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Author:Rev. Klaas Jonker
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Congregation:Grace Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:Our Future is in God's Hand
Text:James 4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Last Thursday our city was covered under a heavy blanket of mist.

Around 10/11 am in the morning, the mist suddenly disappeared and the rest of the day we enjoyed beautiful Spring whether. A new Summer is coming.

For us this means a lot of preparations and planning. Students will have to write exams; the Grade 12 students are busy in organizing the festivities of their graduation.

Some of the business people in our midst will have to gear up for their busiest season. Young couples are busy with all the preparations for their wedding in Canada or in Holland.

The farmers around us will have lots to do in seeding the fields. Also within the congregation the coming months are
packed with activities.

How do we plan for this pile of work? How do we tackle our full program?

Are we nervous about it? Does it give us many
worries? Or are we facing all the work as a huge mountain
which makes our going tough, giving us the feeling that we can't handle it all?

How will we succeed? Let us listen to God's Word, what it tells us about our planning for the future.

OUR FUTURE IS IN GOD'S HAND! From our text we get the encouragement to
1. know it! (the Bible says so)
2. confess it! (our response)
3. show it! (in our life of faith)

1. Congregation, What is our life all about? What will be our future? Will we have a future at all?

In this life all things look as though they come to
nothing. Life looks meaningless.
Often it seems as though we don't make any headway.

- We are born, - for what? - to die?

- We are studying hard for a career; it looked all very promising, but things don't turn out as we had hoped.

- We are getting married, why? - in order to live
together ever after in peace? ... but we meet one difficulty after the other.

- We are building something - a house, a business, or we are busy with an interesting project - but we know that sooner or later it will be broken down again.

In these ups and downs of -
- Being born and dying
- working our way up and being stopped in our tracks
- making relationships and being on our own again
- building up and breaking down, -
yes, in these ups and downs the misery and sufferings of life lie.

This apparent meaninglessness of life is quite a problem. In the Bible this problem is discussed in the book of Ecclesiastes. It says that there is a time for everything. A time to rejoice and a time to be sad; a time to be born,
and a time to die; indeed, a time to build and a time to break down.

It seems that the one cancels out the other, but, does it?? - no, not really!

For the secret behind all that happens is that there is a God! Yes, this is the clear message of the Bible; serve the living God! He is powerful. He controls all things.

He causes us to be born. He saves us from our misery. He frees us from all slavery and addiction. In Proverbs 16 we read that the Lord works out everything for his own purpose.

Now, when the Bible discusses God's rule and direction of all things, it often points to the Hand of God.

- By His Hand we are created;
- Our times are in His hand;
- He opens His Hand and we are fed;
- (By His Hand) the LORD directs our steps;
- We are kept in the palm of His Hand!

The Church confesses that the almighty God, as with His hand, still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things
come to us not by chance but by His fatherly hand!

Indeed, the God of the Bible is the God of life and
of our future! In the end, all things will reach
the purpose of His eternal plan: the great glory of
heaven and earth.

So here in church, we are assured that our life's
end is better than its beginning. This concerns our
family life, our school life, our business life,
also our church life.

The Lord's coming is near, James says. God keeps us in His hand and it is His will that His people will have a glorious future.

But we keep having trouble to stay focussed on this
future. The world distracts us; and we try to live
on our own, planning our life independently.

Congregation, with us the real problem is not that things
fall out of our hands. The real problem is that we ignore God's hand!

Our sin is that too often we assume we are in control of our own life. Every day we have the evidence against us that we are not, but being foolish (arrogant would be a better word, for that's what we really are) we assure ourselves that time is on our side and at our disposal.

We act as if we are masters of our own lives. James makes clear that in this respect our own speech betrays us. For what do we take into account when we speak about our plans and ideals?

It often goes like this: Next week, next month, next year, I will do this and do that. I have chosen this course of studies and it will open very good opportunities for me.
I have chosen this direction, for then I will make good money.

Yes, the bottom line of our motives is getting ahead in society. We are after good profits and enjoying ourselves.

James is talking to people such as we are, who very naturally say: today or tomorrow we will do this to make a good living (in James' time this was especially in trading goods).

And we speak with such a confidence as if we are sure that next week, next month and next year automatically will roll along, and so we certainly will succeed, for we can do it!

And we are encouraged by many around us: "Of course, you can do it if you want!"

Now, the Bible strongly disagrees with this proud and foolish attitude.

James exclaims: how in the world can you reason in that way?
Get real man! - what's your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!

It is very clear what James means to say. He uses the figure of a mist like we saw last Thursday morning. It was hanging over our city for only a little while but through the warmth of the sun it suddenly disappeared!

So we too can suddenly disappear. A little vein in our head can burst; we can suffer an aneurysm and be gone; or a treacherous clogging up of our arteries can trigger off a severe heart attack. The evil enemy of cancer can be busy in doing its disastrous work in our bodies without us noticing it for a long time.

Inside and outside of our house, we our surrounded by many threatening factors and elements.

A young student or businessman can drive away in his sporty car but, being side-swept by a speeding car, he will never reach his aim and come home again ...

Beloved, how true it is that we are only on this earth for a
little while.

That's why James, the servant of the Lord on His behalf, says to us: come to your senses people, and please acknowledge the irony of your own words when you say: I will do this; I will do that; and I can do it ...

James says: "you don't even know what will happen
tomorrow!" Then already you might have vanished.

That's indeed our harsh reality because of the sin of man. We are weak and vulnerable. We are not at all in control of our own lives!

Well, you might ask - did we come to church this morning to get a pessimistic view on life? - are we told to let go of our plans and ideals?

Not at all, congregation, - totally on the contrary! Here in church we hear the truth about our lives and are encouraged to face this truth in humble submission to our holy God.

Let's not put our head in the sand! Everyday life provides clear evidence that man is not in control of his life! God is!

He made all things as we heard at the beginning of this worship service; then as congregation we said, "Our help is in the Name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth."

Well, God gives us this help through His Word. He shows us what our actual situation is.

But He also shows us the secret behind all things: that He is in control, and as we hear from the apostle Paul: the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will work all things for our good.

Through His Word and Spirit, we no longer live as fools, ignoring our weakness, but we live again as God's children who see what others don't see, that indeed our future is in God's hand.

The Bible states this very clearly in the book of Proverbs, that the almighty God directs our steps.

From the NT-gospel we hear that His Son, Jesus Christ, will give us a glorious future, such as our eyes have never seen, or our ears have heard.

Indeed, our future is in God's hand; know it! - also confess it; our 2nd point.

2. Where do we, then, as people, come into the
picture? Should we give up all planning for the future? The important question is: how must we tackle all our work at home, at school, in the office and workshop, how must the farmer work his fields?

The clear answer, which we receive from God's Word is: in faith! That's what we heard from Proverbs 16: "commit your plans to the Lord!"

James means to say the same, when he points out how we should make our plans.

His instruction is: when you speak about your future, when you make plans, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that."

In fact, James teaches us here: tackle your work - look at your future - prepare for your future in faith, that is: with the Lord!

Don't just live with the Lord on Sunday, but also live with Him on Monday and the other days of the week. In humble faith, we must confess that we are totally dependent on the Lord at all times.

Then we praise Him for His greatness that He has made all things and keeps things in control - We also worship Him for His grace that we have salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ - and finally we thank Him for His goodness that
He opens His hand and gives us all things we need
materially and spiritually!

See, congregation, in church we are not encouraged to be
pessimistic about life; not at all; here we receive the wisdom from God who shows us the beauty and splendor of our life, that we are in His hand!

Yes, being in God's hand is always beautiful - even when we must suffer the nasty consequences of our own mistakes; or when our earthly lives become difficult because of sicknesses, calamities and other adversities - then we don't say that bad fortune has struck.

A flood, a drought, bad whether, or September 11 don't come
our way as if an evil power throws a monkey wrench
into the works! ... No - remember, Who is in control of all things? - it is the holy God of heaven and earth!

Is He, then, bringing those adversities upon the earth at will? Does God play games with man, like a cat and mouse play?

No - beloved, here in church we hear that God works everything out for His own ends! - We are also told about God's purpose: He brings eternal peace and glory, and nothing will separate us from His love in Christ Jesus the Lord.

He who has our future in His hand is the Lord, full of compassion and mercy. Compare the last words of our scripture reading from James. We definitely can count on God! We and our future are in His hand!

Know it; confess it; and show it; we have come to our last point.

3. Again I ask, how do we do all the work of the coming season? - we do so in faith, in the mindset of: the Lord willing we do this, and we do that. If we have this mindset of faith, it shows that we actually live with the Lord! Then we don't utter empty phrases.

True Christians don't live by formulas. Therefore, the phrase "the Lord willing" is not a charm to us, like a silent prayer: please Lord don't muddle up my plans...

No, with the saying: "the Lord willing" we express our faith that God is in control; we are fully dependent on Him.
Being aware of our own weakness, we confess that the Lord almighty is our strength, and that He knows what is best for us.

This confession makes us having a totally different agenda than those who live without God and Christ.

Their agenda is totally their own planner; and they think that they are able to do it all in their own power, and that they can boast in themselves if they have met their deadlines.

As we have understood from James, believers have a different agenda, for they don't keep God out of their life.

They live with Him and they show this by making time for prayer, for Bible reading, attending Church and study classes (catechism classes), and other faith matters.

From all this instruction we learn that we must not brag about what we have all done; and we should never be satisfied with ourselves, when we have met our deadlines.

For in our life with the Lord, we confess that all that we did was not perfect; many things were not pleasing in God's sight; everything was stained by sins and shortcomings.

Other things we left undone. Therefore, we don't boast and brag in ourselves. (James says all such boasting is evil!)

We boast in the Lord; we praise God for His greatness, His grace and goodness.

Being deeply aware of our own frailty, we acknowledge that we are in His hands.

So, how do we plan for the future? How should we approach the mountain of work at home, at school, in the workshop, in the congregation?

The answer from God's Word is not: work, work, work! Make sure that things are done so that your self-esteem gets a good boost; show that you can do it.

No, we do it all knowing that God keeps all things
in His hand, including our own life;

- we also do our work confessing that God directs our steps; we make our plans with Him;

- this faith also shows up in our lives, for we don't boast and brag about our deals and success; but we humbly show that we have our glorious future with God.

In vs. 7 James says, "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its
valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn
and spring rains.

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the
Lord's coming is near!
- know it!
- confess it!


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright, Rev. Klaas Jonker

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