About Us Services MinistriesSermon Message Bible StudyChurch Calendar Contact Us


Statement of Faith

The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell You

Listen to this week's message!

Map to the Church

Prayer Requests

Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!

Wednesday AM Bible Study Archives


"Submitting Our Plans to God's Plan"
James 4:13-17

Wednesday AM Bible Study
October 1, 2003

The focus of this morning's passageis on the 'plans' we make. In James' day, merchants and tradesmen would gather the goods and products of one city and take them to some other distant city; and they would remain there for some time until they had sold those goods at a profit. Then, using their profits, they'd buy up some other goods and products from that city, and take them to yet another city to sell. This process was repeated, perhaps over a considerable number of years, until the merchant or tradesman became rich enough to return to his home and live prosperously.

James was singling out such people as an example of something that we all deal with in everyday life - planning for the future. But James is obviously pointing out something that's wrong in the way we make our plans. James begins this text by the attention-getting phrase, "Come now . . .", or "Now listen . . .", or as it is in the old King James Version, "Go to now . . ." He says this to cause his readers to stop and examine what they're doing.

Just having plans is not, in and of itself, a good thing if God is left out of them. Even Lucifer made plans for his own future; but his plans were evil (Isaiah 14:13-14). So, as a good pastor, James is concerned that God's perspective remains in first place in the making of our plans. James wants us to see that, when we come-up with, develop and attempt to carry out our plans in a way that acts as if God were not there, we are in effect saying that we are the captains of our own fate. He calls us to repent of this, and humbly submit to God's sovereignty in our plans.

A. James words begin with an example of typical plans being made. The Bible calls us to the wisdom of planning ahead (Proverbs 6:6-8), and presents us with examples of those who do so wisely (Gen. 41:33-37). There's nothing presumptuous about making plans; nor is there anything "spiritual" in living passively and taking life as it comes.

B. But our plans ought always to be subjected to the Lord's will. The apostle Paul was a great example in this. He was a great maker of plans; but his plans were always prefaced by, "If the Lord wills ..." (Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 4:19, 16:7; Phil. 2:19, 24).

C. James, then, is calling us to pray, "This is something that I hope in the Lord to do; if the Lord wills, and if the Lord permits." To do otherwise is foolish presumption! (Look at Luke 12:16-19 for the ultimate example of such foolishness. The man in this parable wasn't called a fool because he had made a plan. Rather, it was because he presumed to make his plans without taking God into account.) We act foolishly when ...

(1) We plan without beginning our plans with prayer.

(2) We plan with too much reliance on the plan itself.

(3) We plan with too much confidence in our own abilities to 'work the plan.'

(4) We plan in such a way as to presume on the grace of God (that is, praying, "God, forgive me for what I'm about to do"; or thinking, "I know this is wrong, but I'll have time to repent later").


A. The uncertainty of the future (v. 14a). We all plan to show up for work on Monday; but we don't really know whether Monday will ever come for us. We plan to celebrate Christmas this year; or to reach old age; or to be in church on Sunday; but none of us really knows for sure that we will. We don't even know what tomorrow will bring. And this lack of knowledge isn't just true of our lives. It's also true of our health, or our jobs, or our homes. We can make plans about these things; and it's wise that we do so. But we must not boast arrogantly as if we can see into the future; because we can't.

B. The frailty of our lives (v. 14b). (Psalm 39:4-6; Psalm 90:10-12). To make long-term plans on the presumption of the durability of our lives is as unwise as hanging our hopes on a puff of smoke. To arrogantly make plans on the basis of the presumption of our own longevity is like planning to hammar a nail into a soap-bubble.

C. The supremacy of the will of God (v. 15). James means not just simply that we may do these things if the Lord wills, but that if the Lord wills we will even be allowed to live. This is the greatest factor of all in humbling our plans; because our life, our health, our possessions, even our tomorrow, are all in the hand of God. And His will, not ours, is supreme. As someone once said, "Man proposes; but God disposes." This fact of the supremacy of God's will is also the greatest cause for confidence in our plans (Jer. 29:11).


A. They mean that we must be constantly in a state of dependency upon God, and to plan with humble trust in Him. They're built into God's universe, and are intended to keep us humble in our planning - so that we do not "arrogantly boast" against God, nor engage in the sin of keeping God out of the picture.

B. How then can we submit 'our plans' to God's plan?

(1) We should submit our plans to the word of God. The very first thing we should do is submit our intentions to God's revealed will in the Scriptures and ask, "Does what I am intending to do fall within the framework of God's expressed will?" We should seek godly counsel from those who know the word of God well, and can advise us in what God has already said about the things we intend to do.

(2) We should invite God's involvement in the matter from the very start (Psalm 127:1; Proverbs 3:5-6: 1 Cor. 15:58).

(3) We should learn to seek God's interests first in all our plans. So often, we ask God to endorse our plans; when what God wants is for us to get behind His plans (Matthew 6:33). When we make our plans, we need to ask, "How, in the final analysis, will what I am seeking to do advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ?" If our final goal is to be able to live and provide for ourselves in such a way that we are set free to serve the kingdom of Jesus Christ, that's one thing. But if our goal is to be able to hold on to riches for their own sake, and to be able to live in a self-indulgent manner, that's another. The guiding principle should not be what we want, but rather what God would want us to want.

(4) Once we've made our plan, we should keep on praying and seeking God's wisdom. We should invite God in on the planning, and seek His guidance throughout all stages of the plan (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

(5) Finally, we need to bow to God's providence and sovereign rule. If our plan is clearly within the revealed will of God, if we have invited His involvement in the matter, if we have sought to advance His kingdom and seek His interests, and if we're praying throughout, then we should work hard, act wisely, and leave the matter to His providence, being content with His outcome. We must always accept God's right to 'blue-pencil' our plans.

Printable Version

Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436

Site Map | Privacy Policy | Copyright Information