Here’s a review of our lesson from youth group this past week. We’ve been going through the book of James throughout the Summer, and last week we looked at James 4:13-5:12 (we don’t usually look at passages quite so long!).
While I was in college I thought I had my life totally planned out, by God’s revelation and grace, and I had spent much time prayerfully mapping out a 40-year plan for myself. I broke down each of the next decade of my life into four stages (technically, I’m still “on track,” but that would mean I’d have to quit next year to start a church-plant!)… for some reason unknown to me, every mature believer I told my plan to laughed at me! I considered their laughter evidence as a kind of badge of honor.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:13-15, NIV)
But God’s plans are bigger than mine, and they’re bigger than yours too. It’s good to prayerfully consider what God may be calling you towards in the future, but pre-determining what you’re going to do decades in advance is more than a little ridiculous.
James saying that “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” is like seeing your breath on a cold day… you see it for a few seconds, then it’s gone. We’re only given one life… how do you want to spend yours? Life may be short, but it CAN be significant!
In each of the next two sections, James compares two different groups of people: the rich, and the godly.
He warns the rich that “you can’t take it with you.” In essence, he says, “You who are rich, listen up! Your bank accounts and retirement plans aren’t any use to you when you die. Your money’s of absolutely no lasting value, so why have you spent all your short time here on earth on hoarding money for yourself!” Most people have dreams about hitting the jackpot and striking it rich… but why? Sure, money’s helpful (even necessary!) in this life, but God wants you to use your money to bless those in need… not to hoard it up for yourself. (disclaimer: I’m not saying savings accounts and retirement plans are bad. I’m saying your financial goals should be to live humbly and give richly rather than the other way around.)
Then James turns to those who are living for Christ and encourages them: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” (James 5:7, NIV) No farmer expects a seed to grow and bear fruit in a day or even a week, so why do we expect God to transform us into “Super Saint” once we become a Christian?
Remember that God is the one writing your story, and that as you live your life for Jesus Christ he gives you times of harvest and times of drought. Just as a farmer perseveres through a time of drought, likewise we must sometimes persevere through times when we don’t feel God’s presence or hear his voice. In those times, we must remember that God is in control, He is writing our stories, and He has promised life… not death! The rain will come if we persevere. Give you plans to Him, and trust His timing to bring them to pass.