Before planning, consult The Planner
For every human, the Coronavirus pandemic turned our 2020 plans upside down. Many have struggled with the unexpected loss of a loved one, loss of income. These have been difficult hardships. Many others are dealing with much less significant plan changes like cancelling vacations, graduations and family get-togethers.
One funny thing we will ALL remember is how for weeks, we were unable to get haircuts.
At my January 29, 2020 haircut, I made a future appointment for March 12. Due to unforeseen work issues, I had to reschedule that appointment for March 26, which ended up being the week our state’s governor closed all hair salons. At the moment, my plan is for a haircut in early May.
But, James 4: 13-17 reminds us of some important principles when making our plans.
1. Our plans don’t give us control over our tomorrows.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:13-14
Perhaps James was thinking of various words in the Old Testament when he wrote these reminders to Jewish Christians in the early church.
By LOOKING at the Cross References for these verses, we see Scripture confirming Scripture in the Psalms. Our lives here on earth don’t last forever:
“My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass.” Psalm 102:11
“Man is like a mere breath, his days are but a passing shadow.” Psalm 144:4
It’s important that we remember this fact as we make plans.
2. Before making plans, we need to acknowledge God’s will may be different.
“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” James 4:15
While it’s okay to go ahead and make plans, our attitude should be one of submission to what God’s will MIGHT be. His will may be different than the plan we make for ourselves.
In the Cross References, we see this kind of submission in Paul. When the church at Ephesus wanted him to stay for a longer time, he said no: “but taking leave of them and saying, ‘I will return to you again if God wills,’ he set sail from Ephesus.” Acts 18:21
We have to be OK with that! Solomon reminds us of this in the book of Proverbs:
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
When looking at the example of my haircut appointments, I may have still opted for the same dates, seeing as I did not predict the future shut-downs. But, I would have had the attitude, and the humility, to say God’s will was different from MY plan…and that’s OK!
3. God considers arrogant certainty about our plans the same as boasting.
“But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:16-17
Bottom line: God sees boasting and arrogance as sins.
Two Cross References here provide both warning and wisdom:
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24
So what is the right thing to do? Plan With a Pencil!
Using a planner makes sense. Keeping our appointments in planners helps us remember them, and maybe even be on time. Some of us use calendars on our phones or computers. Others prefer the feel of writing plans and appointments in a bound planner book…hopefully, with pencil.
However, planners don’t give us control over tomorrow.
These five little verses are valuable reminders for us to consult the Lord before making our plans. The world is unsure and we certainly don’t have control over how our plans may change. Our attitude must be one of humility and submission before making any plans!