Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is it wrong to plan?

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: James 4:11-5:6

TO CHEW ON: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit,' whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. … Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.' " James 4:13-15

The writer of my Bible's notes makes a startling statement about James 4:13-15:
"A clear characteristic of having an affair with worldliness is making plans without consulting God. Such action is boasting, that is a presumption that oneself, not God is in control of the circumstances of life" - Jon Mark Ruthven, study notes on James, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1757.

As I see it, the problem is not with the making of plans. God is in favour of that. He dictated some pretty big plans for Noah's ark and the tabernacle. And Jesus, in an illustration about counting discipleship's cost pointed out the foolishness of the person who set about building a tower or going to war before planning and calculating how much it would cost (Luke 14:28-33). Our error is if we make those plans with the wrong attitude.

One wrong attitude James points out is that we think we control the future, when we don't at all. Some other erroneous presumptions on which we might base our plans:
  • Life will continue on just as it always has - Isaiah 56:12.
  • Trouble is far away - Amos 6:3.
  • We have a long future ahead of us - Luke 12:19.
  • There will always be another opportunity - Acts 24:25.

What then is the attitude we should have when we plan?

  • Our passage suggests one: that we submit all our plans to the Lord ("… If the Lord wills…"). Practically that might mean we delay giving an answer when someone asks us to take on a new commitment in order to pray about it and perhaps get a scripture promise or some affirmation that this is indeed what God wants us to do.

Jesus, in Matthew 24, gives more pointers on the attitude we need as we plan for the future.
  • We're to live with an awareness that He could return at any time. That is, we view all our plans through the lens of Jesus' imminent return (Matthew 24:44). Of course we know that there's a right and a wrong way to do that (In 2 Thessalonians, Paul encourages the people to keep working. Bible scholars believe they had stopped  because they thought the Day of the Lord had already come - 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11).
  • We carry on being faithful in our current assignments (Matthew 24:45-46). And I assume that includes being faithful in planning ahead when that is necessary (in faith, trusting God to interrupt us, change our direction, and convict us if our planning again takes a presumptuous turn).

PRAYER:  Dear God, I know I've made plans without consulting You, but never thought of that as having an affair with worldliness. I'm sorry! Please help me to remember to bring all my plans to You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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