By Robert Martin, reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
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
Only two months ago, many people in Australia’s business community were doing exactly as this verse described: travelling to various cities, carrying on business, making plans and making money.
Yet this all stopped very suddenly with Coronavirus lockdowns making travel impossible, severely impacting many businesses and upsetting everyone’s plans.
Just to clarify: These verses are not speaking specifically against making money, travelling and doing business. James is critical of people who travel, make money, and carry on business autonomously – without reference or deference to the God who made and sustains all things. He’s critical of those who believe that they are ultimately in control of their lives, their business, their destiny and future.
The reason he gives for his criticism is clear in verse 14: “Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow?” James reminds his readers that not only are we not in control, but he then goes on to point out that we are ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
This is a sobering but valuable reminder. The Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have made it very clear that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow – we aren’t in control. Moreover we are indeed a mist – a vapor – that is here for a very short period of time and then vanishes.
The combination of these two sobering truths could potentially lead to despair. Indeed these realities are a challenge to the secularist and atheist who sees this world and all its achievements as all there is.
Yet we need not despair, because whilst acknowledging our finitude and lack of governing power in the grand scheme of the universe the Christian message simultaneously affirms our immense value and significance.
We are valuable and important – not because of the amount of money we make or our ability to influence things, but because in the incarnation God himself became like one who is mist and then suffered and died to save we who are but vapor. Then through his glorious resurrection he gives us new life and hope.
Hence the rejoinder in verse 15: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” Acknowledging the Lord’s will is a way of ensuring that our plans and dreams are no longer autonomous, but connected to the God who made us and saves us.
Considering things within the perspective of the Lord, means we can continue with our business, making plans, but it means holding these plans more lightly. We do recognise that life is fragile, we aren’t in control and we can’t know the future for certain, but we can trust in the one who is certain and solid and is in control and brings eternity to our finitude. Be reminded of Proverbs 16:9: In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
This can bring a sense of peace when our plans are disrupted and our planes are grounded. It is wise to make plans, but it is wiser to trust and rest in the God who is in control and works for good.
Father, thank you that you are in control – even when our plans and future is so uncertain at the moment. Help us to remember our finitude, but also grasp how significant and valuable we are because of your great love for us. Please help us today to do all things by your spirit to your glory trusting in you and your goodness. Amen.