December 26, 2021
We’re all concerned about the future. Today, perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, we’re wondering, “What will next year bring?” In desperation, some resort to psychics or astrology. Others stay glued to newscasts, hoping for insight from the talking heads. Anxiously looking around, they search for what the future holds.
Now, planning for the future is wise. Proverbs 6:6-8 praises the little ant who plans ahead for his future. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The Apostle James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, described going about it the wrong way:
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. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
Let me give you a definition of failure: Failure is succeeding at the wrong thing.
The person James described made three major mistakes, and I don’t want you to make them. As you plan for the coming year, whatever world events may be, three warnings from James will be helpful.
Our planner is mapping out a period of time, a place, and a procedure (James 4:13). His calendar is out, his pencil sharp, he circles the day, draws a line through the year, and says, “That’s where I’m going to invest my time this coming year.” On the map, he puts a circle around the city. On the calendar, he has dates underlined.
Evidently, he majored in business at the University of Jerusalem. He’s been running the numbers and says, “I’ll do this and that. The world may be falling apart, but for me, it’s going to be a profitable year.”
It doesn’t look like he’s doing anything wrong. The Bible doesn’t condemn business or planning or oppose making a profit; it encourages all of those. These things are not wrong.
But if you look at our planner, you’ll see he left God out of his plans altogether. He’s not consulting with God or seeking His will. He’s like so many today. Your worship life is one thing, your business life is another—separated into secular versus sacred. You come to worship, then plan your week as if there were no God.
The biggest fool is not the person who says there’s no God, but the one who says there is a God, then doesn’t live like it. Have you taken God into your plans? James 4:15 warns, “Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”
There’s a big “if” in this verse! Our planner didn’t ask, “Oh God, show me Your will,” but, “I’m doing…I’m going….” He’s not seeking God’s will in his plans.
Are you asking “Lord, bless what I’m doing,” rather than “Lord, help me do what You’re blessing”? Are you seeking first the will of God? God wants to show you His will as you look into your future. God promises to guide us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8).
To be guided with God’s eye means you have a close relationship with Him.
Have you ever been guided by someone’s eye? Your spouse or maybe a parent has given you a certain look, and you stop right away and straighten up. That’s the kind of intimate relationship we need with the Lord: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
It’s a sort of heavenly sonar. God is saying, “Don’t go this way; don’t go that way. This is the way; walk in it.”
Would you like God to guide you this way in the coming year? Jesus promises this: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
We have a Heavenly Guide, the Holy Spirit, to lead us: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
How wonderful to be led by the Spirit of God, to have God guiding us with His eye, to hear God saying: “This is the way; walk in it.” We don’t have to flounder around and say at the end of life, “Well, my youth was a mistake, my adulthood a struggle, and my old age a regret.”
God has a plan for every area of your life: your education, your business, your marriage—not just your church life. If you want His plan, you can find it. Use the three C’s.
Get your heart right with God: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
To “regard” means to “be aware of, to know about, to cherish” iniquity in our hearts. Is there some vice—or it could be just a bad habit or attitude—that you’re purposefully overlooking or letting slide?
If you want God to lead you, you’re wasting your breath if you pray with unconfessed, unrepented-of sin in your heart and life: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).
If there is sin in our lives, rather than walking in the light, we’re stumbling in the dark.
It’s not enough just to be clean; you need to be consecrated: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
“Acknowledge” means to know Him, let Him lead you, think on Him, remember Him.
Have you acknowledged Him in all of your ways, not just some of your ways? Do you really want to know the will of God, or do you just want God to help you in your plans? Acknowledge Him. Be mindful of Him. Obey Him. Don’t say, “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.” Say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a gentle dove and a still, small voice. This is why you need quiet time alone with God. You say, “God never speaks to me.” You’d be foolish to deny that there’s no music in the air just because you have your radio turned off. God is speaking. Are you listening? Are you intentionally setting aside specific time to get alone with God and listen?
“…whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Our lives are like that —just a vapor— like that foggy breath you see on a crisp, cold day. It’s there for a little while, then vanishes. Don’t boast carelessly about the future. We don’t know what it holds.
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).
We think, “I’m in good health, I’m young.” This may be your final year. More than ever, given world conditions, we don’t know.
Say: “Lord God, I don’t know what the future holds or how much more time I have. So Lord, help me not to waste time. Help me to ‘number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom’” (Psalm 90:12). And Lord, may I live out the rest of my days, whether they be many or few, for You.”
Don’t presume upon the time you have. Remember the rich farmer in Luke 12? He was the one with such an abundant crop, he planned to build bigger barns to hold it all. Confidently he told himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided” (Luke 12:19-20)?
You may look at your bank account and say, “I’ve got enough squared away. I’m all right.” Heed this: “But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:16).
You may not have 24 hours. The fool said, “Many years.” God said, “Tonight.” Beware of self-confident presumption.
Notice what comes next in James 4: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Our planner is aware of God’s will but doesn’t want to do it. Boasting in himself and all he’s done, he’s complacent. It’s not that he says, “I will never do it.” He just doesn’t get around to it—self-complacent procrastination.
Procrastination may be the biggest problem you have. It’s so deceptive. Other sins—hate, violence, drunkenness, stealing—are obvious. If we don’t commit these flagrant sins, we think we’re doing well. Most of us don’t see procrastination as a sin.
Procrastination is a dangerous, deceptive sin. It’s the reason people are lost. They’ve failed to do what they must do. John 3:18 describes it: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
As you plan your future:
How should you face your future? By giving your heart to Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit guide you and, no matter how dark the day, give you a hope that is wonderful and glorious.
If you’re not certain you’re saved, I want to guide you in a prayer right now, and you can ask Christ to come into your heart.
Pray this prayer: Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that You love me and want to save me. Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God, who died on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe God raised You from the dead. I now turn from my sin and, by faith, receive You into my life as my personal Lord and Savior. Come into my heart, forgive my sins, and save me, Lord Jesus. In Your name, I pray, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, let us help you with the next steps. Please click here for free downloadable resources or allow us to send you material in the mail to help you get started.