“Come now you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain.’ Actually you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:13-14
So does God not want us to plan ahead at all? And what about this mist idea? That’s sounds pretty morbid. Surely we’re more important than mist in God’s eyes! What do we make of this passage? Two points mainly.
First, God’s plans must shape our plans. James did not mean that we cannot look ahead and have some idea of what we want to do or where we want to be. He was specifically warning against people whose plans completely leave out God. These were merchants whose dreams of profit overrode any visions of providence. They were in life for the money.
Now you may not be an agnostic merchant, but you may well have forgotten that God orders your steps and holds you in the palm of His hand. He has a will for you and He weaves His will throughout the world. The saints among us are adept at noticing and pointing out those providential threads. God is real and He is at work.
I’ve noticed over the years two major errors when we come to this idea of God’s specific will for us. We either make too much of it or too little of it. Some people are so into the notion of God’s will and plan for them that they speak of God’s telling them what cereal to eat in the morning or socks to put on when they’re dressing (I’ve heard both examples). Frankly, I doubt God is too terribly interested in those trivial matters. That approach seems a little naïve.
The second error, however, may be more dangerous. It’s the idea that we use mainly, or even only, our ability to think and plan. I’d fallen into this trap of sanctified self-confidence. I believed God had given me a mind and had renewed it through Jesus Christ. All well and good, and indisputably true. However, if you focus too much on your own will you risk neglecting God’s. I truly believe now that it’s better to ere on waiting for God to shape our plans before we strike out and trust that He will bless the direction we’ve chosen.
The second major point is that gentle trust in God replaces anxious fear of life. Are you a mist? Well, yes. The human body averages about 60% water which means most of you will evaporate. The other 40% is the ashes to ashes; the carbon, phosphorus, calcium and other elements that originally were the dust of stars. One day you will be completely recycled!
Rather than a morbid view, this humbling truth highlights the incredible importance of what we do with all those elements for 70 or so years. God has made each one of you an absolute walking miracle. Nothing less. With the knowledge that God created you, knows you, and loves you, you can trust that He will make all things right if you surrender to His will. Your joyful trust in God trumps an anxious fear of life.
Some people will say this is a rose-colored-glasses way of looking at the world. I don’t think so. It’s actually grounded in eternal reality. I don’t wear rose colored glasses. I just believe God has put plenty of roses in the world. If I look, if I trust, then I see them.
So go ahead and make plans, but first ask God and trust Him daily as you set foot on the road. You’ll find the world to be a smiling place.
Dr. Terry Ellis
February 23, 2014