“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
As a born planner, this has never been one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I am alternately irritated and inspired by people who thoroughly live “in the moment.” I like schedules and lists. My mom can attest to the fact that once I started elementary school, I planned all my birthday parties. The guest lists, invitations, games, favors and food were carefully selected months in advance. Now that I am a mom, I jokingly refer to myself as “Julie the Cruise Director” because of all the planning I do for my boys. (If you didn’t watch “The Love Boat” in the 70’s and 80’s, just ignore that example and read on). When my older son was two or three, he would wake up, rub his eyes and say, “What do you have for me today, Mom?” I hope eventually I can show God that same kind of trust daily.
The compulsion to plan sometimes arises out of fear or the need to control. We think if we can plan something well enough, we can avoid what we fear. Similarly, we think if we have control over something, we can avert mistakes or failures. We have the illusion of control over our lives, but James reminds us that God is the only one with real control. It’s not a sin to make plans, but it’s important to entrust them to God. I’m learning to ask for His leading instead of telling Him to bless my unilateral decisions. People often quote Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” However, my favorite part of this passage comes in verse 12: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This requires time, patience and trust.
God has bigger and better plans than we do. Beth Moore says it well in James: Mercy Triumphs: “God is the one with the real plan….We have all sorts of plans jotted on our calendars pertaining to the next year, but they’re mostly based on theory. His is the only day-timer based on certainty. That’s one reason why spending time with God in His Word in the morning is so vital. He wants to prepare us for the reality of our upcoming day. Not our theory” (p.152). Abiding with Him closely is the best way I’ve found to surrender my plans and to let Him shape them. Many mornings I come to Him fretting over something and leave feeling grounded and at peace. That doesn’t necessarily mean He gives me a clear-cut answer, but He does change my perspective. I don’t have to know the details of what the future holds because I know God will be with me, no matter what.
If you are not in the habit of spending time with God daily, let me encourage you to give it a try. Pick a length of time that feels reasonable, but that will stretch you a bit too. One day isn’t enough, 365 might be too ambitious. Maybe it’s two weeks; maybe it’s the forty days of Lent (which starts on Feb. 13 this year). Just pick an amount of time and commit to seeking God daily for the duration.
If you are not a morning person, pray and ask God to give you the self-discipline to get up earlier. Plan ahead by turning off the TV or computer; close your book or iPad instead of staying up late. That way you can wake up to be with God first thing in the morning. Ask Him to help you make it a priority. He honors our desires to spend time with Him and will enable you to follow through. Starting your day with God puts you in the right frame of mind to face whatever comes your way. It is even more important than your need for coffee or a hot shower in the morning.
Not sure how to start? There is no “magic formula” so don’t worry. Some people like the ritual of doing the same thing at the same time in the same place every day; others like to mix it up. The good news is that God is there with you in it, no matter what you choose to do. Here are a few ideas to try:
-Start by praying and asking God to reveal Himself to you and to show you what He wants you to learn
-Read a devotional to get your mind focused. There are many to choose from; two of my favorites are Jesus Calling by Sarah Young or My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.
-Read the Bible; if you are involved in a study I think it is OK to incorporate your homework into this time as long as you are using it as a way to hear from God and not just trying to check it off your “to do” list. If you’re not in a study, try reading the passages mentioned in the devotional so you can see their context. Another idea is to choose a book of the Bible and to read through a small portion daily (start with something in the New Testament).
-Pray: You can talk out loud, pray silently, write your prayers in a journal or put on Christian music and sing your prayers. Consider mixing up your routine by getting up early some mornings and taking a walk while you pray; try listening to worship music on headphones and using it to prompt your prayers. When you pray, start with praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done. I used to think prayer was just asking Him to do what I wanted, but I’m learning that it’s more about aligning my heart to His. Sometimes I intentionally don’t ask anything about specific situations and just spend time thanking or praising Him.
-Listen to music: throughout your day, try listening to music that focuses your thoughts on God and reminds you of His truth. If you are not one who follows Christian music, listening to KLOVE at 107.3 FM or The Message on satellite radio are great places to start.
Most importantly, DO NOT beat yourself up if you miss a day!! We have a God of grace and He is not keeping a record book logging the minutes of the time you spend with Him. If you miss a few days, don’t give up! Keep trying. You will be blessed and God will be honored.
Post a comment and share what you’re learning about submitting your schedule to God!