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Planning for the Future

Date: 18 February 2018

James 4:13-15

Happy Lunar New Year! As we begin a new year, I am fully aware that we are embarking upon a period of transition at ORPC—a new faith journey! As the new pastor, I can earnestly say that I have been seeking God’s will for the future direction of the church. Soon I hope to discuss with the Session and the congregation on the state of the church and how to go forward. But I’m no futurologist! I do not know what the future has in store for us. I can accept that, because our God, who is sovereign and unchanging, knows the future. Yet servant-leadership is about preparing for the future. In fact, one of my responsibilities as a pastor is to help mobilize God’s people and to equip them to become future leaders of the church. An old Chinese proverb states, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, train people.”

When it comes to planning for the future, I think of James’ strong admonition in James 4:13-14, “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.” How can church leaders, who have been entrusted with equipping God’s people for service, make plans for the future—3, 5, 10 years from now—when we do not even know what will happen later today? Of course, we know that James is not opposed to believers making plans for the future. What he opposes for Christians is leaving God out of his rightful place in the planning process. James calls Christians to make plans with one foundational thought permeating everything, “if God wills.” We are to seek God and his will in all that we do. James’ specific words are, “Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this and that” (4:15). It is quite clear that we must acknowledge human limitation in planning, since we do not know what tomorrow will hold. We must also acknowledge our human mortality, since only if he wills,  will we even live. Nevertheless, with that in mind, we still are to plan to do “this or that.”

So as we move forward into an unknown future, let us do so with strong faith and faithfulness. Let us seek God who is sovereign, all wise, and all-loving of his creation. The ingredient for success in planning is not focus on human ingenuity or wisdom but on the sovereign God, who knows the past, present, and future. So let us draw near to him in our prayers with his promise in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”