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Planning Properly (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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September 8, 2023 4:00 am

Planning Properly (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 8, 2023 4:00 am

It’s natural, but not biblical, to want to know what the future holds. Find out why we should actually be rejoicing in our ignorance concerning what tomorrow may bring. Join Alistair Begg as he continues a study in the book of James, on Truth For Life.


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Most of us are predisposed to wishing we knew what the future holds, but that's not a biblical way to think. Today on Truth for Life we'll find out why we should actually be rejoicing in our ignorance about what tomorrow may bring. Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 4 in the book of James.

We're studying verses 13 through 17. Will it be sunny tomorrow? Rainy. Will thunderclouds come in? Will your flight be on time?

Will there be sufficient milk in the refrigerator so as you can put it on your cereal, or will your kids have taken it all before you manage to get to it? Now, the fact that we do not know the future, which is what he's pointing out here—you do not know what will happen tomorrow—that ought to do two things at least for us. Number one, it should humble us.

It should humble us. Now, if you think about this, you listen to the rage of somebody in the airport when the flight is canceled or delayed, and they storm around with those big binders, and they go to the desk and tell the lady that if she was worth anything at all, she would have had this fixed, like she's in charge of thunderstorms in Atlanta, you know? That somehow or another, she and her airline and everybody associated with the entire United States of America, everything that has to do… And you just listen to this. You say, What is up with this guy? I'll tell you what's up with him. He's arrogant.

He's proud. And he is so consumed with everything that he put in that book about who he is, where he's going, what he's going to do, how successful he's going to be, and when he's coming back, that the slightest interruption or interference with his plans reveals the nature of his heart. And every time impatience and disappointment with things rears its ugly head, it speaks to the self same thing. One clap of thunder, one flight delayed, and all of our, We will go, we will spend, we will carry on business, we will make money.

It's all blown away in a moment. God raises his little finger, and all our best plans are in tatters. Number one, the fact of our ignorance should be an occasion to humble us, and the fact of our ignorance may be an occasion to help us. To help us. You see, the future is hidden from us ultimately for our good. For our good. We should be glad that we do not know yet of some success which awaits us further down the road.

Why? Because we would be unbearable preening our feathers and walking around with a big smile on our faces, annoying everybody but unable to tell them that we were about to become, I'm about to become, oh yes. And we would face the potential that in the immediate, because our success is not yet enjoyed, we would become disgruntled with the fact that we don't have that success yet. And then we would become impatient in waiting for that success—a success which we knew was there and was guaranteed. So it's to our good we don't know about our success. And it is to our good that we don't know about our disappointments, that we don't know about our stumblings and our bumblings and our fears and our failures and our bereavements and our heartaches and our illnesses.

What advantage to know? God knows. And it is a matter of pressing importance that we learn to rejoice in this ignorance, despite an inherent desire to want to know because we want to control, because we actually want to be God. If you've been to Rockport, it is, as with so many of these pretty places now in the continental United States, a haven for artists and creative people, and at the same time, a haven for paganism. And in walking up and down Rockport, the main street there, beckoning from a number of shopfronts was an invitation to discover the future—to discover our horoscope, to have someone read our palms, and in every instance appealing to an innate sense in men and women to want to see around the corner and beyond the pale.

The devil knows exactly how to make his play. And I want to say to every one of you just in passing, do not for a nanosecond go down that road. Do not engage with the slightest touch upon that issue. Stay away from all your horoscopes.

Stay away from all of that stuff in every instance. And if you doubt my word, read your Bible and consider what it has to say. So what do we learn? First, to presume upon the future is foolish. And second, that our ignorance of the future is a matter of fact.

It's a matter of fact. Thirdly—and this is in the second half of verse 14—he tells us, it reminds his readers of the passing of time. The passing of time.

You don't know what will happen tomorrow. In fact, he says, if you think about your life, you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. A vapor. A vapor, frail and insubstantial.

A vapor that is around just for a little while. Last Sunday evening, people came to me and said, Did you see the wonderful sunset? And it was apparently beautiful. I didn't see it, as it turns out. I was inside the building and at the back of the building, and no access to see it. But when I got out at about quarter past eight, it was gone.

It was gone. It was apparently very, very beautiful, brilliant, breathtaking, a mixture of clouds, vapor, sunshine, glorious, but gone. And what James is saying here is, our lives may for a while be bright and glorious.

They may have great appeal and may be attractive to folks. But the fact of the matter is, they are as transient as a painted cloud. And as sure as the clouds dissipate, and the winds blow, and the flowers fall, so too our lives will be over.

Even if we were to live to what we refer to as a ripe old age, what is a ripe old age in light of a thousand years? It's nothing. And it is dishonest on our part not to face up to the question that is asked, What is your life? What is your life?

You may be here, and that's the very reason you've come along to Parkside. You've said to yourself, I have no answer to the question, What is my life? I don't know what I am, and I don't know who I am.

I've got no conviction about where I came from, and I certainly haven't a clue about where I'm going. You may think that at the end of the day you're just a collection of molecules held in suspension. If we try to summarize our lives and our worth, our value in dollar terms concerning the chemical content of our bodies, I'd be surprised if any of us are worth more than about three dollars and fifty cents in terms of parts, bits and pieces. I don't know if there is enough iron in me to make one decent nail that wouldn't bend. I don't know if there's enough magnesium in me to strike a couple of matches and light a fire.

What is your life? You see, it is such a vital question, isn't it? And that's why we tend to fight against life's brevity and fight against life's frailty. Think about it.

Think about all of the mechanisms that are offered to us at this point in the twenty-first century for staving off old age, for preventing us looking like mature people should look, for fixing us so that we can look in the mirror and say, I'm gonna live forever, idiot. But it's everywhere. It comes in volumes.

Why is that? Because of the inherent nature within us that recognizes that the facts of the matter are as represented and as discovered, and unless we find the answer to the fundamental questions, Who am I? Where did I come from?

Where am I going? And does it matter? then we are forlorn. So if you take life's brevity plus life's frailty without finding an answer to those two issues, then it is no surprise when life is marked by futility.

Futility. The poets have it. Shakespeare has it. What does he say? Life is but a walking shadow. Out, out, brief candle.

Life's but a walking shadow. A poor player who comes out on the stage, comes out and says his lines, does his best, dances around a little bit, and finally goes off stage left. A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is, he says, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.

Nothing. Life then is like a soccer game with no lines, no goalposts. It's like a basketball game with no hoop and no nets.

Like a baseball game—oh, no, sorry. It's epitomized in the Earl of Rochester's life. You remember the Earl of Rochester, the second Earl of Rochester in the seventeenth century, when I tell you what he said, because you'll remember this. He's the man who said, before I got married, I had six theories about raising children, and now I have six children and no theories. He was, as a young man, prolific, inherited his title from his father at the age of ten, went to Oxford University at twelve, graduated at fourteen, was imprisoned for abducting a wealthy heiress when he was eighteen, renowned for his wit and for his outrageous behavior, for his debauchery, and he was dead at the age of thirty-three.

All of his powerful potential was dissipated as he blazed out. Because he died without ever finding out why it was he lived. Until we find out how to die, we never really find out how we should live. And until we know how we should live, we will never be ready to die. Now, this is not a call to morbidity.

James is not suggesting here for a moment that this is so that we might all be morose and unhelpful to one another. Some of you may be here this morning and you're saying, I can't even believe that I got myself into this, and I wish you would stop so that I can go and get pancakes and maple syrup and just drown out all this morose and terrible information that I've been receiving. Some of you, actually, may have tried the pancakes one time too many.

They don't really taste that good anymore. The same way that your intellectual achievement no longer gives you the buzz it once gave you. You thought if you did a master's, you would be there. But there's so many people with a master's degree. And then, of course, a PhD. That establishes you in a rarefied group, and you did that too. But the fact of the matter is, now you've discovered what you should have known before, that PhDs are ten a penny, and the key is that you get it from the right university. And now you can't go back and get another one, because time has passed you by, and it doesn't taste the way it once tasted.

That material success that allowed you to park that car in the garage and made you feel when you closed the door and looked at it and said, Man, that door closes so nicely. You don't really care about that anymore either. And your grandchildren have grown, and your frailty is apparent, and your finitude is before you, and you're not ready to die. You better take care of business, Mr. Businessman, before it's too late. In fact, let me finish in this vein, now that I'm here. Let me speak to somebody who says, Okay, I recognize what James is saying here. I have been a big planner, and I've got everything organized.

I've even prepared my funeral service. I'm aware of all these things, but I've still never unscrambled the riddle of life. Let me give it to you in two words. Word number one is alienation. Alienation. What the Bible says is that the human predicament is directly tied to alienation. People understand alienation, being alienated from those with whom we once spent time, being alienated from other cultures or communities, being alienated as a result of our material prosperity or absence of that prosperity, being alienated by race, by intellect, being alienated not only from others but also from ourselves, being psychologically alienated so that we cannot even make sense of our own existence. It's fascinating, isn't it, that Nietzsche ended his life—the final eleven years of his life—for all of his brilliance, he blazed out as a madman for the final eleven years. Why? Because he was so clever and so proud and so unwilling to acknowledge what the Bible said.

He took it on at every turn, lambasted it, caricatured it, made fun of it. And you may have done that. But what the Bible says is that God the Creator established you, made you, gave you all your abilities, all your looks, all of your opportunities, has, whether you understand it or not, ordered your life right up until today. But that God who made you, you are alienated from.

And you are alienated with no prospect from your end of reestablishing a relationship. There is no way to do it by good works. There is no way to do it by religious fervency. There is no way to do it by looking in on ourselves and trying to find our spirituality in a quest within. But the good news is that although we ourselves cannot do it, the same God from whom we are alienated has come to do it for us.

That's the second word. Reconciliation. Reconciliation. My alienation from God is dealt with by his willingness to provide reconciliation to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And as strange as it may seem to your ears, when we come to acknowledge that we are in a position of enmity with God, to recognize that we are unable to rectify our condition, and then to realize that completely against the run of play and while we do not deserve it, God has chosen not to count our sins and rebellions and disinterest against us, but instead to count them against his Son, so that all who come to trust in his Son may be reconciled. And when that reconciliation takes place with God, not only does it deal with our ultimate alienation, but it provides for us in the person of the Holy Spirit the capacity to deal with all these other alienations, which we may have been spending all of our time trying to tackle. And the call of the Bible is to tackle the main one first and then, with God's help, to tackle the rest. I wonder if there isn't somebody here this morning for whom the very notion that Christ took our place and bore our punishment—all the stuff that we deserve he took and all that we don't deserve he provides—whether that very issue is enough to tackle a confrontation with our finitude.

You're a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Why would you be so presumptuous as to say you're going to do all these things? Why, we don't even know what will happen tomorrow.

That's why the Bible always speaks in now terms, always speaks in terms of today. And we'll come back to the balance of this, where he drives home what we ought to do and points out that when we fail to do that it's not just a bad idea, it's actually evil. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.

We're going to hear more on Monday about planning properly and Alistair returns in just a moment to close today's program. Here at Truth for Life we are passionate about proclaiming the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our mission is to teach the Bible so that unbelievers will become committed followers of Jesus, believers will grow in their faith, and as a result local churches will be strengthened. If you share this passion to spread the gospel, why not come alongside us in this mission? Sign up and become one of our truth partners. When you do, you're committing to giving a set amount each month and a praying for this ministry, your gift goes directly toward distributing Truth for Life to a global audience and making Alistair's online teaching library freely accessible.

You can sign up quickly online at slash truthpartner or call us at 888-588-7884. And one of the ways we say thank you to our truth partners is by inviting them to request both of the monthly books that we recommend. Today we're encouraging you to get a copy of a book called God's Big Promises Stories of Jesus. It's a great book to help you teach young children about the gospel and why Jesus is their Savior and their friend. This story book highlights God's promises and how they are fulfilled in Jesus.

Each story is four to five pages long. The book includes the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the wise men, Jesus choosing the disciples, the miracles he performed, including raising Jairus' young daughter back to life. Ask for your copy of the book Stories of Jesus today when you become a truth partner or when you give a one-time donation to slash donate. The book Stories of Jesus is perfect for children who are three to six years old. If you request a book with your donation today and you'd like to purchase additional copies to give to others or to share with your children's ministry at church, you'll find the book in our online store. The book is available for purchase at our cost of six dollars while supplies last.

Visit slash store. Now here is Alistair with a closing prayer. Well, Father, we thank you that the Bible speaks, and in many ways it's important for me and for us to step aside, as it were, and allow you to bring this home to our hearts. And I pray particularly for those of us who are presumptuous, for whom getting it right and doing it properly and fixing everything has been the hallmark of our lives.

And yet, as things have gone awry, as plans have failed, as disappointments have come, instead of us humbling ourselves before you and saying, I need you, we've sought to bolster up our self-esteem to deny things, to make it look as though life is different from what it really is. And we thank you that the work of the Holy Spirit is to give us a real clear understanding of how we stand before you, the living God, and then for us to be given an insight into the wonder of your love towards us, so that your love for us, despite our rebellion and disinterest, may woo us and win us and convert us. Fulfill your purposes today, we pray, in each of our lives. And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe, now and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Planning can be stressful, whether we're organizing a big event or just managing our day-to-day schedules. Monday, we'll learn how to enjoy genuine peace as we anticipate what's coming next. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-08 05:07:26 / 2023-09-08 05:15:37 / 8

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