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About this series
Five Lies that Ruin Relationships
Wrong Beliefs Produce Wrong Behavior
Have you ever looked back over a situation or relationship in your life and wondered how it became so messy or difficult? In the series from the book of James, Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, we'll define five of the most common lies that have the potential to ruin relationships with those we love. We'll also uncover the source of quarreling, how our words wound, and how not to make decisions. And together, we'll ask and answer the question: do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior? We will discover that when we confront the lies we believe, there is power in knowing and applying God's truth to our relationships.More from this series
Could it be that we need to ask, What would this do to my spiritual life? What would this do to my family? What responsibilities do I have before God? How would this impact the education of my children? What kind of friendships, and where, and how will this impact my wife? What impact might this have on my marriage?
And if you weigh all those out, and pray all those through, God may say, “Move from here to here.” But what James is saying is, a lot of believers in that day just saw – whoa! – dollar signs, opportunity, “Let’s go!” And they assumed that things would be as they were – predictable – and they assumed that they were going to live a long time.
And he says, “You’re wrong on both counts. Your life is a vapor. Your life is a mist. You should be like Psalm 90: ‘Lord, teach me to number my days. Lord, help me to present before You a heart of wisdom. Lord, show me what Your will is.’”
And so, again – I love James – inspired by the Spirit, he now turns, after saying, “Wait a minute,” and tells us the false assumptions. Now, he shifts gears and says, “Well, if life is uncertain, if life is short, how should you go about making wise decisions, with regard to work?”
And then, in the next few verses, verses 15 to 17, he’s going to give us a clear explanation. Follow along as I read. How do we make good decisions about our work?
He says, “Okay, in contrast, instead” – literally, the word is anti – instead, or anti, over against what you just heard – “you ought to say, ‘If it’s the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or do that.’ As it is, you boast and you brag and all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good” – circle the phrase the good, because we’ll come back to it – “if anyone knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, he sins.”
And the word good, here, means “morally excellent; that which is praiseworthy; that which is winsome; that which does good things and great things in the lives and the hearts of other people.”
I think, out of these brief three verses, God gives us four very clear, axiomatic ways to make good decisions about work. He gave us the prescription: You ought to say, “If it’s the Lord’s will.” He gave us the reproof: “Don’t be boastful and arrogant about the future.” And then, He gave us the warning: “If you know what is right to do, it’s good, and don’t do it, it’s sin.” And out of that passage, I see four clear principles.
Number one, in making decisions about work – number one: make God’s will the foundation for all decision-making. Who knows the future? God does. Who has your best interest in mind? God does. That’s the part I think we don’t believe.
Would you jot, in your notes, Psalm 84:11? This is one of my most “I-love-this-verse” verses. “The Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
God is for you! He’s not trying to keep you from a good job with lots of money, and all the things you think it can deliver. The Lord God is a sun – unlimited resources. The Lord is a shield – your Protector. The Lord gives grace – in other words, stuff you don’t deserve. The Lord gives glory. He wants to expand, and multiply, and be good to you. He’s your Father.
“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” When you get that, then you say, “Lord –” You know, I think a lot of us are afraid to pray. We’re going to say, “Lord, do You want me to take this juicy, wonderful opportunity? And I’m afraid You’re going to say ‘no,’ so, sorry, I didn’t have time to hear You.” Because we think we know what is best for us.
Who knows if things are going to stay the same? Who knows what is going to change? Who knows what is best for us? Who knows what transitions our daughter, our son, our wives are going to go through? Who knows that maybe if I’m single – maybe I’m leaving, and God has someone in this place, instead of that place? I don’t know, but God does! “I came that you might have life,” Jesus said, “and have it abundantly.”
So, make God’s will…you say, “God, I want Your will more than any of my desires.”
Second, I think, under this, is commit and say to yourself, Regardless of the circumstances, and this seeming can’t-miss opportunity, I am going to do whatever You say. There has got to be a commitment of the heart, prior to the decision.
I was doing a little research and found out that in the old days, believers would write letters to one another. And at the end of the letter, they would just put, in the olden days, “D.V.” Anybody know what that means?
It’s a Latin phrase. Deo volente. And they didn’t mean it as a cliché. Do you know what it meant? It meant “if the Lord wills.”
See, they would write a letter, and they would talk about, “I’m going to do this,” or, “I’m going to do that,” or, “I hope to come and see you, and hope things are all right. D.V.” Deo volente. If the Lord wills. In other words, it’s with an open hand. I think that is making God’s will the foundation.
Now, let me give you – because I think this is important – some very specific ways, I think, to make God’s will the foundation of all your decision-making. Here’s how, when I have to find the will of God: Be willing to do whatever God wants you to do. Underneath that you might jot John 7:17. Jesus said to a group of people, “If any man is willing to do My will he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”
I think almost ninety percent of the will of God is getting my heart to the point where, instead of trying to read into verses, or read into counsel, God, I will do – no matter what it is – I will do whatever You want me to do.
The second way, at least for me, to find God’s will is to pray. Matthew 7:7 – “Seek and you will find, ask and you will receive, knock and it will be opened.” Ask God, “Lord, show me. Show me. Speak to me.”
The third is God’s Word. Psalm 119:105 – “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet; it’s a light unto my path.” So often, for me, I keep reading where I’m reading, “God, You know it’s a big decision. Lord, I don’t know what to do. I’m willing to do whatever. I’m asking You. And as I am reading, speak to me from Your Word.”
So, I’m going to be willing, I’m going to pray, I’m going to get into the Scriptures, and number four: wise counsel. “He who dwells with wise men will be wise, but the companion of a fool will suffer harm.” That’s Proverbs 13:20. So, make God’s will the foundation.
And I think that’s how you do it: I’m willing to do it, I’m asking, I’m in Your Word, and I’m going to ask the people who know me best, and who really walk with God, “What do you think of this opportunity?” And I’m not going to do what they say. It’s in the multitude of counselors there’s safety. I’m going to weigh that.
The second principle that flows out of this, to make good decisions about work, is: Recognize the root cause of planning apart from God. And that’s in verse 16. “As it is, you boast and you brag.” Literally, “You take pride in your arrogance.”
Every upwardly mobile opportunity may not be God’s will. And that is the third principle from this passage. Don’t buy the lie. Upwardly mobile work opportunities are automatically the will of God. That’s the lie.
We just think, unconsciously – often, we don’t even think – Upwardly mobile opportunity: this, this, this. It must be God’s will. And I would say, do not buy the lie. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them. It doesn’t mean not to pray about them. It doesn’t mean that it is more spiritual to say “no” to those.
The other test may be, God is stretching you; God is giving you capacity. And you were here, and the director here, and the manager here, and the supervisor here, and the V.P. here, and this is a new platform for ministry.
But you go there, not because of, “Look at who I am, and how much I’ve got, and how much I’m going to make.” The lie is believing upwardly mobile opportunities are automatically, slam dunk, the will of God. And what James is saying is, “They’re not.”
The fourth principle that flows out of this passage in making wise decisions about work is to act on your God-given dreams and impulses. In verse 17, what’s it say? “If anyone knows what the good is” – the blessing is, the beautiful thing, the praiseworthy, the morally positive thing to do – “and knows that he ought to do it, but doesn’t do it, he sins.”
In verses 13 to 16 it’s a sin of commission. It’s arrogant planning apart from God. In verse 17, he warns us about the sin of omission. And so, I would ask you, “What is the good that God has prompted you to do? What is the good that you think He might be saying, Hey!
See, this passage pushes really hard on, don’t buy the lie – upward mobility about your job. But then, not just with regard to the job, this is a summary statement. This verse, I think, is summarizing where we’ve been, in terms of the teaching of James.
Is there anything in your life, or anything in my life, you say, “This is the good I ought to do. I ought to teach that class.” “I ought to mentor that young woman.” “You know what? My lands, I’ve had a great job, and he’s talking about all this stuff, and I have a 401(k), and a 701(k), and 1501(k). And people have all kinds of problems, and in my honest, honest heart of hearts, I would have to live about four lifetimes to spend all the money. And I have hoarded my security. Man, I ought to divest.”
And all the research I’ve done – I’ve worked with a group called Generous Giving. They’ve done research with people who are extraordinarily wealthy, and they can’t give you one or two instances of leaving it to their children where it’s worked out well. And they have zero instances where millions and millions of dollars have done anything but totally corrupt and ruin their grandchildren. And yet, people have this stack of money.
I remember one guy saying, “Well…” We all have that little line that says, “Well, I am going to give over and above when I, sort of, this is okay.” And, probably, years ago, it was, “When I have a million dollars, and I know net assets and things, I’ll be okay.”
And then, it got to be ten million, and then a hundred million. And I actually had an encounter with someone who said, “You know something? I feel really free to give generously, but it’s after I have one billion set aside.” And I’m thinking, Dude, how much steak can you eat in one day?
And what I realized, What is the good that we ought to do? Is it giving wildly, and generously? Is it saying that maybe some of us in those middle, or more twilight, years have more to offer, and instead of figuring out how to lower your golf score quite so well, that you invest your wisdom, and your life, and your gifts in the next generation?
I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s taking a risk; maybe it’s stepping out. What is the good? What is the dream in your heart that God maybe has been saying, Hmmm, that you ought to do? And he says – this is an interesting definition of sin, isn’t it? – “If you know what is right to do and don’t do it, it’s sin.”
And sin just means missing the mark. And why does God not want us to miss the mark? Because He’s a sun and a shield; He gives grace and glory. No good thing does He withhold. His plans for us are great.
Why is James reproving these entrepreneurs and businesspeople from planning apart from God? It’s because your plans, and my plans, and their plans, apart from God, will never land us in the best place. He’s a loving God.
I think, somehow, we get this idea that all of God’s rules, and all of His commandments – He’s trying to keep us from something good. His commandments are like the guardrails on a windy road where, if you go over the edge of the road, you drop a thousand feet, and die.
All those commands, and all those guardrails, you know what they are for? They’re to keep you on the road, so that as you follow the road, and get on the highway, you get the highest, and the best.
But what I will tell you is, in the world that we live in, you’ll make a lot of tough decisions. And you’ll look very different than the average Christian when you make your plans, not apart from God, but surrendering them to God.
And I would guess, a little bit from your faces, and just a little bit from experience, is there are some people in this room who took some jobs years back, and you look back now, and, literally, in your mind, as I’ve been talking, you thought, Boy, I wonder why I took that. I didn’t even think about whether to take that job or not.
And then, one of your kids went through a rough time, or that was – let’s see, you took the job. It was three years later. That’s when your divorce hit. The company that looked so rock-solid, and you got the big promotion, and then stock options went down; they hired a new CEO, and they downsized. And some of you, in this room, can think back to a job decision you made, that you just think, Boy, I wish I would have heard this about five years ago, or ten.
And I think the danger is thinking there’s no hope. The danger is thinking, Man, yeah, I did. I took a job. And I wouldn’t say I was selfish and greedy. I just kind of, I just did it. It just made sense.
And if you happen to be one of those people with lots of pain, I want to ask you just to jot down two, little chapters, and I want to tell you a story, because I want you to know that you can blow it big time, make terrible decisions, and even make them innocently, and our God is a God of grace, a God of hope, and a God of restoration.
And jot down, if you would, just in the corner, Genesis chapter 12 and 13. And you maybe can get a Coke, or a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever you like, and put your feet up, if you’re in that situation, and read it.
And the story is very simple. There’s a man who has a very important relationship with God, and God calls him, and he obeys Him. And he obeys Him, but there’s an opportunity. See, you think about these kinds of jobs, and there’s some difficulty.
And it wasn’t exactly a job, but the economic conditions caused him to make a decision to go down into Egypt. And then, he got in the wrong place, at the wrong time. And so, then that causes us to compromise our integrity. And then, he started telling some lies about his wife to protect his own skin.
And then, if you know the story, his wife ends up in Pharaoh’s harem, God disciplines, and saves Abraham’s wife out of that situation. And Pharaoh is pretty hot.
And what you find is, he leaves Egypt. And that’s not a pretty time in Abraham’s life. He was a chicken, okay? He made a decision apart from God. Circumstances led him directly to economically try and handle what was happening, instead of saying, “God, You called me to this place. I don’t know how You’re going to provide for me, but I’m going to trust you.”
Instead, he took a decision, economically based. Then, he began a whole journey of lies that almost ended him up completely in the ditch. And it’s really interesting that God is gracious to make him aware that it’s a mistake. And maybe that’s what He did for you, in this room.
And then, in the end of chapter 13, as he moves out, in the beginning of chapter 14, you find him in a new land, and God sets out some new borders. And it says, “And Abraham built an altar to the Lord and he worshipped.”
And I think, at that altar, Abraham had some, “I’m sorry, that was not a good move.” And I think probably he and Sarah had a conversation – I sure hope so – about, “I’m sorry.”
And it’s interesting that when you track Abraham’s life, that wasn’t the end. He made a big mistake, but in chapter 15, God actually renews that great covenant, and God fulfills His promises, even though he made a major, major, significant, nearly fatal mistake about where to be, and where to go, based primarily on economics.
And I’d just like you to know, that’s how God will treat you. And you don’t have to live with regret, you don’t have to feel like all is lost. There may be some pain, and some consequences. There were for Abraham.
And so, I think what you need to do is just bow your head, and, if that’s the case, just say, Lord, I’m sorry. And whether willfully, consciously, unconsciously – I look back in my life and see that has happened, and I want You to not only forgive me, I want a fresh start. I want You to restore me. And I want to be Your man, or Your woman, because who knows how many years You’ve given me.
I just talked to a guy who remarried, at seventy, and celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary after his first wife died. See, your faces tell me, you’re thinking, Who wants to get married at seventy? Well, he did. But he’s got a twenty-five-year anniversary! You know what? God wants some people to live to ninety – he’s in good health, sharp as a tack.
God may have a lot more years for you. Life is short, but who knows? So, let’s not live in regrets. Let’s live about what God will do in the future.