James 4:13-17 (NIV)
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.” 14 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. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James in this passage talks about how to face the future. How to plan for the future. He says there are three mistakes that are commonly made that we should be aware of. He gives us a warning. He says plan for your future, prepare for the future but be aware of these three mistakes.
MISTAKE #1: PLANNING WITHOUT GOD. There’s not a single mention of God in this entire business plan. The man knew what he wanted, he knew how to get there, but he didn’t check it out with God first. Don’t misunderstand. The Bible talks about planning. “No man goes out and builds a house without first considering how much it’s going to cost.” And the book of Proverbs says over and over again that if I don’t plan I’m a fool. It’s wise to plan. He’s not talking about planning, he’s talking about presumption without God. It’s great to have dreams, it’s great to have goals — as long as you include God, as long as you pray about it. There’s nothing wrong with what he did — all of these things are fine. It’s what he forgot to do. He forgot to include God. His attitude was one of self-sufficiency. Thinking about a career change? Job change? What college should you attend? Should you date a particular person? First, check in with God. Seek out His will for your life.
You can be a believer and forget God in your daily life. I know a lot of people who love the Lord with all their heart but when it comes to planning their business or career or their school education they are practical atheists. It’s sad to meet somebody who says, “I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe He exists.” It’s sadder to find somebody who says, “I believe He exists,” but then acts like He doesn’t exist. He doesn’t make any plans involving the Lord. He just goes off on his own as if all depends on him.
What’s the solution? Include God in your goal setting. v. 15 “Instead, you ought to say, `If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” Notice the word “if”. Have you realized that even the best laid plans of mice and men often fall through? There’s a thing called Murphy’s Law. If things can go wrong, they will. Count on it! Life is just one big if. Right in the middle of LIFE is IF. Life really is pretty if-fy. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, you don’t either. I can make an educated guess. But planning without God is presumptuous. The starting point in facing the future is to say, “God, what do you want me to do. What do You want me not to do.” Planning without prayer is presumptuous.
Christians for hundreds of years used to write the initials D.V. at the end of their letters. They’d sign their name and then write D.V. They stood for the Latin phrase “Deo Valente” — “Lord willing”. James says that ought to be our response to life. It’s good to plan but include God in your plans and goal setting – always maintain the attitude that says – “Deo Valente” — “Lord willing”.
Proverbs 16:1 says, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “We should make plans – counting on God to direct us.” Stop praying “God bless what I’m doing”. Don’t pray that anymore. God, I’ve made my plans. I’ve worked them all out now You bless them. Instead pray, “God, help me to do what You’re blessing.” God is doing a lot of fantastic things in the world. I just want to be in on them. Help me to do what You’re blessing. I don’t want my plans. I want Your plans in my life because Your plans will provide success in my life. Planning without God is the first mistake. You overcome it by including God in your goal setting. Tomorrow, mistakes 2 & 3.