Monday, May 19, 2008

Submitting Plans to God

In the interest of livening the blog and providing more fodder for discussion, here is my rough outline of what I preached last night at the Regeneration evening service. It is rough because I didn't follow my notes very closely, so I'm not really sure what I even said.

Review: James
We have been going through James, and he has been challenging us
- to have faith that bears fruit in works, especially life-giving works of mercy
- to seek godly wisdom, especially wisdom that brings and comes from reconciliation
- right relationships, especially in the context of those who have power and those who don't
- repentance

Introduction: Plans
For the most part, we are, as young adults, in a place in life where we have a lot of plans and goals. We have plans and goals for our careers, for relationships and family. We have plans in the short term (what you will do tomorrow), medium term (what you will do this year), and long term (what you will do in the next ten or twenty years). How do we relate these plans to the Lord?

The Text: James 4:13-17
13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

The Situation: Pride
Some probably Christian merchants were making plans about traveling and making money. The problem isn't that they were making plans—this is unavoidable. The problem was that they were doing so without recognizing that they are not ultimately in charge of their future; God is. You don't know what will happen tomorrow: circumstances could change, or you could even die. (see also Luke 12:13-21) We are small in a big universe, and much of life is really out of our control.

The Solution: Submit to God's Will
Although the text has mainly in view Gods sovereign will, I want to take a broader look at how Scripture teaches that we should submit our plans to the Lord.

1. Submit to God through Christ by repenting and believing in him. This is the first and foundational step. Without this, all the rest is rubbish. (see James 4:7)

2. Submit to God's moral will. Allow God to set the boundaries and parameters for your plans, and respect and obey what he has said. You must study Scripture to know this. (see James 1:22)

3. Submit to God's wisdom. Proverbs 2.

4. Submit to God's sovereign will. This is what is primarily in view in James 4:13-17. God is ultimately in control, not us. The "power of positive thinking" is limited. "If you think you can, you can," has an element of truth, but reality is that some things we think we can do, we can't. Two aspects:
- Recognize that God can change your plans for his reasons. Things might not work out like you hope. (see Psalm 115:3)
- Rely on God's providential provision for what you need for your plans to succeed. (see Psalm 104)

"If the Lord wills" recognizes that God is good and works for our good, in contrast to a pagan notion of "if God wills" where God may be arbitrary and capricious. When God changes plans, it is always for our ultimate good.

5. In everything, seek to honor and glorify Jesus.

Regen Reflection
1. Share a time when things didn't work out like you had planned. How did you respond? In hindsight, how can you see God in that situation?

2. What are your personal plans for the next year? for the next ten years? How can you submit those plans to the Lord?

3. Submit these things to the Lord in prayer.