Have you ever missed the sign? City traffic engineers placed a speed bump in the road to force you to slow down--but in a hurry to get to point “B” you missed the warning. The teeth jarring effect of hitting one of those obstacles is memorable, to say the least. James 4:13-17 was just such a theological [spiritual?] speed bump for me in my study last week.
“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.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.”
I'm amazed by the perspective Tammy's death affords me. I'm stunned by the clarity of life at this moment--so much so that I deeply resent the mental and spiritual fog I lived in for so many years. I came to Christ with childlike faith, but I've managed to live this life and do ministry without that same faith. Here's a stunning thought: I can live and do ministry as a practical atheist.
In the above passage, James deals with the sin of presumption. We all make plans, and so we should. What the child of God cannot do, though, is make plans apart from the Lord's will. We may not mean to do this, but the urgency of life, the pressures of time, money, and deadlines squeeze the life out of us. We plan, we presume, and we press on with our day; and what is lost is a simple faith that says, “If it is the Lord's will, I will do this or that.”
The Puritans favored a Latin phrase that became the seasoning of all of their spoken words: Deo volente, which means “God willing.” At the bottom of their writings, the letters DV would appear. The Puritans might make promises and commitments, but always with the qualifier, “Lord willing.” Certainly we don't need another cliché in Christianity, but we do need to reintroduce this concept. We must season our lives with the powerful reminder that we can plan, dream, hope, and even desire to prosper--as long as we humble ourselves and remember that it all depends upon the Lord and His will.
Oh yes, it also depends upon His definition of prosperity not ours. This is why the Scripture admonishes us to pray “in the Spirit.” Our praying must be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who searches out the deep things of God and helps us know how to pray.
What is your life? With regard to time and space, it is like a mist that appears and then vanishes. It seems just that brief.
Sitting in a deer stand in Kentucky last week, I was able to enjoy God's creation and reflect on the beauty of His amazing mind. It rained much of the time there, and between the soft wet drops of rain a mist would blanket the field. The wind would move the mist across the field, but before it came to the tree line, it disappeared.
Life is short. This speed bump in God's Word reminds me to live each day in light of that fact. Eternity is long, so what can I do this day to glorify my God? I will do it, Deo volente!