Expecting the unexpected
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.’ 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. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
(James 4:13-16, NIV)
The letter of James seems to be addressing people who are what has been called ‘practical atheists’. They declare their belief in God, but don’t live it out. One manifestation of this is their assumption that they are masters of their calendars.
It is not that it is wrong to make plans. We all need to do that. But we need to do so with the humility that recognises that we are not little gods in control of our worlds. I have myself had to cancel journeys for reasons as diverse as family illness, snow and volcanic ash!
James’s big lesson is for our attitude: we are to live our lives in humble dependence on God, acknowledging that He is in charge. Yes, we are to make plans - but saying (to ourselves, if not to everyone else) ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’
There are also lessons here for daily living:
(1) It is unwise to leave tasks to the last minute. How do we know that the time we’ve earmarked will actually be ours, when it comes to it? In fact, living in a James 4 world means we have to get on with things!
(2) We will expect the unexpected, and not be flummoxed by it when it comes, either panicking or losing our tempers.
(3) We will commit our way to the Lord, acknowledging each day that our times are in His hands, and praying through our diaries.
Of course, His hands are the best hands for our plans to rest in!
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