Updated: Mar 14, 2019
One of the most profound thoughts, or rather thought which ought to captivate the mind of the believer ought to be the thought of God's will. In Luke's corresponding account of the Lord's prayer [found in Luke 11:1-4] we learn that Jesus recites this prayer in response to the inquiry of the disciples who asked, "Lord, teach us how to pray." (Luke 11:1a) And though we could focus in on Luke's account, it is in Matthew's eye-witness account in which he includes the well cited phrase of "Your will be done.." When Jesus prays "Your will be done" in verse 10, if and when taken out of context can be applied and attached upon anything with personal interpretation. However, when we look at the previous part of verse 10 "Your kingdom come", the purpose of Jesus' prayer [more importantly Him teaching the disciples how to pray], the purpose for the inclusion of God's will which differs from Luke's account becomes clear- "Father, establish Your kingdom on earth which IS Your will." This is the main theme and thought that comprises and saturates Jesus' message and ministry as He is revealed in the gospel.
In Matthew's account of the very start of Jesus' public ministry [on earth], he recounts after Jesus's victory in the wilderness, and baptism in water by John:
"From then on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near [other translations read, "for the Kingdom of God is at hand]."(Matthew 4:17)
- It is imperative to note that Matthew [being an eye-witness to Jesus' public ministry] testifies with precise wording, "From then on" indicating a continuation of. In other words, Jesus did not begin preaching one message, and later preached- or proclaimed, something else.
- To ensure there be no confusion whatsoever, Matthew includes the message which Jesus would preach so that the early church [as well as us] might have a crystal clear picture as to the message & point of His public ministry: "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven [inter-changeable to "kingdom of God"] has come near.
> The message and focus of the Gospel has not changed with time.
This is the elementary truth every Christian must comprehend and grasp. The Spirit of Christ through the prophet David testified beforehand of Jesus' work in the flesh as such:
"You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open My ears to listen. You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or a sin offering. Then I said, 'See, I have come; in the scroll it is written about Me. I delight to do Your will, My God, and Your instruction is deep within Me."(Psalm 40:6-8)
When this verse is cited later on in Hebrews chapter 10 in defending Jesus's sacrifice, the author changes "You open My ears to listen", to "but You prepared a body for Me."(Hebrews 10:5) Again, the prophetic nature of David's writing cannot be properly understood without viewing it through the lens of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel. That’s why the author of the Hebrews epistle cites it differently- to capture the essence of what was trying to be conveyed when the Spirit of Christ through David speaks of Jesus delighting to do God's will. Jesus delighted to do [and thus reveal by carrying out] God's will, yet there was no instrument by which God could carry out His will, thus a body was prepared [for the Son] in order for Jesus to carry out God's will which simultaneously revealed God's will to men in the process. In other words, Jesus' public ministry set in motion, and revealed God's will for His people to bear witness to. Jesus Himself testifies of the fulfilment of Psalm 40:8 [pertaining to God's will] in John 6:38 while also continuing by clearly proclaiming and revealing the mystery of God's will:
"This is the will of Him who sent Me: That I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father: That everyone who has seen the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."(John 39-40)
Notice the re-iteration of our Lord Jesus Christ- "This is the will of Him who sent Me…. This is the will of My Father.." In Jewish literature and writing, when an author [or in this case speaker- namely, Jesus] repeats themselves, they do so to bring acute attention to and emphasize the statement which they have just spoken or wrote. From a contextual standpoint, our Lord reveals this to a crowd that had begun following Him yet cared not for the words which He preached, but simply followed Him because they bore witness to Him feeding the five thousand earlier [John 6:26]. Yet there was a point He was trying to convey to them regardless: He had both fulfilled that which the Spirit prophesied beforehand through David in Psalm 40:6-8, but He had now revealed to mankind the entirety of God's Will. When we cherry pick verses and fail to cross-reference and allow the words of Jesus Christ to fall upon itself, testing and proving itself, we [like the five thousand which followed Him] fail to understand our Lord and [like them] walk away perplexed in thought. What then is the will of God by which Jesus speaks of? The fulfillment of that which the Jews awaited desperately for [and still await for], which was [and is] the focus of Jesus' message: The kingdom of God and Messianic rule of Israel's Savior. In the account in John 6:26, our Lord does not bring a "new revelation and message" which differed to that which He began to preach, contrarily He expounds upon what He had laid by giving more insight on how we can acquire this kingdom: by and through Jesus Christ.
This timeline of the will of God [the kingdom of heaven] is expounded upon by none other then Jesus Himself when conversing with the Pharisees who scoffed at His teaching concerning what Jesus taught the values of the Kingdom of God were, especially concerning money and materialistic things [Luke 16:1-14]. In His response, He addresses that although the Pharisees justify themselves in the sight of others, God knew their hearts- as being unfit for the kingdom of God because of their value for materialistic things/wealth [verse 15] rather than being mindful of the kingdom of heaven, and clearly restates His purpose of ministry as such:
"The Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed [by Jesus Himself- continually as Matthew says], and everyone is urgently invited to enter in [footnote reads the original Greek saying, "forcing his way into it"]."(Luke 16:16)
This statement reveals significant truths concerning the timeline of God's will and plans for His people in light of the canon of the entirety of Scripture:
1. The Law and the Prophets ruled until the ministry of John the Baptist.
2. Prior the John the Baptist, the Law and the Prophets were God's method of revelation concerning His will and plans for God's people.
3. John the Baptist's ministry acted as the "shifting" or transitional period of ending God's old method of revealing His will to man, as he was sent to testify to/of Jesus as the promised Messiah who would reveal the entirety of God's will and usher God's people into His Messianic rule.
4. In His self-witness, Jesus continues to re-iterate the focus of His public ministry & teaching: the Kingdom of God, and more importantly, the presence of the Kingdom of God revealed in the nature of God's values in His kingdom.
- The author of the letter of Hebrews mirrors these words of our Lord Jesus concerning the shifting/transitioning from the OT and mode(s)/methods in which God gave revelation to His people in the opening introduction in Hebrews 1:1-4. To prevent our thoughts to be carried away down a "rabbit hole" [though I encourage to read through it for yourself], it seems best to summarize the point the author was trying to make: in the Old Testament, God's people depended on prophets as a means of receiving God's purpose and plan. However, with the revelation of the Son as the promised prophet [Deuteronomy 18:15] and His message [the Kingdom of God and it's values], it marked the new and final period in terms of God's plan- or will, for His people: salvation.
>The apostle Peter [by inspiration of the Spirit of Truth] mirrors this as well as what Jesus Himself testified [in Luke 16:16] , by summarizing God's intended role & ministry for prophets in the OT as such:
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow."(I Peter 1:10-11)
With simple deduction based off of what Jesus Christ Himself testifies; and more importantly, cross-referencing with what the apostles testified in their apostolic writings [which were directly inspired by the spirit of Christ], we can surmise the central focus of God's plan and will, and more importantly, the correlation it has in regards to His people: The kingdom of God. When examining the will of God in the lens of Scripture [more importantly, it's context] we see that it fits perfecting in the canon of Scripture:
1. God spoke to His people to reveal His plans for them through the Law and Prophets, while also testifying to a later period when God would speak directly and reveal the entirety of His plan through His Son, in doing so ushering them into a new period of His plan for His people [which Paul refers to as the "fulness of time" in Galatians 4:4]
2. Jesus came to fulfill precisely that [the OT Law and prophecies of Him] while simultaneously revealing the entirety of God's plan for His people- that is, how to live our lives set apart [or, sanctified- which, by definition mean set apart] for the kingdom of God by adhering to the values of the Kingdom which Jesus taught in the Gospel.
3. The apostles continued by defending [not adding to] that which Jesus continually preached: the message that the kingdom of God was drawing near, and as such all who heard were urged to repent- while adding that Jesus was the one chosen by God to not only reveal the entirety of God's will but became the only means by which we could enter into this final act of God's plan, as when He returns He will not return with mercy and grace, but contrarily severity and strict judgement on those who "neglected such a great salvation" [Hebrews 2:3].
The doctrine of the will of God is one which revolves entirely upon/is in direct correlation to salvation. When Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane, Matthew recounts our Lord's prayer in the midst of agony and turmoil as such:
"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will."(Matthew 26:39)
When taken out of context [more importantly, disassociated from God's plan as it has been revealed throughout the canon of Scripture- the Law & Prophets in the OT, the Gospel, the apostolic letters] we understand not the significance nor difficulty of our Lord's prayer. Jesus [as God manifested in the flesh] was entirely God, yet entirely man. In light of the salvation testified beforehand [by the OT prophets], a price of blood was demanded of [by the Law] to address sin. Aside from fulfilling the OT prophecies, Jesus also came to address the condemnation of sin by becoming the sacrificial blameless Lamb for our sin- harkening back to what John the Baptist testifies to towards the end of his public ministry, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"(John 1:29) Yet this price of redemption and becoming the sacrificial Lamb, came at a high cost- as the Spirit of Christ testified of through the prophet Isaiah:
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand."(Isaiah 53:10)
It was not only that His flesh that would have to be destroyed, but as the Spirit of Christ speaking through Isaiah testifies, His soul would be made a sin offering on our behalf. And while in the Garden, our Lord was preparing for precisely that, which is why He testified to His disciples prior to praying:
"My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch with Me."(Mathew 26:38)
His soul was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow as He contemplated the fact that in order for God's will to be completed, His soul would needed to be made a sin offering and He acknowledged the weight of what that would bring- separation from the Father, as it is written:
"The Lord's arm is not too weak to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not listen."(Isaiah 59:1-2)
By bearing upon Himself all of our iniquities [Isaiah 53:6]- past, present, future, He was not only separated from the Father-breaking that divine fellowship and unity, but He alone bore the entirety of God's wrath against our sin. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him", why? Because as the apostle Paul writes [by inspiration of the Spirit of Truth] Christ was made sin [II Corinthians 5:21] and thus it pleased God to destroy sin. As an anonymous theologian once put it, "Jesus' crucifixion and burial acted as a testament that He had been made sin on our behalf, for the wrath of God had been poured out upon Him. The fact that He is currently seated at the right hand of the Father acts as a testament that He had made away with sin, because God cannot tolerate the presence of sin."
And unfortunately, what ought to produce a tremendous amount of relief for the sinner and believer alike- knowing that we get to experience the completion of the will of God and partake of the goodness revealed to us in these latter days of God's plan- times in which the prophet Hosea testified beforehand yet did not get to experience himself, saying how His people would "come with awe to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days."(Hosea 3:5), has been altered and perverted through misinterpretations [with some truths mixed in] to distract the Christian from understanding the will of God which revolves around the Kingdom of God and responding to the message of our Lord Jesus with a life marked by adoration of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, by getting us to focus on the kingdom of this world. To suggest that God's will revolves around us is not only blatantly [and Scripturally] false and conceited- "Jesus Christ suffered and died for me to have this and that, do this and that", but it also produces a tremendous amount of unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty, especially when taking into consideration that unless one does the will of God, they will by no means enter the kingdom of God [Matthew 7:21]. Such thoughts do not bring glory to God and nullify the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ- imagine standing before Jesus one day and He says, "I'm sorry, you cannot enter My kingdom because you went to this place instead of that, you chose this instead of that, etc." The undermining theme of which becomes evident- "You. You chose this, you chose that." The beauty of the will of God is that it revolves not on what we have done, what we can do, or what we will do, but rather that it revolves entirely upon what Jesus Christ has already done. What made the lives of early Christians- namely the apostles, so radical was not the fact that they took the Gospel, appreciated the sacrifice of Jesus, and added upon it by inspiration and revelation of the "Spirit". Rather, their lives were radical because through the filling of the Holy Spirit their lives were conformed to the Gospel and they lived their lives wholly dedicated to the kingdom of God and it's values.
You can be quick to discern a minister of Jesus Christ from a minister who preaches & teaches by means of a different spirit by the message in which they proclaim. It is not what Jesus Christ began and continued to preach, nor is it what the apostles defended and preached- a message focused entirely upon the kingdom of God and it's values, but rather it's "The Kingdom of God, plus..", "Jesus Christ, plus.." And we often prove ourselves inexperienced and un-educated regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God's values, and worst of all, the knowledge of Jesus Christ Himself because we gladly allow the messages of other kinds of ministers to scratch our ears as they entice us and seemingly reassures us of our desires rather than directing our hearts to be conformed to how God desires our conduct and lives to look in the Gospel. We may think that these types of messages are completely ok and harmless, "Everyone has their different style of preaching. Look, Paul's message style differed from Apollos' in the Corinthian church." Yes, Paul's preaching style was structured in a manner which was very studied yet simple whereas Apollos' was rhetoric in nature, yet they had this in common: the substance of what they preached, which was the kingdom of God and its values, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. It's the equivalent of eating food consisting of the exact same ingredients, yet served in different ways. The presentation of the food may differ, but you are eating and receiving the exact same food regardless of how it's being presented to you.
As another theologian once said, "The only thing a Christian can contribute to God's will [salvation] is the sin which made it necessary in the first place." What then is God's purpose for His people in response to His will? To simply yield to the Spirit which enables us to [with patience and time] produce fruits by which the presence of the Kingdom of God is manifested and revealed to an un-regenerated world, allowing them to bear witness. This includes when being subjected wrongfully to governing authorities, as the apostle Peter [writing by inspiration of the Spirit of Truth] testifies: "For it is God's will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good."(I Peter 2:15) While also continuing on the hypothetical suffering Christians might face- that is, should a believer find themselves suffering wrongly, they are to:
"[N]ot fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage [that is, to mock, slander, etc] your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil."(I Peter 3:14b-17)
Peter exhorts the church that should they find themselves suffering wrongfully for the will of God- that is, living one's life set aside for the kingdom of God and it's values, they are to be sober-minded in their approach to the opposition: not fearing the same things which people who do not exercise their thoughts Godward fear [namely, things pertaining to this earthly life], nor be intimidated by their opposition, but ready to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ not only in word, but good conduct so that they might be ashamed for slandering and come to accept the Gospel. When Peter pens his letter to the church, it was during a time in which Nero [ruler of Rome] was burning Christians alive on the street corner!
As we comprehend this, we may find ourselves asking: "So then what do I do once I accept the will of God as Jesus has reveled it? How do I enjoy the benefit of the new life Jesus has revealed and partake of His plan, while also ensuring I remain in His will? Thankfully, Jesus has already addressed this with His disciples in the Gospel as well- stating the elevation of the relationship which those who accept this free gift of salvation and call to life centered upon the will of God [His kingdom] has:
"I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn't know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another."(John 15:15-17)
There is scarcely a more humbling truth than for the Christian to comprehend and come to know the beauty of God's will for us- That He sought us out to bring about salvation in order for us to be sanctified [set apart] for the kingdom of God, while in the process filling us with the Holy Spirit which enables us to bear fruit so that God might [through us] further His kingdom by bringing others to the knowledge of His will. The latter part of what Jesus says "Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you" must again be taken with the context by what our Lord says immediately after- the world's rejection and hatred of Christ, as well as what He says prior- "I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father."(15b) Because of the fact that:
1. The World will hate and reject us- because it rejected Jesus as Savior and His kingdom values.
2. Jesus has already made everything the Father has to say known- His plan and will as it is revealed in the Gospel.
The emphasis is placed on bearing fruit on the premise of love, especially in times in which the world rejects & hates us in order to further God's kingdom through making converts as well as equipping the saints to minister for the Kingdom more effectively. As we grow in Christ, we are able to begin structuring and exercising a prayer life which is acceptable in the sight of God the Father, one which mirrors what Jesus teaches His disciples earlier:
"Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven ."(Matthew 6:9-10)
When the believer exercises their prayer life towards God's will- that is, the furtherance of God's kingdom, they get to have divine fellowship with our Lord as they become fellow workers for His kingdom. This is why the apostle John when guiding believers to praying in regards to God's will [I John 5:14-17] he describes it as intercession for those who are sinning. Likewise Peter, when acknowledging the urgency of the last period which the church finds itself within God's will and plan and Christ's soon return, he writes:
"The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God's words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen."(I Peter 4:7-11)
For those who enjoy having their ears scratched rather than testing the validity of what we hear which the example of the Berean church reveals is our duty as a congregation [Acts 17:10-15], I would ask in love: what spiritual and godly fruit for the kingdom of God has the message you choose to cling to produced in your walk? How has it equipped you to serve the saints in regards to ministry more effectively in accordance to Ephesians 4:12? Often times these ministers cite receiving "new revelations" from God and "new interpretations" from the Spirit, exactly what new found knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ have you acquired by inclining your heart to it? How have you grown in the knowledge of who God is [His attributes, characteristics, etc.] and of Jesus Christ which the apostle Peter defines as the requirements in order for "grace and peace to be multiplied to you" in accordance to II Peter 1:2? To where have your thoughts be led to? Is it indeed above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God as Paul writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Colossians 3:2? Or, have they been led away captive- to places of thoughts boasting against the revealed knowledge of Christ in accordance to II Corinthians 10:4-6? Does it cause you to mature in the faith and become independent- able to discern for yourself as it is written in Hebrew 5:14? Or, as the apostle Paul predicted to the elders in Ephesus in Acts 20:30, do these messages lure disciples after themselves in order for people to become dependent on the minister rather than Jesus Christ the Shepherd? The focus of other ministers' message is a life centered around the Holy Spirit- how to be led by the Spirit which, "The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. So is everyone born of the Spirit."(John 3:8) True, but Paul writes to the Ephesian church that they should no longer be "little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching."(Ephesians 4:14b). It is Jesus who also says that the Holy Spirit will testify of Him in John 15:26- much like He did through the prophets of the OT, and the apostles. What depths of Christ has it expounded towards you, enabling you to walk in accordance to His likeness? "All Scripture is profitable [II Timothy 3:16]!" Very good, but for what purpose? "So that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."(17) In what manner has it equipped you to be more like Jesus Christ as you serve for His kingdom? As Christians, we often have a funny way of using OT examples as a means of defending our immoral conduct- Jacob lied and received a blessing, I can to! David used his authority to get when he desired, so can I! Joseph showed partiality to Benjamin, that means it's permissible for me! Very well! Very well! And when you find yourself standing before the judgement seat of Christ, ask for Jacob to receive your reward. Ask for David. Seek after Joseph and see if he will rise up in your defense- after all, it was in their image you decided to be conformed to. And it's ironic! According to the context behind Paul's letter to Timothy, this was precisely the problem for which Paul urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus [I Timothy 1:3]- to combat the doctrines which infiltrated the church revolving around OT examples which, in turn justified the immoral conduct of ministers as it failed to center upon the righteousness of Christ and the values of the kingdom and placed the focus on "special divine interpretations" which was claimed to have been derived from the Spirit.
"Very well, but what about other things pertaining to this life?" we may ask. "What do I do- never work, never marry, and drop out of school in order to devote myself to the cause of God's kingdom?" That depends on one's willingness to sacrifice for the kingdom of God and reward they desire to receive. Other than that, God is not interested in micro-managing every little detail of our lives because than it wouldn't be much of a friendship- no one would want to be friends with someone who tries to micro-manage. Imagine: your walking with a friend and every suggestion you make they reply "No! I don't want to do that, we have to do this instead." You wouldn't want to be their friend, would you? Solomon [in his wisdom given to him by God] acknowledged the vanity of this life, how it was fleeting and short [the underlining theme of his written sermon of Ecclesiastes] which is why to the youth, he gives this exhortation:
"Rejoice, young person, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the desires of your eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgement."(Ecclesiastes 11:9)
Solomon comprehended that the issues of life pours forth from the heart, and as such it is good for man to find joy in life- primarily in their youth, for the elder has little time left to enjoy life whereas the youth has a longer amount of time to find joy in the fleeting world. He encourages them to walk in the ways of their hearts and desires of their eyes- that is not to say, do whatever you want i.e. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"(Isaiah 22:13), but having the knowledge that God will bring all our actions to judgement- that is, God will judge how we went about our desires [the standard of God's kingdom values]. Paul mirrors this by admonishing the Philippian church [whom he considered as spiritual children] to "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"(Philippians 2:12b). Paul acknowledges the danger his absence would pose- the flock may be exposed and vulnerable to outside/inside influences which do not further the kingdom of God but leads the flock to a state of disarray and confusions [much as he warned the elders in Ephesus in Acts 20:28-31], but urges them earnestly to work it out for themselves- that is, to no longer be children in thought, solely dependent on another to hold their hand and guide them, but to stand on their own feet and walk, having their thought exercised Godward to know how to walk worthy of the calling of God's kingdom by applying that which Paul and the apostles had entrusted to them: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, when examining the apostolic letters you will find that in every instance where the term "will of God" is mentioned it is in direct correlation to what Jesus reveals the will of God to be in the Gospel because remember- the apostolic letters were meant to defend the Gospel, not add to it by attributing it to the Holy Spirit. The direct revelation which Paul received "not from man but from Christ" [Galatians 1:12] was the Gospel, and by examining his letters we would be quick to discern this considering the extent of his willingness to suffer for the gospel. In fact, prior to making that statement in his letter to the Galatian church Paul says, "[I]f we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let them be accursed."(Galatians 1:8-9)
The only time the term "will of God" is ever used outside of the context of it's original intention is found in the open letter to the Jews written by James [or the Hebrew name of "Jacob"], in which James gives an illustration of hypothetical merchants making plans [James 4:13-17] and James writes, "instead, you should say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."(15) Unfortunately, ministers cherry pick this verse out of context as a means of saying, "Aha! See! You need to find the will of God for your life because you don't know tomorrow, only God does! You ought to ask God what His will is!" However, if we were to examine the context by which James writes and says this, we see that the theme which he is addressing is not focused on the plans of the merchants and describes it as being evil [verse 13], but rather the focus being the evil in the arrogance of boasting in their plans [verse 16]. The point which James makes through this illustration is to show that these merchants failed to acknowledge the fundamental principle of faith in light of God's will: that this world is transitory, fading away, and insubstantial compared to the kingdom of God, and their confidence in their plans concerning things in this world is likened to the height of foolishness. So, the point which James makes is simple: making plans are good and acceptable, but don't set your heart wholly upon it nor boast in it because our lives are nothing more than vapor which vanishes away, so in light of our plans we are to have the attitude of "If the Lord wills it". That is, "I know Your will is the kingdom of God, yet I entrust this desire and plan to You God. And if You desire to bring it to pass, so be it. If not, that’s ok, because my life on earth is only temporary, and transitory." James also finishes this thought by saying, "So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it."(James 4:17) By transitioning from first to third person, many biblical historians believe James is citing a common slang used in Jerusalem during that time period, regardless by using it at the end of his thought and point he was trying to impart [almost as an after thought], his purpose for including it becomes clear: In the midst of all our plans and pursuits of our desires, if we know to do good things and neglect them in order to pursue our plans, it is and will be accounted as sin against us when we stand before Christ. This is where the sobering "fear" factors into following the desires of our hearts and paths before our eyes. Reverting back to the passage in Matthew chapter 7 [in light of what He speaks on concerning God's will in verses 21-23], we see some striking truths concerning those who will not enter into the kingdom: it will be people who prophesied, cast out demons, and preformed miracles in His name. The reasoning behind casting them out of His sight [according to Him] is because though they knew God [with the mind: "Lord, Lord"] and acted in His name, they are cited as lawbreakers- or those who practice lawlessness depending on one's translation. Ponder this thought for a moment and reflect upon it. These people which our Lord uses in His illustration do not cite their sins before Christ- "Lord, Lord, I know I did this and that but.." They cited their deeds done in His name, ascribing the work to God.
Beloved reader, if there is a thought which I would desire for you to grasp, it would be this: We would be wise to learn not to be quick in attributing our works done to God. For there are many testifying Christians who blaspheme the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and turn His glory to shame by dragging His name into the pursuit of their desires and endeavors. Our Lord is not interested in our choices regarding our desires inasmuch as He is in our approach/pursuit of them. Those who testified as having prophesied, cast out demons, and preformed miracles could have very well done precisely that- and done them with sincerity. However, their discipleship was superficial as their works were not motivated by the Kingdom of God- they practiced lawlessness and were attributed by Christ Himself as lawbreakers. In other words, although they presented themselves as ambassadors of Christ- claiming their works were in His name, they did not bear the fruits worthy of the kingdom of God, nor were they waiting to receive their reward in heaven- thus misrepresenting and falsely portraying Jesus Christ to those who bore witness. Beloved, again I would warn in love: There is no such a thing as holy lust, even if it is good in and of itself. As I draw near to closing, it seems fitting to address certain things which we ought to ask as we pursue our desires in light of the will of God so that we might grow into a mature standing in Christ:
1. Am I currently walking in the will of God- Sanctified for the kingdom of God?
2. How will this benefit His will and further the kingdom of God?
3. Does this desire hinder me from being able to walk into the will of God and His kingdom?
4. What fruits are being produced in my pursuit of this desire?
5. How do other believers react to the manner of my pursuit- do they see the grace of God at work within me?
6. Am I able to lose this desire and still seek and serve the kingdom of God, or is my heart and hope not entirely set upon God's kingdom?
Remember dearly beloved of Christ to look upon our Lord as our example as we walk. He was promised the nations as His inheritance, and the earth as His possession by the Father [Psalm 2:8], and it was precisely this which Satan uses to tempt Him, promising to grant Him it should He bow down and worship him [Matthew 4:9]. He was sent to save His people [the Jews] from their sins and yet they rejected and delivered Him up to be mocked, tortured, and killed- despite being perfect, harmless, and blameless. And yet He is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, as He patiently awaits the day when it is fulfilled what is said:
"The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying, 'The kingdoms of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever."(Revelation 11:15)
Suffer not shame or loss beloved, should the desires of your heart fail to come to pass or to fruition. Set your mind upon the kingdom of God and contemplate the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ- but more importantly, the glory which followed. You could very well be perfect and done everything right in your pursuit yet still not receive the promise on this side of eternity. Do not count it as loss, but rather a joy- as it enables you to grow in the knowledge of our Savior, and your reward in heaven will be all the more sweeter. In closing, it seems good to finish with a testimony which I hope will help comprehend more effectively and leave with some hope:
I have heard people liken our relation to God with an illustration of driving a car with God. In the illustration, the car is used to represent our lives and when we drive the car we often make mistakes which could've otherwise been avoided if we simply let God drive rather than putting Him in the passenger seat. I believe this thought of God's relation to us to be false, or childish at best. How many of us know how to drive a manual car [stick shift]? Those who know how, recount how you learned to drive a manual car. For me, it went like this- At an early age, my father both showed me how he drove manual whilst telling me the basic principles of it, in other words I watched him drive. Then when a friend bought a manual car my friend showed me how to drive manual once more, and even let me drive around the block which caused an interest to drive manual. So naturally this cause to ask my dad if I could drive his 88' VW Cabriolet, to which he simply asked me "Do you know how to drive stick?" After explaining to him that I somewhat knew how, and had a little bit of experience, he said I could drive it and much to my surprise, let me drive it alone. He straight up said "ok, I guess you can" and just left, leaving me there alone. As you can imagine, I was hesitant at first yet eager to drive, so I got in and attempted to drive his Cabriolet. Do you suppose I stalled the engine? You better believe I did. A lot. And due to my inexperience of driving stick shift, I ended up burning the clutch out one evening and had to get it towed back to my house.
The difficult part was not coming to the realization that I was at fault for burning the clutch out- the difficulty came with having to go to my dad and tell my dad that I did. I could've made various different excuses- it had a very awkward "throw" making it hard to gauge when it was in gear/ what gear it shifted into [Instead of first gear it would slip into third], it had a "sticky brake" in that the brake pedal wouldn't disengage completely forcing me to have to manually pull up the pedal with my foot etc., however I opted to simply tell him nothing more than stating the obvious: I had burned out the clutch, making it undrivable. My father, being the light-hearted and quick witted man that he is immediately began to poke fun of me and question how I managed to break the car [which at this point he had gifted to me for my birthday] so quickly, while mentioning that my sister didn't burn out the clutch so quickly, to which I gave no response. However my dad's countenance shifted when seeing my silence and acknowledgement of my failure and offered to take a few days off of work to help me repair it at one of his friend's autobody shop, which we did. My father has over twenty years of autobody experience so he was quick to dismantle the transmission in order to swap out the clutch, whereas I had no experience to contribute and entrusted him to make the repairs- I was there for moral support and to watch him work while lending a hand whenever he asked of it.
What I viewed as a very humiliating experience quickly turned into a huge blessing as this enabled not only an opportunity for my father and I to bond outside of work, but while changing the clutch out my father noticed other various problems which he offered to change completely free of charge. After putting everything back together, my father test drove it to ensure everything was in working order and when he returned to the shop and got out said that everything was ok and that we could leave. Naturally, I asked him if he wanted to drive the car back home to ensure it actually got back [I said this with the intention of poking fun at myself] but much to my surprise, this time it was my father who remained silent and didn't react. Instead he quickly told me to go lock up the shop, and when I came back out front, I was again surprised to find the Cabriolet sitting in front of the shop and my father gone- he had left with his pick-up truck placing the responsibility of driving the car back in my hands and entrusting me to actually get it home despite literally just spending days to fix it back up. So I nervously got into the car and out of fear of making more mistakes, drove home- yet I was far more cautious.
If my father [when desiring to teach me how to drive stick shift] drove the car the entire time while also making observations and pointing things out to me without letting me actually drive, I would never have truly learned how to drive stick shift. There are things which you cannot account for whilst learning to drive manual, and more than that- there are things which cannot be learned except through trial and error. I can read or listen to my dad explain how to properly shift gears, but listening and watching him do it does not transmit that experience to me. I had to learn how to drive manual by getting in the driver seat and actually drive manual, and my dad understood that basic principle- He knew I had the basic principles and knowledge of driving manual which is why he left me to grasp the rest for myself, much how he learned. So to is it for the Christian who desires to have a mature standing in Christ. As spiritual babes we are called to crave the Word which is our spiritual milk, which is able to build us up for salvation [I Peter 2:2], yet there comes a time when we must begin to apply the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom's values into our lives ourselves- independent of other influences. Will we make mistakes? Yes. Will we fail at times? You better believe we will. Will there be times in which we feel utterly ashamed to come before our Father in heaven, fearing His response and reaction to our failure? You would be a blatant liar if you claimed of never experiencing this. Yet upon seeing a humble and contrite [remorseful] spirit, He is apt to forgive and eager to help repair us so that we may learn and afterwards be more vigilant and cautious.