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AM Bible Study Archives
"Submitting Our Plans to God's Plan"
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
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.
I. IT ISN'T WRONG TO MAKE PLANS (v. 13).
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
(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").
II. THREE REALITIES SHOULD HUMBLE OUR PLANS (vv. 14-15).
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
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).
III. THESE THREE REALITIES DEMAND THAT WE BEGIN OUR PLANS WITH HUMBLE
SUBMISSION TO GOD (vv. 16-17).
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
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.