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Talk about the future

3

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.
- from James 4:13-14

When James looks out across his brothers and sisters in the faith who are scattered among the nations, he sees them struggling to maintain a healthy perspective on the future and wealth. This week, we’ll listen to what James has to say in these conversations.

James’ listeners were in danger of slipping into unscrupulous business practices (aren’t we all?). A get-rich-quick scheme. An investment opportunity that’s too good to pass up. Profiteering. Scholars disagree about the exact nature of the danger, but James sees something bigger at stake.

If we’re not careful, we’ll plan our lives without giving thought to God.

We’ll include him in our Sunday worship but ignore him during our Monday commute. We’ll allow our financial engine to drive our lives away from the God who gives us life. We’ll forget that we neither know the future nor can control it. Before we realize it, God will be on the sidelines in our lives and we’ll be on the sidelines in his mission.

James wants to correct our perspective. We who follow Jesus don’t pretend like we are in control of the future. We know our own fragility. We know who’s in charge.

Sure, we will plan for the future (as we’ll see on Wednesday). But we know that all of our plans are tenuous. And that knowledge shows up when we talk about the future.

The way we talk about the future tells a lot about the way we see ourselves. People should be able to discern our allegiance to Christ by the way they hear us humbly talk about the future.

How do you talk about the future? Pay attention to your language today and see what it reveals about you and your relationship with God.

3 Comments

One more though, Susanna. For me, this whole conversation exposes this tension in me: performance versus relationship. Does God primarily want me to get it right or does he primarily want me to be in right relationship with him? I'm not 100% sure this is why he doesn't do a lot of skywriting and billboards, but that's my suspicion. He wants us to walk in step with him. He doesn't want us to grab our marching orders and leave him behind. Instead, our full effort and his full effort can co-exist. He wants us to be hard at work alongside him, in constant dialogue and relationship with him. If you feel you've subconsciously blocked him off, you can reopen communication. That doesn't mean you'll get a 10-step action plan for the rest of your life. But it does mean you'll have his help holding your plans with both confidence and humility. If you want to talk more about this, shoot me an email at [email protected] And if you'd like someone to pray for you (sometimes that helps me), the prayer room will be open at church this week and we'll have folks willing to pray with you.

I wrestle with this too, Susanna. When we moved from Florida to North Carolina, our house sold in 3 days without ever going on the market. People were telling us that this was a sign that God wanted us to move. But four years earlier, when we moved from Virginia to Florida, our house didn't sell (we're actually still stuck with that house). Did that mean God didn't want us in Florida? I feel like circumstances can help us understand God's will for us, but they can also make things super-confusing.

Oh, man do I have questions about this! I am in the middle of this struggle right now. How do we attempt to plan for the future or prepare, yet still acknowledge God? For example: I am trying to fix my budget and plan for the next few years. I've applied for jobs, am looking at cheaper living situations and will be working with a financial counselor. It is true that God gives us arms, legs and a brain so that we can do much of this ourselves with His guidance. When does trying to do this ourselves turn into sin by not relying on God? Is there a giant line in the sand? If not, why not ha ha :) I'd appreciate a billboard from the sky telling me what to do next. Every avenue I try and head down is being blocked. I am tired and discouraged. I don't want to fall into sin and be trying to do this without God, but I can't see how I can survive with this budget and rising costs. So is there a point at which you back off and let God handle everything (something you warn against in your post on June 1st, I think)? I'm not hearing anything from God but I'm also sure I've subconsciously blocked Him off. Does anyone else struggle with the line between pulling yourself up/helping yourself and allowing God to do His work?

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