MS Week #38: The Will of God

Brad Libolt speaking on James 4:13-17. He spoke about God’s will of decree and will of command. Jesus being the perfect example of someone who trusted in God’s will of decree and obeyed his will of command.


  • I love hunting and I would consider myself to be a decent hunter. Because I love hunting, I also love telling hunting stories. Just last night, my brother and his girlfriend were over at my place. My brother’s girlfriend was asking about hunting, and so I had the opportunity to tell her some hunting stories. She was asking how you go about finding an animal and shooting it and what a normal day looks like when you’re hunting, and so I told her some methods and what I have done in the past to be successful, then my brother piped up and said, “Really it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.” He was basically saying that it was all about luck. Now, that isn’t what hunters want to hear, because we think that it is all about our skill and ability to track and shoot. But what he said actually holds a lot of truth. I can think I am the best hunter in the world. I can scout for weeks in advance, get the best camo, the best gear, have the best gun with the best scope on it and come up with the best plan to find and shoot an animal, but at the end of the day, it really isn’t up to me if the animal doesn’t do exactly what I think it’s going to do. I have no control over that. I can plan everything out and have this grand picture in my mind of how things should work out, but at the end of the day, it isn’t up to me.
  • This is similar to what James is talking about in these five verses. He is calling out those who boast in their arrogance, those who boast in their ability to control their life and determine where they will go and what they will do, and he is saying that this kind of boasting is evil. Much like I have no control over whether or not I have a successful hunting trip, we have no control over God’s will for our life. Let’s dive in and see what James has to say about this type of arrogance.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—

  • James is talking to people who have every detail of their life planned out, and their motives for that plan are financial gain. Look at what he says; it is a specific day, either today or tomorrow, a specific town, a specific time, and for a specific reason. Everything is planned out exactly how they would want it to go. And we do this all the time. You guys probably aren’t planning out your next financial endeavor, figuring out how to trade and make a profit, but we are always planning out our lives. Maybe you think that next year when you go into high school you will play a certain sport and be really good at it and gain popularity. Or maybe next year when you go into eight grade you are going to get really good grades and be the top of your class. Or maybe this summer, you have a plan to fall in love with a special boy or girl and eventually get married. We love to plan. We always have some sort of picture in our head of how things are supposed to work out. So think about what you are planning. Think about what you are envisioning, what you see happening in your future. It might not even be a bad thing, but how detailed are those plans? What happens if those plans don’t work out the way you think they will? What happens if God has another plan for your life?
  • Let’s look at James’ response.

14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

  • He says that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I can scout out an area and have an idea in my head of where I think the elk or deer are going to be the next day, but I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow is not in our control.
  • In fact James says, what is your life? We are just a mist that appears for a little bit and then vanishes. We are here and then *poof* we are gone. We have to have this kind of view on life. We have to realize that we have such little time on Earth, and that we have no control of how long that time will be or what happens in that time.
  • Instead of planning out every detail of our life, James says we should live according to God’s will. We should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Doing this shows that we trust in God’s plan more than our own. We understand who God is and who we are, and we recognize that he has complete control of our lives, not ourselves.
  • This impacts us in a couple of ways because like I said, we love to plan. We love to plan out the details of our life. And when these plans don’t work out, it can crush us. We can get upset and frustrated that our perfect plan didn’t work out. So when we no longer trust in our own will, but trust in God’s will, that gives us tremendous freedom. If we are trusting that God is in complete control of our life, then there is no longer any pressure on us to be in control. It sets us free, takes the burden off of us, and allows us to fully trust God with what he has for our life.
  • Now we have to be careful here, because this doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing, or even that we don’t make any plans. It is not a bad thing to make plans, or to pursue things that we want to pursue. When it becomes an issue, however, is when we are so confident in our own ability to control our life that we neglect God’s will and don’t seek what he wants for our life and we do it on our own. A good test to see if you are trusting in God’s will or trusting in your own ability to control your life is to see how you respond when your plans don’t work out. When you don’t become the next Lebron James, or don’t get into the high school you wanted to get into, what is your response? Are you angry and frustrated because things didn’t work out the way YOU wanted them to? Or are you at peace because you trust in God’s will for your life, and whatever happens you know that he is in control?

16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

  • The issue here isn’t planning or trying to accomplish thing in life, the issue is when we boast about our own abilities, that how we perform is by our own control. When we boast that we are in complete control of our lives, we are putting ourselves in the position of God. That is why this kind of boasting is evil. We think that we are God, and that we have the ultimate control of our life. Instead, we should be humble, take a position of humility, and trust in God’s will. We still plan and do the things we like to do, but when things don’t go our way, we must trust that it is part of God’s perfect will.

There are two types of God’s will:

  1. God’s will of decree is his ultimate plan.
  2. God’s will of command is what he desires us to do. 
  • God’s will of decree is his ultimate, big picture plan. The Bible tells us that it was God’s will from the very beginning that Christ would be crucified for the sins of the world. That is the big picture, the ultimate plan and decree of God.
  • Now the other aspect of God’s will is his will of command. This is what he desires us to do, how we ought to live. This is where it gets a little tricky. Is it part of God’s will what we eat for breakfast in the morning or where to go to school? The Bible is clear about what God commands us to do, what his will is, and it isn’t any of those things. But it does tell us how to live.
  • God’s will is that we be sanctified. That we be thankful. That we are saved and grow in our knowledge and understanding of him. That we love God and our neighbors. That we glorify him and be glad. This is God’s will, what he has commanded us to do, and so this is how we should make decisions.
  • Now, the Bible tells us to ask God for wisdom. Within God’s will of command- that we be sanctified and grow in our knowledge of him and glorify him- we are given wisdom on how to make decisions. So there is a kind of tension, that God’s will of decree, his ultimate plan, is always in place and we are living within that. Then there is his will of command, what he desires us to do, and that is to be sanctified and grow in our knowledge of him and love others and all of that. Within that he gives us wisdom to make decisions that allow us to do all of those things.
  • So this is how this plays out. You have a decision to make.
  • You know that God desires you to be sanctified and grow in your knowledge of him and love others and glorify him and be glad in him, so you make your decision based on those things. And we are able to make that decision with the wisdom God has given us. God gives us wisdom so that we know how we will be sanctified or grow in our knowledge of him with whatever decision we make. So we make a wise decision that puts us in a place to be sanctified, in other words to do God’s will. Then God’s will of decree comes in, because at the end of the day we are humble and at peace because we know it is all apart of God’s plan.
  • Let’s use a marriage example. You want to get married and you have options. You are in a love triangle. One option is a believer and the other is not a believer. The bible tells us not to marry an unbeliever, so this is an easy decision. In the next example both potential spouses are both believers. That’s where wisdom comes in, because God’s will says that either are good options.

17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

  • Then James concludes with this sharp statement, saying that not only is doing the wrong thing sin, but also not doing the right thing is sin. So think about that in context of what we have been talking about. Do you know that you need to give control of your life over to God? That you’re boasting in your own ability to make plans and determine what is best for your life? If you know you are doing that and know what is right but fail to do it, that is sin. Or, maybe it is within the decisions of your day to day life. God has given you wisdom, and you know what decisions you should make so that you do God’s will and be sanctified, but you choose to ignore the wisdom and ignore the will of God, that is sin.
  • And we do this all the time. We know what is right and what we ought to do and we don’t do it. We have read the Bible and heard preachers teach the truth and have the Holy Spirit inside of us convicting us of what is right and wrong, and we know what we should do. But so often we don’t do it. This is sin, and just like any other sin, it has to be dealt with.
  • Thankfully, according to God’s will of decree, his ultimate plan since the beginning of time is that he has provided a way for us to deal with sin. And that way is through his son Jesus.
  • Jesus came to Earth in the form of a man, he trusted in God’s ultimate will and didn’t boast in his own ability to control his life. Even in the garden before he was crucified he prayed to God and asked him to take the cup away from him, so that he wouldn’t have to go through with the crucifixion, but nevertheless he desired that God’s will be done. He understood that God the Father had a plan for his life and for the entire world, and he submitted to that plan. Jesus lived his life according to God’s will of command too. He made wise decisions and did the will of God, loving his neighbor and teaching us how to live a holy life. He also knew what was right, and did it. But instead of receiving a reward for all of this, he received punishment. He received the punishment that you and I deserve. The punishment for our pride and boasting, the punishment for our inability to do the will of God, the punishment for every time we know what is right and fail to do it. He died for our sins. And now we can come before the Father, we can know his will, we can receive his wisdom, and we can discern what is right and wrong because of the sacrifice of Jesus, and for that we should be thankful.

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