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. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.James 4:13-17
There is so much depth to these five verses. In the big picture, do we include God in all of our plans? Do we include him in our career or educational plans? Do we pray about the path He wants us to take? When we make plans and exclude God, no matter what the plans are, it is as if we are boasting in our own abilities.
Verses 13 and 14 refer to making future plans for prosperity without consulting God. Even if the plans are honorable and righteous, God may have other ideas. Our lives are but a blink of God's eye, "a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." God wants us to consult with Him for all plans.
At the first of last week, I boasted about how far I'd get each day on my journey to Vermont. However, God had other plans. I had not planned on hitting something in the road, puncturing my fuel tank, and being stranded in Knoxville for a few days, but that's what happened. It actually only delayed my arrival by one day, but I was fortunate on two fronts. First, I was fortunate that I was not hurt in the accident and that no severe damage was done to my car. Second, it apparently rained most of the day yesterday in Vermont and it would have been miserable trying to move things into the apartment. In most things, we can find a silver lining, if we try.
I plan ahead. If I do not have the next step or two thought out before I get to them, I feel behind and unorganized. Of course, just because we plan doesn't mean things will actually go as planned. God decides what will and will not happen. Ever since I gave Him full rights to my life, I cannot seem to plan anything too far in advance. He is the ultimate schedule shifter. James notes, "you do not know what tomorrow will bring." I have to remind myself of this. Life throws sudden changes at you. Yes, I still plan ahead to the best of my ability, but I now make flexible plans instead of rigid ones. This is one way I submit my life to God, by giving Him free reign to jumble my schedule. In the end, I trust God has a better idea of what I should do with my life than I do since He sees the entire picture.
I remind myself that God has a plan for me in my prayers. I begin by asking God to forgive me of my sins, then I ask Him to guide me down the path He has chosen for me before asking Him to bless my family and friends. I pray for guidance down the path God has chosen for me, because I know it is not an easy path. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
I've learned to use verse 15 in all planning. "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." There is so much each of us wants to do with what time we have left in our lives, right? Personally, I would love to travel to Europe again, write a book, get in better shape, and be healthier. With each thing I want do to, I pray about it and say, "Lord, if it is Your will that I do this, then I will do it."
Psalm 37:4 states: Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. This is a Scripture of hope. We think, "I love the Lord and so He will give me whatever my heart desires." That sounds great and all, but what about this: if we love the Lord and become very close and intimate with Him, very soon His desires become the desire of our hearts. Ask the Lord if your desire is His will and you may find that His will truly becomes your desire.
Verses 16-17 remind us that boasting in our arrogance is evil, and goes on to say that if we know the right thing to do and fail to do it, we are sinning. If the Lord places something upon your heart, and you do something else instead, verse 17 tells us that it is sin. In 2 Corinthians 1:12, Paul writes, "For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you."
Boast in the Lord and proclaim to everyone: "My God has blessed me abundantly, and He directs my path." In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." There is satisfaction in doing God's will. To actually do good is filling food. The more we eat the keener our appetite becomes. Dissatisfaction is a sure sign that we are not eagerly doing the will of God. It is a symptom of spiritual immaturity. The only way to discover the point of Christ's teaching is to practice it. The only way to godly contentment is to hunger and thirst after righteousness.