What’s The Plan?
Read James 4:13-14 (ESV)
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.
Are you an “always have a plan” type of person? Or are you more of an “I’ll figure it out as I go” type of person?
I have a lot of plans. I have short-term action steps and long-term goals. But you know, more often than not, things don't exactly go according to plan. There have been moments in my life where I’ve realized that no matter how well I have things planned out, God is in control and His plans will prevail. Those moments may seem frustrating or disappointing at the time, but they are good for me. Why? Because they humble me and remind me that I am not in charge!
Sometimes these interruptions to my plans are minor inconveniences like road construction or a canceled flight on a work trip. Other times, they are major life-changers. For example, it was certainly not in my plan that one of my sons would be diagnosed with eye cancer when he was just a baby. I have also known acquaintances who are young, vibrant, and full of life with goals and dreams still to fulfill. But in a blink of an eye, they were gone one day. Their lives were suddenly over even though they were in the prime of their life.
In today’s verses, James reminds us that no matter what plans we make for our days, our lives are like a vapor—a mist that appears but quickly dissipates. We may live to be 90 or 100 years old but even if we do, our long life is just a blip on the radar in light of eternity.
So what was James’ point? Should we not make plans since we might be dead tomorrow? Should we stop working? Quit managing our finances? No! I don’t think that is what he’s teaching here. That is pure foolishness. The Bible actually teaches that it is wise to make plans: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). So don’t quit working hard for your income and don’t stop wisely managing your money.
But when we consider the context around these verses, we are reminded that James had been writing to warn against worldliness and pride. What is more worldly and more proud than acting like we will live here forever, that we are in control, and that our plans for our lives are best?
This is the heart of James' message—humble yourself before the Lord, hold on loosely to your own plans, and submit to His will. We tend to think that our ways are best but as James points out, we don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow! In fact, we don’t know what is going to happen in the next 5 minutes to an hour. We make plans for our lives based on what we think is best given our life experience and our goals. But God is omniscient! Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “...for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” You see, God is all-knowing. He knows the future. He knew the end at the beginning. But not only does He know future events. He makes future events happen. He is the ultimate event planner!
Friends, James’ warning here is not against making plans for wise living. He is warning us about living like we are in control and will live forever. He is advising us not to forget that God is sovereign and we are not. Wise planning for the Christ-follower’s life looks less like hanging on tightly to the reins and trying to manipulate control and more like seeking and accepting His will. We want to live for Him each and every day humbly admitting that He is the one who knows the plan. And His plan is best.
God, I admit that I often try to control every last detail of my life and ignore the simple truth that I don’t know what my future holds. Sometimes, I plan as if I’ll live forever when my life is just a mist. I am so thankful that You are the One in charge and not me. Your ways are higher than mine and Your plans are better. Help me to trust You and accept Your will in all things. I humbly submit my life and my plans to You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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