Who holds the future?
MBC, July 29, 2012
What do the following have in common? IRA’s, taking college courses, insurance. They all have the future in mind. How often do you think of the future? In our passage in James today, we are encouraged not to just think of the future, but to think on HOW we think of the future.
READ James 4:13-17
HOW FAR INTO THE FUTURE HAVE YOU PLANNED YOUR LIFE?
I have always known what I would do; I have a direction in mind, but not the specifics; I have a number of interests, but I want to keep my options open; I don’t have a clue; or somewhere in the middle?
HOW SERIOUSLY DO YOU TEND TO MAKE YOUR OWN PLANS FOR YOUR LIFE?
Not at all – I just make plans so I won’t stagnate; I have a really hard time being flexible; I don’t take no for an answer and push my goals; I don’t make plans – I’d rather just drift; I try to make plans with my heart open to having them changed by God’s leading.
One bitterly cold winter night a young man plodded through knee-high snow to the home of the girl he had been dating regularly. Tonight was the night. He asked her to marry him. Being very practical, the young woman replied, “When you have several thousand dollars, I will seriously consider it.”
Six months later, the two strolled hand in hand through a park along the river. He stopped to kiss her and asked, “When are we going to get married?”
She inquired, “Well, you remember my condition. Just how much money have you saved?”
He responded, “Exactly seventy-five dollars.”
She sighed and smiled, “Oh well, I guess that’s close enough!”
–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 208.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE KIND OF PLANNING JAMES TALKS ABOUT IN VERSES 13 AND 14?
Boasting about what will happen in the future is the same as arrogance. Boasting about the future is arrogant because God is the only one who knows what will happen in the future. This attitude is the opposite of humility and is a sign of “friendship with the world”. James is not saying that all planning is bad, only that planning without any reference to God is a demonstration of a lack of a meaningful relationship with God.
All such planning assumes that tomorrow will unfold like any other day, when in fact the future is anything but secure.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE IF YOU MADE NO PLANS AT ALL?
READ Proverbs 29:18 – without vision, the people perish.
Without hearing from the Lord, the people go their own way. Hearing from God allows us to plan.
At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative. It’s not about sitting around until you are absolutely certain God is calling you to a particular task, direction, country, or ministry. Nor is it waiting for the doors to open so you can go there easily. Planning is an act of faith. Jesus never told his disciples to wait for an invitation. He told them to go.
— Brother Andrew in The Calling. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 8.
He who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.
Plan ahead–it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark!
Light your lamp before night overtakes you.
— Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996).
We need to realize that our security comes from God, not from material possessions or our knowledge of the future.
HOW EASY IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE THE OUTLOOK JAMES CALLS FOR IN VERSE 15?
Charlie Brown is at bat. STRIKE THREE. He has struck out again and slumps over to the bench. “Rats! I’ll never be a big-league player. I just don’t have it! All my life I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I know I’ll never make it.”
Lucy turns to console him. “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead. What you need to do is set yourself more immediate goals.”
He looks up. “Immediate goals?”
Lucy says, “Yes. Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out on the mound without falling down!”
–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 156.
It is an action verses an attitude. The uncertainty of the future ought not to be a terror to the Christian. Instead, it ought to cause an awareness of how dependent a person is on God, and thus move us to planning that involves God.
READ Proverbs 27:1 Don’t brag about your plans for tomorrow–wait and see what happens.
WHAT IS THE BOASTING JAMES IS REBUKING?
Eliminating any reference to God in our planning for the future is rebuked. Anytime we claim to have the future under control we have made an empty claim. God holds the future in His hands, period.
Christianity will go. We’re more popular than Jesus now.
— John Lennon
IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE FALLEN INTO THIS HABIT IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
Homiletics (Jan.-Mar./96) told of a turtle who wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center.
The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, “Who in the world thought of that?”
Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, “I did–“
— Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.
See: Pr 11:2; 16:18; 27:1.
(THOUGHT) TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT ON HOW VERSE 17 IS TRUE FOR YOUR LIFE, PARTICULARLY WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR WORK OR CAREER PLANNING.
James is introducing the idea of sins of omission – the sin of not doing what we ought to do.
WHEN HAVE YOU FAILED TO DO THE GOOD THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE?
Sin is both active and passive. We can do something wrong or we can fail to do something right. What James is saying to us is not so much the idea of not cheating each other or lying to each other. We know those are wrong. What he is saying is to take care of the poor and needy. He says to us not to invest in the world and the world system, but in Heaven and the people God wants to welcome there.
READ Matthew 6:19-21
Presumption in fulfilling God’s will = arrogance
WHAT IS USUALLY THE REASON YOU DON’T DO WHAT YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD?
READ Romans 7:21-25
HOW DO YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO, YOUR OWN NATURAL INCLINATIONS, AND WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK YOU SHOULD DO?
Knowing God’s will – harbor lights.
Bob Mumford, in Take Another Look at Guidance, compares discovering God’s will with a sea captain’s docking procedure:
A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger.
God has also provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply–the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed.
The three harbor lights of guidance are:
1. The Word of God (objective standard)
2. The Holy Spirit (subjective witness)
3. Circumstances (divine providence).
Together they assure us that the directions we’ve received are from God and will lead us safely along his way.
— Gregory Asimakoupoulos, Concord, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 4.
ILLUSTRATION: Good Samaritan
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out . . .
~ A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
~ An objective person walked by and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”
~ A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”
~ A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.
~ A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.
~ An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
~ A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”
~ A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, “You deserve your pit.”
~ A Christian Scientist observed, “The pit is just in your mind.”
~ A psychologist noted, “Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit.”
~ A self-esteem therapist said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit.”
~ An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
~ A pessimist claimed, “Things will get worse.”
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.