More than a hearty meal was served at Sovereign Grace on Saturday, November 12th at the men’s breakfast. Along with delicious scrambled eggs, creamed chipped beef over biscuits and bacon and potatoes, there was masterful preaching and an equally plentiful portion of kindness, love, grace, generosity–and humility.
Consider the twelve women who graciously served 180 hungry men. After a week of attending to the needs of their own families, they were up well before dawn and had two banks of hot food ready to go. No one went away hungry, physically or spiritually.
Which brings us to C.J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, KY. After a solid week of teaching at the pastor’s college there, he was on hand to preach to the assembled men on the text of James 4: 13-17. He returned that night to preach at Catalyst and delivered the Sunday message as well.
The text from James, more than meets the eye
Holding the interest of a large and diverse group of men on a Saturday morning isn’t easy, nor is it easy to further illuminate this text of James, an often but superficially-cited portion of scripture. At first, it seems to be a simple warning against the danger of making assumptions.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:13-17 NIV)
But a better and more critical reading of the text, says C.J., reveals that God uses ordinary business activity to warn us against self-sufficiency and pride. James is admonishing his listeners, and by extension all of us, to not think that by careful planning and applying sound business practices, we can not only see the future but also control it. “It’s evil because it’s man-centered,” C.J. says, adding, “it exhibits a total disregard for God.” But there’s hope. “It’s very good of the Lord to humble us,” he says.
“The shadow of the cross falls across this passage,” says C.J. Christians are to humbly acknowledge the Lord in all things as they submit their plans to His will and ask for His direction. They also do well to remember to give thanks in all things. And from a thankful heart springs the parallel desire to escape self-sufficiency. We need to ask God to remind us and protect us from it, he tells his audience.
Every day brings that need as a continuous one. “It’s not like we’re a cordless drill,” he says, to laughter from his audience. “Once charged, we’re good to go. Rather, we’re to acknowledge and seek God frequently throughout the day.”
What better advice can there be for men and women on a beautiful fall morning. What started out as a breakfast, ended as spiritual food to last a life time.