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Showing posts with label life is a mist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life is a mist. Show all posts

Monday, June 24, 2024

Life is a Mist | A Sermon on James 4:13-17

I woke up early this morning and decided to get on up and come to church and finish up my sermon on James 4:13-17.  As I drove in through the dark morning air around 5:30, there were a few fingers of thin fog crossing the road in the dips and depressions along the way.  It was pretty.  But it’s so dry, I knew the mist would evaporate before you got up to make your way here. 

But the mist brought to mind this morning’s passage from the Epistle of James for it says our lives are like a morning mist that is here for a short time and then vanishes.


James 4:13-17
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 in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil.  17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.


Proverbs 16:9
It is said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I believe that whole heartedly.  I’ve always been a planner.  It’s something my Mom instilled in me at a young age.  

When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade.  I was always pestering my mom to buy me those little toy airplanes with the windup propellers powered by a rubber band.  So she said, "I think you can build one of those yourself."  She started saving the Styrofoam trays that came in the meat packages from the grocery store.  She would wash them and then give them to me and I would build airplanes out of them.  I got creative and made all different designs.  It was a lot of fun.

My mom said, “You know, you like building those so much you might like to be an engineer who designs airplanes.”  And I thought she was probably right so I started planning how I could be an engineer one day.  And my mom in her wisdom said, "You know if you want to be an engineer, you'll need to make good grades in school so you can go to college."  And that encouraged me to do beter in school.  So from the time I was only 8 or 9 years old, I was already planning ahead for my future.  I planned to grow up and design airplanes for a living.


But God had other plans.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  When I graduated high school, I didn't have enough money to attend college to be an aerospace engineer.  But a college in Marietta offered a  full scholarship to be a textile engineer.  So, my plans changed.  And as I neared the end of my college degree, God changed my plans again.  I started to feel God calling me to be a pastor instead of an engineer.  Jesus told the fisherman Peter, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  To me, Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you an engineer of me, discipling them to grow closer to God."  So my plans changed again and I started pursuing a life of ministry as a Methodist pastor.

James says very bluntly, it is arrogant, sinful, and presumptuous to make plans without considering the Lord’s will.  More than that, if Jesus is truly our Lord (as Christians say He is), then we ought to be 100% sold out to Lord’s will (as opposed to our own).   So we ought to seek to do the Lord’s will and not just ask Him to bless our own plans. 

I’m still a planner, but I’ve learned some new principles about planning from Jesus over the last 30 years that I want to pass along:

Godly Planning

First – Acknowledge God's Sovereignty.

God is sovereign.  That means God is in control of everything and has the power and the right  to decide what happens.  James 4:15 says, "Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’"

When making plans, consistently acknowledge that God is in control and that His will should take precedence over your own.  Of course, this is an attitude and a state of mind, but it can help become our state of mind when we actually say things like "if it is the Lord’s will" and genuinely mean it.

Second – Seek God's Guidance Through Prayer.
Rather than coming up with your own plans and then asking God to bless them, start by seeking God will from the get-go.  Not only is it more efficient, it actually helps you grow closer to the Lord and practice being in-tune with His Holy Spirit. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Prayer is essential to Christian living.  Regularly pray for wisdom and guidance when making plans.  Ask God to reveal His will for your life and to direct your steps.  And then follow Him in faith.

Third – Be Open to God’s Redirection.
Make your plans with great humility.  Don’t be so set on your plans that you cling to them if God wants to change them.  And God might change your plans for any number of reasons.  
Your plans might not be His plans.  Which plans do you really want to follow?
Your plans might only align partially with God’s plans.  For me, going to college was only partially God's plan.  I needed to go to college to fulfill my calling to be a Methodist minister (Methodist pastors must first get a bachelors degree and then go on to seminary for a masters degree).  Any bachelor's degree would do.  But God had to alter my initial educational plans and I had to be willing to obey and adapt.  

God may change His plans based on something you don’t know about.  He always knows better.  Do you remember what you were doing on the morning of March 12th, 2020?   I do.  It was a thursday morning and I was preparing to serve as a chaplain (spiritual director) on a Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat.  We had all heard of COVID-19, but it wasn't something that was really effecting our lives much on Thursday morning, March 12th.  But by the evening that day, my retreat and the whole world was shut down.  Even church that coming Sunday, March 15, was canceled.  Not just my church, but almost every church in the country.  No one was supposed to gather in the sanctuary.  What were we going to do?  But God, in His wisdom, had helped us plan for it without our even knowing it.

Three years earlier (back in 2017), I had had a casual conversation with another pastor in another town who said they had started livestreaming their service on Facebook.  "Yeah, we iust have someone hold up their smart phone and lives stream it."  I though, "Hmmm...  We could do that." So we started doing it in our church.  I got a few volunteers and we had people stream very bad quality recordings of the service.  By January of 2020, we decided if we were going to keep live streaming, we really needed to up our game.  So we installed our first real camera in the church balcony for the purpose. We thought it would be easy--just add the camera, but it caused all kinds of technical problems.  And we experimented through January and February and by March we had all the bugs worked out.  So when March 15th rolled around and we couldn't have in-person church, God had already helped us get everything ready for a full livestream service without our even knowing what He was planning!  God is good!  He sees things you do not.  So stay in touch with His plans.

Proverbs 19:21 – "You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. "  When it comes to planning, remain flexible and be open to changes in your plans, understanding that God may have different and better plans for you.  Be willing to adapt when circumstances change, trusting that God is guiding you.

Fourth, Involve Wise Counsel.  Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."  Christians live in community.  We don’t practice our faith alone.  I don’t care what anyone says, your faith in God is not a private matter.  It is not just something between you and God. Don’t believe that lie.  Faith in Jesus Christ has never been something that was a private thing.

Jesus called 12 disciples and they lived out their faith together.  Christianity in the New Testament was always an interaction between people living together.  Even before God created people or the world, He was not alone because God is a Trinity.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit live together in a perfectly harmonious relationship.  And we are made in God's image.  Therefore, we are to live in community.

So, when you make plans, you ought to seek the wise counsel of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of the biggest mistakes when I answered the call to ministry was trying to figure it out all on my own.  I didn't talk to anyone about it.  I didn't even talk to my wife.  How sad.  It caused unnecessary strife in our marriage and even delayed my calling by three years.  All I had to do was talk to her.  

Humility involves recognizing that you don't have all the answers.  When you plan, seek advice from trusted, godly friends, mentors, or leaders who can provide wisdom and perspective.


Life is a Mist
I hope you take to heart James’ sobering reminder that our lives are like a morning mist—brief and fleeting.  Just as the mist evaporates with the rising sun, our time on this earth is short and uncertain.

As I drove to church early this morning and noticed the drifting mist, I thought of the many people I have known—people my own age or even younger—who have already passed on.  I’ve been thinking about that lately.

My youngest daughter will be a senior in high school this coming school year.  Then, Kelly and I will enter a new stage of life.  I sometimes wonder what it will hold.  Will we continue to be happy and healthy?  Will there be a diagnosis of cancer or something worse?  I don’t know.  I hope for the best.  But I also know there are no guarantees.  Life is a mist.  We do not know what tomorrow holds, and we cannot control the future.  But we do know who holds the future, and that is God.

James urges us to live with humility, acknowledging God's sovereignty in all our plans.  We must recognize that while we can make plans, it is the Lord who directs our steps.  This means being open to His guidance and redirection, seeking His will through prayer, involving wise counsel, and being flexible enough to adapt when circumstances change.

Now, in light of the brevity of life, I want to challenge you to respond to this message today.  If you have not yet given your life to Jesus Christ, do not delay.  Accept Him as your Lord and Savior right now.  Don’t put off the most important decision of your life.

For those of you who are already Christians, consider if there is something God is calling you to do that you have been postponing.  Maybe it’s reconciling with a loved one, stepping into a new ministry, or making a significant life change.  Whatever it is, don’t wait.  Take action today.  Remember, James said “it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Our lives are but a mist, and we must make the most of the time God has given us.  Let's choose to live each day with purpose, seeking God's will, and trusting in His perfect plan for our lives.

Closing Prayer
Sovereign God, we come with humble hearts, acknowledging Your rightful rule over our lives.  Help us to live with the awareness that our time here is short and to make the most of every moment by seeking Your will.  For those who need to make a decision today, give them the courage to act now.  For those who need to take a step of faith, provide them with Your guidance and strength.  Thank You for being our constant guide and support.  In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.