Is How you talk about the future GOD-centered, or ME-centered? Do your words demonstrate dependence on God and His providence and care for you? His purposes and power to work? Or do they express your own desires, your own efforts, your own ability to bring these things to pass?!?
James reminds us that how we we think and what we say about our plans and our future ought to reflect a proper view of God and ourselves. He states:
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 make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 ESV)
I’m a planner. I have all kinds of plans, projects, ideas working at any given moment. That’s not altogether a bad thing. The bible tells us to plan. Yet, as a Christian, I must constantly bring my plans, hopes, dreams, pursuits and how I speak about those things under the authority of God.
Christ followers must speak in a way that recognizes the sovereignty of God and complete dependence on Him. We must speak in a way that exalts Christ and makes much of God instead of promoting and exalting ourselves. We need a proper perspective, then bring our plans and our speech in line with that perspective.
Realize that only God has control over the future
James states, “ you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”(cf. Prov 27:1). Up until two weeks ago, I had my next 20 years all planned out. I was confident about the direction I was going and how God would use me. All that changed in an instant.
My experience is not at all unique. How many people’s lives are changed in a moment?!? – heart attack, sudden death, “you have cancer,” “You’re fired!”
Whatever plans we THINK we have, God may have OTHER plans. Christ followers must live each moment with the recognition that “many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Prov 19:21). The Lord holds our future and we must look to Him.
Realize that your life is small
James continues, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Whenever I think I am something, I think about John Lennon’s famous quip that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus!” My kids have never heard of the Beatles and don’t even know who John Lennon is!!!
My life IS significant, but it is significant because I am created in God’s image and my story is part of God’s grand story. When I am tempted to make much of myself instead of much of God, I must remind myself how fleeting life is. Solomon recognized how “everything under the sun” is vanity, a vapor, and that the only thing that ultimately mattered was to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc 12:13).
In all our pursuits, our purpose is not to pursue our own paths on the search for significance but to bring glory to God. Indeed, whatever pleasure, achievement, power, fame, or glory we gain for ourselves, is transitory. Life is a vapor.
Recognize that You are not the center of the universe, God is
A proper view of ourselves recognizes that we are finite—God is infinite. We are creature—He is creator. We have no ability to control future events—God is sovereign over all. That’s why James tells us to speak of our plans as conditional and subject to the purposes of God. “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
We say these words, “if the Lord wills,” not as a formulaic expression without meaning, but as an expression of a heart truly dependent on the Lord and seeking Him for wisdom and direction. The words are a reminder to ourselves and a statement to others that God is ultimate and we are followers of Him.
So as you think and speak about your future, ask yourself: Who is the subject of your speech? Does your speech reflect confidence in yourself or in God? Who is directing your path? And who will bring it to pass? Does your speech reflect a heart content to faithfully follow the Lord wherever He may lead? Let our lives and our plans be shaped by a dependence and faith in the Lord.
As for me, I am confident that He WILL direct my path. May my actions and my words reflect that confidence and point others to Him.