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Planning Properly (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
September 11, 2023 4:00 am

Planning Properly (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 11, 2023 4:00 am

Whether you’re organizing a big event or just managing your day-to-day schedule, planning can be stressful. Learn how to honor God and enjoy genuine peace as you anticipate what comes next. That’s the focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


Planning can be stressful whether we're trying to organize a big event or just managing our day-to-day schedules. Today on Truth for Life we're going to put planning in its proper perspective as we learn from Alistair Begg about how to enjoy real peace as we anticipate what's coming next. Alistair is teaching from the book of James chapter 4 we're looking at verses 13 through 17. We ended this morning by recognizing that a confrontation with the brevity and frailty of our lives that doesn't find an answer in the provision that God the Creator has made for us in Jesus will often paralyze us and introduce us to such a sense of futility that we will be tempted to try and compensate for that sense of alienation by filling our lives with all kinds of things.

Well, that's where we left it, and it is from that point that we begin. Instead of approaching it in that way, verse 15 gives to us, if you like, the right perspective on dealing with the passing nature of our lives and in the making of plans for our lives. Instead of dealing with it in the way he has just outlined, you ought, he says, to say, if it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or do that.

We need God to teach us that every day that we have on earth is a gift from him, it is an evidence of his covenanted mercies to us, and it is an indication of the fact that he still has plans and purposes. We can't see all of God's purposes—and that is a mercy in itself—but we can see that which he has chosen to reveal. And when we say, if it is the Lord's will, we're not moving immediately into a realm that is unknown. Because God has, in his revelation of himself, identified for us certain things that ought to regulate our actions and our attitudes. And so, when we say that we're going to do something, we need to be saying, I will do this as long as it does not violate what God has said or what he has revealed of himself. So, for example, instead, we ought to say, if it is the Lord's will, I'm going to do this. In other words, if it isn't the Lord's will, I'm not going to do this. If God's will for me is that I am to be holy, then it is not his will for me to be unholy. If it is God's will for me to be contented, then I refuse to live my life in discontent.

If it is God's will for me to tell others about Jesus, then I cannot arrogate to myself the freedom to please myself and never tell others about Jesus. We need to say, if it is the Lord's will. Now, not all of God's revealed will answers all of our questions about his providential will. And we face decisions in our lives, all of us, routinely. That will be sometimes major decisions, minor decisions nevertheless, where we have ostensibly equal choices—both of them equally moral, neither of them a clear violation of God's revealed will. And it is in that circumstance that most of us find difficulty in discovering what God's will is. And my advice to you when you find difficulty in that, and I do too, is to recognize how many times the Bible calls upon us to wait—to wait upon the Lord, especially if we are the decision-oriented kind of people.

When we are confronted by apparently equal choices, the best approach is to stand still, to kneel down, to look up, and to wait. To remind ourselves that God will not lead us in violation to his revelation of himself in his will, to recognize that there is wisdom in multiple counselors, to recognize that, as Luther says, we may detect the mind of God and the Word of God from the insinuations of the evil one in light of the fact that God speaks with sweet reasonableness. But at the end of the day, if our perspective on the living of our lives is to be biblical, we must, with Jesus, be about the Father's business. And when we grasp that, when we realize the perspective, If it is the Lord's will, we will live, and we will do this, and we will do that, it suddenly transforms all the things that we're called upon to do. One of the great dangers when we think in terms of being placed entirely at God's disposal is that if we're not careful—especially people who are in the position in which I find myself, along with my colleagues, set apart to the gospel ministry—if one is not careful in this position, we may inadvertently, or worse still, purposefully create the impression that if others are going to put themselves entirely at the disposal of God, then it is going to demand of them a complete uprooting from where they are and what they do.

And sometimes that leads to all kinds of silly decisions on the part of people. When we place ourselves entirely and utterly at the disposal of God, then the daily round of our duties and the common tasks of our days become the place of service. We don't need to go anywhere else unless he calls us to. We don't need to do anything else than that which he has asked us to do. And we need to do it where we're placed. If the Lord wills, ought to be written then across all of our plans, all of our dreams, and all of our lives.

Deo volente. Fifthly, proud planning is evil. That's verse 16. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

J. B. Phillips paraphrases, verse 16, As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. And what James is addressing here is just the kind of arrogance that allows us to make speeches about ourselves as if somehow or another we were omnipotent, as if we were in control of our own destiny. And the real problem here in verse 16 is that such an individual not only leaves God out of the equation, but that individual then goes on to boast about the fact. This boasting and bragging is an interesting verb, but it is the same context that we find in 1 John chapter 2, where John talks about the lust of life and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

It's the same root as is used here. As it is, this is your boasting and bragging. The glamour of all that you think is splendid. You like to boast about it all. All such boasting and bragging is evil.

It is empty. It is futile. Finally, verse 17 introduces us to what we might refer to as a clear and present duty. Anyone then, he says, therefore, in light of what I've just been telling you, anyone who knows the good he ought to do or she ought to do and doesn't do it sins.

This, the commentators' estimate, was probably a maxim, a routine statement that went around. And James picks it up and says, This is a good time to include this in my letter. Everybody knows this one. Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it sins. Well, he says, I've just told you all the things you ought to do. Now you need to know that if you don't go ahead and do them, you will be guilty of sinning.

I've warned you against being boastful and braggadacious, of being self-reliant in the living of your life. I've called you to the duty to walk humbly with God. And now that you know this, if you don't do it, you sin. Spurgeon, in referencing this, says that this is a call to immediate obedience. A call to immediate obedience. The call to obey God is always an immediate call.

It's not a call that we're allowed to take up tomorrow. When he says, Let's go, we go. So, for example, we daren't delay or defer the call of the gospel—a call to repentance and to faith, a call which comes clearly from the Bible, arresting us in the journey of our lives, seeking to turn us around from our own selfish orientation, to rely entirely on the work of Jesus, and to go in a completely different way.

When that voice calls to you, deal with it immediately. Now is the accepted time, and today is the day of salvation. We daren't delay in responding to the call of the gospel, nor dare we delay in obeying the commands of Jesus. We daren't delay in obeying the commands of Jesus. If we know that it is good to obey the commands of Jesus and we don't obey them, then it is sin. So, for example, we're here at a baptismal service.

Let's just let the cat ride out of the bag. If we understand the Bible correctly, an unbaptized Christian is like a soldier who refuses to wear a uniform. Like a husband or wife that refuses to wear a wedding ring. Well, I'm happy to have a relationship, but I don't want anyone to know that I'm married. Or I'm thinking about doing it sometime in the future. I say, I don't want you to do it in the future. I want you to do it from day one. I want to put the ring on your finger on the first day, and I want it to stay there until the last day.

In fact, you can leave it on when I go. Have you been baptized? Are you committed to doing what is good? Or have you determined that delay is actually an option?

And if so, on what basis? Now, we daren't delay in obeying the commands of Jesus, and we daren't delay in filling the demands or the requirements of Christian living. Just the duties of the day.

Just the routines of the hour. Let me quote Spurgeon to you again. I'm glad it was Spurgeon who used this as an illustration.

I'm not sure I would be brave enough to do it on my own. This is him making application of the notion of doing that which is good and doing it immediately and properly. And he says this to his congregation. There is a mother at home, and her children are neglected while she evangelizes her neighbors. When the children are off her hands, then she says that she's going to be a mother in Israel and look after the souls of others. Such conduct is sin. Mind your children, darn the stockings, and attend to the home duties. And when you have done that, talk about doing something in other places. But if present duties are neglected, you cannot make up for the omission by some future piece of dramatic endeavor to do what you were never called to do.

We dare not delay in the fulfillment of present requirements. Billy Graham's wife died this year, didn't she? A lovely lady by all standards of reckoning. Sue and I had the privilege of spending the day in their home with them, on our honeymoon. And as we sat around the big table with the lazy boy or the lazy Susan or whatever it was that spins around, and as the meal ended at lunchtime and things proceeded, we realized that it is actually true that Ruth Graham had a sign at her kitchen sink which read, Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times Daily. Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times Daily. And the fact that she conducted that divine service there made it distinctly possible for her husband to conduct his divine service.

But without her commitment to hers, his commitment was sadly disfigured and diminished. Then Spurgeon goes on, You do not obey your parents, young man, And yet you're going to be a minister, are you? A pretty minister you will make.

As a trainee banker you're dilatory and neglectful, And your boss would be glad to see the back of you. And yet you have an idea that you're going to be a missionary? A pretty missionary you would be.

You see what he's saying? He's saying that if we understand this perspective, if we're going to step back from the boasting and the bragging and the self-aggrandizement that is attached to it, and if we understand the nature of God's good plan for us, then we must do what we are called to do—in the daily round and in the common task. Do not fall foul of the idea that we can create a natural dichotomy between spiritual activity and natural function in life. It is in the everyday events of life that our Christian experience is expressed. And at issue in verse 17, you will notice is not the bad things we're doing but the good things that we fail to do.

Let me finish in this way. If anyone then knows the good he or she ought to do and doesn't do, it's sins. It sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn't it? If you think about this—and you can do this for extra credit when you get home—if you think about the parables of Jesus—and I haven't checked this entirely, but I have a sneaking suspicion—that the parables of Jesus drive home the issue of what we fail to do rather than confront us and convict us about the things that we have done. So, for example, in the parable of the talents, remember, the individual with the one talent was condemned by the Master not because he used the one talent for an evil purpose but because he squandered the chance to use the one talent to do something good with it. If you consider the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are pointed out not for what they did but for what they failed to do. They were so tied up in their ecclesiastical underwear that they were unwilling to get down and deal with real need when it presented itself to them. They failed, on account of their own preoccupations, to recognize what a genuine expression of neighborliness would mean. And it was left up to the good Samaritan. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, remember, the rich man dies and goes to hell, and he is tormented in hell, and the source of his torment in hell is when he realizes not what he did but what he failed to do—that he allowed his wealth to become a screen which prevented him from having to deal with the need of people who were around him.

Indeed, he was able to separate himself from contact with folks like the beggar, and he didn't recognize the opportunity that literally lay at his doorstep. Verse 17, then, is a call to face up to what we failed to do. It's probably true to say that the Christian more often leaves undone the things that ought to be done than does the things that ought not to be done. There's something very practical, isn't there, again? And we can just finish in this intensely practical way. Those of us who have had a good upbringing and have had parents who bashed into us certain foundational principles of life, made a point of explaining why you don't leave Rice Krispies floating in the bowl, why we would have to have, you know, the potential third World War over Rice Krispies floating in a bowl.

Some of you are looking at me and saying, I can't believe that you had such a fierce and severe upbringing. But what my parents were trying to teach at that point was, don't start anything that you don't mean to finish. Finish what you begin. Finish what you begin.

And we could, I think, extrapolate from cereal floating in the bottom of the average teenager's bowl through unfinished homework and unfinished and unmade beds and untidied bedrooms and unfinished relationships and the present circumstances of individuals in their thirties who now live no longer in adolescence, nor have they reached maturity, but sociologists tell us they now live in the realm of odyssey—in odyssey—where there are no lasting relationships, only hookups, only transient and passing equations, with nothing completed. And in a very striking way, the Christian should always be the person who completes the task. Completes the task. Spurgeon, again, describes how George Whitefield said—and this is so quaint, I love this, and with this we finish—he tells of how Whitefield said that he would not go to bed unless he had put even his gloves in their right place. Just think about this for a moment. I refuse to go to bed unless I have put my gloves in the right place. Why? Because, said Whitefield, if I should die in the night, I do not want anyone coming into the house asking, Where did he leave his gloves?

But you can make your own application of it. That is the way for a Christian man or a Christian woman always to live—to have things in order, yes, even to a pair of gloves. I've told you of my own father. He used to make me smile with his shoe trees. And when he took his shoe trees out of his shoes, he put them in his slippers, so that when he came home, he would be able to take them out of his slippers and immediately put them in his shoes. He even put shoe trees in his sneakers.

And I used to infuriate him horribly. But you know, I put my shoe trees in my slippers now as well. Whoever knows the good they ought to do, and doesn't do it, sins. Finish up your work every day. Finish up your work every night. Finish up your work. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg with the message he's titled, Planning Properly.

Alistair returns shortly to close today's program. As we learned today, divine service begins at home in the common tasks and daily routines of life. And if you have children, part of that responsibility includes discipling them, teaching them about Jesus. One tool that can help you share your faith with very young children, preschool and elementary age kids, is a book that's been made just for Truth for Life.

You won't find it anywhere else. It's titled, God's Big Promises Stories of Jesus. It's a colorful storybook that you can read to small children that will introduce them to the gospel. The book is a collection of 21 short stories from all four gospels that will teach your children how the promises of God made in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus. Ask for your copy when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life.

You can donate through the mobile app or online at slash donate. Now, as we wrap up today, here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, thank you for the intense practicality of the Bible. Forgive us our unfinished business. Forgive us for thinking that we'll get serious about serving God tomorrow or about obeying Jesus tomorrow or next year or once we've finished school or graduated or got the children off or whatever it might be. We pray, gracious Father, that you will look upon us in your grace and in your kindness and woo us and win us and stir us and change us and keep us. For we pray in your precious name. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for beginning the week with us. Is it wrong for Christians to be wealthy? Is it somehow godlier to live in poverty? Tomorrow we'll hear the answers from God's Word. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-28 17:54:18 / 2023-10-28 18:02:25 / 8

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