2 Minute opening question: What did you want to be when your grew up? Is it what you’re currently in training/actually doing?
As students and young workers you are at a time in life when you are making pretty significant decisions about what you will do with some of the best years of your life. A question a lot of people ask me is: how can I know God’s will for my life?
I too would love to have the answers to that question. Sometimes I dream of having a Tardis, so that I could go forward in time and see what the future holds, and then I could then plan accordingly today.
Our passage tonight puts us into the shoes of a Christian business person, who is making plans for their future.
BOOK: BIBLE STUDY
- What (or who) is missing from the perspective expressed in v.13?
This is “Practical Atheism” – making our plans for life without taking thought of God. It is living for the moment with no thought of eternity.
- In v.14 how does this business-person have a wrong view of…
… the future?
Why does James call these wrong views “boasting in arrogance” (v.16)?
This fails to consider that humans are not God, that to us the future is unforeseeable and the brevity of our lives. Our futures are outside of our control. As we think about our futures we often over-estimate our importance, failing to see that we will be easily and quickly forgotten (just as we know little about our great-grandparents). Our lives and plans “appear” and then “vanish” – only God and His plan endure forever. Humans have a way of putting themselves in Gods’ place with an over-inflated sense of their own importance.
- What is the right attitude we should have as we think about the future according to v.15?
We are to have an attitude that recognises that God is sovereign over our lives and history
- How can we avoid the twin problems of ARROGANCE and ANXIETY about the future (see: Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 3:5-6)?
*Rather than asking "What is God's wonderful plan for my life?" we should ask "What does it mean for my life to be a part of God's wonderful plan?" We are to seek Him and His purposes, and trust Him to bring our lives into alignment with His much greater kingdom purposes (Matthew 6) – set forth in Ephesians 1:9-10 as the plan to bring heaven and earth back together in harmony under the rule of King Jesus.
*We are to entrust ourselves to His sovereign, fatherly providence in our lives, allowing Him to direct our paths (Proverbs 3)
*We are to make all our plans provisionally allowing God to over-rule in our lives (Proverbs 3)
- Discuss how you might answer someone who came to you asking: “How can I know what God’s will is for me at this time of my life?”
*Two extreme views:
- Determinism: We have no real choice; God chooses and determines everything according to His plan.
- Libertarianism: Everything depends on our choices; God needs us to make the right choices for His plans to succeed.
*The Biblical View: The Bible teaches two complementary truths: God chooses and we choose (God is sovereign and Humans are responsible). [How you put these things together leads to the views of Calvinism, Arimianism and Mollenism] We are free to choose what we desire, but at the same time God also has a sovereign overruling plan to bring about what pleases Him. Our choices do matter and make a difference to our experiences (of blessing, usefulness, rewards, etc.) but cannot thwart God’s plans. “The mind of man plans his course, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 14:6).
Illustration of the railway tracks. If you stood on the railway line looking at the line as it goes towards the horizon, then you’ll see two parallel tracks which you know will never meet in this world. Each track represents divine sovereignty and human responsibility, respectively. However, as you look to the horizon and imagine beyond the horizon, in the heavenly world, it looks like the two tracks will converge and meet in the mind of God.
Our choices matter and do make a real difference. The question then is what are the right choices that God wants me to make? How do we know what God’s will is?
There is often a lot of mystery and confusion around this subject. One book’s subtitle sums up a lot of the ways people approach this question: “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses ,casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.” (see Kevin DeYoung: “Just Do Something”). I know many people who are afraid that God’s will is like a target they have to hit, or else they will be going on the wrong path in life and missing out on God’s best for them – that puts on a lot of pressure to find Gods’ will before you make any decision.
I want to help you get real answers to this question and think biblically about God’s will. Someone who has helped me is Dr John MacArthur: who points out that there are just five instances where the Bible talks about something being Gods’ will:
- GOD’S WILL IS YOU BE SAVED (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who wills all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”
To know God’s will we need to be first reconciled to God through Christ.
- GOD’S WILL IS YOU BE SPIRIT-FILLED (Ephesians 5:17-18 cf. Colossians 3:16-17)
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord: do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” … “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
Being Spirit-filled is about being controlled by the influence of God’s Holy Spirit – the comparison is between being filled with the Spirit and being filled with wine, one controlling influence leads to good things… the other controlling influence leads to negative things. How does the Holy Spirit have control in our lives: by filling our minds and hearts with the Spirit-given Word of God (as the parallel passages both have the same results). To know God’s will we need to be saturating ourselves in the Bible.
- GOD’S WILL IS YOU BE SANCTIFIED (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour”
God’s will for us is always that we would be separate from sin.
- GOD’S WILL IS YOU BE SUBMISSIVE (1 Peter 2:13-15)
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution… for this is the will of God”
God’s will for us is that we would be humble, accepting the authority of governments, family, church leaders to speak authoritatively into our lives – rather than to insist on our own way.
- GOD’S WILL IS YOU BE WILLING TO SUFFER (1 Peter 3:17, 4:19)
“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil… Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good”
God’s will won’t always be for our comfort. As Paul discovered, when he struggled with his “thorn in the flesh” and prayed for its removal, God’s reply was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 10)
If these 5 S’s are true of your live, then “do whatever you want, because guess who is controlling your wants?” As you walk closely with God, He is “planting His desires in your heart” for you to follow. This is the meaning of Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” – not necessarily your natural desires, but the new desires that He has planted in your heart that reflect His good, pleasing and perfect will.
This way of understanding God’s will is terribly freeing. It allows you to “just do something” as you walk closely with Him.
- “You are not your own, for you were brought with a price, so glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20): How can this truth give you a new perspective on how you use/plan your 24/7 time?
“The 24 hours in the day are not mine to use as I please. God has given them to me, and I am to use them as He would want me to. The plans I form need to reflect this” (Sam Alberry)
- What are examples of the “right things” (v.17) that God has called us to prioritise in our lives? How are you incorporating these things into your schedule/plans?
- To love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength
- To love our neighbours as ourselves
SONG: “Jesus All For Jesus, All I am and have and ever hope to be. All of my ambitions, hopes and plans, I surrender these into your hands – for it’s only in your will that I am free”