather, we are “to bravely persevere in enduring misfortunes, troubles, or ill-treatment” until the coming of the Lord! The basis of James’ exhortation is the fact that Christ's coming is near. It is for certain. It is "at hand!"
As an illustration, James reminds of how "the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains." He also adds that we are to "establish” our hearts. By God’s grace, we are to make the heart stable, firm, strong, constant, steady, or unshakeable. This exhortation is a clear contrast to the world's teaching to "follow your heart." In Scripture, we are reminded that the heart is deceitfully wicked. Thus, we are to keep it with all diligence and ask the Lord for cleansing. As we respond to God's call to repentance unto salvation, it is undeniably true that we are given a new heart. God’s Spirit, indeed, indwells the believer! Nevertheless, despite this fact, the truth remains that we still struggle with our flesh or “the old self,” as the apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 4. For this reason, we do not rely upon ourselves but upon Him who saves to the uttermost! For further study, consider 2 Peter 1:1-11 and 2 Corinthians 5.
Sometimes, we are tempted to question God about the oppression of His people. Why does He even allow it? The Lord is clear. He calls his people to be patient, for He will return for them. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” (Romans 8:18). Read through the Scriptures and the message is indisputable-- through suffering we learn obedience. Through suffering we grow. Through suffering, we follow in the steps of Christ, “for it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).
Beloved, we assured of His coming! Therefore, we can bravely persevere. He will return for His own and judgement will finally come upon the wicked. God the righteous and just one will make all things right. Praise the Lord for Revelation 21:1-4!
Wickedly Wealthy? - Notes on James 5:1-6
In this passage, James is addressing the materially wealthy. At what point, though, does one become rich? Or how much does one need to possess to be considered as one of those addressed here by James? It is safe to say, I think, that this passage can apply to each of us who have more than what we need and have extra left over to help another. (Indeed, compared to most of the population outside the United States, we are all relatively wealthy!)
Question: Is it sinful to be wealthy materially? Clearly, the answer is no. Indeed, we have rich individuals recorded in Scripture who were godly. Included in this list are Abraham, Job, David, and Lydia.
The problem, then, is not in possessing wealth in itself, but in the focus that we give it or the affection that we set upon it. It is not a small matter when we consider the fact that God gives us this specific warning: "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1Timothy 6:6-10). Take the rich young ruler, for example, in Matthew 19:16-22. He esteemed his possessions greater riches than Christ. He is evidence to the fact that one whose master is money cannot be a servant of God (Matthew 6:24-34). Clearly, the pursuit for material wealth is a pursuit that leads to ruin and destruction.
In light of the whole counsel of God in His Word, James is calling for the attention of those whose trust is in their riches and whose use of such wealth is fraudulent, excessive, and self-indulgent to the oppression and condemnation of others (5:3-6). These ones are those who are hoarding material wealth and not extending their hands to those in need. Thus, their "riches have rotted," their "garments are moth-eaten," their "gold and silver have corroded" -- these will be "evidence against" them and will "eat [their] flesh like fire." Compare Matthew 6:19-21. In addition, consider how James describes how such individuals have "condemned and murdered the righteous person" (5:6). These words bring to mind how even our Lord Jesus was ill treated when he dwelt among us. He was despised and rejected, condemned and crucified.
Let us examine ourselves: if in any way we have come to trust in wealth rather than God, thereby loving things and using people for selfish gain, then we are called to "weep and howl for the miseries that are coming." The cries of the oppressed "have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts" (5:4). Do you remember the prodigal son who spent his wealth in riotous living? He lost it all; but, not his soul. In that parable, he repented, showing to us that there is no sinner so sinful that God cannot forgive. Let us not forget, though, about the prodigal's brother, lest there are those of us who think that we're so good that we can earn God's favor. Read about the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican and you'll see what I mean (Luke 18:9-14).
Again, let us examine ourselves, repent where we need to, and set our affections on Christ. Note the example of Moses, as recorded in Hebrews 11:23-28. Recall also the example of our Lord who for our sake became poor so that we might become truly rich (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-9).
How are we? What have we been doing with the resources God has given to us? Have we been employing them for the glory of God? Remember: earthly treasures will all certainly pass away. No amount of our earthly goods can we take beyond the grave. Naked we came into this world and naked we shall be at death. Let us, therefore, lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
The Sovereignty of the God who Hears - Notes on Daniel 9:1-23
The book of Daniel is one that points to God's Sovereignty-- sovereignty not just over each individual but over every nation. Indeed, he is sovereign over all!
Daniel was just a young man when he was carried away as a prisoner by the Babylonians, the nation used by God to punish unrepentant Israel. His family background and characteristics are described in the first chapter: an Israelite "from the royal family and the nobility," a young man who was "handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace."
Chapter nine of Daniel hones in on a specific time period-- the first year of Darius' reign. Go back to chapter 5 and there we are told about how Darius received the kingdom after Belshazzar the Chaldean saw "the handwriting on the wall." In keeping with God's Word, God's judgement had come-- not just over Belshazzar but over the entire Baylonian empire.
The time period given to us in chapter nine is very important. Why? The answer can be found in verse two, which we will come back to in a moment.
First, let us observe Daniel's spiritual preparation.
- He studied and understood what was written in God's Word concerning God's promise through Jeremiah that after 70 years of exile, they will be brought back home (Daniel 9:1-2, Jeremiah 29:10-14).
- Daniel turned his "face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).
Second, let's look at the content of what is known as the intercessory prayer of Daniel, "the greatly beloved of God." His prayer actually echoes the intercessory prayer of Abraham, "the friend of God," and of Moses, described as a "man of God" who spoke with God "face to face." We will do well to study and learn from these prayers in Genesis 18:22-33 and Exodus 32:11-13. AND, do not forget the intercessory prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 17!
- Daniel acknowledged who God is: "great and awesome," "keeps covenant and steadfast love," "to him belongs righteousness, mercy, and forgiveness," "angry with sin," (as was demonstrated on Calvary when the wrath of God came upon His own Son who bore our sins!)
- Daniel acknowledged who he was and who his people were before God: "we have sinned, and done wrong and acted wickedly," "we have not listened," "to us belongs open shame," "we have rebelled...and transgressed your law".
Daniel's prayer reveals to us that he studied and understood theology, for he had an accurate view of God and man. He knew God's Word and personally experienced God's dealings with him, his people, and with other nations. Ponder on the test of his faith in Daniel 6, when he obeyed God rather than man. Note Daniel's words concerning his understanding: God "has confirmed his words...by bringing upon a great calamity...yet we have not turned "from our iniquities."
As Daniel makes his plea before God, he uses the imperative: "O, Lord, hear...forgive...for your own sake...because your city and your people are called by your name." His use of the imperative shows not a demanding attitude but an earnest, intense petition before a holy and merciful God. The context makes clear that Daniel pleaded for mercy "in sackcloth and ashes."
Significantly, God sent the angel, Gabriel: "At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision" (Dan 9:23).
Now, we end here with two principles and some questions:
Principle 1: God is pleased when we approach him with humility and an accurate assessment of ourselves (See Daniel 4 for further study);
Principle 2: God is honored and glorified when we exalt Him (who He is) in our prayers.
Some questions" How is your walk with God? How deep is your knowledge of God? Daniel went through the valleys of life where he learned that the Lord is His Shepherd. So, consider the valleys as an opportunity for growth.
“Nothing More, Nothing Less, Nothing Else” –Notes on James 4:13-17
There’s a story about a grandfather who tried to give advice to his grandson. He said, “Johnny, “Fools are certain, wise men hesitate.” Johnny, in reply, asked, “Are you sure, Grandpa?” With unequivocal confidence, the grandfather answered, “Yes, I am absolutely certain.”
This rather amusing story provides a good backdrop to the warning in James 4:13-17. In this passage, we see James calling out to those whose boasting is evil by virtue of their self-confidence. “Look here,” James says, “you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit’” (James 4:13 NLT).
First, let’s look at how James describes those who are so certain of themselves that they are pronounced guilty of such boastfulness:
- their mind is set to work (“we will go... and do business”);
- they have a targeted location (“to a certain town”);
- they have a plan and a goal (to engage in business and “make a profit”);
- they have a set time frame (“stay there a year”).
Now, let’s look at what James is NOT saying. James is NOT saying that those who engage in work with plans in place and goals in mind are wrong to do so. On the contrary, Scripture teaches the importance of hard work and planning. Just take a look at Proverbs 21:5 and you will find other explicit principles like it! Just think of the apostle Paul, his intense diligence and the clarity of his passion and purpose!
What, then, is James saying? For the answer, we’ll have to look at what James utters next: “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:14-15 NLT).
Evidently, James is calling out to those who have become so self-confident that they have left God out of the equation. In the words of Pastor Cedar of NorthsideHBC, “no one can argue against the fact that [one hundred out of every one hundred people die], no matter one’s health, education, or economic status. James makes clear that every human life has a limit and every human life is short. James’ point is this important truth—our continued existence and our capacity to do things rest solely on the hand of a sovereign God. Our plans for the future are only as good as He wills them to be. When God says, “Yes,” no one can say, “No.” And when he says, “No,” none can say, “Yes.”
In James’ own words to those who in their self-confidence think themselves sovereign over their own lives, “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” (James 4:16-17 ESV). Thus, in light of the truth of the limitation of the human mind and life, James says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.’” In the words of Pastor Cedar, in keeping with James’ message, “let us recognize God’s sovereignty in our lives.” Jeremiah 9:24 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19 are just two examples from Scripture of the things that we can rightly boast about. Not all boasting is evil. It is the object of our boasting that makes the difference. Is our boast in ourselves or in our own abilities? Or is our boast in God who created us, gifted us, and who alone sustains us?
Let us echo the prayer (attributed by some) to Bobby Richardson, a retired major league baseball player whose Christian faith is described as “key to his outstanding career, his marriage of 60 years and his witness for Christ” (Rudy Gray, 2016)—
"Your will be done. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”
For further study: When thinking about the will of God and His sovereignty, there is often the question about what that means in view of what is endowed to us—the human will. If God is sovereign, does it even matter what we do? First, consider what we have studied so far. Before arriving at this passage about God’s sovereignty, James gave us quite a number of imperatives, which make clear that our motives, choices and our actions do matter. However, before going on to more imperatives (yes, there are more in James 5!), it is significant that James takes a pause and gives reminder of the fact that God is ultimately in control (and there’s no cause for boasting in self!). Think about and consider Scripture passages that deal with the human will and the sovereignty of God (Here’s one resource for finding applicable passages). Then, compare your findings with the THIS article and see if you arrive at a similar conclusion. (Please note: the links provided are meant to be of help as resources for your personal study. We have found the resources, to date, to be reliable and helpful, but they do not necessarily mirror our own views and cannot guarantee all content. Then again, no human being has perfect understanding or viewpoint! Thanks be to God whose Spirit is our help! And so, as you study, don’t forget to pray and ask God for wisdom!)
Listen to the sermon here.
- James 4:11-12 - The Matter of SlanderThe particular subject of James in James 1:36 and James 3:1-11 is the tongue. He again returns to this subject in James 4:11-12. Based on our prior studies, it is clear that “what you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45). In James’ imperative to “not slander one another,” the heart of the…sermons.faithlife.com