The Scottish poet Robert Burns was a plowman living at a time far removed from our digital, cellular world. His observation that “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” (often go awry) has stood the test of time. Burns was no friend to a biblical worldview and would have paid scant attention to the affirmation of the psalmist: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way…” (Psalm 37:23).
It is a great comfort to know that, while we plan our way, the Lord directs our steps. The book of James offers wise counsel with regard to these things and helps us put our planning, and particularly our extended planning, in proper perspective: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).
The instruction here is to be cautious not to set out plans on the basis of our own ability to achieve them, but instead, to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over every aspect of our lives, including what tomorrow brings.
It can be easy for us to be lured into the peril of presumption — into thinking that tomorrow is firmly within our grasp and that we are beyond frailty, mortality, and the jurisdiction of what God wills.
James is not implying here that it’s wrong to plan, but instead, he is helping us to think rightly about the future so that we properly frame our plans within the context of Deo duce (God as our guide). This passage is a good reminder to plan accordingly, hold to our plans loosely, and trust in God entirely.
This month we are offering a book written by Christopher Ash, who was a featured speaker at our Basics Conference for pastors and church leaders last year. The title is Discovering the Joy of a Clear Conscience,and I recommend it to you highly.
Incidentally, the Basics 2015 Conference is now open for registration at truthforlife.org/basics2015 and will take place here in Cleveland on May 11-13, Deo volente (God willing). It’s a good time to secure a spot for your pastor and a generous gesture to even purchase registration as a gift. Our guests who will join me this year are Tim Keller and David Robertson.
With my love in the Lord Jesus,
Request your copy of "Discovering the Joy of a Clear Conscience" by Christopher Ash with a donation!
Category: Letters from Alistair