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God Rules! - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17


Well, as I mentioned, next Sunday, Lord willing, we will leave our study of James for a few weeks and discuss together how we are to respond to each other as the body of Christ, as the church, what we are obligated to do to one another. But today, it's our great joy to come back to, one last time, to the last paragraph of James chapter 4. This is truly a life-changing paragraph. It was many years ago now that God, in His goodness, through the scriptures and through the working of the Spirit of God, gripped my own heart with the reality of the sovereignty of God. And it's my prayer that if that has never happened to you, that in our study of this great passage, God will grip your understanding in such a way that you will never get over the truth that God is, in fact, sovereign - that God rules.

It was two Sunday mornings ago - two weeks ago today - as you and I were coming to church that for one Missouri man, a Sunday morning, a leisurely Sunday morning, turned absolutely frightening. He was sitting in his living room, reading the Sunday paper. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his church service started later. It was about 8:30 AM and the ground started shaking and there was this tremendous, thunderous roar. The Associated Press reports that initially the man thought that there must be a tornado in his neighborhood. The sheer volume as well as the shaking and trembling of his house led him to believe that must be what was happening. But suddenly, a giant sinkhole opened up and swallowed a large portion of his home including his entire garage with his Chevy Cavalier parked inside. The hole that was left once the rumbling and movement stopped was fifty-five to sixty-five feet in diameter across and about seventy-five feet deep. Now, just to put that in perspective, folks, that means the hole was three times deeper than the distance from the floor of the worship center to the ceiling. Gives whole new meaning, doesn't it, to the expression that a home is a money pit. Geologists are considering several possibilities as to what might have happened, including the possibility that perhaps an underground cavern gave way. His neighborhood was built in the late 1960s. According to the city manager, up to this point, there'd been no problem of any kind with any of these homes.

Now, as I heard that story about an ordinary man sitting in his own home, in his living room, reading the Sunday paper, I was struck with the fact that you and I live in uncertain world. I mean, what are the chances, humanly speaking, that a house standing there for forty years without incident would expose someone to that kind of risk? Ten feet further and that man would have ended up at the bottom of that hole and at the end of his life. None of us, Lord willing, will face a sinkhole in the coming week. Our homes will not be swallowed up by some mammoth cavern, or whatever it was, that caused this event in Missouri. But I can promise you this: in the week ahead, you and I have as little control of the circumstances that come into our lives as that man had of that giant sinkhole. We are not in control. What fascinated me about that story when I read it, and what makes us all uneasy is that it is a vivid reminder that life is most certainly not in our control and any appearance that we're in control is an illusion and it's an illusion that James wants us to get rid of, he wants to demolish, and he does that at the end of James chapter 4.

James 4:13. Let me read the paragraph to you again. James writes:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin.

James wants us to know that it is an essential Christian duty to acknowledge and to submit to God's rule over the circumstances of our Lives. It's absolutely foundational. To help us understand the issues of this passage, we've broken James' exhortation here into three components, or three parts, and over the last couple of weeks we've looked at the first two.

Two weeks ago, we saw the first part of his exhortation and it's this: the underlying truth of God's rule. You see, there is, in the Old Testament, a body of truth that underlies James' exhortation in this passage. It's the truth about God's sovereignty and His providence and those Christians in the first century reading this letter would have known that Old Testament truth. And so, we took a week to acquaint ourselves with what the Old Testament teaches about God's sovereignty and His providence.

But there's a second part or component to James' exhortation here. We called it: the subtle denial of God's rule. You see, even for us as Christians, we can subtly deny the rule of God in our lives. And to help us see how we can do that, James provides an example in verse 13. There are these successful merchants and they have a plan, a plan to expand their business to a nearby city. And they create what, from all appearances, seems to be a very carefully thought-out, effective business plan. There's a fatal flaw in their plan. The problem is: they completely ignore the sovereignty of God. They don't recognize or express, in any way, their dependence on God. As these merchants plan their daily activities, they do so in total disregard of God. Here are Christian businessmen acting as if they were practical atheists. And the problem isn't just for Christian businessmen, this is a temptation for every Christian. The problem with this approach, we learned last week, this subtle denial of God's rule, it's irrational. It's utterly irrational. In verse 14, James tells us it's rational for two reasons. It's irrational because, first of all, we don't know what will happen tomorrow. You don't know what tomorrow is going to bring forth. And secondly, it's irrational because we cannot be certain about life itself. So, because of that, it's irrational. It's foolish for us to deny, even subtly, the rule of God in our lives. And yet, we are all tempted and all guilty as charged. We all do this.

So, that brings us to the third part or component of James' exhortation. You see, if you understand the first two, you understand the underlying truth of God's rule and the subtle denial of God's rule, then it really helps us come to grips with the third component or the third part of this exhortation. And that is: the Biblical response to God's rule.

If the thinking of verse 13 is flawed, and it is, what is the Biblical response? So, James shows us very specifically what a Christian response to God's rule looks like in real life. You'll notice in verse 15, we learn how we should respond. We learn what a Biblical response is. And then in verses 16 and 17, we learn why we should respond Biblically. What are the reasons a Biblical response is so important?

So, let's look first at how we should respond. How should we respond to the knowledge of God's rule? What is the Biblical response to the knowledge of God's rule or control? James tells us that a Biblical response includes two responses.

First of all, we should respond in humble acceptance of God's providence. Notice verse 15. "Instead, you ought to say, 'if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'" You see, James is insisting here not that we stop planning, but that we add a crucial caveat to our plans, "if the Lord wills." Now, whenever scripture speaks of God's will, it's primarily – and the word primarily is important because there is more complexity here than I'm going to take time to get into this morning - but when scripture speaks of God's will it is primarily referring to one of two Biblical concepts. Either number one: God's moral will. Theologians call that God's will of precept or His will of command. It's the commands God has given us. You have there in your hands, if you have a Bible, God's revealed will. You have God's moral will. God has told you exactly what His will is. You don't have to wonder what God's will is. You hold it in your hand. That's God's will. That's His revealed will for you and for me. There's a second will, however, that scripture often refers to when it's speaking of God's will and it's God's sovereign will or, as theologians call it, God's will of decree. It is the eternal, unchangeable, immutable plan of God which is always carried out in human history. And it's this second type of will that James has in mind primarily here – although, I think both are implied as we'll see in a little bit. But primarily, he wants us to acknowledge the sovereign will of God. God has a plan and He's working it out. The Westminster Confession puts it this way: "God, from all eternity, did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." Wayne Grudem in his excellent Systematic Theology says, "the eternal plans of God" – we're talking about the eternal plans of God – "whereby before the creation of the world He determined to bring about everything that happens." God has a sovereign will. In eternity past, God made a plan and that plan encompassed every detail of the world and life He would create and He is working out that sovereign will in time and eternity. You see, James' point is: it's not enough to recognize the brevity of life and the uncertainty of our lives. As you see in verse 14, many unbelievers do that. A lot of unbelievers understand the brevity and uncertainty of life. Instead, as Christians, we must acknowledge the sovereignty of God. We must humbly accept the providence of God.

What does that look like? Well, it means we should realize, first of all, that God has a plan for the details of life. It means that we should acknowledge that God's providence works out that plan in our circumstances. And then we should gladly and willingly submit to God's sovereignty or, in other words, we should humbly accept the specific circumstances and events that He brings as part of that great plan.

Now notice, in verse 15, that James touches on two huge areas in which we need to submit ourselves to God's providence. I think the New American Standard really captures the essence of the Greek here text best. The translators say, "'if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'" You see, both our continuing existence – "we will live" - and our future activities - "we will do this or that" are conditioned on whether or not God wills it to be so. Let me say that differently. Listen carefully. It is solely an act of God's will that keeps you and me alive another second. And the moment He chooses, our time here is done. It is also solely, an act of God's will that determines whether every single decision and plan we make will, in fact, come to fruition. You may remember that this is exactly how Daniel referred to God when he was before that wicked king, Belshazzar in Daniel chapter 5, you remember, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson. As Daniel stands before this wicked man, he says to him, "you have not glorified the One in whose hands are your life, breath, and your ways." Think about that description of God with me for just a moment. "The One in whose hand (or hands) are your life breath and your ways." Being in God's hand speaks more powerfully than any other image of His control - there to protect or there to crush. You're in God's hand and you are in the hand of a God who sustains your "life breath." That speaks of God's continuing of our lives, our very existence. Breath is what we depend on to sustain life. The moment we stop breathing, we're dead. And "your ways." He holds in His hands your ways, he tells Belshazzar. That refers to the patterns and normal activities of our lives. Belshazzar, of course, refused to acknowledge this. He ended up being killed that very day. But we, as God's people, must acknowledge that we stand before One in whose hand is our life breath and our ways.

By the way, you see examples throughout the scripture of godly people, submitting themselves to God's sovereign rule and sovereign will in their lives. Let me show you a couple of Old Testament examples. Turn back with me, for a moment, to 2 Samuel chapter 15. Now, the context of this passage is David's, son Absalom has just decided to rebel. He is now going to pull off a mutiny in which David is deposed from the throne and has to flee from the city of Jerusalem itself. Now, notice what happens in verse 24. 2 Samuel 15:24. That's the context in which this occurs. "Now behold, Zadok (the priest) also came, and all the Levites with him, carrying the ark of the covenant of God." - "Okay, David. You're God's man. You're God's King. If you're leaving the city of Jerusalem, well take the ark with you." - "And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar came up until all the people had finished passing from the city. The king said to Zadok (David says to Zadok) return the Ark of God to the city" – "I appreciate what you're trying to do but take it back. Take it back to the tabernacle." And he says:

If I find favor in the sight of the Lord, then He will bring me back and show me both it (that is, the tabernacle and the ark) and His habitation. But if He should say thus, 'I have no delight in you,' then here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him."

You know what David was doing? He was saying, "if God wills." "I have a plan that I have a plan to come back to take back the kingdom, to be in control, to be back in Jerusalem to worship again at God's holy place. And I'll do that, if that's what God wants." That's what he was saying. In the worst of circumstances, David's acknowledging that involved in those circumstances is a sovereign God working out His plan. Put yourself in David's shoes for just a moment. Having not only a rebellious child, but a rebellious child who steals the throne, drives you from family and home and worship of God in Jerusalem. David says, "I'll be back, if God wills."

Turn over to Lamentations - another great example of this in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Lamentations chapter 3. You remember of course, this book was written in the context of the fall of Jerusalem as the people of God are carried off captive. The city is destroyed and "Lamentations" means "to lament, to mourn, to weep." Here is an extended poem of suffering and in the midst of this poem of suffering in Lamentations chapter 3, notice how the prophet refers to God. Lamentations 3:37. In the midst of the worst imaginable circumstances - God's people taken captive, the city of Jerusalem destroyed, the temple decimated. Verse 37:

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?

How do we often respond to the word of God's sovereignty? We're very tempted to say something extremely human like, "wait a minute. I'm not sure that sounds fair." But look at the next verse, verse 39. "Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?" You're sure it's justice you want? That's what he's saying. God is just and He does what's just. But in the end, we don't really want justice because if we got justice, it means the first moment we'd ever sinned our life would be over and we'd be destined to an eternity separate from God in hell. Instead, we want mercy. We want grace. But here in this passage, the prophet reminds us that our God is sovereign even in the worst of human circumstances and he acknowledges that God will do what God will do.

When you come to the New Testament, you see this throughout. You see it, of course, in the life of our Lord. You remember in the Garden of Gethsemane recorded in Matthew 26, He prayed there and He says, "Father, if it's Your will, let this cup" - that is not so much the cup of suffering. Jesus was willing to face the suffering. It was the being separated from His Father. - He says, "if it's Your will, let this this cup pass from Me, but if not, nevertheless, not My will but (what?) Yours be done." When you come to the apostles, you see this constant model of acknowledging, and humbly accepting, and recognizing the sovereign will of God. Let me just show you a few passages where we see this. Turn to Acts 18. You see it in the life of the Apostle Paul. Acts 18:21, he's going to leave Ephesus and it says in Acts 18 21, "but taking leave of them and saying, 'I will return to you again if God wills,' and he set sail from Ephesus." In Acts 21:14, you see the same attitude, this same spirit, "and since Paul would not be persuaded (that is, not to go to Jerusalem) we (Luke says) fell silent, remarking, 'the will of the Lord be done.'" If this is what God wants, then even though we've tried to persuade him not to go, then let it happen - humbly accepting the will of God. Romans 1:10, Paul says, "always (to the Roman Christians) always in my prayers making requests to perhaps, now, at last by the will of God, I may succeed in coming to you." He says, "I want to come if that's what God wills." He ends the book of Romans the same way. Romans 15:32, "so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company." In 1 Corinthians 4:19, Paul says to the Corinthian church, "for I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power (talking about the false teachers that were there)." 1 Corinthians 16:7, he says, "I do not wish to see you now just in passing; but I hope to remain with you for some time" - he says, "I don't want to come just visit. I want to stay." - "if the Lord permits."

You can see the example that Paul set so often, understanding that his plans and expressing that his plans were under the sovereign purpose of God. But let me warn you about something. Let me make sure you don't misunderstand. James is not saying that the phrase, "if the Lord wills" should become a kind of Christian rabbit's foot to us. It's not to be some kind of superstitious mantra that we unthinkingly say along with every plan we verbalize. In fact, even in scripture that isn't true. As John Calvin observes, the Apostle Paul often says something that sounds very much like the businessmen of verse 13. Listen to a couple of examples. Acts 19:21, "Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, 'after I've been there, I must also see Rome.'" No mention of God's will. Romans 15:28, "therefore when I had finished this… I will go by way of you to Spain." No mention of God's will. 1 Corinthians 16:5, "but I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia." Again, no mention of God's will. So, the solution here, folks, is not to just start saying the words superstitiously, kind of like the way a major league baseball coach avoids the baseline, you know, as he walks pitcher's mound. "Just in case something bad might happen, I'm going to throw, 'if the Lord wills,' in there to hold the Lord at bay. Nothing bad will happen if I throw that in." You see, it's not the saying of it that matters. It's truly acknowledging the reality and living, and thinking, and planning, in light of that reality. It's okay to say it. You will hear me say it. And I know many of you do as well. But if you don't have to say it every time you throw out a plan. That's not the point here. What James is really commanding is that our thoughts, and our words, and our decisions, and our plans be aided by an active acknowledgement of and submission to God's rule. We should see our entire lives through the lens of, "if the Lord wills."

Now, last week, we saw verse 13 reminds us of some very specific categories where we must deliberately affirm God's sovereign will in our lives. Let me just remind you of them briefly. Verse 13, we must affirm God's sovereignty in our decisions and plans. I said the one saying we will go. We must acknowledge God's sovereignty in our daily schedules – "today or tomorrow." We must acknowledge God's sovereignty in our future – "we'll be there a year." We must acknowledge God's sovereignty in our location – "we will go to such and such a city." We must acknowledge God's sovereignty in our occupation – "we will go there and engage in a certain kind of business." And we must acknowledge God's sovereignty in the results that come from our decisions and plans and activities. These businessmen said, "we will make profit." The results are in God's hands.

So, how do you know if you are humbly accepting God's providence? How do you know how well you're doing in this area? Well, let me give you a little test, a three-point quiz. You students are back in school. You understand this. Just three brief questions. Grade yourself.

Question number one: do you understand that God has a plan even in the details of your life? You understand that from all eternity God had a plan for all the details of your life? If you answer yes, then so far so good. You've got 1/3. You're one third of the way to having a humble, submissive spirit to the sovereign will of God.

Question number two: do you acknowledge and submit to the fact that God's providence works out that plan day by day in all the circumstances of your life? Not only did God have a plan but day after day He's working out that plan in all the details of your life for His glory and your good. Do you believe that? Do you acknowledge that? Do you submit to that fact?

Question number three: do you gladly and willingly submit to God's sovereignty? In other words, do you humbly accept the specific circumstances and events that God brings into your life as part of His great plan? And when you plan, do you start by acknowledging God's plan -and doing so willingly and gladly? Do you? Can you honestly say with Christ, "not my will, but Yours be done?" Or "I have a plan, but I want Your plan to be done and not my plan." How'd you do? That's what it means to say and to mean "if the Lord wills."

But there's another implication to this expression, "if the Lord wills." Not only does it mean humble acceptance of God's providence but, secondly, it means humble obedience to God's word in our plans. You see, it's impossible to sincerely say, "if the Lord wills," and then be planning something that runs contrary to His revealed will. You can't say, "I really want God's sovereign will and then have a plan that leads you into sin, that leads you into a path that's contrary to God's revealed will. So, there's a clear implication here: that we must humbly obey God's word in our plans if we're going to genuinely say, "if the Lord wills?" You remember what we learned from the third petition of the Lord's Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That petition involved not only acknowledging God's sovereign will but what? Obeying God's revealed will. If it's really God's will we want, then we must humbly obey God's will as it's revealed in His word.

So, the Biblical response to God's rule or God's control contains these two parts. How do you respond? One: by humbly acknowledging the providence of God. And two: by humbly obeying the revealed will of God. That's how we are to submit ourselves to God, how we are to respond Biblically to His rule.

Now, in verses 16 and 17, James tells us why. In verse 15, he told us how. Now, he's going to tell us why. He gives us two reasons, in verses 16 and 17, that we must respond Biblically to the rule of God.

Reason number one: because to refuse is cosmic arrogance. Notice what he says in verse 16. "But as it is, you boast in your arrogance." Here, James confirms the real problem. It's an attitude. You see, the word "boast"? The Greek word that that translates is a neutral word - can be good, it could be bad, depending on where it is you're boasting. You see, the word means, literally, "to rejoice in something and to put your confidence in something." To both rejoice and put your confidence in something and that's either good or bad, depending on where it is you're rejoicing and putting your confidence. Notice where these Christians were. They took pride in and placed their confidence in their arrogance. The word arrogance is an awful word. The only other time it occurs in the New Testament. It occurs in 1 John 2:16 where it's translated as "pride of life." It's an arrogant sense of self-confidence, an arrogant sense of self-sufficiency based on your supposed status, or success, or accomplishments, or wealth, or gifts, or intelligence, or whatever it is. You see, here is the terrible thing about this sin James is exposing. We are not only tempted to leave God out of our lives, but then to turn around and boast about it - to boast about our self-confidence, to boast about our independence. JB Phillips, in his translation, translates verse 16 this way: "you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence."

Let me ask you: do you boast to yourself or to others about your own spirit of independence, about the fact that you really are in control of your life and your future and your circumstances? Look at what James says in verse 16, all such boasting is evil. As one commentator says, "we might consider it a small thing, a passing feature of life, if we forget how dependent we are and act and mere self-will. James sees it as the hardcore of vaunting pride which is the mark and curse of fallen man." It's not a little thing to God to live as if He doesn't exist, to live as if we are in control and He's not. It's cosmic arrogance.

There's a second reason James gives us here that we must Biblically respond to God's rule: not only because to refuse is cosmic arrogance but, secondly, because to refuse to do it is deliberate sin. Verse 17, "therefore to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." Now, we often quote this verse to define the nature of sin and that's okay, but we cannot forget that this verse has a context. Notice the word "therefore" connects this verse to the paragraph we've just studied together. James has just commanded us to humbly acknowledge God's rule over the details of our lives and to include Him in our planning. So, we know what's right to do and if we fail to do that, James says it is sin.

You know, we don't always think about sin like this. We do in our families, but not so much in our relationship with God. Let me give you an example. If I were to tell my children not to fight with each other – now, this is just hypothetical, of course. I'm not saying I ever have to say that - but if I were to tell my children not to fight with each other and they do, obviously, that's disobedience. We understand that. But what if I tell them that they need to be kind to each other - again, just hypothetically speaking - and they aren't kind to each other? Is that any less disobedience than fighting when I said not to fight? Of course not. They're both disobedience. That's absolutely true and it's true in our relationship with God, as well. We can disobey God both by sins of omission - omitting things were supposed to do -as well as commission - committing things we should not do. As the Catechism puts it, the sin of commission is doing what God forbids, the sin of omission is failing to do what God requires. When we think of sin, which of those do we tend to think of? Let me just ask you, for a moment, to think of the last time - and hopefully it was recent - that you were confessing your sin to the Lord. What kind of sins did you confess? They were probably sins of commission - that is, things you did that God forbids. How much time have you spent asking God for forgiveness for sins of omission - things you didn't do that God requires? Both are terribly sinful. James wants us to know that sins of omission - failing to do what God requires - are every bit as serious to God, including failing to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our lives. It's every bit as serious as those other sins that we tend to confess. By the way, this brings us back to our need of grace, doesn't it, because all of us might be able, for some period of time, to keep from doing what God forbids. You know, if you're around the right people, in the right circumstance, you can shut off, you know, the bad language or whatever it is. We can stop doing, for a short time, what God forbids but no one but Christ can consistently do what God requires.

Let me just ask you: is anybody here that wants to say, "I can consistently, day in and day out, live a life of love to God with all my heart, soul and strength?" Anybody here want to say, "I consistently, day in and day out, unselfishly love all those people around me as I love myself?" That's why we spend so much time on the sins of commission - because those are easier to deal with. You see, our only hope of satisfying God and His justice and His law is in grace because when you look at the sins of omission, it's so high a standard. If I have any hope of being right with God, of satisfying His law, it's having the righteousness of someone else credited to my account. And that's exactly what happens in the grace of justification. God, to the believing sinner, to the one who believes in Christ and whose faith is in Christ alone and nothing else – no shred of self-righteousness - to that person who repents and believes in Jesus, God takes all of our sin, and He credits it to Christ - sins of omission as well as sins of commission - and then He takes the perfect life of our Christ - the perfect life of our Lord lived in perfect obedience, never once a sin of omission, never once sin of commission - He takes that perfect life and He credits it to our account and treats us as if we had lived that life. That's the good news. That's the gospel. And folks, when we think about verse 17 of James 4, we realize how desperately we need it.

Several weeks ago, we learned in chapter 4, verse 10, that we needed to humble ourselves before God in genuine repentance because that's the sole condition for grace. And this is absolutely crucial that we repent, that we turn to God in repentance. But as one author puts it, "all this can be lost, however, if once outside the doors of our private room" - in other words, we've just panther we just left our private room of prayer – "we take the reins of life into our own hands. We forget our ignorance and frailty Independence and we plan our day, our week, and next year, as if we were lords of earth and time and there was no God in heaven." We are so tempted as human beings to think and act like that.

I read a tragic example of it this week in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Some of you maybe have read about his life. You're familiar, a little bit, from history. It was in June of 1812 that Napoleon decided that Russia was a threat. He decided that because Russia backed out of an agreement that they had made with Napoleon and Napoleon assumed that if they backed out others may begin to do that and he would lose the control of his empire. And so, he decided that Russia was a threat. He decided to march on Russia with 600,000 men against a Russian army of only 200,000 men. Of course, as you might expect Napoleon continually marched his men through Russia. The Russians constantly retreated, but the advantage of their position is they never gave Napoleon any decisive victory. They just kept gradually retreating and pulling back and pulling back. Eventually, they even retreated from the city of Moscow itself and as they left the city, they set large parts of the city on fire. So, when Napoleon arrived, the city was virtually empty and as he waited there days grew into weeks waiting in expectation that Czar Alexander would offer some terms of peace. But he never did. It never came. So, in mid-October, with the winter approaching, and no way to supply his troops, Napoleon began the long retreat out of Russia. This happened to be, if you're familiar with history at all, this turned out to be the most devastating loss of Napoleon's career because between snowstorms and freezing temperatures, and the Cossacks who continually killed stragglers on the way out, of the 600,000 men that Napoleon had arrived with, 500,000 died, deserted, or were captured. He left Russia with 100,000 of the 600,000 men with which he'd arrived.

What's interesting about that story is it's often been reported that when Napoleon was considering his invasion of Russia a friend tried to dissuade him by saying, "man proposes, but God disposes." He was driving home the reality that we make our plans but God directs our steps. The outcome is of God. To which Napoleon gave this infamous reply, "I dispose as well as propose." "I am in control," Napoleon said. A Christian who heard of that exchange at the time said, 'I set that down as the turning point of Bonaparte's fortunes. God will not allow a creature with impunity thus to usurp His prerogative."

Of course, it's true. Moscow marked the beginning of the end for Napoleon. And if we embrace that same attitude, it will be cosmic arrogance and deliberate sin. Instead, what we ought to say is, "if God wills, we will live and do this or that." Let's pray together.

Father, we confess to You that we are by nature so proud, so independent. Lord, we do often conceive of ourselves as in control. Thank You for this powerful reminder from James, inspired by Your Spirit, reminding us that You are in control and that we must humbly accept Your providence in our lives. Father, I pray that You would help us to live constantly under the awareness that You rule and we don't. Father, don't let us name Your name, don't let us be followers of Christ and live through the week as if we were practical atheists - ignoring Your sovereignty, ignoring Your power, ignoring that You are in charge of the details of life. And Father, my heart goes out today to someone who may be here – man or woman – who believes that he or she is the sovereign of their lives, that they are in control when, in reality, they are enslaved to sin and belong to Satan. Father, I pray that today would be the day You would help them to see their true condition before You, that You would produce genuine repentance and faith. Father, that they would acknowledge their sin, they would cry out to You for forgiveness, that they would cry out and ask that their sins be imputed, be credited to Christ, and that His perfect life and death be put to their account. Father, I pray that You would do this work in the hearts of somebody here today. I pray that you would accomplish this for Your glory and for the glory of Your Son in whose name, we pray. Amen.


God Rules! - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17

God Rules! - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17

Filthy Rich

Tom Pennington James 5:1-6

More from this Series



James: First Lessons

Tom Pennington James 1:1

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 1:2-12

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 1:2-12

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 1:2-12

Hook, Line & Sinker - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 1:13-18

Hook, Line & Sinker - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 1:13-18

Look in the Mirror! - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 1:19-27

Look in the Mirror! - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 1:19-27

Look in the Mirror! - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 1:19-27

Look in the Mirror! - Part 4

Tom Pennington James 1:19-27

Pride and Prejudice - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 2:1-13

Pride and Prejudice - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 2:1-13

Your Faith: Dead or Alive? - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 2:14-26

Your Faith: Dead or Alive? - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 2:14-26

Your Faith: Dead or Alive? - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 2:14-26

Your Faith: Dead or Alive? - Part 4

Tom Pennington James 2:14-26

Watch Your Mouth! - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 3:1-12

Watch Your Mouth! - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 3:1-12

Wisdom from Hell vs. Wisdom from Heaven - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 3:13-18

Wisdom from Hell vs. Wisdom from Heaven - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 3:13-18

Wisdom from Hell vs. Wisdom from Heaven - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 3:13-18

Wisdom from Hell vs. Wisdom from Heaven - Part 4

Tom Pennington James 3:13-18

Wisdom from Hell vs. Wisdom from Heaven - Part 5

Tom Pennington James 3:13-18

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 4

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 5

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

War and Peace: Learning to Deal with Personal Conflict - Part 6

Tom Pennington James 4:1-10

A Rush to Judgment

Tom Pennington James 4:11-12

God Rules! - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17

God Rules! - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17

God Rules! - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 4:13-17

Filthy Rich

Tom Pennington James 5:1-6

When Life's Not Fair - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 5:7-12

When Life's Not Fair - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 5:7-12

Prayer For All Seasons - Part 1

Tom Pennington James 5:13-18

Prayer For All Seasons - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 5:13-18

Prayer For All Seasons - Part 3

Tom Pennington James 5:13-18

Search & Rescue: Every Believer's Mission

Tom Pennington James 5:19-20