A Word to Planners
In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead. John Wesley, the great evangelist, even used to plan out his day in twenty-minute segments, ensuring that a third of an hour wouldn’t pass without him addressing himself to matters of God’s kingdom. But in these verses, James offers a word to men and women in every generation who are addicted to their calendars, who clutch at their phones, and who live with the impression deep down that the world will stop turning if they get off track.
At the heart of the matter is this rock-solid fact: to us, the future is unknown. Will it be sunny tomorrow? Will your flight be on time? Will the traffic be busier than usual and interrupt your schedule? We can plan as best as we’re able to, but ultimately all our best plans may fall into tatters. Indeed, they do so routinely. To presume upon the future is foolish when our ignorance of that future is an indisputable fact.
Facing this fact ought to have two effects. First, it ought to humble us. James has already reminded his readers that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), and issued the challenging call: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (v 10). Now he reminds us that we ought not to take for ourselves the seat that belongs to God alone—we are not in control. It is our response to disruption and disappointment that reveals whether we have truly grasped this.
Secondly, tomorrow being unknown to us ought to help us, for the future is hidden from us for our good and for God’s glory. If we knew of some success that awaited us, we might become unbearable, preening our feathers and basking in our own sense of self-importance. By the same token, we should be thankful that we don’t live in the constant awareness of our future stumblings and struggles, fears and failures, bereavements and heartaches—for what advantage would that give us? God knows. That is enough.
So remember this: God the Creator established you, made you, and gave you all your abilities, your looks, your opportunities. He has ordered your life right up until today, and will continue to do so until He welcomes you home. Because of this, you can actually rejoice in what you do not know. There is beauty in the mystery. There is great wonder in knowing that God is ordering all things and will accomplish His purposes in and for you, whatever tomorrow brings. It is this perspective that will enable you to look at your plans for today, tomorrow, and further on down the path of your life, and say with a humble peace in your heart, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15, emphasis added).
1“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the does?
2Can you number the months that they fulfill,
and do you know the time when they give birth,
3when they crouch, bring forth their offspring,
and are delivered of their young?
4Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open;
they go out and do not return to them.
5“Who has let the wild donkey go free?
Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
6to whom I have given the arid plain for his home
and the salt land for his dwelling place?
7He scorns the tumult of the city;
he hears not the shouts of the driver.
8He ranges the mountains as his pasture,
and he searches after every green thing.
9“Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Will he spend the night at your manger?
10Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes,
or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11Will you depend on him because his strength is great,
and will you leave to him your labor?
12Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain
and gather it to your threshing floor?
13“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
but are they the pinions and plumage of love?1
14For she leaves her eggs to the earth
and lets them be warmed on the ground,
15forgetting that a foot may crush them
and that the wild beast may trample them.
16She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,
17because God has made her forget wisdom
and given her no share in understanding.
18When she rouses herself to flee,2
she laughs at the horse and his rider.
19“Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
21He paws3 in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
22He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
23Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
24With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
25When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
26“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
and spreads his wings toward the south?
27Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes his nest on high?
28On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
on the rocky crag and stronghold.
29From there he spies out the prey;
his eyes behold it from far away.
30His young ones suck up blood,
and where the slain are, there is he.”
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