TO CHEW ON: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:17
In this practical section of James' practical letter, I see two filters or tests for our to-do lists for today, tomorrow, and into the future.
1. Is this God's will (James 4:13-16)?
After years of walking with the Lord, I still often find myself making plans and then feeling a check in my spirit and the question: "Have you consulted Me about this?" Or realizing that I want something to happen or work out NO MATTER WHAT and then getting the insight: this thing is self-conceived, self-imposed, and self-generated.
Author Janette Oke came face to face with such a dilemma when she began writing. At first she prayed:
"'God, I'm going to write this book. And if it works and if I discover that I have talent, I'll give it all to You.'"
But she quickly sensed that was not what God wanted. His response as she recalls it:
"'I'm not interested in your book after you're done with it. I'm not even particularly interested in your talent. If you are really serious about writing as a ministry, then I want it all, right now before you start.'"
At that early stage in her career, then, she made a hands-off commitment and the result:
"She was free. She was free to write without worrying about the outcome. She was free from the pressure of getting sales. She was free from the temptation of pride'" - Janette Oke: A Heart for the Prairie by Laurel Oke Logan, Kindle Location 3167.
2. Am I doing the good I know to do (James 4:17)?
The IVP commentary says about this verse:
"Suddenly James shifts his emphasis from whether we know God's will to whether we do God's will… The adverb oun ("Then"—in the NKJV "Therefore") provides grammatical evidence James intends a connection in thought. The picture is of one who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it" - IVP commentary accessed through Bible Gateway.
I see this enacted in author Oke's life as well. Once she'd had her first book published, she started planning another. But then letters began pouring in from people who wanted to know what happened next to the characters in her story and her editor asked her to write a sequel. So she abandoned her plans and did her duty to the publishing company.
Throughout the active years of her writing career, she continued to do the good she knew to do, delivering three books a year. And it wasn't always easy. In this interview she describes writing as " ... very time consuming and frankly, it’s hard work."
That, folks, is knowing the good one should do, and doing it!
PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to make plans subject to Your lordship in my life and to faithfully perform the good and humble duties You set before me. Amen.
MORE: The Reward
The reward to Janette Oke for relinquishing her work to God and faithfully doing her duty is still being seen. Her books have sold over 30 million copies. In 2002, Michael Landon Jr. chose that first book she wrote—Love Comes Softly—as the basis of his first TV movie for the Hallmark Channel. Over the years many more of her books have been made into movies, including the When Calls the Heart TV series, based on her Canadian West books.
But it would be my guess that the reward she is most looking forward to is meeting Jesus and hearing His: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.